Vettel wins Korean GP at Yeongam and takes championship lead from Alonso
By Berthold Bouman
Sebastian Vettel won the Korean Grand Prix today and took the lead in the Drivers’ Championship over from Fernando Alonso who finished in third place. Mark Webber was second and gave Red Bull Racing a one-two victory on the Yeongam circuit, in a race that was all about tyres.
Of course Vettel was happy with the result, “I think it was a perfect day for me and the team. My one mistake today was a lock-up going in to Turn 3, but with the tyres it was marginal for everyone.
“You couldn’t push so much and my front right didn’t look too happy from the inside many times. We were able to pull away in the first and second stint and hold it for the third.” About his first place in the championship he said, “We will have to do our best to remain where we are now. We have to just keep it simple and do our job.”
At the start Vettel took first place from pole-sitter Webber, the Australian took it back but it was Vettel who led the race after the first lap. Button, who had started from 11th place, was hit by Kamui Kobayashi and the Briton was out of the race as the Japanese driver had taken off his right front wheel. Kobayashi had to pit for a new left rear tyre but could continue the race, but fell back to 22nd place. Also out was Nico Rosberg as he had been hit by Kobayashi as well and had to park his car along the back straight.
After six laps the order was: Vettel, Webber, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen was sixth. Further down the order Pastor Maldonado, Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo were dicing for 13th place, meanwhile yellow flags were still out on the back straight, as Rosberg’s Mercedes was still parked along the track, Race Control also temporarily disabled DRS.
No problems this time for Romain Grosjean who was in eighth place for Lotus right behind Nico Hulkenberg in the Force India. Kobayashi came into the pit lane as he had been handed a drive-through penalty for his collision with Button, sometimes the Japanese driver is a genius, but today obviously not.
Michael Schumacher, Paul di Resta and Vergne were battling for tenth place and Sergio Perez had joined Hulkenberg and Grosjean to fight for seventh place. But it was soon time for the first round of pit stops, Hamilton was the first to pit on lap 14. Grosjean tried to overtake Hulkenberg in the pit lane, but the German was faster and thus exited the pit lane first.
Next were Webber, Raikkonen and Massa, and the rest soon followed; Vettel still in leading position pitted, and rejoined again in leading position. After 17 laps Perez was the only one in the top ten who still hadn’t made a pit stop, he was in sixth position with Raikkonen on his tail. But the Finn could use his DRS on the long back straight and overtook the Mexican to take sixth place.
More activity in the pit lane as Pedro de la Rosa and Kobayashi retired and parked their car in the garage. Perez finally made his first stop on lap 19, he rejoined in 14th place. At the front of the field Hamilton in fourth place was complaining about loss of downforce, and Massa made good use of Hamilton’s problem and assisted by his DRS easily took fourth place from the 2008 World Champion.
Raikkonen was next to attack the McLaren of Hamilton, the latter was visibly struggling to stay ahead of the Finn. But the next lap Hamilton had to let the Lotus past, but Hamilton didn’t give up and the next corner he wrestled his way past the Lotus again.
Raikkonen tried again to overtake Hamilton on the back straight with his DRS enabled, but he just wasn’t fast enough as Hamilton defended his position by using his KERS system. But he decided to make his second pit stop and on lap 27 rejoined the race in eighth place, but his problems weren’t over yet as he reported his car was ‘very nervous’.
At the same time Hulkenberg and Grosjean were battling for sixth place, but the Lotus lacked the necessary straight-line speed and the Frenchman had to stay behind the Force India. Grosjean then also decided to pit and rejoined the race in 11th place.
After 32 laps it was time for the second round of pit stops, Webber was in first, and was soon followed by Schumacher, Senna and Hulkenberg. Hulkenberg rejoined the race behind Grosjean, and thus lost a place to the Frenchman during his pit stop.
Meanwhile, Alonso had Massa on his tail, the Spaniard decided to pit and he rejoined the race in fifth place at the time, still behind Webber. Vettel also pitted after he had a big moment and ran very wide on his worn-out tyres, and again kept his leading position.
But a few laps later the battle for third place between Alonso and Massa was about to continue, but the Brazilian was told to ‘maintain the gap’. Schumacher and Perez were battling it out for 12th place, a battle at the time won by Schumacher.
Hamilton meanwhile, was dicing with Grosjean for sixth place, but the Frenchman had to back off at the end of the back straight, and Hulkenberg who was behind them, made good use of the situation and overtook both to take sixth place for Force India. But Grosjean of course hadn’t given up his attempts to overtake Hamilton now in seventh place, and pushed the 2008 World Champion very hard. But Hamilton again decided to pit and he was then tenth, but he was now on the faster super softs.
Both Alonso and Massa were closing in on Webber, who with nine laps still to go, was warned by his team to look after his right front tyre, the same message was relayed to Vettel. Hamilton on his new tyres was now battling with Vergne for ninth place but the Frenchman was also on the super softs and thus could keep the McLaren easily behind him.
Vergne was now behind his team mate Ricciardo which gave Hamilton the opportunity to close in on the Frenchman again, but the Australian let his team mate past and Hamilton was now behind Ricciardo with just two laps to go. But Hamilton had picked up a piece of the astro turf after he had run wide. it was now hanging from his right sidepod and he had to abort his attempts to overtake Ricciardo.
Vettel did what he usually does, he cruised to the finish line and won the race, the third consecutive victory for the German. Webber was second, Alonso third, Massa fourth, Raikkonen fifth and Hulkenberg took sixth place.
Webber, who started the race from pole, commented, “I had a bit too much clutch off the line, which was disappointing. I put up a fight on the back straight with Sebastian, as it wasn’t all over. I tried to make a move, but once I pulled out of his slipstream, both of us were on the same speed.”
And he added, “Congratulations to Sebastian on the win and it’s great for the team that we got a one-two, especially for the Constructors’, but I have mixed emotions. It was a good result, but of course, I wanted to get the top result today.”
Third-place man Alonso said, “It was a difficult race and, come the end of the weekend, I am happy with the way things went. I was starting from the dirty side of the track, we had doubts over tyre life and what would be the race pace of our rivals. With all these concerns, managing to get to the podium meant I could breathe a big sigh of relief. It’s true that Red Bull was quickest all weekend, but our aim was to be right behind them and we achieved that.”
Next race is the Indian Grand Prix on October 28. Vettel is now leading the Drivers’ Championship with 215 points, Alonso is second with 209 points, Raikkonen is third with 167 points, Hamilton, Webber and Button are fourth, fifth and sixth with 153, 152 and 131 points respectively.