While his failure to claim pole position in yesterday’s qualifying session may have constituted something of an upset for the red-hot Sebastian Vettel, that hasn’t phased the German in today’s Korean Grand Prix, as the Red Bull driver helped his team successfully defend its Constructors’ Championship with his tenth win of the season.
Starting on the front row alongside pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton, Vettel crucially clinched the lead with a clinical move on the opening lap, outbraking the McLaren driver at Turn 4 to claim a lead he would never surrender.
Having eased into a four-second lead and having emerged from his first pit stop still in front of the chasing pack, Vettel’s advantage was erased when the Safety Car was called so marshals could mop up the damage of a heavy collision between Vitaly Petrov and Michael Schumacher.
When the racing got back underway, the ever-calm Vettel was able to ease away from a thrilling battle for second that eventually involved four cars, winning from Hamilton by over 12 seconds.
The delighted Vettel claimed the twentieth win of his F1 career, drawing him level on the all-time list with fellow two-time World Champion, Mika Hakkinen.
Having given the ultimate one-fingered salute to his knockers with his brilliant lap to claim pole yesterday, Hamilton showed his fighting spirit with a hard-fought drive to finish second, fending off continued attacks from the sister Red Bull of Mark Webber for the second-half of the race.
His result owed much to a smart call from McLaren to bring him in for his final pit stop on the same lap as Webber peeled into the pits, maintaining crucial track position ahead of the Australian.
Using his McLaren’s superior traction to gain crucial metres on Webber as they exited the tight left-hander at Turn 1, Hamilton gave himself enough of a gap by deploying all of his KERS at the start of the 1.2-kilometre back straight, before Webber was able to activate his DRS at the straight’s halfway point.
It was the sort of drive that’s been lacking from Hamilton. The former World Champion showed great class today, showing the doubters that he could actually position his car well in defence. When Webber drew near, Hamilton always had an answer and never appeared fluttered – it was top-shelf stuff.
Finishing behind Hamilton and Webber was Jenson Button, who recovered lost ground at the start when he fell from fourth to sixth in a scrappy opening lap that saw him passed by the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso.
He used his first pit stop to leap ahead of the Ferraris, who both stayed out too long in their first stints on the ‘super-soft’ Pirelli rubber, and showed excellent mid-race pace to close right up onto the back of the Hamilton-Webber battle for second. Ultimately, he didn’t quite have the pace to mount a challenge, and equally had to keep half his attention behind him as Alonso mounted his own comeback.
Despite his poor early-race pace that saw him stuck behind team-mate Massa early on, a frustrated Alonso eventually found a way past, ultimately closing up onto the back of Button, but also unable to find a way past. Team-mate Massa finished sixth, just under ten seconds adrift of the Spaniard.
With the Toro Rossos set up to deliver them the best straight-line speed, Jaime Alguersuari and team-mate Sébastien Buemi gave the Italian team its fourth double-points haul of the season, with Alguersuari having an outstanding race to finish seventh, while Buemi finished a solid ninth. The team now moves to within three points of seventh-placed Sauber in the Constructors’ Championship battle, and within 12 points of sixth-placed Force India, who only came away with a single point, courtesy of Paul di Resta’s tenth place.
Buemi managed to pass di Resta for ninth with about a dozen laps to run, while Alguersuari timed his first pit stop to perfection, peeling into pit lane just as the Safety Car came out. The stop helped leap him into the points, whereupon he spent the remainder of the race steadily chipping away at the gap to seventh-placed Rosberg, eventually passing the German on the final lap as his Mercedes spluttered, short of fuel.
Certainly Mercedes GP should have walked away from Korea with more than the four points it received, with the silver cars showing decent pace to cement its position as the fourth-best team on the grid. Rosberg’s last-lap woes cost him a few points, while team-mate Schumacher was wiped out mid-race by an errant Vitaly Petrov.
