That spectacular incident ensured that Frenchman Romain Grosjean, who had mounted a thrilling attack for Lotus in the final laps, took third place in an enthralling race.
“With the new start situation, and we’re having to do everything ourselves now, there’s a lot more opportunity tomorrow even at the start”, he said.
And it was a tale of contrasting fortunes for the men who occupied the front row. Rosberg, in contrast, slumped to fifth.
After completing a practice double on Friday, Rosberg left this historic Spa-Francorchamps circuit suggesting he was “one step ahead” of his team-mate, who he trails by 21 points in the championship.
Vettel, however, had no problems getting into the last qualifying session with his sole fast lap attempt. Hamilton told his pit he believed Rosberg had closed up under the VSC, and Rosberg had gained a second when racing resumed, but was not adjudged to have done so illegally.
“I don’t remember as good as year in terms of qualifying”, said Hamilton. Sparking the fight which was building up in the races before.
Ricciardo was the first of the leading pack to pit at the end of lap six. Rosberg improved too, but was firmly in his team mate’s shadow with 1m 47.655s.
The 30-year-old German lost control of his Mercedes when the right rear Pirelli tyre disintegrated at around 320kph at the Blanchimont corner.
The Mercedes pair will be determined not to repeat the fiasco of 2014, when Rosberg was on pole and they collided on the second lap. Hamilton now has 227 points and Rosberg 199. “Something’s broke!” exclaimed the 2007 World Champion as his Ferrari came to a halt.
The excitement in the final two laps of the race partially overshadowed Hamilton’s run up to the chequered flag for his sixth win of the season, but it remains to be seen how Rosberg responds in the next race at Monza. The different tyre compounds are defined by yellow, for option, and white for the prime. Verstappen took P8, with Bottas taking P9 following his penalty and tyre travails.
Retaining the comical theme, Jenson Button suggested that McLaren had “forgotten to connect the batteries”.
Behind the Mercs, Sergio Perez & Romain Grosjean squabbled for P3, with the Lotus driver passing Perez easily down the Kemmel Straight. His teammate Kimi Raikkonen had a slow start, but finished in the points at 7.
Russian Daniil Kvyat was seventh in the second Red Bull ahead of German Nico Hulkenberg in the second Force India, Finn Valtteri Bottas and his Williams team-mate Brazilian Felipe Massa.
“We have had such a great crowd here this weekend”, said Hamilton.
Speaking to David Coulthard after the race, Grosjean continued to express the happiness team Lotus had immediately following his win, saying it had been an “incredible, incredible weekend”. “I’m really happy with the performance of the vehicle”. “The auto has been feeling great and it is a circuit where if you can get the right balance it is one of the most fun to drive”.
As expected, the new starting procedures mixed things up off the line, with Rosberg and Bottas making poor getaways from P2 and P3 on the grid, as Perez (starting P4) and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo (P5) capitalised to chase polesitter Hamilton out of the first turn.