Vettel dominates in Korea to take lead in championship
14 October, 2012
Oct.14 (GP247) Sebastian Vettel took command of the 2012 Formula One World Championship, as he powered to a dominant victory in the Korean Grand Prix in what was ultimately a lights to flag victory on a hazy day in Yeongam.
It was the first 2012 one-two finish for Red Bull as Mark Webber, who started from pole, crossed the line in second place as the energy drinks squad have regained the kind of form that saw them obliterate the opposition last year and have firmly put Vettel on the road to a third consecutive world title with four rounds to go.
Speaking to podium MC Johnny Herbert after the race, Vettel said, “I’m very pleased. It’s fantastic. The foundation was to have a good start. I wasn’t sure because I was starting on the dirty side but I had a good launch and managed to get past Mark. But it wasn’t over, it’s a long way and even in seventh gear I could hear Mark coming. We were a bit worried about the front wheel because we’ve seen a lot of people locking up and overshooting the apexes. The team have been flat out on the car since Japan and that’s what we need. I’m looking forward to next couple of races. A lot can happen but we need to focus on ourselves and go from there.”
Webber summed up his afternoon, “I was on pole but the start wasn’t sensational. I will have to look into why but the initial getaway wasn’t great. After that it was neck and neck along the back straight but Seb got away. It was about tyres, at the end of each stint it was tough to keep the tyres alive. But it was a good drive from Seb and a great day for the team. Of course I am disappointed not to win but I’m pleased to get a good result.”
Red Bull’s only issue was restraining Vettel, whose fondness for a last lap burst of speed is famous, and there were several calls over the radio to warn him about not overdoing things, especially as the tyres were supposedly marginal.
But really from the outside it looked almost easy for Red Bull and particularly Vettel, who took the lead in the drag race to Turn 1, despite not getting off the line as stealthily as Webber. But with the inside line at his disposal Vettel was hardly made to fight for the lead.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner explained, “I think all the guys were right on the edge with the tyres. We know what Seb is like in the last laps. I just said to [his engineer] Rocky, stay all over him and he did just that ensuring that he managed the tyres. The nature of the track here, with high speed turns, it’s a real punisher. The guys behaved impeccably at the start, racing each other hard in first three corners. They did exactly what was asked, giving each other space.”
Behind the leaders at the start, Jenson Button had made a good start from 11th on the grid but in Turn 3 he was slammed by an out of control Sauber with Kamui Kobasyahi going from hero (in Suzuka) to zero not even a minute into the race in Korea. Button was out on the spot as was Nico Rosberg who was again an innocent bystander, as he was a week earlier in Japan.
Button was obviously disappointed, “It’s as if the race is two corners long. I don’t know what’s going on but it’s pretty disappointing. It’s a long race and there are so many overtaking opportunities here so there’s no need to do that.”
Sulking is not in the Englishman’s demeanour, and he added when asked if he was still a title contender, “No, definitely not. I’m going to enjoy myself over the next few races. Points for the team would have been really important, but it’s out of our hands.”
Kobayashi was given a drive through penalty for instigating the expensive incident, although he rejoined and circulated despite being out of contention, before calling it quits an lap 16.
The Japanese driver tried to explain, “I was fighting for position. Unfortunately when braking it was difficult to react, someone hit my car and I couldn’t control [it]. But we’re fighting on the straight for position [and] I had both cars on my left and right, so I had nowhere to [go]. I think it’s difficult to avoid.”
Back to the sharp end of proceedings and it was full credit to Ferrari, without a car to match the pace setting RB8, toiled hard to ensure that Fernando Alonso finished third with Felipe Massa taking fourth and forced to hold station behind the championship contender.
Alonso no longer leads the championship standings – for the first time since Valencia and now trails Vettel by six points, while a resurgent Massa did everything expected by his team as the Maranello squad have now overtaken McLaren in the constructors’ standings.
Alonso commented, “We have to be happy with the performance today. We finished third and fourth behind the Red Bulls who are difficult to beat. It was a good day for team, for me and for Felipe, and we overtook McLaren in the constructors’ championship so we are moving in the right direction. We just need an extra step to be as competitive as Red Bull.”
Massa was clearly pleased with his work on the day, “The pace was very good and I’m very happy with the car. I managed to overtake cars at the start and that put me in a condition to drive alone in clear air. The pace was good enough today to possibly finish on the podium. Knowing I did everything I could gave me a lot of pleasure. One point could be important for Fernando Alonso in the fight [for the title].”
It is now certain that the world crown will be fought for by Vettel and Alonso, although Kimi Raikkonen’s remarkable run points finishes continued with his 13th consecutive score in Korea, but despite scoring 15 times in 16 races so far this season, it is unlikely that the Lotus driver has a chance to challenge the leading duo.
Nevertheless it was a good race for Raikkonen, the Lotus E20 enjoying a strong showing after a couple of mediocre races. But in truth the Finn was not a podium contender as long as the Red Bulls and Ferraris were running hassle free.
Drive of the day has got to go to Nico Hulkenberg who was central to one of the best moves of the season as he made an opportunist move to overtake Lewis Hamilton and Romain Grosjean in one single move as the trio battled for sixth place.
