Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor John Myburgh
Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel has taken his fourth win in a row to extend his championship lead at the Korean Grand Prix. The German stopped twice, becoming the first driver to win in Korea from pole, and giving himself the mathematical possibility of clinching his fourth world title in Japan, next weekend. If he wins at Suzuka, and Fernando Alonso fails to finish higher than ninth, Vettel will be the 2013 World Champion.
All the drivers started on the P Zero Red supersoft tyre, with the exception of Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo, who started the race on the P Zero White medium. After some spots of rain in the morning, conditions remained dry in Korea throughout the afternoon, with the race starting in an ambient temperature of 27°C and track temperature of 29°C.
Vettel made a great start and so did Guttierez, making up six places off the start. Grosjean managed to pass Hamilton into turn three just before Massa lost the rear of his Ferrari and tapped his teammate as he spun round. This dropped Massa to last but it also affected Alonso’s race, as he was stuck in 6th, not having the normal lightning starts we have become used to.
Ricciardo made a great start on his medium tyres and was in seventh. Maldonado also had a great start and was running in eleventh. When Vettel started his second lap, he was already two seconds ahead of second-placed Grosjean. Back down the field, Webber pulled a great move on Perez, passing the Mexican on lap three, around the outside of turn four.
Button was called in on lap four for a new front wing, as his old one was damaged in a tussle with Perez, causing problems for his brakes. While in the pits, Button opted to change a set of mediums, giving him the option to go to a different strategy.
Maldonado, Guttierez, and Di Resta came into the pits for their first stops on lap eight , after Button had set the fastest lap on his mediums. Force India was playing a strategy game and told Di Resta he will be able to overtake Perez if he pits earlier.
Alonso was struggling with his car, which gave Raikkonen a chance to pass him into turn three, on lap nine. Alonso tried to retake the position, but Raikkonen got the inside line into turn four and made the pass stick.
Hamilton came into the pits on lap ten, followed by Alonso. Hamilton rejoined in ninth, while Alonso came out in eleventh. Hamilton was effectively fighting Grosjean, and Lotus reacted to the Hamilton’s stop by calling Grosjean into the pits. He emerged just ahead of Hamilton and had to cover hard to keep his place, which, importantly for him, he did.
Vettel pitted from the lead on lap 12 followed by his teammate Webber on lap 13. Vettel retained his lead with Webber rejoining behind Raikkonen in ninth.
As the first round of pitstops drew to a close, Vettel was leading Grosjean, who was just ahead of Hamilton. Ricciardo, who was yet to stop, was in fourth with Rosberg in fifth. Hulkenberg was sixth, ahead of Alonso, who in turn was followed by Raikkonen, Webber, and Button in tenth.
By lap 20, Hulkenberg had a small train of three cars behind him. Driving superbly, he held Alonso at bay by making his car extremely wide, and not allowing the Ferrari driver through. Raikkonen and Webber followed closely behind the Ferrari.
Raikkonen pitted for new tyres on lap 26 and emerged in 10th, just behind Ricciardo. In the mean time, Di Resta’s race ended in the barriers. Going through turn eleven he took too much kerb on the exit of turn twelve. This is his fourth consecutive DNF this season, and with no contract on the table yet things are not looking good
Raikkonen’s pitstop released Webber, who soon passed Alonso. Hamilton was struggling with grip, as his tyres were failing him. When Rosberg passed his struggling teammate, something broke in his nose, which started dragging on the ground, which forced him to pit, much to the disgust of Hamilton who made his feelings known over the radio.
Mark Webber was setting the the track alight though. Setting the fastest lap on lap 29, he was gaining on the front runners.
Alonso pitted on lap 29, which released Webber into third. He rejoined in ninth.
On lap 30, Hamilton followed Alonso into the pits, by which time Hamilton’s tyres were in dire state, causing him to loose a massive amount of time. Webber came in for new medium tyres on lap 31, a lap too early for lady luck…
Sergio Perez locked up into turn 1 and was passed by Raikkonen on the exit. Webber rejoined the track just in front of Hamilton and closely behind the Perez and Raikkonen. However, Perez’ lockup had a devastating effect on his tyre, causing it to drop its thread while following Raikkonen. Webber and Hamilton had to take evasive action but the situation allowed Hamilton to get a great run on Webber, passing him into turn five just before the safety car was deployed to remove debris from the track.
Webber pitted again (due to a puncture) closely followed by Perez who required a new nose and tyres rejoining in 11th.
Thus, lap 33 saw the field line up behind the safety car, with Vettel closely followed by Grosjean and Raikkonen. As the safety car came in at the start of lap 37, Vettel again managed to stretch his legs and drove away from the two Lotus cars behind him.
