Hamilton seizes F1 title lead from Webber
London: McLaren`s Lewis Hamilton won a chaotic and thrilling Belgian Grand Prix to seize back the Formula One championship lead from Red Bull`s Mark Webber on Sunday.
Hamilton`s victory, despite a near-miss with the barriers in the challenging conditions ranging from dry to wet, lifted him three points clear of second-placed Webber at the top of the standings with six races remaining.
"It was a great weekend, and very tough racing," said the Briton. "It almost feels like this is my first win. It`s just phenomenal."
The success, his third of the season, contrasted with team mate and reigning world champion Jenson Button`s misfortune on a sweet-and-sour day for the British team and their two world champions.
Button, running behind Hamilton in a McLaren one-two at the fast and flowing circuit, was shunted out of the race by Webber`s young German team mate and title rival Sebastian Vettel on the 17th of the 44 laps.
Vettel was given a drive-through penalty for causing a collision and then plunged further back through the field after tangling with Force India`s Vitantonio Liuzzi and puncturing his own left rear tyre.
The German ended up 15th and out of the points for the third time this year.
Webber, winner of four of the 13 races so far this season, had been on pole position but suffered a terrible start on a day where the fickle Spa weather played its hand to full effect and the safety car was twice deployed.
"Lewis deserved the win, he did a good job," the Australian said.
Poland`s Robert Kubica finished third for Renault, losing second with a pit-stop error but still taking a morale-boosting result for a team who this time last year became embroiled in a major race-fixing scandal that led to a suspended permanent ban.
Hamilton has 182 points to Webber`s 179 and Vettel`s 151. Button is on 147.
Red Bull stay ahead of McLaren in the constructors` standings by a single point.
"I don`t know what Sebastian was doing," said Button of an incident that team boss Martin Whitmarsh said was more reminiscent of a junior series.
"I`d rather he did it with his team mate than with us," added Whitmarsh, referring to a Turkish Grand Prix collision between the two Red Bulls in May that gifted McLaren a one-two finish.
Ferrari`s Fernando Alonso, fifth in the standings, retired after an incident-filled afternoon on which he collided with Brazilian Rubens Barrichello on the opening lap and dropped to 20th place.
The debris from that incident, apart from ending Barrichello`s 300th race without the Williams veteran completing a lap, brought out the safety car.
The Spaniard pitted for a new front wing and fought his way back to eighth but finally crashed out six laps from the end when he spun and hit the barriers between Les Combes and Rivage.
The Ferrari was stranded on the track, again bringing out the safety car.
"It is very disappointing...but it does not mean that I have given up on my chances of winning the title," said Alonso, now 41 points off the lead.
Brazilian Felipe Massa finished fourth for Ferrari, ahead of Germany`s Adrian Sutil in a Force India.
Seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher, who had started in 21st place after a 10-place penalty for an incident with Barrichello at the previous race in Hungary, finished seventh at his favourite circuit.
The 41-year-old former Ferrari ace tangled twice with Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg, their cars touching once, before the younger German grabbed sixth place.
Japan`s Kamui Kobayashi was eighth for Sauber, with Russian Vitaly Petrov handing Renault a double points finish and Liuzzi scoring after Toro Rosso`s Spaniard Jaime Alguersuari was given a retrospective 20-second penalty.