Kimi Raikkonen kept his head and his car in one piece while most around him were failing to do so, and was rewarded with a second career win on the day when Michael Schumacher inked his name even deeper into the record books.
Raikkonen, who started well down the order after a mistake in wet qualifying at Spa-Francorchamps on Saturday, was lucky to escape a brush with Felipe Massa at the opening corner of the Belgian Grand Prix, but thereafter made rapid progress through the field to lead the bulk of the 44-lap event, and eventually come home three seconds clear of Schumacher, despite three safety car interventions.
Although the race started in fully dry conditions, the opening corner - La Source - played its traditional role of scrambling the pack, as Mark Webber left his braking too late and clipped the back of Rubens Barrichello's Ferrari. The impact spun the Jaguar driver around, forcing those behind him to take avoiding action, but also led to debris being spread across the breadth of the corner as several front wings were damaged in the melee.
While no-one retired at the bottom of the hill, the after-effects of the incident caused no fewer than four cars - Webber's included to be eliminated before the end of the lap. Cresting Eau Rouge, Webber's wingless R5 appeared to clip the back of Takuma Sato's BAR, breaking its rear suspension and pitching the Japanese driver broadside in front for the accelerating pack.
While most were somehow able to take avoiding action, others such as Gianmaria Bruni were less fortunate, with the Italian appearing to receive a nudge from Minardi team-mate Zsolt Baumgartner that left him helpless to avoid the barrier. To make matters worse for Bruni, his car was then collected by Giorgio Pantano, despite the Jordan driver having jumped on the brakes, and both Italians were out on the spot. With Sato parked up on the far side of the track, and Webber soon to pull off, the first safety car of the afternoon was sent out.
The interruption allowed a further six cars to duck into the pits for repairs, with Jenson Button requiring a new nose on his BAR and both Barrichello and Sauber's Felipe Massa in search of attention to their rear wings. Baumgartner, Nick Heidfeld and Olivier Panis completed the early stoppers, with the German going on to make no fewer than five stops en route
to a much-lapped eleventh place. Massa and Barrichello both also returned for further attention while the safety car continued to circulate, but were both able to resume before losing a lap to the pack.
Through the chaos, Renault had made its traditional strong getaway, with pole man Jarno Trulli able to fend off Schumacher on the run to La Source, as team-mate Fernando Alonso forced the German onto the wide line. David Coulthard, starting alongside the Spaniard on row two, also took advantage of Schumacher's ill-placement, squeezing his McLaren into third on the run to Eau Rouge.
The safety car remained on track until the start of lap four and Raikkonen, having convinced himself that the brush with Massa had not caused any lasting damage, was soon on the move. The Finn wasted no time in disposing of Schumacher, pouncing on the world champion at Eau Rouge as his Michelin tyres kicked in sooner than the rival Bridgestones. Such was the delay in Schumacher's rubber coming up to optimal temperature that Juan Montoya also managed to close on the Ferrari by Les Combes, although Michael made his Colombian nemesis wait until a daring move at the remodelled Bus Stop before conceding the place.
One lap later and Raikkonen's scintillating pace saw him close on team-mate Coulthard before blasting past on the run from Raidillon to Les Combes. This left the Finn trailing only the two Renaults, which had also made use of the Michelin rubber to pull away at the head of the field, and perfectly placed should the regie