Last year’s Belgian Grand Prix was the 12th round of the 2013 season and saw Sebastian Vettel kick off his incredible and record-breaking run of nine consecutive race victories.
The sport reconvened at the iconic Spa-Francorchamps circuit after the summer break, with the German lining up on the front row of the grid alongside pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton. Mark Webber, Nico Rosberg and Paul di Resta – who thrived in the changeable qualifying conditions – completed the top five.
Jenson Button, Romain Grosjean, Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa rounded out the top 10 in Q3. The second segment saw Nico Hulkenberg, Adrian Sutil and Sergio Perez fail to make it through to the final session.
Giedo van der Garde, Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton all managed to sneak into Q2 with a risky tyre strategy, whilst Pastor Maldonado, Jean-Eric Verge, Daniel Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas, Esteban Gutierrez and Charles Pic all were eliminated in Q1.
Following the rain showers on Saturday, the weather was fine and dry for the race. Hamilton held on to the lead into turn one, with Webber slipping back with a clutch issue. However, the Brit didn’t keep the top spot for long with Vettel powering past him on the Kemmel Straight.
Button initially had a strong first lap and battled Rosberg for third early on. However, the McLaren’s pace wasn’t good enough to fight so far up the order and he soon slipped behind Alonso and Webber.
There was plenty of passing in the opening stint, with DRS proving to be very effective. Vettel had established a comfortable lead by the time he pitted for the first time at the end of lap 14. Alonso managed to pass Hamilton on the following lap to move up to what later became second place when Button made his first trip to the pit lane.
Raikkonen became the second retirement from the race, after Pic, thanks to a brake failure. The mechanical problem meant his record run of consecutive points finishes ended at 27. A few laps later there was chaos at the final chicane.
Gutierrez, Maldonado, Sutil, di Resta and Hulkenberg were all battling over 11th place and less than two seconds separated the five drivers under braking for the penultimate corner. Maldonado brakes late and ran deep into the corner and as he came back to the racing line, he first tagged Sutil before then moving right into the path of di Resta.
The Scot’s car was pitched into the air and he was forced to retire, with Maldonado pitting for a new front wing. Meanwhile at the front of the field Vettel pitted for the second and final time on lap 31, emerging well clear of the chasing pack.
The German eventually went on to take his fifth win of the 2013 season by nearly 17 seconds from Alonso, Hamilton and Rosberg. Webber recovered to fifth, with Button dropping to sixth after reverting to a two-stop strategy with nine laps to go.
A poor start and KERS issues didn’t stop Massa finishing seventh, with Grosjean, Sutil and Ricciardo completing the top 10. A drive-through penalty dropped Perez to 11th, with Hulkenberg finishing a disappointing 12th – just ahead of Bottas. Van der Garde, Maldonado, Bianchi and Chilton completed the finishers.
Images courtesy of Octane Photographic