McLaren’s Jenson Button rekindled his world championship hopes with a flag-to-flag win in the Belgian Grand Prix.
Button, who started the race from pole position, took full advantage of a first corner crash. The incident — triggered by the Lotus of Romain Grosjean — took out McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, the Ferrari of world championship leader Fernando Alonso, and Sauber’s Sergio Perez, as well as the Frenchman.
That left Button free to deliver an imperious drive and he controlled the gap to the chasing pack.
But despite moving to sixth in the championship, 63 points adrift of Alonso, Button — whose win was his first at Spa and the 14th of his career — played down his title hopes.
“This is a great weekend for the team, and for me as well,” Button said. “It is a good 25 points, and if we can keep fighting for victories like this there is still a small chance I can fight for that championship.
“But going to Monza, I don’t think about the championship. We go there to do best job we can and bring back home most points we can.
“As I said before the race, it is a massive long shot to win the title, but today proves you can claw back 25 points very, very quickly.”
Double world champ Sebastian Vettel eventually finished second, though his Red Bull was almost 14s adrift of the Englishman.
Kimi Raikkonen took the final step on the podium for Lotus, ahead of Sahara Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg in fourth. Felipe Massa rounded off the top five in his Ferrari.
After the race, while Hamilton preferred not to comment on the first-corner crash — though he made his views perfectly clear when, confronting Grosjean immediately after climbing out of his wrecked car, he tapped his forehead in the time-honoured way of indicating ‘nutter’ — the Lotus driver played it vague.
“I had a very good start and then boom, it was the end of the race,” Grosjean said “I haven’t seen the images and I need to see them to have any point of view.
“But the main thing is that everybody is OK. That is the most important for me.”
When Grosjean did see the frightening TV images of the crash, he saw that he moved quickly across the track at the start into the path of Hamilton.
The rear right wheel of the Lotus then rubbed the front left wheel of Hamilton’s McLaren and the impact sent Grosjean ploughing over the top of Alonso’s Ferrari.
Race stewards saw exactly the same footage and subsequently handed Grosjean a one-race ban and €50,000 fine for causing the first-lap pile-up.
“The stewards regard this incident as an extremely serious breach of the regulations which had the potential to cause injury to others,” a statement from the officials said.
“It eliminated leading championship contenders from the race.
“The stewards note the team conceded the action of the driver was an extremely serious mistake and an error of judgement.
“Neither the team nor the driver made any submission in mitigation of penalty.”
F1 Belgian Grand Prix — Results:
- Button McLaren-Mercedes 1h29:08.530;
- Vettel Red Bull-Renault + 13.624;
- Raikkonen Lotus-Renault +25.334;
- Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes +27.843;
- Massa Ferrari +29.845;
- Webber Red Bull-Renault +31.244;
- Schumacher Mercedes +53.374;
- Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari +58.865;
- Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1:02.982;
- Di Resta Force India-Mercedes +1:03.783;
- Rosberg Mercedes +1:05.111;
- Senna Williams-Renault +1:11.529;
- Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari +1:56.119;
- Petrov Caterham-Renault +1 lap;
- Glock Marussia-Cosworth +1 lap;
- Pic Marussia-Cosworth +1 lap;
- Kovalainen Caterham-Renault +1 lap;
- De la Rosa HRT-Cosworth +1 lap.
Fastest lap: Senna, 1:52.822
- Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 30
- Maldonado Williams-Renault 5
- Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1
- Alonso Ferrari 1
- Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1
- Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1
F1 World Championship standings (After 12 of 20 rounds):
- Alonso 164;
- Vettel 140;
- Webber 132;
- Raikkonen 131;
- Hamilton 117;
- Button 101;
- Rosberg 77;
- Grosjean 76;
- Perez 47;
- Schumacher 35;
- Massa 35;
- Kobayashi 33;
- Hulkenberg 31;
- Maldonado 29;
- Di Resta 28;
- Senna 24;
- Vergne 8;
- Ricciardo 4.
- Red Bull-Renault 272;
- McLaren-Mercedes 218;
- Lotus-Renault 207;
- Ferrari 199;
- Mercedes 112;
- Sauber-Ferrari 80;
- Force India-Mercedes 59;
- Williams-Renault 53;
- Toro Rosso-Ferrari 12.