2011 Belgian Grand Prix was a hard day at the Spa [spoilers]
For the Formula One circus, that break took the better part of a month, giving the drivers and their teams some much-needed R&R from the Hungarian Grand Prix that served as the eleventh of nineteen rounds the last weekend in July until this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix.
Now that they're back in business, it was back to the thrilling season that's unfolded so far and into the home stretch for the last two rounds in Europe before the show hits the road to races overseas. Follow the jump to find out how the race at Belgium's indispensable Spa-Francorchamps circuit went down.
A wet and tumultuous qualifying procession on Saturday left the grid in disarray. Though the top three positions were awarded much as you'd expect – with Vettel on pole, Hamilton in second and Webber in third – the rest of the starting grid held its share of surprises.
Bruno Senna, for starters, impressed on his first race start this season by qualifying seventh, Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari just ahead in sixth, while Jenson Button was stuck in thirteenth. Felipe Massa showed rare form to land his Ferrari in fourth, while his team-mate Fernando Alonso could fare no better than eighth. Nico Rosberg qualified an impressive fifth, while his elder wingman Michael Schumacher lost his right-side rear wheel and was so was relegated to the back of the grid on the 20th anniversary of his first race.
Off the line at the race start, Rosberg impressively took the lead ahead of Vettel with Massa in third. Webber dropped down the field, Alonso jumped from 8th to 5th, and Schumacher immediately advanced from 24th to 14th. A collision between Senna and Alguersuari, meanwhile, saw the Renault driver drop to 22nd and the Toro Rosso retire on the opening lap.
By the second lap Vettel had already taken the lead back from Rosberg in an endless game of leap-frog that would see several drivers rotating at the head of the pack before the race was done. Behind them, meanwhile, both Alonso and Hamilton closed in to take third and fourth from Massa in the opening laps.
Lap 13 saw the end of Lewis Hamilton's race when the former champion was tangled up trying to move up the inside of Kamui Kobayashi's Sauber into the tight right-hander and was sent off across the grass and gravel and into the barrier.
With the safety car deployed a whole flurry of cars went in to the pit lane for their second tire swap. The race resumed with Alonso in the lead, a position he would lose back to Vettel a few laps later after his team-mate Massa surrendered fourth to Rosberg. All the while Jenson Button was working his way up the field from his thirteenth-place starting position all the way to the front by lap 30 when the leaders went in to pit for the last stint.
Vettel soon retook the lead once again in the closing laps as Webber and then Button pushed Alonso off the podium. All the while Sauber's Perez, HRT's Ricciardo and Toro Rosso's Buemi retired from the race one after another to join Hamilton and Alguersuari in the garages before the race was done. The closing laps also saw a heated intra-team battle between Schumacher and Rosberg, the elder statesman of the grid finally overtaking his junior team-mate to take fifth place.
Across the finish line Sebastian Vettel took his 17th grand prix win to further entrench the defense of his championship, while his team-mate Mark Webber joined him on the podium in second. Jenson Button took a well-deserved and hard-earned third place, with Alonso in fourth ahead of the two Mercedes GPs. Sutil, Massa, Petrov and Maldonado claimed the remaining points.
The results put Vettel even further into the lead with 259 points to Webber's 167 and Alonso's 157, McLaren's Button and Hamilton trailing in fourth and fifth with 149 and 146 points, respectively. Combined scores leave Red Bull in the lead for the constructors' title with 426 points to McLaren's 295 and Ferrari's 231. The circus heads next to Monza – one of the few tracks that's faster than this weekend's Spa – for the Italian Grand Prix in two weeks' time.
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