Korean Grand Prix thriller. Four words that we never thought would appear in the same sentence together, but that’s exactly what happened over the course of 55 laps. Sebastian Vettel won, but unlike Singapore a fortnight ago, there wasn’t a 2hr wait for some excitement to be served up to us.
The football phrase “a game of two halves” would be a great way to sum up the afternoon’s racing. For 25 laps, it looked to be business as usual for the reigning World Champion. Vettel led off the line and burst into a 2.1 second lead after one lap. Game over again, surely?
Romain Grosjean had the bit between his teeth and nabbed 2nd place from Lewis Hamilton going into Turn 3, but the rest of the field started to scrap for places over the corner, culminating in Felipe Massa losing his car on the kerbs and nearly wiping out Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso, among others. “Racing for myself” seems to be the motto the Brazilian is living by these days. Oo-er.
Settling down, Vettel extended his lead in a now familiar fashion while the others jostled for places and dived into the pits for their first stops. Grosjean was keeping the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg firmly in check, with Nico Hulkenberg doing the same ahead of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn would jump both after the second round of pitstops however.
Nothing exciting of note was really happening. Then it all got a bit hectic.
Nico Rosberg finally caught and passed teammate Hamilton after the Brit’s tyres not only dropped off the cliff, but pretty much basejumped off it. Then the German’s front wing mounts failed and all of a sudden we had sparks. In modern Formula One. Madness.
Sergio Perez then coaxed the safety-car out of hiding after his front right Pirelli delaminated in spectacular fashion, showering Mark Webber in debris, causing him a puncture, ruining the pitstop the Aussie has just taken. The Mexican limped back to the pits but managed to continue, Webber pitted again and dropped to 13th, whilst everyone else tutted and stared at Paul Hemberey. Again.
Debris clear, it was time to go racing again. Only no-one told Adrian Sutil, who dropped his Force India into Turn 3 and ended up wiping out poor Mark Webber. To make matters worse, the Red Bull ignited like an Australian BBQ and burned to a crisp. If it wasn’t for bad luck, Mark would have no luck at all. He couldn’t even get a taxi ride back from his mate Fernando.
Another safety-car period beckoned, but it was trumped by an over-eager fire truck which managed to do what every other car on track couldn’t do all afternoon – get ahead of Vettel.
On the second restart Sebastian bolted again, but Kimi Raikkonen got the jump on Romain to nab 2nd place behind the Red Bull. With these three out on their own, focus turned to Nico Hulkenberg’s Sauber holding off not only Hamilton, but Fernando Alonso and a recovering Nico Rosberg too.
It was a brilliant show of defensive driving from the young German to hold off two World Champions and a race winner to put himself out there in terms of the driver market for 2014. Application process skipped, straight on to the interviews, we think.
But the day belonged to Sebastian Vettel, yet again, who can seal this year’s title if (or maybe when) he wins in Japan and Fernando Alonso doesn’t finish higher than 9th. Game, set, and nearly match, it seems.
Korean Grand Prix – Result
1. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull-Renault 1h43:13.701
2. Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus-Renault + 4.200
3. Romain Grosjean, Lotus-Renault + 4.900
4. Nico Hulkenberg, Sauber-Ferrari + 24.100
5. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes + 25.200
6. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari + 26.100
7. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes + 26.600
8. Jenson Button, McLaren-Mercedes + 32.200
9. Felipe Massa, Ferrari + 34.300
10. Sergio Perez, McLaren-Mercedes + 35.100
11. Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber-Ferrari + 35.900
12. Valterri Bottas, Williams-Renault + 47.000
13. Pastor Maldonado, Williams-Renault + 50.000
14. Charles Pic, Caterham-Renault + 1:03.500
15. Giedo van der Garde, Caterham-Renault + 1:04.500
16. Jules Bianchi, Marussia-Cosworth + 1:07.900
17. Max Chilton, Marussia-Cosworth + 1:12.900
18. Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 2 laps
19. Daniel Ricciardo, Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 3 laps
20. Adrian Sutil, Force India-Mercedes + 5 laps
Mark Webber, Red Bull Racing
Paul Di Resta, Force India