Vettel cruises to Belgian GP win

Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany celebrates on the podium after winning the...

Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany celebrates on the podium after winning the Belgian F1 Grand Prix in Spa-Francorchamps, August 28, 2011. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

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, Last Updated: 11:51 AM ET

Spa, Belgium - Defending Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel continued his dominance this season with an impressive win in Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix.

Vettel, who started on pole, overcame concerns of blistering tires that plagued him and his Red Bull Racing teammate, Mark Webber, during Saturday's qualifying session at the 4.352-mile (7.004 kilometer), 19-turn Spa- Francorchamps circuit. Vettel gave up the lead to Mercedes GP's Nico Rosberg on the opening lap, but came storming back to regain the top position two laps later. From there, he relinquished the lead only when he pitted.

The young German finished 3.7 seconds ahead of Webber, with Red Bull scoring another 1-2 sweep this season.

"We had a lot of concerns going into the race after the damage we had on the tires from qualifying," Vettel said. "We took quite a bit of risk, but we had reason to be confident. We didn't feel too comfortable. Both of us [Webber and I] stopped early in the race, and the main target was to see how the tires felt after a couple of laps. The pace was really good in the race, and I was feeling comfortable in the car."

Vettel claimed his seventh win of the season, but his first since June 26 in the European Grand Prix in Valencia, Spain. He now holds a commanding 92-point lead over Webber. Vettel's 259 points so far this season is three more than he accumulated during his 2010 championship season.

Seven races remain this season.

Webber bounced back from a near disastrous start. He started third but quickly fell back in the field during the opening lap. Webber avoided a first-turn collision between Jaime Alguersuari and Bruno Senna, who took over driving duties for Nick Heidfeld at Renault.

"It was a disappointing start for us at the start of the grand prix," Webber said. "When I was back in the pack, I saw Senna and a few other guys smashing each other up in turn one. It was very important to get away from that scene with everything still intact."

Jenson Button from McLaren started 13th but rebounded nicely from his poor qualifying run to finish third. It was the first time Button had a point- paying finish at Spa since 2005.

"If I had stayed in 13th at the start, it would have been a lot easier to challenge [Vettel and Webber], but it was mayhem in turn one [opening lap] with the cars in front of me," he said. "Paul di Resta hit my rear wing when we made contact, and it damaged my rear wing. Then driving after turn one, somebody's front wing flew off and took my front wing and mirror off, which was a bit scary."

Button's teammate, Lewis Hamilton, had his race curtailed early when he made contact with Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi and slammed head on into the barrier. Hamilton was not hurt, as he climbed out of his battered car under his own power. He did not know who hit him at the time of the incident.

"I really don't know what happened," said Hamilton, who finished 22nd. "I just got hit by someone, and my race was over.

Hamilton slipped to fifth in points, three markers behind fourth-place Button.

Alonso is third in points after his fourth-place finish.

Michael Schumacher from Mercedes had a remarkable performance with his fifth- place run. Schumacher, who celebrated the 20th anniversary of his first F1 start, crashed during his first lap in qualifying and had to start from the rear of the 24-car field.

Rosberg took the sixth spot, followed by Adrian Sutil from Force India and Ferrari's Felipe Massa.

Vitaly Petrov drove his Renault to a ninth-place finish, while Pastor Maldonado from Williams completed the top-10.


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