SPA-Francorchamps, Sept 2, 2012 (AFP) - Jenson Button claimed his second win this year and 14th of his career on Sunday when he drove to a comprehensive victory in an incident and accident-packed Belgian Grand Prix.
Starting from the eighth pole position of his career and his first for the McLaren team, the 32-year-old Briton produced a consummate display of dominant driving from start to finish. It was his first victory on the spectacular and historic Spa-Francorchamps circuit.
His victory was his first since the season-opening race in Australia and came in his 50th outing for McLaren and 220th overall as Formula One resumed after a month off for the traditional European summer break.
Button, the 2009 champion, came home 13.624 seconds ahead of second-placed defending champion German Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull with Finn Kimi
Raikkonen of Lotus completing a podium of champions by coming home third.
Championship leader Spaniard Fernando Alonso of Ferrari crashed out of the race at the first corner where he was he was an innocent victim of a multiple collision triggered by aggressive driving by Frenchman Romain Grosjean in the second Lotus.
Grosjean swerved into Briton Lewis Hamilton of McLaren causing a pile-up that eliminated both drivers, along with Alonso and Mexican Sergio Perez of Sauber.
This gifted Red Bull men Vettel and Australian Mark Webber a perfect opportunity to close ground in the title race.
Webber finished sixth behind a dazzling display by German Nico Hulkenberg, who was fourth for Force India, and Brazilian Felipe Massa, of Ferrari.
Michael Schumacher, in his 300th Grand Prix and back at his favourite circuit where he made his debut in 1991, finished seventh for Mercedes ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne and his Toro Rosso team-mate Australian Daniel Ricciardo with Briton Paul Di Resta taking the final point in 10th place in the second Force India.
Vettel's opportunism saw him rise to second behind Alonso in the drivers' standings with 140 points to the Spaniard's 164.
After a morning of welcome warm sunshine, the race started like a storm with Button easing clear at the front ahead of a chaotic pile-up behind him at Eau Rouge where Grosjean swerved his Lotus into Hamilton's McLaren.
The Frenchman's mistake, in forcing Hamilton off circuit and on to the grass, triggered a multiple collision as Hamilton lost control and ran into Alonso's Ferrari while Grosjean rammed across the luckless Perez's Sauber.
All four were eliminated from the race in a spectacular and expensive incident that led to the immediate introduction of the Safety Car as analysts pointed initial fingers of blame at Grosjean, for his ill-judged and aggressive change of direction.
This led to a four laps delay at controlled pace behind the Safety Car as the track officials cleared the debris of an F1 scrap-yard left strewn across the circuit and drivers' bickered over the causes.
Button was out in front ahead of Raikkonen at that stage, following Kobayashi's slow start from second on the grid, with Maldonado third, after an amazing start from sixth in his Williams.
Luckily, nobody was injured in the opening lap pile-up which brought Alonso's run of 11 successive points finishes to an end.
On the re-start, Button pulled clear and Hulkenberg grabbed second from Raikkonen before Maldonado retired, on lap five, at Les Combes, with most of the front wing missing from his Williams car.
In the chaos, it went almost unnoticed that Schumacher, in his 300th Grand Prix, climbed from 13th on the grid to fourth and, on lap 10, took third place with an amazing move on Raikkonen, taking him on the outside at Les Combes.
At the same time, Vettel was making progress from 10th on the grid to seventh by lap 12 when Button led by seven seconds ahead of Hulkenberg and Schumacher. By lap 18, he was 14 seconds clear after Hulkenberg made his first pit stop.
Schumacher pitted after 20 laps and Button followed, McLaren completing their stop in a record-equalling 2.6 seconds. Button retained his lead ahead of Vettel, who pitted after 22.
For Button, it was then all about consistency and tyre management while his rivals, on varying one-stop and two-stop strategies, fought for positions.