Lewis Hamilton takes F1 points lead

Updated: August 29, 2010, 12:07 PM ET
Associated Press

SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium -- Lewis Hamilton overcame a late scare to win the Belgian Grand Prix and regain the overall lead of the Formula One championship Sunday.

Hamilton ran off the track with nine laps to race but recovered to keep the lead and edge second-place Mark Webber of Red Bull.

[+] EnlargeHamilton
Paul Gilham/Getty ImagesLewis Hamilton ran off the track with nine laps left in Belgium but recovered to win and retake the Formula One points lead.

"I locked my wheel and went wide," Hamilton said. "I just clipped [the wall]. But I was able to get away with it."

Webber dropped to second in the overall standings after failing to defend his pole position with a clutch problem giving him a poor start off the line.

Jenson Button's championship hopes took a hit after the defending F1 champion was knocked out of the race when Sebastian Vettel crashed into him during a failed overtaking maneuver.

Hamilton's 14th career win gave the Briton 182 points -- three more than Webber -- as the top two opened up a gap over the other title favorites.

"It was a pretty mixed up race [so] I'm happy with second in the end," Webber said.

Vettel stayed third with 151 points, Button is fourth with 147 and Fernando Alonso of Ferrari abandoned the race after spinning out to remain fifth on 141.

With six races to go and the Italian GP next on Sept. 12, Alonso believes the championship remains wide open.

"In the next race maybe it's the opposite [results] and we go back to the positions we had yesterday afternoon," the two-time world champion said. "For us, it's still a possibility."

Robert Kubica of Renault was third in the race ahead of Felipe Massa of Ferrari, while Force India's Adrian Sutil completed the top five.

Hamilton's victory means nine of 13 races have been won by drivers not on the pole. Red Bull has taken the pole for 12 of the 13 races.

"When you have a weekend and a race like that, when it can be a lottery, and you can come out on top -- I'm really, really happy," said Hamilton, who finally picked up a victory at Spa after having one taken away in 2008 for cutting a chicane.

Hamilton jumped into the lead as Webber started slowly to sit fifth behind Kubica, Button, Vettel and Massa.

Button overtook Kubica to put McLaren in control, while Alonso dropped into 18th after surviving Rubens Barrichello's crash into him on the second lap, with the safety car deployed and rain falling. Barrichello didn't return to complete his record 300th GP.

Vettel pushed ahead of Kubica into third behind the McLarens and Webber got past Massa for fourth when the safety car came in and the sun came out.

But the circuit was still slick and Vettel skidded into the side of Button.

"It's a massive blow, a massive blow," Button told the BBC. "It was looking really good. I don't know what happened with Sebastian."

Vettel could only apologize after another erratic move left him without points. Vettel collided with Webber in a similar move to go out of the race in Turkey.

"Obviously it was not my intention to destroy his race or mine," the German driver said. "I tried to out-brake him on the outside. I lost the car under braking on the bump and then I couldn't really control it anymore."

After knocking Button out of the race, Vettel's drive-through penalty knocked him into 13th and a punctured tire lap saw him drop out of the points to finish 15th.

Rain fell over the close of the race with Hamilton losing the line and going into the gravel at Rivage. But the 2008 F1 champion, who picked up his first win here, avoided the wall and his 12-second lead allowed him to stay in front.

Webber jumped ahead of Kubica following a poor pit stop by the Polish driver and Hamilton hung on in the rain after the safety car was deployed with five laps to go after Alonso lost control after coming out Les Combes.

Mercedes pair Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher finished sixth and seventh. Schumacher, with six career wins at the Ardennes circuit, had started 21st.


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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