After a winless run since his Valencia triumph Sebastian Vettel put his dominant Formula One season back on the top step of the podium with victory at Spa-Francorchamps.
The German had to overcome opposition from several quarters -Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes and even Pirelli – during the 44 lap race, once more showing that the massive advantage his Red Bull Racing squad enjoyed at the beginning of the season has been eroded, yet the Milton Keynes based team still claimed a 1-2 finish thanks to Mark Webber.
The Australian got the worst of the start, the car diving into anti-stall mode as he tumbled down the order on the run down to La Source for the first time.
At the right hander hairpin several potentially promising races came to an early end. Bruno Senna outbraked himself on the tightest of approaches to the hairpin, forcing him to slide into Jaime Alguersuari who in turn clipped Fernando Alonso as the accident rippled outward.
Senna would have to give up his top ten spot, first to a pitstop for a new front wing then for a penal drive through penalty. Alguarsuari, one of the big stories of qualifying, wouldn't complete the opening lap, his left-front suspension broken when he hit Alonso's Ferrari and the Toro Rosso was abandoned on the way to Blanchimont.
Sebastien Buemi was another early retirement, the victim of a collision with Sergio Perez unseen by the battery of cameras around the track.
At the front Vettel had lost the lead on the opening lap to a lightning starting Nico Rosberg, the Mercedes driver drafting by on the approach to Les Combes on lap one. Vettel replied quickly enough pulling off a move at the same corner two laps later to move back into the lead only to give up the lead to pit at the end of lap five – the on track manifestation of a tyre blistering problem the team experienced after qualifying.
Vettel's stop kicked off a very early exchange of stops, Rosberg retaking the lead before Alonso – his car undamaged in the lap one collision – Hamilton each led before making their own stops.
While Vettel had shuffled back to take the lead alternate strategy calls had moved other drivers up the order. After ending the first lap eighth following his pedestrian getaway, and a very, very early stop Mark Webber had recovered into the top three and Kamui Kobayashi, not having pitted at all was now being passed by Alonso and the Lewis Hamilton.
The McLaren driver appeared to have passed Kobayashi in the DRS zone on the Kemmel Straight, but the pair touched on turn in for the first element of Les Combes. Hamilton was pitched hard left into the metal barriers on the outside of the track, the now noseless McLaren rolling to stop against the tyre barriers on the escape road that start the route of the old Belgian track.
The stricken car, the damaged barrier and the scattered remnants of advertising board brought out the safety car.
Vettel took his second stop, dropping only from the lead to third – behind Webber and Alonso – though he was soon back on top after the safety car pulled in shortly before half distance.
With Hamilton reduced to spectator after the incident – for which the stewards took no action on either driver, probably the correct decision after what was almost certainly a racing incident – the man on the move in the middle part of the race was Jenson Button.
After his misunderstanding in qualifying had left him starting in thirteenth he had narrowly survived the mid-pack scuffle on the opening lap with only minor damage. The right endplate on his rear wing had been caught by Paul Di Resta (the Scot having been hit by Virgin's Timo Glock) on the first corner before picking up front wing damage as pieces fell off cars ahead further round the opening lap.
The necessary stop to pit for a new wing also allowed Button to switch from to the faster, softer compound tyres. With the deficit to those head made up under the safety car Button made light work of the top ten runners.
Michael Schumacher (overcome with a move around the outside of the final chicane), Adrian Sutil, Felipe Massa and Rosberg were all passed by a charging Button, who set his sights on the top three carrying pace that would have had him catching Mark Webber in a handful of laps had the leading trio not have begun another round of pitstops, each team having to react to another to remain competitive.
Button pitted after the trio he was chasing, briefly assuming the lead before Vettel nochalantly moved back to the point at Les Combes. The Kemmel Straight has meant overtaking at Spa has never been particularly difficult and the addition of DRS was arguably removing the challenge altogether.
By the time Button pitted, again for another set of the softer Pirelli rubber, he emerged back out into fourth, again chasing down Mark Webber.
Vettel, meanwhile had established a seven second lead over Alonso who, now on the harder of two available compounds, was losing ground to Webber eventually losing his grip on second place on lap 37 – another man to be passed on the Kemmel Straight beneath the crowd gathered on the bank.
Having looked able to match Vettel early on in the race Alonso was now floundering and Button pushed the Ferrari man off the podium altogether to finish off a fine drive by the Briton to salvage something for himself and Martin Whitmarsh's team.
Through the three behind him were swapping positions almost at will – DRS made overtaking that simple – Vettel held on for his seventh win of the year, moving him 92 points clear in the drivers' standings.
Michael Schumacher, who had started from dead last after his qualifying disaster finished fifth, passing teammate Rosberg in the closing laps to cap his own fine driver. Sutil finished seventh for Force India – Paul di Resta finished eleventh having to drive around a having a car with a damaged front wing for the entire race.
Felipe Massa salvaged eighth having dropped down as low as eleventh after a puncture forced him to make two quickfire stops late in the race. The Brazilian, like his teammate showed early promise of taking the fight to Red Bull but lost ground in the middle portion of the race.
Vitaly Petrov and qualifying pariah Pastor Maldonado completed the points scorers, the latter taking his first F1 points in a race that begun with a five place grid penalty.