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Hamilton mindful of 'huge' gap
Lewis Hamilton may have picked off one Formula One world title rival as promised, but even he recognises the gap to Sebastian Vettel has now become "huge".
Vettel cruised to the 31st victory of his F1 career on a day when not even Greenpeace protestors could throw a spanner in the works of the German's Belgian Grand Prix triumph.
Ahead of the race 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 soon after evaded security and scaled the main grandstand overlooking the grid, unfurling a banner from the roof that read: "ARCTIC OIL? SHELL NO".
And then come the podium ceremony, a much smaller banner advertising the campaign made its way on to the railing in front of the dias, 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.
In the build-up to the race Hamilton had promised to pick off his rivals one by one to clinch the crown, and can at least claim he is on track after overtaking Kimi Raikkonen.
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.
"That's a big, big gap. A huge gap," assessed Hamilton of the hurdle he faces. "It's going to be very tough to close that, but I'm going to keep pushing."
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.
"It's difficult when people pull away from you. There was nothing I could do about it," added Hamilton. "I feel happy we've extended our lead ahead of Ferrari, and I'm up to third in the championship.
"So I've done what I planned, but it's difficult when he (Vettel) pulls away at the rate he does."
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 and Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo.
Paul Di Resta failed to score for a third successive race after being taken out by Williams' Pastor Maldonado on lap 27, whilst Marussia's Max Chilton was 19th and last of those that finished.