Having captured the 'newcomer' pole by making it through to the second phase of qualifying at Spa-Francorchamps, Heikki Kovalainen took advantage of his rivals' misfortune to come back from a disappointing start and claim race honours as well.

The Finn was promoted to 13th on the grid after a slew of post-qualifying penalties were handed out - including, notably, one for closest rival Timo Glock, who had also made it out of Q1 - but then botched his getaway on a greasy track and dropped well down the order by the end of the opening lap. With Lotus and Virgin again proving well-matched, crossing the line in 16th, a lap down on racewinner, and former McLaren team-mate, Lewis Hamilton was another solid result for Kovalainen.

"I had a bit of a problem at the start when the engine bogged down, and I activated the anti-stall, so I was already being passed by the time I could get up to speed," the Finn revealed, "Then the rain had started and, unfortunately, I damaged my front wing in the last turn so I had to pit.

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"We took a gamble with the inters but the rain stopped, so I had to come back in and lost out to the group ahead of me. After that, it was a question of doing the best job I could, and keeping us in with a chance of taking advantage of the rain at the end. As it turned out, we managed to pick up a few places."

Team-mate Jarno Trulli had vented his anger at both Virgin rival Lucas di Grassi and the stewards after feeling he had been held up by the Brazilian in Q1, but was enjoying a good race until the safety car intervened late on.

"It was pretty exciting out there, an eventful race where lots of things happened - but that's normal for Spa!" he commented, "At the start, I went wide to avoid Heikki and, unfortunately, was overtaken by a couple of other cars. After that, I was struggling a bit in the early stages with my rear tyres overheating but, fortunately, they came back so I could started pushing and managed to pull away from the guys behind.

"That was a good stint until the rain came. I had quite a big margin over my nearest competitor, so I was looking pretty good - and then the safety car came out. At the restart, I was following the other cars but, obviously, the visibility was very poor and I made a bit of an error on a high speed corner, touched the white line with the rear end of the car and it just slipped away from me, which meant I lost places.

"I continued, but the race was over from there. I'm glad we got both cars home, and it's good to see we've still got an advantage over our nearest rivals, so bring on Monza!"

Glock, like Kovalainen, was an early visitor to the pits, and opted for wets as he already had to wait for a new nosecone after taking avoiding action to miss Rubens Barrichello's accident. It proved to be the wrong choice, and the German was soon back in again, albeit now in a strong position if the track remained dry, as he would not have to pit again. However, his luck refused to hold, and the closing stages saw the rain return with a vengeance. This time, Glock opted for the extreme wet, but could not better 18th place at the chequered flag.

"Quite an eventful race, I have to say," he reflected, "I got a good start but, again, someone pushed me off the track and I lost two places. Then, when Barrichello and Alonso had their incident, I had to go wide and went through the 50 metre board and damaged my front wing. I had to pit straight away and lost quite a lot of time to the others.

"I had to catch up to Trulli and Lucas again and, at the end, I took the gamble of having wet tyres, which didn't pay off as the rain came just too late. I've been too unlucky in the races this year, but they were difficult conditions over the weekend. It paid off for us in qualifying, but just not in the race."

di Grassi, meanwhile, stayed out on slicks at the start of the race and chased Trulli hard until the rain returned. He then plumped for the intermediates, but was forced to give way to Kovalainen at the restart- even though the Finn appeared to have all four wheels off the circuit, which Virgin reported to the stewards.

"It was an exciting and eventful race for us," technical director Nick Wirth confirmed, "We had gambled on a high downforce strategy hoping for a very wet race, but ultimately the rain didn't fall in sufficient quantity for our gamble to fully pay off.

"Timo was unlucky to lose his front wing and we were forced to pit, but a replacement was not to the same specification because his spare wing was broken in his crash on Friday. Despite this, he did a good job catching up with Lucas and Jarno but, unfortunately, when the rain came, Timo gambled to come in early and fit full wets, which just didn't work out for him.

"On the other hand, Lucas's race was smooth and it was another great performance for a rookie in very tricky conditions. We're pleased to get both cars to the finish strongly and let's hope for better luck in the final European race in Monza."

Hispania Racing, meanwhile, lost its best hope of a good result when Bruno Senna went out with an early suspension failure, and while team-mate Sakon Yamamoto soldiered on through the tricky conditions, he was two laps adrift at the end.

"It was a bit of an unlucky race for us, unfortunately," Senna sighed, "We had a really good start, probably the best we've done, but then, into the first corner, it got a bit tight, and my front wing got broken.

"We came in and put the intermediate tyres on - which we needed to change back after just one lap as the rain stopped. One lap later, the rear left suspension failed, so we had everything going against us today. But this is how it goes in motor racing - we just have to look forward to Monza and, hopefully, it will be better there."