The racing incident happed on lap 40 in the approach to turn 12 as Vettel took the inside line to overtake his team-mate. They touched wheels and both spun off with Vettel suffering damage to his rear wheel, his race over.
Webber was able to drive back to the pits to replace his nose-cone, and return ahead of the chasing Mercedes GP cars of Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg.
There was another dramatic moment on lap 50 as Jenson Button closed on Hamilton, taking him in to turn 12, before Hamilton fought back to regain the lead. That is what we had been waiting for: tense, overtaking actionÃ¢â‚¬â€but the fun was short-lived as the call came for both drivers to preserve tyres and more critically fuel consumption to get them to the end of the race.
Hamilton then led Button home, 2.4 seconds adrift, while a fuming Webber completed took the final podium place, scant consolation for another magnificent weekend.
Before the Red Bull collision the race had been little to write home about for the championship hopefuls as Webber led from pole. Vettel briefly had second on the first lap before Hamilton regained.
None of the tricky corners played their part, and we had to wait until the pit stops to get a change in the top four as Hamilton pitted.
Seeing the McLaren mechanics ready for Hamilton, Red Bull responded by bringing in Webber at the same time, allowing Vettel to jump Hamilton. And it was back to the familiar as Webber lead from Vettel with the McLarens left to chase.
BBC pundits and others called it the best race of the season. It was far from it. Those fleeting moments of in-house fighting on track made the race something; otherwise it was largely a procession.
The Mercedes of Schumacher and Rosberg were notable for finishing fourth and fifth, but you could be forgiven for forgetting they were out there, such was their inability or unwillingness to push on. SchumacherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s post-race interview said it all: they did what they could, and got the reward they were looking for.
The post-race debriefs will be something to watch out for with the Red Bull meeting expected to be a bit feisty. The team threw away a lot of points today, and that was down to their drivers.
McLaren had the pace to live with Red Bull this weekend, and are now one point ahead in the ConstructorsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Championship with 172 to Red BullÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 171.
In the DriversÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Championship Webber extends his lead at the top, with Button and Hamilton closing in. VettelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s crash drops him from joint-first to fifth; such is the new scoring system for 2010.
Elsewhere, a late puncture for Vitaly Petrov saw the Russian lose his top 10 place after a solid race, eventually finishing 15th. FerrariÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s dreadful weekend continued, failing to make any improvement on qualifying as Felipe Massa finished ahead of Fernando Alonso in seventh and eighth behind RenaultÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Robert Kubica.
Adrian Sutil finished a solid ninth ahead of SauberÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Kamui Kobayashi who rounded out the top ten to score his first points of the season.
Virgin Racing were the best of the new teams as both cars finished. Despite Lotus having a good weekend, both cars again failed to make it to the end with hydraulic problems, while both Hispania Racing cars also suffered a mechanical failure.
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