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 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.
Hamilton had to settle for third behind Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who is now Vettel’s closest challenger, but 46 points adrift. In the early laps Alonso passed McLaren’s Jenson Button and Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg to claim third, and shortly after stop one he swept down the inside of Hamilton at La Source as the Briton ran wide.
As for Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen, who came into the race 38 points down on Vettel and the German’s closest challenger, the Finn is 63 behind after retiring for the first time in 39 races, stretching back to the German Grand Prix of 2009.
Suffering a brake issue that forced him into the pits after 26 laps, it also ended the Finn’s record-breaking run of 27 consecutive races in the points.
The interviews that followed were conducted against a backdrop of boos, apparently for a Greenpeace protestor who tried to make his way on to the podium. Despite that, a ruffled Vettel said: “It was a fantastic race for us from start to finish. It helped on the first lap getting a tow off Lewis through Eau Rouge. Once I passed him we could control the race.
“So a great result, with the car better than we expected going into the race which I really enjoyed a lot. Fortunately there was no rain, so no need for any critical calls to be made, and a comfortable afternoon for us.”
Recognising he never once had an opportunity to challenge Vettel, Alonso said: “We had to recover some places because we were not okay yesterday (during qualifying). We were then okay from the start, but the race was a little boring once we had second place.” —