Lewis Hamilton battled through rain and incidents to claim his third Grand Prix win of the 2010 season in a chaotic Belgian Grand Prix.
Four drivers were forced to retire from the race, which was hit by rain throughout, including Hamilton’s McLaren teammate Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello of Williams, who would have been looking for a better end to his 300th Formula One race.
The Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium is notorious for its unpredictable weather, with most drivers saying that the course is the most challenging race track remaining in the F1 calendar, given that, while one side of the circuit can be dry, the other side can be wet as the site is so large.
After Mark Webber had started on pole after a good qualifying session the previous day, Hamilton will have been overjoyed to be leading the race going into the first corner. Webber had a poor start and Hamilton took full advantage, breezing past the Red Bull driver, as did Renault’s Robert Kubica.
Button, who started fifth on the grid, soon got himself into a decent position as eased past a troubled Kubica to take second. In the middle of all that Barrichello came into contact with Fernando Alonso, forcing the Brazilian to leave the race early.
The unpredictable rain did begin to come down on the third lap and, with Kubica still struggling for pace, Sebastien Vettel stormed through to take third position. The track was causing problems for most drivers and Alonso, who had already pitted after the Barrichello incident on the first lap, was forced to pit again only three laps later, sending the Spaniard towards the back of the pack in 20th position.
Hamilton was now flying. By the tenth lap the Englishman had gained a 5.6 second lead on Button in second, while the trio of Vitaly Petrov, Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher battled it out for the places of ninth to eleventh. Rosberg did have some damage to his front wing but managed to keep up with teammate Schumacher to pit at the end of the eleventh lap.
Button also had front wing damage but decided to delay his pit stop so that he could coincide that with changing his tyres, as news of more rain reached the track. As Button struggled with balance and speed Hamilton pulled away even further, gaining an 8.3 second lead on his teammate.
Button’s race was ended, however, when Vettel and the McLaren driver collided coming out of Blanchimont, with Vettel veering into Button on the wet surface. Vettel managed to go into the pits but Button’s race was over; a cruel twist of fate for Button, who admitted that the collision was a “massive blow”, both for the race and the season. Vettel did receive a drive-through penalty for the accident, although that will be no of consolation to Button who is now fourth in the Drivers’ Championship, thirty-five points behind Hamilton who, by the twenty-fourth lap, had gained a fifteen second lead on Kubica.
There was an interesting battle in the middle of the race standings as Adrian Sutil breezed past Michael Schumacher on the twenty-fifth lap while Vitantonio Luizzi and Vettel had a little coming together at the Bus Stop corner, with the Force India car taking a slice out of Vettel’s wheel resulting in a puncture for the Red Bull car, forcing Vettel to pit yet again.
Hamilton remained calm and relaxed throughout the race and, by the thirtieth lap, had created a 12.9 second gap between him and Kubica. As the rain began to pour, with Hamilton and Webber deciding to stay out on the track without changing tyres, Hamilton very nearly threw it all away at the Rivage with only nine laps to go. He went into the gravel but, impressively, managed to divert the car away from smashing into the padded barrier. He kept his head, got back onto the track and resumed his race.
The final few laps were full of incidents, with Felipe Massa getting a corner all wrong and spinning his car into the barrier twice before being forced to leave his car lying horizontally across the track. The safety car was deployed and, when it left the track with three laps to go, Jarno Trulli did a full 180-degree turn, somehow managing to avoid passing cars as he spun.
With a lap to go Hamilton had a 1.7 second lead over Webber, who had passed Kubica five laps previously in the pit lane when the Renault driver seemed to miss the designated pit-area for his car. Hamilton, who has been known to throw races away in the past, was cool and calm going into the last few laps, leaving every other car behind him in his wake. Kubica did manage to obtain a third place finish, behind Webber, which sets the Drivers’ Championships up very nicely with only six races to go. The Monza Grand Prix is only two weeks away, though, and Button will be looking to move further up the leaderboard in Italy.