Button claims first spot at Belgian GP

McLaren’s Jenson Button was dominant as he won the Belgian Grand Prix, with team-mate Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso crashing out.

Button, who started on pole, was never under threat as Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel fought from 10th to second, ahead of Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen.

Hamilton and Alonso were taken out in a multi-car pile-up at the start, triggered by Lotus’s Romain Grosjean.

Frenchman Grosjean was handed a one-race ban for causing the accident.

Vettel moves to second in the championship, 24 points behind Alonso. The German’s team-mate Mark Webber is third, 12 points behind Vettel. Raikkonen is one point behind the Australian, 14 points ahead of Hamilton.

Button’s victory leaves him sixth, but at 63 points behind Alonso with 200 available in the remaining eight races, his title hopes are still a long shot.

In Belgium, though, Button was in a league of his own.

He qualified on pole by 0.3 seconds – doing three laps out of the reach of his rivals – and never looked back after converting that position into a lead at the first corner.

“This circuit is so special to most drivers,” Button said. “The way that it flows, the history here. So to get a victory here, lights to flag, is very special for me.”

Behind him there was drama at the start, triggered when Grosjean moved over on Hamilton.

The Lotus’s right rear wheel hit Hamilton’s left front, knocking the McLaren into a spin and triggering chaos.

As the other drivers braked for the first corner, Hamilton and Grosjean, out of control, continued at unabated speed, taking out Alonso and Sauber’s Sergio Perez.

Alonso was especially lucky as Grosjean’s car flew over the front of his car, missing his head by about a metre.

The incident triggered a shake-up of the field and a safety car. From there, the race developed into a thrilling battle as Button continued serenely at the front.

Vettel, on a one-stop strategy like Button, impressed as he made up ground once the race had been restarted on lap five.

The world champion made a series of impressive overtaking manoeuvres around the outside of the Bus Stop chicane at the end of the lap, including on Webber.

Vettel’s pace ensured he took second as Raikkonen and the other drivers on two-stop strategies made their final stops.

“It was a crazy race from where I started,” Vettel said. “The start was not so good and after the first corner when a lot of cars went off it was pretty crazy, fortunately we came back with a fantastic strategy.

“It was the right call, and the car was quite good in the race and we were able to pick up some places.

“I had a lot of fun racing a lot of people, racing Michael [Schumacher]. I’m looking forward already to coming back here next year, this circuit is unbelievable.”

Raikkonen was caught up behind the Mercedes of Schumacher, who was slow around the lap but very fast in a straight line.

Once Raikkonen had passed Schumacher – in a brave move into the 180mph swerves of Eau Rouge – he briefly closed on Vettel but, realising he did not have enough laps to make up a 13-second deficit, was forced to settle for third. He was also hampered by not being able to use all his Kers power-boost system.

“It’s nice to be back here,” Raikkonen said. “There are always a lot of fans and good racing – we have seen very nice racing here today. It’s not the easiest day for me and the team – the car was not exactly as we liked.

“But we had a lot of fighting and we managed to get a lot of points for me and the team.”

Schumacher’s hopes of a strong finish to a poor weekend for Mercedes were dashed when high tyre wear forced him to abandon his attempt to do only one stop.

That dropped him to seventh at the finish, behind the impressive Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India and Webber.

Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne, who had a strong weekend after struggling in the first half of his debut season, was eighth, ahead of team-mate Daniel Ricciardo and the second Force India of Paul Di Resta.

Williams driver Bruno Senna was eighth heading into the last six laps but had to make a late stop because his tyres were worn out. He dropped to 12th behind the second Mercedes of Nico Rosberg.

It was a terribly unlucky day for Sauber after the strongest qualifying performance in their history.

Along with Perez, who was fourth on the grid, Kamui Kobayashi, who started second, was also caught up in the first corner melee and trailed home 13th.

Williams Pastor Maldonado, who failed to finish, has been given a five-place grid penalty for jumping start and another for colliding with Marussia of Timo Glock. Both will be applied in next weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.