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Vettel cruises to win in Belgium

Sebastian Vettel cruised to the 31st win of his Formula One career as not even Greenpeace protestors could throw a spanner in the works of the German’s Belgian Grand Prix triumph.

As the teams worked on the cars on the grid just before the start, two paragliders from the activist group initially flew over the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, trailing a banner slamming the Arctic drilling plans of race sponsors Shell.

A second group of four men who had evaded security and scaled the main grandstand overlooking the grid then unfurled a banner from the roof that read: "Arctic oil? Shell No".

Once the lights went out, Vettel swept past Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton soon after and from that moment, he was never troubled in his on-song Red Bull.

Hamilton had to settle for third behind Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who is now Vettel’s closest challenger, but 46 points adrift.

And then come the podium ceremony, where a much smaller banner advertising the campaign made its way on to the railing in front of the stage, leading to boos and whistles from the fans.

Greenpeace had made their point, as did Vettel on track as he crushed his rivals, with Fernando Alonso 17 seconds adrift and Hamilton 28 down as he had to settle for third in the wake of claiming his fourth successive pole.

After a run of 38 consecutive finishes, with the last 27 of those in the points to claim a new F1 record, Raikkonen was forced to retire his Lotus with brake issues. The Finn is now 63 points behind Vettel, with Hamilton 58 adrift and Alonso 46, with 200 up for grabs from the remaining eight races.

The race was effectively sealed after around 20 seconds as Hamilton was unable to do the one thing he knew was required on lap one: to keep Vettel at bay along the Kemmel Straight after the sweep through Eau Rouge.

The getaway was clean enough, however Hamilton appeared to hit the compression of Eau Rouge hard, seemingly losing a degree of momentum, allowing Vettel to close and comfortably flash by.

After that the 26-year-old was never once troubled, with no rain — as forecast — nor a safety car — as often occurs — to disrupt his latest step en route to clinching a fourth consecutive world title.

Even Vettel admitted his win was easier than expected, before adding: "It was a fantastic race for us.

"It helped on the first lap to have the tow off Lewis through Eau Rouge, and then I was flying."

As for Alonso, he did what he does best by making up places at the start, jumping from ninth to fifth before passing Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button in his McLaren on laps four and five respectively.Alonso then also made short work of Hamilton soon after the first round of stops, describing the race after that point as "a little bit boring", to claim the runner-up spot.

Behind the podium trio, Rosberg was fourth ahead of Mark Webber in his Red Bull, followed by Button who was sixth for the fourth time this season. Ferrari’s Felipe Massa was seventh, with Romain Grosjean eighth in his Lotus ahead of Force India’s Adrian Sutil.