Jenson Button put his pole position to great use to stay ahead of the Lap one carnage and storm to his first Spa win ahead of Sebastian Vettel.
The 44-lap grand prix started with a bang as Romain Grosjean cut across the track and into Lewis Hamilton, catching the McLaren's front wheel and launching both cars over the leaders turning into La Source.
The ensuing accident involved Fernando Alonso - who had the Lotus chassis narrowly miss his head - and take out Sergio Perez's Sauber. Kamui Kobayashi, Pastor Maldonado (already under investigation for jumping the start) and Pedro de la Rosa all pitted for repairs as the Safety Car was brought out.
No sign of rain in the Ardennes on Sunday with blue skies and an ambient of 20C and the track at 33C. After qualifying third on the grid, Pastor Maldonado was demoted three places for blocking Nico Hulkenberg on Saturday.
Seven rows of grid: 1.Button, 2.Kobayashi, 3.Raikkonen, 4.Perez, 5.Alonso, 6.Maldonado, 7.Hamilton, 8.Grosjean, 9.DiResta, 10.Vettel, 11.Hulkenberg, 12.Webber, 13.Schumacher, 14.Massa
Start:There were already problems in store as Kamui Kobayashi, starting on the front row, had overheated his brakes which started smoking badly on the front row of the grid. As the lights went out there was already one driver on the move. Pastor Maldonado started his race quite a long way in front of everyone else and was already between the two cars in front before the red lights went out.
As everyone braked for La Source, Romain Grosjean came across the front of Lewis Hamilton and tried to squeeze him into the wall. Hamilton had nowhere to go and so the Lotus thumped straight into the McLaren sending them both out of control.
These two cars then cannoned forward over Alonso, Kobayashi and Perez. Fernando Alonso was very lucky to escape with no personal injury after Grosjean and Hamilton's cars were launched over and into the F2012. Hamilton, Grosjean, Perez and Alonso were out of the race on the spot - Maldonado, de la Rosa and Kobayashi had to return to the pits with damage.
Having started the race in P2 and P4, both Saubers were effectively out of the race in less than 200 metres.
The Safety Car had to be deployed. Alonso stayed in his car while the medics arrived. Hamilton immediately went across to Grosjean to ask him what he was doing as it became clear that it was yet another first lap incident caused by the Frenchman.
Positions behind the Safety Car1.Button, 2.Raikkonen, 3.Hulkenberg, 4.DiResta, 5.Schumacher, 6.Ricciardo, 7.Vergne, 8.Senna, 9.Webber, 10.Kovalainen, 11.Massa, 12.Vettel, 13.Rosberg.
The Safety Car was deployed for four lengthy laps while the large quantity of spare F1 parts were rounded up and the carbon fibre swept off the racing line. We were racing again on Lap 5 and immediately Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel were duelling with Kovalainen up the Kemmel straight.
Pastor Maldonado had yet to be penalised for his jumped start, but before the first re-started lap was complete he was parking his Williams-Renault minus its front wing.
Nico Hulkenberg was straight past Kimi Raikkonen for P2 on Lap 5, overtaking him into Les Combes. This highlighted a problem Raikkonen would have all afternoon. The Finn had a high downforce set-up and was particularly vulnerable in the DRS zone. At the end of the lap Jenson Button already had a 2.8 second lead and he was effectively gone for the afternoon. A lap later it was 3.6 seconds, and the lap after that 4.6 seconds.
Michael Schumacher had made up a lot of places through the carnage on the opening lap and on Lap 6 he was past Paul DiResta for P4. DiResta had lost his KERS and while team-mate Hulkenberg scorched away, the Scot had to look in his mirrors and defend from other cars the entire race.
The Force Indias and Toro Rossos had benefited from the first lap mess and both Vergne and Ricciardo were now behind DiResta and anxious to get past.
The man on the move was Sebastian Vettel who, despite the fun and games, had lost places from P10 on the grid. On Lap 7 he was past Felipe Massa into the Bus Stop chicane (his favourite overtaking spot of the day), two laps later he did the same thing to his team-mate Mark Webber.
Paul DiResta started off the pit-stops on Lap 10, just as Michael Schumacher was passing Kimi Raikkonen into Les Combes. Raikkonen and Mark Webber both then pitted at the end of Lap 11 indicating that they were both on two-stop strategies. Hulkenberg came in a lap later.
Schumacher, Vettel and Button would try and make one-stop strategies work.
On Lap 13 Vettel got past the yet-to-stop Bruno Senna into the Bus Stop chicane and then picked off Jean-Eric Vergne. Behind him, team-mate Mark Webber was making less rapid process.
