• Belgian Grand Prix

Vettel extends championship lead after Spa win

ESPNF1 Staff
August 28, 2011
Sebastian Vettel celebrates winning the Belgian Grand Prix © Getty Images

Sebastian Vettel is looking increasingly likely to add a second world championship title to his collection after winning a hard-fought and incident-packed Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps.

Vettel extended his lead in the championship standings to a massive 92 points after winning from team-mate Mark Webber and Jenson Button as Lewis Hamilton's slim title hopes suffered a massive blow after he crashed out of the race.

Fernando Alonso took fourth having started eighth, while Michael Schumacher also had reason to be cheerful on the 20th anniversary of his grand prix debut, finishing an excellent fifth ahead of his team-mate after starting from the back of the grid.

It was Nico Rosberg who made the best start, sweeping into the lead from fifth on the grid to lead from Vettel as Massa leapfrogged Hamilton for third. Alonso was another fast starter, jumping to fifth from his starting position of eighth.

Mark Webber, plagued by poor starts in 2011, was at it again dropping down to eighth from third on the grid and it soon became apparent that his Red Bull was struggling on the softer compounds and Webber was the first to pit for new rubber on lap four. The tyres were a focus early on due to blistering in qualifying, but it turned out to be a manageable issue.

There was also early disappointment for Bruno Senna as a collision with Jaime Alguersuari into the first corner ruined his qualifying effort, the Brazilian going far too quickly into the first corner and siding into the side of the unfortunate Alguersuari, ending the Toro Rosso's man race. Others to suffer at the start included Button, pitting for a new nose cone as a result of the first corner melee. It was not long before a gaggle of early pit stops prompted a re-shuffling of the order, Vettel and Alonso emerging as the early protagonists at the front of the pack.

Between the stops, a dry Spa provided action aplenty, the DRS zone and graining rubber making for spectacular overtaking aplenty including arguably the most frightening move of the season as a charging Webber almost banged wheels with Alonso through Eau Rouge, the Australian literally risking life and limb centimetres from the Ferrari with two wheels on the kerb.

But the biggest moment and possibly a decisive one for the destiny of the title happened on lap 14, Kamui Kobayashi and Hamilton colliding into Les Combes. Hamilton had just passed the Sauber which had a damaged front wing, but Kobayashi tried to come back around the outside and tagged the rear of the McLaren in to crashing spectacularly through a polystyrene hoarding and into the barrier. His race, and almost certainly his title ambitions, over.

Lewis Hamilton smashes through polystyrene bollards © Getty Images

Back at the front, it promised to become a four horse race for victory ahead of the final series of stops, as Button scythed through the field. His pass around the outside of Massa in to the chicane the pick of a number of moves as he displayed his ability to overtake in the dry before showing the pace to close in on the front three.

After the final round of pit stops Button found himself in the lead for a lap, but Vettel had rejoined on fresh medium tyres and soon dispatched the McLaren, causing Button to pit and rejoin in fourth. He soon reeled in Alonso though and was able to secure third place with two laps to go using the DRS.

In the battle for the lesser points, Massa recovered from a puncture to take eighth on the final lap behind Adrian Sutil, while Vitaly Petrov crawled over the line ninth ahead of Pastor Maldonado who took the final point in tenth for the first score of his career.

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