Hamilton snatches Spa win
McLaren star eight points clear after Raikkonen hits the wall
Last updated: 7th September 2008
Lewis Hamilton has won the Belgian Grand Prix at a wet Spa-Francorchamps after taking the lead from Kimi Raikkonen with two laps to go.
The defending World Champion had led the majority of the race after polesitter Hamilton spun at the start of lap two.
But rain which had fallen two hours before the start of the race returned during the closing laps, allowing the McLaren Mercedes driver the chance to close the gap once again.
Hamilton re-took the lead from Raikkonen at the La Source hairpin and then, as the rain worsened, both drivers spun - but managed to keep their cars on the track.
However, Raikkonen then slammed his Ferrari into a wall at Blanchimont corner, with Hamilton using that as a cue to slow his pace considerably and tip-toe round the final lap to the chequered flag.
Ferrari's Felipe Massa finished second, with Nick Heidfeld's late gamble on wet tyres paying off as the BMW Sauber driver leapt up to take the final podium position.
Fernando Alonso finished fourth for Renault, ahead of Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel and BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica.
Toro Rosso's Sebastien Bourdais finished seventh, with Toyota's Timo Glock claiming the final Championship point.
The race was pretty much a 'must win' for Raikkonen, whose chances of successfully defending his title have been slipping away throughout the summer.
Without a win since the Spanish Grand Prix at the end of April, he neverthless came to Spa in the knowledge that he had won there three times in a row.
And for the majority of the race's 44 laps it appeared as though Raikkonen would extend his dominant run.
With Hamilton leading off the line on a damp track, McLaren team-mate Heikki Kovalainen made an awful start, the Finn dropping down from third place to 13th place.
Massa also slithered wide at La Source, allowing Raikkonen up to second and then Hamilton spun at the same corner one lap later, the opportunity to take the lead presented itself.
Although Hamilton regained the lead, Raikkonen's momentum was such that he had caught the McLaren through Eau Rouge, before making the pass round the outside into Les Combes.
His lead stood at 5.8 seconds by half-distance, but Hamilton managed to close the gap when both drivers made their second and final pit stops at the end of lap 25.
With both cars now running on harder compound tyres, Hamilton suddenly appeared to have the edge and Raikkonen's lead came down to 1.8s with 13 laps to go.
But for the gathering dark clouds, Raikkonen would likely have held on for a victory which would have given his Championship challenge renewed momentum.
Instead, he fell victim to what appeared a complete lottery - the inability of the current breed of F1 car to handle extreme conditions writ almost comically large as the World's best drivers were suddenly made to appear mortal.
Sunday's result means that, with five races remaining, Hamilton leads Massa by eight points, with Kubica climbing to third place, albeit 22 points off the pace.
Raikkonen now stands fourth, one point adrift of Kubica, and, more crucially, 15 points behind Massa: will Ferrari now decide to throw their full support behind the Brazilian?
Belgian Grand Prix, result:
1. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren 1hr 22mins 44.933secs
2. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari +00:14.461
3. Nick Heidfeld (Germany) BMW Sauber 00:23.844
4. Fernando Alonso (Spain) Renault 00:28.939
5. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 00:29.037
6. Robert Kubica (Poland) BMW Sauber 00:29.498
7. Sebastien Bourdais (France) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 00:31.196
8. Timo Glock (Germany) Toyota 00:56.506
9. Mark Webber (Australia) RedBull - Renault 00:57.237
10. Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) McLaren 1 lap
11. David Coulthard (Britain) RedBull - Renault 1 lap
12. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Williams - Toyota 1 lap
13. Adrian Sutil (Germany) Force India - Ferrari 1 lap
14. Kazuki Nakajima (Japan) Williams - Toyota 1 lap
15. Jenson Button (Britain) Honda 1 lap
16. Jarno Trulli (Italy) Toyota 1 lap
17. Giancarlo Fisichella (Italy) Force India - Ferrari 1 lap
18r.Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 2 laps
r. Rubens Barrichello (Brazil) Honda 25 laps
r. Nelson Piquet (Brazil) Renault 31 laps
(rank: r = retired, nc = not classified)
Fastest Lap: Kimi Raikkonen, 1:47.930, lap 24.