Positions on Lap 171.Button (not stopped), 2.Schumacher (not stopped) 3. Vettel (not stopped) 4.Raikkonen, 5.Hulkenberg, 6.Webber, 7.Ricciardo, 8.Rosberg, 9.Massa, 10.DiResta, 11.Vergne, 12.Senna
At this stage Jenson Button had a 14.7 second lead and could start to manage the gap and take a good long look at his tyres. Vettel had closed right up on Michael Schumacher and was surprised to find his countryman defending on the outside in the Bus Stop chicane and then cutting in front of him to take a pit-stop. The stewards would look at the incident after the race (though no harm done)
With Schumacher stopped on Lap 19, Button then made his single stop a lap later - in just 2.6 seconds. Button had such a big advantage that he was able to pit for tyres and still exit in front of second place Vettel.
Once Vettel had finally pitted on Lap 21 the order was: 1.Button 2.Raikkonen, 3.Hulkenberg, 4.Webber, 5.Massa, 6.Vettel, 7.Ricciardo, 8.Schumacher, 9.Vergne, 10.DiResta, 11.Senna, 12.Kobayashi
On fresher tyres Vettel was easily past Massa and soon up with Webber at which point Hulkenberg, Webber and Massa all pitted together on Lap 27. With the Red Bull unable to close up and pass on the long Kemmel straight into Les Combes that was bad news for Webber.Positions on Lap 29: 1.Button (one stop) 2.Vettel (one stop), 3.Schumacher (one stop). 4.Raikkonen, 5.Hulkenberg, 6.Webber, 7.Massa, 6.Vettel, 8.Vergne (one stop), 9.Senna, 10.Rosberg (one stop), 11.Ricciardo, 12.DiResta
Kimi Raikkonen, Hulkenberg and Webber all found themselves hunched up behind the one-stopping Michael Schumacher on Lap 30. Schumacher's tyres were a lot older than the guys behind, but the first one up in the queue, Raikkonen, didn't have the gearing or the downforce to get past Schumacher on the Kemmel straight. When he made a pass round the outside of the Bus Stop on Lap 32, Michael was able to re-pass him into Les Combes the following lap with no great fuss.
Raikkonen sat back and worked out where he could make a pass and get far enough in front of Schumi before the DRS detection zone. On Lap 34 he decided to save up his KERS (which showed signs of overheating in the afternoon and had to be reduced to 90% at one stage) for the run down to Eau Rouge and passed Schumacher in exactly the same place that Webber had passed Alonso so dramatically last year.
Michael tried to get him back on the straight but couldn't and then came under pressure from Hulkenberg who had Webber behind and Massa behind him - all on fresher tyres. Realising that it was just a question of time before he was overtaken, the Mercedes team changed Schumi to a two-stop race and he fell back from P4 to P7. In the latter stages of the race he lost sixth gear but was still able to finish comfortably in front of the Toro Rossos.
Michael's slow pace had allowed Felipe Massa to catch up Mark Webber and with the Ferrari running lower downforce was able to cruise past the Red Bull the second that Schumacher was out of the way. Massa couldn't catch Hulkenberg and although Raikkonen had some power worries in the closing stages, he was able to hang onto the podium position in front of the Force India driver.
The two Toro Rossos had been lagging behind Bruno Senna after Vergne made his second stop but in the closing stages of the race Senna was forced to pit and give up a points position, thus Vergne and Ricciardo moved up from 9th and 10th to 8th and 9th allowing the KERS-less Di Resta back into the points again.
Jenson Button duly cruised to an emphatic victory in front of Vettel and Raikkonen on a day when driver safety had been brought sharply into focus. With seven first lap incidents for Grosjean in twelve races this year, fingers were being pointed at some kind of action to make sure the Lotus drivers doesn't ruin more teams' afternoons.
01 Button McLaren-Mercedes 1h29:08.530
02 Vettel Red Bull-Renault + 13.624
03 Raikkonen Lotus-Renault + 25.334
04 Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes + 27.843
05 Massa Ferrari + 29.845
06 Webber Red Bull-Renault + 31.244
07 Schumacher Mercedes + 53.374
08 Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 58.865
09 Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1:02.982
10 Di Resta Force India-Mercedes + 1:03.783
11 Rosberg Mercedes + 1:05.111
12 Senna Williams-Renault + 1:11.529
13 Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 1:56.119
14 Petrov Caterham-Renault + 1 lap
15 Glock Marussia-Cosworth + 1 lap
16 Pic Marussia-Cosworth + 1 lap
17 Kovalainen Caterham-Renault + 1 lap
18 De la Rosa HRT-Cosworth + 1 lap
19 Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth + 30
20 Maldonado Williams-Renault + 5
21 Perez Sauber-Ferrari + 1
22 Alonso Ferrari + 1
23 Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes + 1
24 Grosjean Lotus-Renault + 1