Lewis Hamilton has started the second half of the season with a dominant win over teammate Nico Rosberg at the Belgian Grand Prix.
Hamilton nailed his start under the new clutch regulations while the field behind him bunched up at the first turn.
The championship leader, who stretched his advantage to 28 points over Rosberg with the collection of another Mercedes one-two finish, survived a temporary scare when Sergio Perez passed him down the Kemmel straight, but the Briton wrested the place back in the second sector before streaking away in the lead.
“For me, an amazing weekend,” said Hamilton. “Today was a dream. The whole weekend the car was fantastic.
“Again, an incredible job done by the team throughout the whole weekend.
“Nico obviously had good pace, but I was able to answer most of the time.”
Rosberg dropped down to fifth place, letting Sergio Perez, Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas jump him over the line, cutting his work out for him.
The German fought past Bottas’ Williams, which was surprisingly drag-laden despite its straight line speed ordinarily being a strength, and undercut the battling Ricciardo and Perez to rejoin his teammate at the pointy end of the field, where the two Silver Arrows went about a race of their own.
Rosberg wasn’t able to get close enough to challenge Hamilton, however, despite Hamilton accusing his opposite half of speeding under the virtual safety car to make up ground.
“Yeah, just completely messed up the start,” he admitted. “I fought my way through and gave it absolutely everything. I was on the edge all the way through.
“Lewis did a great job, so he deserved to win. I gave it everything, but it wasn’t enough.”
Romain Grosjean battled Sebastian Vettel for the final podium place, with the battle coming down to the final five laps between the soft-shod Grosjean and the Ferrari set on worn medium tyres.
It ended explosively, however, with a rear-right failure on Vettel’s car on the final lap of the grand prix leaving him to limp home in twelfth.
The explosion allowed Grosjean to claim his tenth podium finish after a top three hiatus spanning from the 2013 United States Grand Prix.
“It has been an incredible weekend for us,” said the grinning Frenchman. “I can’t believe we’re on the podium. The guys who have been working hard to give us the car to get us here today.
“Being here today is kind of special for us. It’s like a race win.”
Vettel’s tyre failure was initially put down to the fact his final stint on the mediums was a mammoth 28 laps coupled with an aggressive use of kerbs that characterised the race.
The concession of points puts paid to any realistic title challenge on the part of Vettel, with the Ferrari driver now 67 points behind Hamilton.
Daniil Kvyat stormed home for Red Bull Racing with a soft-medium-soft strategy, passing Bottas, Massa, Räikkönen and Perez in the final 12 laps to come home a strong fourth.
It was a day of mixed fortunes for RBR, however, after Daniel Ricciardo’s car stopped with what looked like a total power failure at the bus stop chicane on lap 22 while battling for fourth place with Grosjean.
Force India similarly suffered bittersweet day, experiencing the high of Sergio Perez challenging of the lead before finishing fifth, and the low of Nico Hülkenberg’s car failing on the grid and retiring on the spot.
Felipe Massa led home a tight midfield comprising Kimi Räikkönen and Max Verstappen by a margin of less than one second, with Verstappen being the prime mover amongst them.
The teenage sensation made the move of the race around the outside of Felipe Nasr at Blanchimont on lap 11, converting his three-stop strategy into P8 and four points.
Bottas finished ninth after copping a drive-through penalty after his team accidentally fitted a medium-compound rear-right tyre amongst three other soft-compound tyres, and would likely have otherwise finished as high as fourth or fifth.
Marcus Ericsson took home the final point for Sauber in P10.
Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button suffered the ignominy of finishing on the same lap as the Manor cars, once lapped by the leaders.
Button wryly commented over team radio upon catching some midfield cars at the end of the race that his competitors should change tyres because they ought to be much faster than he was.