Round 16 - Korea 12-14 October 2012
Circuit Length: 5.615 Km
Lap Record: 1:39.605 = 202.941 km/h, S. Vettel (Red Bull Renault) 2011
Pole Position: Mark Webber (Red Bull Renault), 1:37.242 = 207.873 km/h1st: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Renault) 1:36.28.651 (av. race speed = 191.938 km/h)
2nd: Mark Webber (Red Bull Renault), 8.231s behind
3rd: Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), 13.944s behind
Fastest Lap: Webber, 1:42.037 = 198.104 km/h on lap 54
TURNING POINT: THE KOREAN GP IN 10 QUICK BITES
After Singapore he could smell it… after Suzuka he could taste it… now he can virtually touch it: Sebastian Vettel’s third consecutive race win for Red Bull Renault has seen the German put one hand on his third successive Drivers’ World Championship. Vettel now leads for the first time since round four, six points ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who finished third in Korea, with just four races to come.
Commenting on what he called “a perfect day”, Vettel said: “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. We will have to do our best to remain where we are now. We have to just keep it simple and do our job.”
Vettel’s title ambitions may hinge on his own teammate Mark Webber and his ability to take points away from Alonso. The Australian did just that on Sunday, for while he lost the advantage of his pole position at the start he followed Vettel home to claim his first podium finish since he won the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in July – seven races ago. Unable to conceal his disappointment, Webber said: “I have mixed emotions. It was a good result, but of course, I wanted to get the top result today.” Webber has consolidated his fifth place overall and is now just one point behind Lewis Hamilton after a disastrous Korean outing for McLaren Mercedes.
It began on lap one when Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi went from Japanese hero to Korean zero in the space of a few corners. Squeezed out in a four-car fight over the same piece of track, the Japanese driver rocketed past Jenson Button’s McLaren and tore off its front right wheel assembly. “What an idiot!” growled Button over the team radio as his no-score dropped him 21 points behind Webber. “It was just a very difficult moment and I had nowhere to go but I think it was my mistake,” said a crestfallen Kobayashi, still with no race seat settled for 2013.
It continued when Hamilton spent much of his race on the radio complaining about the other McLaren. At first it was to do with its tyres, then it was the handling, and finally his misery was complete when the car ripped up a piece of loose Astroturf and finished the race with the green material jammed under its right sidepod. Hamilton salvaged a point in 10th place but with Felipe Massa finishing fourth Ferrari leap-frogged the British team into second place behind Red Bull in the Constructors’ World Championship. “It doesn’t feel great to experience days like these, but every cloud has a silver lining,” said Hamilton, now effectively out of the title chase. “Put it this way: it’s good to see what’s in your heart when you keep fighting. Days like these show the true spirit within.”
Massa was at the centre of another puzzling Ferrari decision when he was effectively told to slow down behind Alonso just after half-distance. With both Red Bull drivers nursing seriously compromised front tyres in the closing laps, Ferrari might regret not allowing the Brazilian through to attack Webber and soften the Australian up for a late-race attack by Alonso.
Lotus pair Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean finished fifth and seventh respectively, the Finn coping well on his first acquaintance with the Korean track, the Frenchman exaggeratedly keeping his nose clean early in the race after a string of first-lap misdemeanours. Between them was Nico Hülkenberg, the young German claiming another assured points haul as the conviction grows that he will be a Sauber driver in 2013.
For the third time this year Jean-Eric Vergne brought his Toro Rosso home in eighth place, one place ahead of teammate Dan Ricciardo. The West Australian youngster has now finished in the points at the last three races, this time coming home ahead of Hamilton’s Mercedes despite a worrying moment when the car pulled sharp left with 10 laps to go. “I thought it must have been a suspension failure because the car suddenly shot to the left and I could not stop it,” Ricciardo explained. “However, I realised I could keep going, even if every time I braked the car pulled to the left and I was locking the front a lot. Unfortunately, that cost me eighth place, but at least I was able to give it up to my team-mate. I’m still grateful to be in the points with such a problem, although it’s a case of mixed emotions, as it would have been my best result of the season. But for the team overall, it’s been a very good day.”
The team Hamilton will join next year, Mercedes, also drew a Korean blank. Nico Rosberg was another innocent victim of Kobayashi’s first-lap loss of control and was out straight away; Michael Schumacher was feisty in the early stages but fell back to finish 13th of the 20 classified runners. Along with the two Mercedes drivers and Kobayashi, HRT’s Pedro de la Rosa retired in the pits after 16 laps with a throttle pedal problem.
After taking three successive wins for the third time in his career Vettel now has 25, which puts him level with legendary Scot Jim Clark. Asked what the plan would be for the remaining races, he said: “What do we do? I think we have to focus on ourselves. There’s enough people telling us, we don’t need to do the mathematics ourselves.”