Lewis Hamilton took a serene run to victory at the Belgian Grand Prix, with a win from pole that never looked under threat from his team-mate Nico Rosberg, who had to play catch-up after a poor start. It is Hamilton's sixth win this year and he now leads his team-mate by 28 points in the world championship.
Spa has not always been a happy hunting ground for Hamilton but this was a trouble-free win that one would expect would endear this classic track to the British driver. It is only his second win here, after victory for McLaren in 2010, and the first time he has converted pole position to a win. He did also take the flag in 2008 only to be given a controversial 25-second penalty for cutting a chicane and gaining an advantage while battling Kimi Raikkonen, which demoted him to third.
“Great job, thanks so much for everything guys,” he said on his 39th career victory. “It was an amazing weekend for me. Incredible job by the team throughout weekend. Today was a dream ,the whole weekend the car was fantastic.”
The new start procedures did not produce any chaos, but neither did they really mix-up the opening lap as many had hoped they might. The start was aborted once when Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India had a power failure on the grid but the only driver to really suffer when they got properly underway after another formation lap was Rosberg.
He took some wheelspin off the start and was passed by Sergio Pérez, Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas by the time they had reached Les Combes, dropping him to fifth. "I completely messed up the start," he said.
His chance to challenge Hamilton from the off was gone and although he recovered through the first round of pit stops to claim second place, he would not come within two seconds of the leader for the remainder of the race.
Indeed the closest he came was after the virtual safety car was deployed when Ricciardo came to a sudden halt on lap 20, just past the pit lane entrance going on to the start-finish straight. Hamilton told his pit he believed Rosberg had closed up under the VSC, and Rosberg had gained a second when racing resumed, but was not adjudged to have done so illegally.
Hamilton reacted by showing how comfortable he was with his set-up and the circuit by banging in several storming laps, one a full seven-tenths quicker than his team-mate and had extended his lead to five seconds by lap 27. Rosberg came back to match Hamilton’s pace but the gap had been established and the world champion maintained it to the end with aplomb. Rosberg must bring more to the fight if he is to really challenge for the title.
Romain Grosjean enjoyed the pace of his Lotus and made repeated moves through Les Combes, as he did to perfection in taking third place from Pérez on lap 19 , he was often lapping the quickest outside the two leaders and finished in a well-deserved third place, his first podium since the US Grand Prix in 2013. A result, however, that might be soured by concerns that the bailiffs will impound the team's cars here in Spa due to an ongoing dispute that has gone to court with former reserve driver Charles Pic.
Ferrari came back well from a disappointing qualifying with the cooler temperatures suiting their tyres and helping Sebastian Vettel move from eighth to fifth within the opening four laps. He was on for a podium place when looking to complete a one-stop on very old rubber his right-rear gave out on the Kemmel Straight, and he was forced to retire just two laps from the finish.
“Things like that are not allowed - if that happens 200 metres earlier, I am not standing here right now,” a visibly angry Vettel said afterwards, referring to how dangerous the blow-out would have been had it taken place while he was going through Eau Rouge.
His team-mate Kimi Raikkonen went from 16th to 11th in the same four opening laps and came home in seventh, defending strongly from Toro Rosso's Max Verstappen who finished eighth.
Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat came home on a charge to take fourth, while Pérez, who had taken his Force India off to a storming start and briefly even put his nose in front of Hamilton on the Kemmel Straight on the opening lap, continued with a strong race but lacked grip at the end and finished in fifth.
Felipe Massa was sixth but his team-mate Bottas managed only ninth, the victim of a highly unusual error by the Williams team when they sent him out after his first stop with three of the medium and one soft tyre – a mismatch that is illegal and which resulted in a drive-through penalty.
While Sauber's Marcus Ericsson picked up the final point in tenth place.