McLaren’s Jenson Button took his first win since March with a disciplined drive from pole position in a chaotic and entertaining Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday.
Championship leader Fernando Alonso and Button’s teammate Lewis Hamilton both failed to finish as they were among five of the top ten starters caught up in a first corner smash.
“To get a victory here from lights to the flag is very special for me. Especially since I’ve not had the easiest year,” Button said.
The accident helped defending champion Sebastian Vettel snatch second for Red Bull, 14 seconds behind Button, while Kimi Raikkonen took the final podium place for Lotus after his hotly tipped challenge for the win failed to materialize.
“I was at the first corner when a lot of cars went off, it was pretty crazy,” Vettel said. “Fortunately we came back with a fantastic strategy.”
The result cuts Alonso’s lead to 24 points from Vettel, who is eight points ahead of teammate Mark Webber and nine in front of Raikkonen. Hamilton is 47 points adrift of Alonso, with Button 13 further back.
Fourth place went to Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, who profited from the first-corner mayhem and battled strongly with drivers including Raikkonen, Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher and his own teammate Paul di Resta throughout the race.
Felipe Massa was fifth for Ferrari, his second-best finish of a disappointing season, while Webber was sixth with Schumacher seventh, after fighting other cars throughout his 300th Grand Prix.
The two Toro Rosso cars of Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo were eighth and ninth, with the final point going to di Resta in tenth.
The first-corner crash was caused when Lotus’ Romain Grosjean drifted across into the path of Hamilton on the run down to the first corner and two touched tires, catapulting Grosjean into Alonso.
The accident also ended the races for Sauber’s Sergio Perez, who had been fourth on the grid, while second-starting Kamui Kobayashi lost his hopes of points after damage in the crash forced him into the pits.
The safety car came out and the restart saw the end of the race for Williams’ Pastor Maldonado, who had been sixth on the grid but found himself under investigation for jumping the original start before a shunt at the restart forced him to retire.
Schumacher took fourth at the restart but found himself gradually falling through the field during the race as the faster cars of Vettel, Massa and Webber made their speed count.
Seven-time champion Schumacher did not give up lightly and was at the center of many of the race’s most entertaining duels, including a lengthy scrap for third against Raikkonen.
A battle between him and Vettel on lap 20 of 44 almost ended in disaster when Schumacher unexpectedly pulled into the pits, narrowly missing the younger German.
Russia’s Vitaly Petrov was 14th for Caterham after starting 19th on the grid. He finished three places ahead of his teammate Heikki Kovalainen, whose race was ruined by a pitlane shunt when the Caterham crew released him into the back of Narain Karthikeyan’s HRT.