Sebastian Vettel turned in another dominating performance, overtaking pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren on the opening lap to capture the Korean Grand Prix at Yeongam, his 10th victory of the season and 20th of his career. Red Bull Racing clinched the team’s second consecutive Constructors’ Championship as well.
Sebastian Vettel helped secure the constructors’ championship for Red Bull, with a dominant win in Yeongam, making it back-to-back wins for the team, and the double after the German took the drivers’ championship in Suzuka last week. While Vettel was untroubled at the front all the action was behind him where Lewis Hamilton, who had started on pole, drove an exceptional race to secure second place, his first podium since winning the German Grand Prix in July. Mark Webber’s third place provided the final points Red Bull needed and he was followed home by Jenson Button in fourth.
McLaren had shown pace in the one dry practice session to take pole in qualifying, breaking Red Bull’s dominance of the top spot. But with so little running on slicks, race pace had been difficult to assess, however within a lap it became clear that normal service, in the form of Vettel pulling away at the front, was to resume.
There were spots of rain before the off, causing some concern but the downpour that engulfed last year’s race did not arrive and the track remained dry, which allowed a clean start for the short run down to turn one. Hamilton made it first but Vettel powered up to him down the longest straight in F1 – the 1,160 metres between turns two and three. By its end he was under the British driver’s rear wing, stayed there and, Hamilton having moved across once already had to leave room, which Vettel gleefully took, throwing his car up the inside of the hairpin at turn four.
This gave the world champion the clear air he has enjoyed so often this year and with concerns over early tyre degradation proving unfounded only raw speed could catch him. Hamilton gave it his best for the first 10 laps while suffering with understeer, staying within two-and-a-half seconds but never reducing the lead to under a second, which might have given him a chance with the DRS deployed.
Button, who had started in third, had a poor opening lap, dropping places to Webber, Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso. Then, after a wheel-to-wheel exit of the pit lane with Nico Rosberg, in which he had to lift as the pair funnelled towards the track, he took the place back going inside him into turn two as the German went wide, was promptly retaken by Rosberg under DRS immediately afterwards on the back straight before Button finally finished the job on the Mercedes a lap later, again, on the back straight. After which furious competition the stop paid off for both drivers, coming in early and taking the undercut to pass both Massa and Alonso.
A safety car period caused when Vitaly Petrov launched itself up the back of Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes at turn three, the German delayed by a slow Sauber in front and Petrov coming in too hot, settled the race order as: Vettel, Hamilton, Webber, Button, Rosberg, Massa and Alonso. For the top four that is how it would remain.
As Vettel slowly pulled out a lead after a clean restart, Hamilton found himself having to defend from a clearly faster Webber the pair going wheel-to-wheel through the tight section between turns three and six before and continuing all the way to turn 11 before Hamilton held the spot. He would do so until the end with Webber rarely more than 0.4 seconds behind him and indeed taking the place at the second corner only to see it retaken by Hamilton on the back straight, with only five laps to go.
Alonso had by now passed Massa and the pair both passed Rosberg but despite a late charge the Spaniard could only come close to catching Button. They finished fifth and sixth with a fine run by Jaime Alguersuari pipping Rosberg to seventh.
The day belonged to Vettel and Red Bull but the race was Hamilton’s. He drove magnificently to keep a clearly faster car behind him but it was not the win he craves and his reaction afterwards was as subdued as it had been after qualifying but his talent won out and to be back on the podium at least, after a difficult season, will feel like a step in the right direction.
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