Raikkonen was sizing up his teammate going into turn one but could not get past. Hulkenberg had a great run on Hamilton and got himself up to fourth.
Sutil wanted part of the action, coming from a long way back and being very late on the brakes, but as he turned in to turn two, he lost the back of the car and sideswiped Webber’s car. The impact destroyed the side of Webber’s car and ruptured oil pipes. As the oil spilled onto the red-hot exhaust pipes, it ignited forcing Webber to pull over – yet another great disappointment for the Aussie in his last Korean Grand Prix.
Sutil came into pits with a broken rear wing, which his team managed to fix, after which he rejoined the race in 20th and last place.
Just before the safety car got deployed again, Raikkonen passed Grosjean going into turn one. As the other cars arrived at the start-finish straight, they were met with the sight of a Jeep Cherokee. This was not the safety car but a fire marshal sent by the circuit’s head fire marshal. The driver of the Cherokee seemed to have no awareness of where the other drivers were or what a racing line is, as he cut across the racing line to tend to Webber’s car.
The safety car came in on lap 41 and the race restarted. Vettel put his foot down but Raikkonen kept him honest as much as he could. Alonso lined up Hamilton and briefly passed him into turn three but the latter managed to get in front again. They continued a ding dong battle for fifth but Hamilton drove superbly to stay ahead.
Sutil made another visit to the pits courtesy of a penalty, not for colliding with Webber, but for speeding in the pit lane.
By lap 43, Vettel had stretched his lead to almost two seconds, while Hamilton was closing in on the Sauber of Hulkenberg in fourth.
Lap 45 saw a battle of the South Americas. Maldonado, Perez, Guttierez, and Massa were all fighting for tenth place. Massa emerged victorious, after passing the scrap between Guttierez and Maldonado, who was soon passed by his teammate Bottas.
On lap 48, Hamilton was still struggling to find a way past Hulkenberg and briefly did so into turn one. Hulkenberg returned the compliment on the second straight, with the help of a healthy dose of DRS. Fighting with Hulkenberg brought the chasing pack closer and Hamilton found himself under pressure from Alonso.
Five laps from the end, Lotus’ team principal Boullier came on Grosjean’s radio, encouraging him to pass Raikkonen. Although he did not manage to get close enough to get past this is an interesting development at Lotus. Are they protecting their budget or just supporting their soon-to-be number one driver?
Hulkenberg was doing a great job keeping Hamilton behind him. This led to Hamilton’s race engineer asking him to try and get some cool air into the car, as it had started overheating.
Vettel’s front right started looking a bit worse for wear, and as he set the fastest lap of the race on lap 53, his team told him to back off as he already had the fastest lap of the race and the risk was not worth it.
On the final lap Hamilton was still trying to find a way past Hulkenberg, who then got a breather as Alonso had closed up on Hamilton and started attacking.
After an eventful race, Vettel wins from pole. Raikkonen came in second and Grosjean third. Hulkenberg took fourth with a brilliant drive! Hamilton,in fifth, led Alonso over the line, followed by Rosberg, Button, and Massa. Perez managed to pick up the last available point for his tenth place.
Just outside of the points was a gutsy Gutierrez in eleventh. Bottas beat Maldonado to twelfth, after the latter lost out in the South American war. Pic led the Caterhams home from Van der Garde, and Bianchi lead Chilton home for Marussia. Vergne was classified ahead of his teammate Ricciardo, who retired three laps from the end with brake failure, and Sutil was classified in 20th, after he had to retire two laps from the end due to the damage sustained when he battered Webber. Webber and Di Resta were classified as DNF.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “With the medium compound proving to be the ideal race tyre, most drivers aimed to get onto it as soon as possible, with teams reacting from the start of the race to the strategies that had been put in place by their immediate rivals. We had a tyre choice that may have been aggressive, with the supersoft being a perfect qualifying tyre and the medium optimal for the race, but this was in accordance with the requests of many of the teams.
Regarding Sergio Perez’s front-right tyre issue we have been able to determine very quickly that it was the result of a flat spot caused by a lock-up under heavy braking. We’re obviously on exactly the same construction as we raced here last year, so there’s no underlying problem, while flat spots or punctures have just always been an integral part of racing. The two safety car periods had an important effect on the race strategy, which meant that all the finishers apart from one completed the race with just two stops.
Without safety cars, we probably would have seen more people stopping three times, but it was always going to be within the two to three stop window, which has been our target since we came into Formula One.”
It was a great drive by Vettel, who controlled the race from the front, getting pole, fastest lap and race win. Still, Lotus must feel confident having Grosjean staying at the team. The bit of extra support the Frenchman is getting is proving to be all he requires to step up to the leading role.
Drivers World Championship Standings:
Constructors World Championship Standings: