Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium: Defending two-time world champion Lewis Hamilton extended his lead in this year’s title race to 28 points when he claimed a near-flawless victory ahead of Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg in the Belgian Grand Prix.
Starting from his 10th pole position of the season and sixth in succession, the 30-year-old Briton dominated with some ease as he finished a controlled 2.058 seconds clear of the German. Hamilton now has 227 points and Rosberg 199.
It was Hamilton’s second victory at the Belgian race, having won for McLaren in 2010, his sixth of the season and the 39th of his career. It was also his 80th podium, equalling the mark of the late great Brazilian Ayrton Senna.
"Thank you guys, what a great job," said Hamilton from his cockpit.
"I am so happy with that. Thank you."
He added, from the podium, that it was too soon to talk about winning the drivers’ championship.
Rosberg, whose wife Vivian is due to give birth to their first child at any time, said he was keen to get home, but added: "Lewis did a great job and he deserved to win."
Four-time champion German Sebastian Vettel, in his 150th race, looked likely to finish third for Ferrari, in their 900th Grand Prix race, until he suffered a right rear tyre failure on the penultimate lap, as the team risked running him on a one-stop strategy.
That spectacular incident ensured that Frenchman Romain Grosjean, who had mounted a thrilling attack for Lotus in the final laps, took third place in an enthralling race.
It was Grosjean’s first podium of the season for the troubled Lotus team, which has faced severe financial problems, and his first podium since the 2013 United States Grand Prix.
Russian Daniil Kvyat followed up his podium finish in Hungary with a bold drive to fourth for Red Bull ahead of Mexican Sergio Perez of Force India, Brazilian Felipe Massa of Williams and Finn Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari.
Local hero Dutch teenager Max Verstappen thrilled his fans in a big crowd by driving from 16th on the grid to take eighth place for Toro Rosso ahead of Finn Valtteri Bottas of Williams and Swede Marcus Ericsson of Sauber.
Unusually for one of the sport’s most spectacular venues, the majestic circuit in the forests remained dry on a warm, if cloudy, day in the Ardennes. The weather was a welcome gift for the fans packed on the grass banks beneath the trees.
Mercedes had annexed the front row for the ninth time this year, but they were separated immediately when the lights went out. Hamilton surged clear at the front from his 48th pole, but Rosberg was swamped and fell to fifth as Perez rose from fourth to second.
Knowing that only three men had won from pole in the previous decade, Hamilton was extra determined to exploit his advantage and, after resisting an attack from Perez at Les Combes, he pulled away.
German Nico Hulkenberg, in the second Force India, had retired on the grid with mechanical problems and the field was cut to 18 cars when Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado pulled up in his Lotus Renault, following a power failure, on the opening lap.
At the front, Hamilton controlled the contest with some ease. He was 8.5 seconds clear by lap nine when Perez pitted. This sparked a rash of stops behind him which put Rosberg up to second before he pitted, on lap 13.
In a blur of speed on lap 10, Verstappen produced a courageous passing move on Brazilian Felipe Nasr, the 17-year-old Dutchman going round the outside of the 320 kph Blanchimont corner to overtake the Sauber.
Hamilton followed Rosberg in, on lap 13, gifting Vettel second for a lap before the German, in Ferrari’s 900th F1 championship race, came in. When the order re-settled, it was Rosberg who had gained as he was only 3.4 seconds behind the leader.
Last year’s winner Australian Daniel Ricciardo pulled up and retired after losing his Renault engine’s power at the Bus Stop on lap 21, prompting brief use of the Virtual Safety Car.
Amid widespread paddock rumour of Red Bull’s intention to end their contract with the French supplier by citing performance failings, it was no surprise to see team chief Christian Horner’s glum disappointment.
Hamilton made his second stop from the lead on lap 31, switching back to softs for the final 12 laps, Rosberg led and then followed the champion in, emerging with a deficit of 5.4 seconds.
The pair traded fastest laps again as Rosberg sought to catch his team-mate and, behind them, Grosjean chased after Vettel who, ultimately, buckled under the pressure when his tyre exploded.
Updated Date: Aug 24, 2015 09:32:00 IST