Hamilton was the first of the leaders to pit on lap 12, and he emerged back out on track in eighth place which quickly became ninth when Romain Grosjean
used DRS to get past the Mercedes. Hamilton quickly undid the setback when he had the advantage of DRS next time around but then had his hands full trying to hold off Alonso who had just come in for his own first stop. Hamilton gifted an easy pass to the Ferrari
when he ran wide through La Source at the start of lap 15, and the Mercedes was then unable to match the Ferrari's straight line speed down Kemmel to pull off a counterstrike.
Sebastian Vettel had also pitted, leaving Jenson Button
minding the shop for a few minutes until the Red Bull
emerged from pit lane and quickly past the McLaren
which appeared to be attempting a one-stop strategy, which he executed with a change to hard compound tyres on his sole scheduled stop on lap 18. His team mate Perez came in for his scheduled stop next time by, leaving Grosjean and Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez as the only drivers attempting to go longer on the first stint. Gutierrez finally came in on lap 20 to swap medium tyres for hard compounds, and Grosjean made it to the end of lap 22 before a change in the other direction - a remarkable first stint for the Frenchman, although he was understandably over two seconds a lap off the pace of the leaders by this end of it.
Once the first round of pit stops had played out, Vettel's lead over Alonso was eight seconds and growing, with Hamilton now two seconds in arrears of the Ferrari
but a safe five seconds clear of his team mate Rosberg who was duelling Mark Webber
to hold on to fourth place. Button had resumed in sixth with Massa regrouping to seventh ahead of Raikkonen and Force India
duo Adrian Sutil
and Paul di Resta.
The anticipated mid-race rain was still conspicuous by its absence as Nico Hulkenberg
and Jean-Eric Vergne kicked off the second round of pit stops for the two-stoppers in lap 25. The next visitor to pit lane was far from routine, however, as Kimi Raikkonen
appeared having just sailed off the track attempting a pass on Massa at the final chicane, quickly realising that his front brakes had indeed finally gave up the ghost after their earlier overheating issue. Raikkonen was only the second car to retire from the Grand Prix, after Charles Pic
had exited on lap 8 with an oil leak in the Caterham.
Two became three minutes later when Paul di Resta became the innocent victim of events ahead of him on lap 28. Williams' Pastor Maldonado
had been battling for position with Gutierrez through the final chicane and run slightly wide off the track. He recovered but made minor contact with Adrian Sutil
- which jolted in the Williams
into the path of the second Force India
following close behind. The damage to di resta's car was immense given the relatively minor slow-speed nature of the contact and he was most certainly done for the day; Maldonado was handed a more severe ten-second stop-go penalty by the stewards for causing the incident.
Several of the leaders including Alonso, Webber and Vettel used the local waves yellows for the clean-up operation as a signal to make their final stops. Their final scheduled
stops, at least: the Red Ball pit wall was radioing race leader Vettel to put his foot down, open a gap on Alonso and not worry about conserving tyres to the finish. The reason? This being Spa, it could only be because rain was in the offing even though the local radar showing nothing in the immediate area.
Vettel's lead was soon back up to ten seconds over Alonso, with Button briefly in third place but only until he decided that the one-stop strategy would not be capable of stretching to the finish without surrendering too much pace in the process. Button came in for a second stop after all on lap 35, rejoining once more back in his natural habitat of sixth place ahead of Grosjean and Massa. That promoted Lewis Hamilton
back up into third with Rosberg still having to work hard to fend off Webber's advances for fourth place.
With the rain still stubbornly refusing to obey the weather forecasts and make its appearance, and with no further incidents to provoke a safety car period, the remaining laps ran out without any changes at the front. Felipe Massa
managed to hold on to seventh place ahead of Grosjean despite his electrical issues, with Sutil finishing in ninth just ahead of Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo who had a flying finish to the race to pop him into the final points paying position at the chequered flag.
But at the front, Vettel's comprehensive demolition job on the opposition at Spa confirms that he's surely well on the way to a fourth consecutive world championship, and Red Bull
similarly locked in to another constructors title. His rivals - Alonso, Hamilton, Webber, Raikkonen - can only watch on from a distance, and a rapidly growing distance at that.
Watching Vettel lead the celebrations on the podium it seems clear that when it comes to F1, blondes really do have more fun.
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