Nico Rosberg (left) and Lewis Hamilton celebrate on the podium after the Belgian Grand Prix.

Story highlights

Rosberg nine points behind Hamilton

Race red-flagged after Dane crashes

Hamilton takes advantage to finish third

CNN —  

Nico Rosberg has closed the gap on his Mercedes teammate and fierce rival Lewis Hamilton after an action-packed race at the Spa circuit in Belgium.

The German racer led the Grand Prix from start to finish after qualifying on pole, collecting maximum points.

With Hamilton ending the race in third, his lead in the championship has been cut from 19 points to nine.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull completed the podium lineup, finishing behind Rosberg.

But perhaps Hamilton will consider that he was the real winner on a day of dramatic crashes that led to a safety car being deployed and then a red flag, meaning all cars had to return to the pits before a restart.

The British driver who is battling for his fourth world championship took grid penalties for using too many engine replacements after mechanical problems plagued his early season.

He began the Belgian Grand Prix at the back of the grid, and, with his teammate on pole, it looked like he would struggle to score any points.

Hamilton though was able to take advantage of the chaos at the start.

Describing the melee, the F1 website said: “Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel went three abreast into the opening corner, all making contact and all picking up damage.”

Then on lap six, Kevin Magnussen in a Renault lost control at Eau Rouge and crashed heavily into the barriers. The F1 website reports that he was able to climb from the cockpit and has been taken to hospital for checks.

Hamilton charged through the field and was chasing hard for second place when he ran out of laps.

READ: Check the latest driver standings in the world championship

The result in Belgium means the championship contest is now neck-and-neck between Hamilton and Rosberg, with Ricciardo consolidating his position in third, 23 points ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

Rosberg was gracious to his rival after the race, telling reporters: “Congrats to Lewis. From last place to third must have been pretty impressive.”

Hamilton also appears to have been relieved to only lose 10 points to Rosberg, telling the Spa crowd: “The team did an amazing job this weekend. It was just a remarkable day. Beautiful weather, great crowd and a great race.”

Frustration boiled over for one driver during the drama. Kimi Raikkonen in a Ferrari struggled to pass Max Verstappen in a Red Bull, accusing him of unfair tactics in heated comments to his team on the radio.

The argument continued after the race. On the F1 website Raikkonen is quoted as saying: “I’m all up for fair battles and close racing, but when I have to brake on the straight so as not to hit him, because he moves after me, that’s not correct. That’s close to a big accident.”

On the same website, Verstappen hit back at the criticism, accusing Raikkonen of moaning. “I was defending my position – if someone doesn’t like it that’s their problem,” he said.