Hulkenberg enjoyed himself, and said afterwards, “It was quite surprising. I had a big smile on my face and was cheering like I won a grand prix. I saw an opportunity coming and I chose the right braking side, and I hung in there and did it.”
Hamilton, and McLaren for that matter, had an awful Korean GP with a solitary point their reward for a forgettable afternoon at Yeongam. Pre-race the Woking squad were tipped as possible win contenders, but the pundits got it horribly wrong, starting with luck deserting Button on the opening lap.
With only Hamilton in the race, things went from bad to worse as the anti-roll bar failed on the MP4-27 and thereafter it never delivered the kind of pace needed to be effective. To add insult to injury, late on in the race he hooked up a piece of artificial turf in the McLaren side pod where it remained, flapping to the end of the race and probably cost him eighth place.
“We really struggled today. The guys did a fantastic job in the pit-stops but I’ve just been told that in the first stint we had a rear suspension failure. They said it was safe for me to drive. I did ask [during the race] but I wasn’t expecting them to tell me. I was just fighting the whole way with the car. It’s real sad that we are pretty much out of the championship but sometimes these races show your true spirit within,” ventured Hamilton philosophically.
McLaren sporting director Sam Michael explained, “We had a rear anti-roll bar failure around lap 18. We were talling Lewis ‘everything is safe but you’re going to have to manage it for the rest of the grand prix and he did the best job he could. It’s very difficult to go into detail on the radio about exactly what the failure was. The only thing Lewis needs to know is the car is safe and you are going to have a difficult afternoon trying to drive it.”
Benefitting from Hamilton’s mishap – but in no way detracting from their fine afternoon – were the Toro Rosso pair of Jean Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo who, despite their lack of experience, gave their best showing of the season to finish eighth and ninth respectively. Ricciardo, appeared to slow in the final stages and seemingly gave way to his teammate with a couple of laps to go.
After their superb weekend in Japan, it was back down to earth with a thump for Sauber with Kobayashi messing it up on the opening lap, while Sergio Perez also engaged in some questionable first lap tactics before grafting hard to finish 11th on a day where his performance will hardly have impressed new employers McLaren.
Paul di Resta was again well beaten by his teammate in an afternoon to forget for the highly rated Scottish driver.
Also way out of contention was Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher who finished 13th in his final grand prix in Korea, fourth place in 2010 being his best result at the venue.
When doing the maths after round 16 of the 2012 world championship it shows that Vettel leaves Korea with 215 points. He is the only driver to have won four races so far this season. Alonso trails by half a dozen points, while Raikkonen trails top spot by 48 points with Hamilton 62 points adrift. A maximum of 100 points is up for grabs, which theoretically means that Webber (152 points) and Button (131 points) are still in contention – but in truth it is now Vettel versus Alonso with four rounds to go.
Subbed by AJN.
Korean Grand Prix, Yeongam – Sunday, 14 October 2012
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||55||Winner||2||25|
|2||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||55||+8.2 secs||1||18|
|3||5||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||55||+13.9 secs||4||15|
|4||6||Felipe Massa||Ferrari||55||+20.1 secs||6||12|
|5||9||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus-Renault||55||+36.7 secs||5||10|
|6||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||55||+45.3 secs||8||8|
|7||10||Romain Grosjean||Lotus-Renault||55||+54.8 secs||7||6|
|8||17||Jean-Eric Vergne||STR-Ferrari||55||+69.5 secs||16||4|
|9||16||Daniel Ricciardo||STR-Ferrari||55||+71.7 secs||21||2|
|10||4||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren-Mercedes||55||+79.6 secs||3||1|
|11||15||Sergio Perez||Sauber-Ferrari||55||+80.0 secs||12|
|12||11||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||55||+84.4 secs||14|
|13||7||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes||55||+89.2 secs||10|
|14||18||Pastor Maldonado||Williams-Renault||55||+94.9 secs||15|
|15||19||Bruno Senna||Williams-Renault||55||+96.9 secs||17|
|16||21||Vitaly Petrov||Caterham-Renault||54||+1 Lap||18|
|17||20||Heikki Kovalainen||Caterham-Renault||54||+1 Lap||19|
|18||24||Timo Glock||Marussia-Cosworth||54||+1 Lap||20|
|19||25||Charles Pic||Marussia-Cosworth||53||+2 Laps||24|
|20||23||Narain Karthikeyan||HRT-Cosworth||53||+2 Laps||23|
|Ret||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||16||+39 Laps||22|
|Ret||14||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber-Ferrari||16||+39 Laps||13|
Note: Pic dropped ten grid places for an unscheduled engine change; Ricciardo dropped five – gearbox penalty. Karthikeyan failed to set a Q3 time within the 107% requirement – raced at stewards’ discretion.
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- Red Bull questions tardy response to Webber fire
- Hamilton: Me and Fernando are of a higher calibre, we should be battling at the front
- Korean Grand Prix: Untouchable Vettel triumphs – fourth title now a mere formality
- Hulkenberg: I drove one of the best races in my career so far
- Why always Webber? His curse reaches new low in Korea
- Both Caterham and both Marussia drivers reprimanded
- McLaren: Sometimes it takes a difficult race to bring out the strengths of our people
- Lotus: A fantastic result and it tastes like a race win
- Pirelli come under fire from drivers after tyre incidents in Korea