The Russian was attempting to pass Alonso in the DRS zone, and only succeeded in outbraking himself in sympathy when Alonso missed his braking point. Unfortunately for Petrov, he found Schumacher innocently turning in to the apex at Turn 3, and careered straight into the back of the hapless German.
At the time of publication, Petrov has been summoned to the Race Stewards for his part in the collision, where he risks earning himself a grid penalty for the next round, the Indian Grand Prix.
For Renault, it was another point-less affair as the team continues its disastrous second-half slump in 2011. The team has claimed just seven points in the last seven races, and Petrov’s early retirement certainly help the team’s cause. Team-mate Bruno Senna had another disappointing weekend as his stand-in drive in place of the sacked Nick Heidfeld again highlighted the team’s decision to sack him as unwise. After an appalling start where he dropped to 19th off the line, the 28-year-old finished a distant 13th, having been overtaken by Rubens Barrichello late in the race.
Sauber was another team to have a shocker in the race, with both Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Pérez finishing well down the order, each suffering damage to their front wings during the race that robbed them of a much-needed result. The team is at serious risk of losing its seventh place in the Constructors’ Championship standings to the resurgent Toro Rosso team, a result that will leave the Swiss squad reeling after its strong start to the year.
The Swiss cars were beaten to the finish by Heikki Kovalainen in the KERS-less Team Lotus entry, the Finn driving a hard-charging race to claim 14th place, while team-mate Jarno Trulli finished 17th, having run in Kovalainen’s wheel-tracks for much of the race.
And we must also acknowledge an excellent drive from HRT rookie Daniel Ricciardo, who now steps aside at next fortnight’s Indian Grand Prix after his best drive to-date. The Australian finished 19th, having overtaken Virgin Racing’s Jérôme d’Ambrosio mid-race.
2011 Korean Formula 1 Grand Prix – Final Classification (55 laps):
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing – Renault RB7||55||1:38:01.994|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||55||+ 12.019|
|3.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing – Renault RB7||55||+ 12.477|
|4.||Jenson Button||Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||55||+ 14.694|
|5.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro F150° Italia||55||+ 15.689|
|6.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro F150° Italia||55||+ 25.133|
|7.||Jaime Alguersuari||Scuderia Toro Rosso – Ferrari STR6||55||+ 49.538|
|8.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes GP Petronas F1 Team W02||55||+ 54.053|
|9.||Sébastien Buemi||Scuderia Toro Rosso – Ferrari STR6||55||+ 1:02.762|
|10.||Paul di Resta||Force India F1 Team – Mercedes VJM04||55||+ 1:08.602|
|11.||Adrian Sutil||Force India F1 Team – Mercedes VJM04||55||+ 1:11.229|
|12.||Rubens Barrichello||AT&T Williams – Cosworth FW33||55||+ 1:33.068|
|13.||Bruno Senna||Lotus Renault GP R31||54||1 lap behind|
|14.||Heikki Kovalainen||Team Lotus – Renault T128||54||1 lap behind|
|15.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber F1 Team – Ferrari C30||54||1 lap behind|
|16.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber F1 Team – Ferrari C30||54||1 lap behind|
|17.||Jarno Trulli||Team Lotus – Renault T128||54||1 lap behind|
|18.||Timo Glock||Marussia Virgin Racing – Cosworth||54||1 lap behind|
|19.||Daniel Ricciardo||HRT F1 Team – Cosworth F111||54||1 lap behind|
|20.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Marussia Virgin Racing – Cosworth||54||1 lap behind|
|21.||Vitantonio Liuzzi||HRT F1 Team – Cosworth F111||52||3 laps behind|
|DNF.||Pastor Maldonado||AT&T Williams – Cosworth FW33||30||Mechanical|
|DNF.||Vitaly Petrov||Lotus Renault GP R31||16||Collision|
|DNF.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes GP Petronas F1 Team W02||15||Collision|
|Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing – Renault RB7||55||1:39.605|
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