Three-time reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel absolutely dominated on Sunday at Spa-Francorchamps to win the Shell Belgian Grand Prix and put an emphatic stamp on his run for a fourth straight title.
His Red Bull Racing machine beat runner-up Fernando Alonso's Ferrari by 16.8 seconds going virtually unchallenged throughout the 44 laps. The win is the fifth of 2013 for Vettel in the 11 races. It is also his 31st all-time in Formula 1 which moved him into a tie for fifth all-time with Nigel Mansell and only one win away from fourth which is held by Fernado Alonso.
Lewis Hamilton started in his Mercedes from the pole with Vettel in second. It only took until off Turn 4 for Vettel to get a great run and pass Hamilton for the lead. From there Vettel set sail. He led by 1.4 seconds after lap 1. His Red Bull Racing teammate Mark Webber did not have a good start and dropped from third on the grid to sixth. Fernando Alonso meanwhile had a great start and jumped from ninth to fifth on lap 1.
On lap 6 Alonso moved past Nico Rosberg's Mercedes for third and was behind only Vettel and Hamilton. On lap 8 Sergio Perez in his McLaren ran Lotus' Romain Grosjean off track battling for tenth place. Perez was handed down a drive through penalty of the incident.
On lap 9 the first pit stop was made by Felipe Massa. Lewis Hamilton pitted from second on lap 11 and Rosberg on lap 12. Alonso pitted on lap 13 and returned to the track ahead of Hamilton. Vettel then made his stop on lap 14 and came back to the track in second place only behind Jenson Button who had not pitted yet. It only took one lap for Vettel to get past Button to retake the lead.
Button made his stop on lap 17. Vettel held a 7.8 second lead over Alonso on lap 19. Romain Grosjean made his stop at lap 22 as he was the only driver to use a one stop strategy in the race. On lap 25 Vettel's lead was up to 9.2 seconds.
Also on lap 25 Kimi Raikkonen, who came in second in the points, ran off the track in his Lotus with break issues. He immediately pulled to the pits and retired from the race finishing in 21st. It was the first time that Raikkonen finished out of the points paying positions in 27 races and his first retirement in 38.
Hamilton made his second stop from third on lap 26. On lap 28 the only crash of the race occurred when Pastor Maldonado made heavy contact into Paul di Resta's Force India car with his Williams machine. Di Resta retired with significant rear end damage and finished 20th. Maldonado continued but was given a 10 second stop penalty for causing the contact.
Sebastian Vettel made his second pit stop on lap 30 and held his lead over Alonso easily. From there Vettel ran hard and extended his lead as rain threatened and his crew wanted him to open as big an advantage as possible over the Ferrari which they thought would be faster on a wet track.
The rain never came which led to Vettel pulling away to the 16.8 second win over Alonso. Lewis Hamilton finished on the podium in third and was 27.7 seconds back. Fourth went to Nico Rosberg. Mark Webber finished fifth, and Jenson Button for McLaren was sixth. Felipe Massa took seventh for Ferrari, eighth went to Romain Grosjean in his Lotus and ninth was Adrian Sutil for Force India.
Daniel Ricciardo made a pass on lap 41 on Sergio Perez to put his Toro Rosso into tenth and score one championship point. He had a big smile on his face after the race which led many to believe that he will take over for Mark Webber at Red Bull Racing in 2014. An official announcement has still yet to be announced.
Sebastian Vettel now leads by 46 points in the points standings over Fernando Alonso. Lewis Hamilton is 58 points back in third and Kimi Raikkonen dropped two spots to fourth and is 63 points back. Mark Webber is fifth, 82 points behind his teammate.
Race 12 on the calendar is September 8th at Monza for the Italian Grand Prix.
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