Belgian Grand Prix: Spa-Francorchamps

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Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel has taken his 31st career victory at the Belgian Grand Prix, held on the longest circuit of the year.

Vettel’s latest win, taken using a two-stop strategy, means that he draws level with Nigel Mansell in terms of overall victories. The 26-year-old Red Bull driver, who also set the fastest lap of the race on the hard tyre, claimed the lead from second on the grid and now extends his championship advantage to 46 points over Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.

Alonso used strategy to boost himself from ninth on the grid to second at the end of the race. Alonso stopped twice, using the medium tyre for two stints before switching to the hard tyres on lap 28, with a pit stop that took just 2.6 seconds.

The race started in 19 degrees of ambient temperature with 25 degrees of track temperature. Despite the 60% chance of rain predicted, conditions stayed dry from lights to flag. All the drivers started on the medium tyre, with the exception of the two Marussias of Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi, the Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo and the Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez.

The first driver to make a scheduled stop was Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg on lap nine, swapping to his first set of hards. Vettel pitted from the lead five laps later, fitting mediums, before re-joining in second place. The German was back in the lead before his final stop for a set of hard tyres on lap 30, coming out in front once more. His strategy ensured that he led every lap.

Vettel’s team mate Mark Webber adopted a different two-stop strategy, switching to the hard compound tyre at his first stop and then doing a final stint on the medium tyre to finish fifth.

The only driver to stop just once was Lotus’s Romain Grosjean, who finished in eighth. The highest-placed driver to start on the hard tyre was Ricciardo, who ended up 10th from 19th on the grid. He also finished the race on the medium tyre.

Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “With qualifying yesterday finishing in wet conditions, the drivers were allowed to start the race on whichever compound they preferred, opening up the possibilities for different strategies still further. A number of drivers and teams maximized these opportunities to the utmost today, especially Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull, who controlled the race. But we also saw some very good strategy calls all the way down the grid, which enabled many drivers to improve on their start positions. Following the uncertain weather earlier in the weekend, this was actually quite a straightforward Belgian Grand Prix, with dry conditions from start to finish and no safety car periods. But Spa remains probably the ultimate test of a Formula One tyre, with its long lap and high energy loadings, so the performance and durability of our tyres after a hard-fought race on one of the most epic tracks in the world were very much in line with our expectations.”

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