Two races after Lewis Hamilton
completed McLaren's resurrection of sorts in Hungary, Kimi Raikkonen
to the top step of the podium in the Belgian Grand Prix
- but the Finn was made to work for victory by the surprise package of Giancarlo Fisichella
and Force India.
Behind the leading pair, who proved evenly matched throughout the 44 laps, the championship battle swung one way then the other, as each of the main contenders ran into problems, before Sebastian Vettel
came through to take third place and reignite his challenge to Jenson Button.
With the Ferrari
only sixth on the grid, KERS could only do so much for Raikkonen off the line, but the 2007 world champion nevertheless moved up to second place - aided by what appeared to be deliberate route through the La Source run-off - as Fisichella maintained the advantage of pole position.
Behind them, the usual turn one chaos was mild in comparison to previous years, but Force India's afternoon was tempered as Adrian Sutil
spun, perhaps distracted by Jarno Trulli
running into the back of Nick Heidfeld
ahead of him. Fernando Alonso, pinned to the inside wall, had little room to try and avoid Sutil, the Renault's front left wheel riding over its rival's wing.
There was worse to come as the field attempted to file into the Les Combes chicane, with Heidfeld taking to the grass and Raikkonen getting a little out of shape, although both managed to keep going. What happened in their wake, however, was to have a defining effect on the outcome of the race, if not necessarily the championship battle.
With team-mate Rubens Barrichello
already relegated to the back of the field as his Brawn lapsed into anti-stall mode - not for the first time - as the lights went out, Button appeared to have made a positive start to the race, gaining further places from Sutil's rotation and Lewis Hamilton's slow start, he was threatening Heikki Kovalainen
on the run from Raidillon.
Unable to quite get the move done by Les Combes, the Briton tried to maintain the outside line into part one, but found his right rear being tagged by rookie Romain Grosjean, pushing the Brawn into a spin that led to an expensive chain reaction that also accounted for the Frenchman, Spain's Jaime Alguersuari
and fellow Briton Lewis Hamilton. The McLaren
man, caught out by Button's wobble, left Alguersuari with nowhere to go, as all four cars piled into the tyre wall. With no option but to retire, the quartet is currently awaiting a stewards' decision on where the blame should lie...
With carbon fibre and car parts littering the track, the stewards' first action was to call for the safety car, and it was this decision that affected the destiny of the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix. Although Fisichella managed to get the power down sufficiently out of the Bus Stop when the field was finally released after four paced laps, Ferrari's KERS technology paid off as the leaders crested Raidillon, allowing Raikkonen to cruise past Fisichella into Les Combes.
While many expected the Finn to then disappear into the distance, however, Fisichella kept him honest, never dropping more than 1.5secs behind the Ferrari
as the race quickly boiled down into a double-hander between F1's rich and poor.