Vettel wins but Hamilton prevents Red Bull 1-2… sister team Toro Rosso produce best effort of 2011… Schumi taken out by Petrov… strong showing from Ricciardo
A 1-3 finish for Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber in the 55-lap Korean Grand Prix has given Red Bull Racing their second straight Constructors’ World Championship to add to the drivers’ title the German retained at Motegi two weeks ago.
Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren had ended Red Bull’s perfect run of pole positions in 2011, but Vettel rocketed into the lead on the opening lap and had the sustained pace to break the Englishman’s resistance at the rate of half a second a lap in the early stages, taking his 10th win of a stellar season by a margin of 12.019 seconds.
“Fantastic; a very nice day today and very special for the team,” said an exultant Vettel, who recorded the fastest lap of 1m 39.605s on the race’s very last lap.
“Winning the Constructors’ means a lot. It was a phenomenal race, we had so much pace and it was so much fun out there. I knew overtaking Lewis near the start would be difficult and I nearly went off under braking, but he was very fair and it was important for us to get track position.”
Hamilton was relieved to make his first visit to the podium in six races. “This was one of my strongest races of the season,” he said. “There was so much pressure from Mark behind and it would have been so easy to make a mistake, lock up or go wide – but I’m really satisfied that I didn’t do so once. I believe that withstanding pressure is the mark of a world champion, and I think I showed that in today’s race.”
Webber harried Hamilton and even swapped places with him briefly with six laps to go, finishing just under half a second behind the McLaren. His ninth podium of the season narrowed the gap between himself and the two men ahead of him in the fight for second place overall, McLaren’s Jenson Button and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.
“There were loads of positives today, it was a good start for me and I got a good result,” said Webber, who is in fourth place, 13 points adrift of Button and just three behind Alonso. “For the team to get the Constructors’ is an incredible effort – when you have two back-to-back Constructors’ World Championships, it’s phenomenal.”
Button tried hard to pass Webber at one-third distance but the Australian firmly closed the door, leaving Button to finish fourth ahead of Alonso and his Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa, but the other eye-catchers in the top 10 were Scuderia Toro Rosso. The sister team to Red Bull produced its finest result of 2011 with Jaime Alguersuari in seventh place and Sébastien Buemi ninth.
Toro Rosso is now just three points behind Sauber, for whom Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez could do no better than 15th and 16th, in the battle for seventh place in the Constructors’ standings.
Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes and Paul di Resta’s Force India were eighth and 10th respectively, but Rosberg’s teammate Michael Schumacher was an innocent victim in the race’s major incident.
It came after 16 laps when Vitaly Petrov’s Renault, desperately defending against Alonso, outbraked itself at Turn 3 and simply broadsided the German, sending both into retirement.
"Another unfortunate end to a race which could have been encouraging today,” said Schumacher after his fifth non-scoring race of the season. “It's a big pity as the car was again very good in race trim and I had already gained some positions. It would have been interesting to see what was possible.”
Petrov triggered the Safety Car’s intervention and earned a five-place grid penalty for the next race for his indiscretion. The only other non-finisher was Pastor Maldonado, whose Williams suffered a failure to its Cosworth engine after 30 laps. Daniel Ricciardo once again gave an excellent account of himself at the end of a difficult weekend for HRT, finishing 19th, two spots ahead of teammate Vitantonio Liuzzi.
“I’m a bit disappointed with myself after the Safety Car,” said the young Australian, “because I went to attack (Timo) Glock but it worked against me with (Jérôme) D’Ambrosio getting past me. That made me work hard to get back past him again so at least we split the two Virgins. Next time we have to work hard to get ahead of both of them.”
Next time is two weeks away when, as Glock put it, “We’re off to our big adventure in India” as the F1 caravan pitches camp for the first time at the Buddh International Circuit near New Delhi.
In the meantime Red Bull can bask in the glory of double success for the second year running. Webber, as usual, summed it up perfectly: “For the team, for everyone in Milton Keynes designing and building the car, for everyone in Viry at Renault building the engine which has been 100% reliable so far this year and for everyone in Fuschl in Austria, it's been a great year. I’m sure there will be some headaches tonight.”
Drivers’ Championship after 16 of 19 rounds
1. Vettel 349 points
2. Button 222
3. Alonso 212
4. Webber 209
5. Hamilton 196
6. Massa 98
1. Red Bull 558 points
2. McLaren 418
3. Ferrari 310