Spa-francorchamps, Belgium, Aug 28, 2011 (AFP) - Sebastian Vettel extended his already yawning lead in this year's drivers' world championship on Sunday when he drove to a well-judged if, at times, fortunate victory in the Belgian Grand Prix.
The 24-year-old defending champion recovered from a poor start and problems with blistering tyres to ride his luck and emerge on top ahead of Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber in a memorable one-two triumph.
It was the German's first win in four races and only his second in six as he re-established his supremacy.
Vettel came home 3.7 seconds clear of Australian Webber, who dropped back after a bad start and then recovered splendidly, with Briton Jenson Button claiming third for McLaren after a topsy-turvy race.
Two times champion Fernando Alonso finished fourth for Ferrari ahead of Michael Schumacher, 42, the seven-times champion marking the 20th anniversary of his F1 debut with a dazzling drive into the points from the back of the grid.
Schumacher's Mercedes team-mate and fellow-German Nico Rosberg came sixth ahead of another German Adrian Sutil of Force India with Russian Vitaly Petrov eighth for Renault.
Brazilian Felipe Massa was ninth for Ferrari and Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado, who started 21st after a grid penalty for crashing into Briton Lewis Hamilton during Saturday's qualifying, finishing 10th for Williams.
Hamilton, of McLaren, crashed out after 13 laps when he was involved in a collision with Japanese Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber.
Vettel's win was his seventh of the season and 17th of his career and, if not one of his most impressive, enough to prove that as the season runs towards the final few races he remains the dominant force.
Vettel now has 259 points and leads second placed Webber on 167 and Alonso on 157. Button is fourth with 149 and Hamilton fifth on 146.
Vettel made a good start, but not good enough to stop a surging Rosberg to attack from fifth and, helped by Webber's getaway problems, unexpectedly take the lead as they rose from Eau Rouge and up the hill to Les Combes.
Behind them, Bruno Senna's Renault debut saw him run to deeply into La Source and hit Jaime Alguersuari's Toro Rosso, wrecking both of their races. Each pitted, the Spaniard terminally.
The Brazilian, later given a drive-through penalty, was pushed down the field, having secured a magnificent seventh in qualifying.
Vettel quickly regained the lead as Button had suffered a damaged front wing and fell to 19th after rejoining the fray before producing his near-flawless run to a podium finish.
Alonso took control when Vettel pitted after five laps and stayed there for two laps until he also pitted and Hamilton, his speed restored after a hesitant opening, took control.
On lap 13, Hamilton crashed out when, having passed Kobayashi's Sauber, on the approach to Les Combes, he was pitched into the barriers as the Japanese turned across his line.
Hamilton's car was sent skidding left and hit the wall hard, nose-first, before spinning through an advertising board in spectacular fashion. He was dazed, but unhurt, and climbed out of his car. Surprisingly, the stewards decided to take no action.
Hamilton said: "I'm not really quite sure what happened - I hit the wall pretty hard. As far as I was concerned I was ahead of whoever I was racing and then I was hit by them. I think we were struggling, we were massively slow on the straights, I guess that's why we were in that position. But we might at least have got a podium."
The crash brought out the safety car and played into Vettel's hands as he returned to the pits again for new tyres, as the rest filed in behind him.
On resumption, Vettel was in control again ahead as the field settled down. By lap 26, as the tyres on some cars began to blister again, it was Vettel ahead of Alonso with Webber third and Button, judging his drive beautifully, up to fourth ahead of Rosberg and Massa.
As the field stretched out, it stayed that way with the Red Bulls demonstrating a superior all-round performance on lap 37 when Webber cruised past Alonso through Eau Rouge and up the hill.
That left Vettel on top in a Red Bull one-two but did not end the intrigue as Button took Alonso on lap 42 for third and Schumacher passed Rosberg for fifth.