After an action packed beginning, middle and end to the first Formula One Korean Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso managed to avoid the crashes and not let either the weather or safety car conditions hamper his race result, as he drove his way to the...
After an action packed beginning, middle and end to the first Formula One Korean Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso managed to avoid the crashes and not let either the weather or safety car conditions hamper his race result, as he drove his way to the top step on the podium. The Spaniard finished ahead of the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton, who was in a Ferrari sandwich as Felipe Massa took third place.
Alonso seemed very pleased with the result, and especially with the conditions the drivers had to race under.
"It is a great feeling winning this way, as it was a very difficult victory, given the track conditions. Especially at the start, the situation on track and in terms of visibility was really precarious. That was the most worrying time, because I knew it would be an achievement just to stay on the track. We had never driven here in the wet and so there was no reference point. Webber's retirement slightly changed our approach because, all in all, it would have been sufficient to finish on the podium without taking too many risks... Now there are still 50 points up for grabs: Red Bull are still favourite, but we will continue to do our utmost and try to always get onto the podium. The car has improved so much in the second half of the year thanks to continuous updates: maybe we have come away with more than we expected, but we know the situation can change from one weekend to the next."
Before the lights had even gone out to start the race, there was action off the track as race control announced, that there would be a ten-minute delay, due to the treacherous conditions as rain was hammering down onto the circuit.
Shortly after there was a further update given, that the race was going to start under the safety car. The race got under way at last, but with the safety car at the forefront, leading the field in a procession like manner, but with the drivers' safety being of paramount importance, they were able to assess how poor the track conditions were.
After four laps were under their belt, the drivers had to play a waiting game, as the race was red-flagged. Fifty minutes later, the stewards announced that the race would get going again, with the safety car leading for more than one lap at least. It was compulsory for all drivers to use extreme wet weather tyres at the restart, because of the pools of water covering the track.
When the race was up and running again, the safety car guided the drivers round the Yeongam circuit. Lucas di Grassi for Virgin racing was the first man to make a pit stop. Before the second restart, his tyres had been wrongly pressured. This meant that he had to make an unscheduled visit to the pit lane for the problem to be sorted. Remarkably, the Brazilian driver was 10 seconds faster in the middle sector, than the others at the back of the pack.
On lap 13, di Grassi also recorded the fastest lap at that point, over anyone else in the field with the safety car still out. Unfortunately, he could not make good progress to the very end of the race, and it was over for him on lap 27, after an attempt to overtake Hispania Racing's Sakon Yamamoto, did not quite pull off, as he would have liked. Yamamoto had a better outcome though, as he finished the race in 15th place.
Hispania Racing's Bruno Senna also had to pit early on under the safety car, as his right front tyre was put on incorrectly.
After the safety car had led the drivers round the track for the first stage, the race could properly get going on lap 17, when it went back into the pits. Shortly afterwards, the action began on track, as Jarno Trulli spun in his Lotus at Turn one. Senna also did the same in his car, but both drivers managed to recover themselves, and continued to race at the back of the field.
Meanwhile, where the front-runners were concerned, it was polesitter Sebastian Vettel who was running away with the lead. By lap 19 he had already made a 2.8s gap between himself, and his Red Bull team mate, Mark Webber. It was just one lap later when the safety car was deployed, when the Australian driver made an unexpected exit from the race, and making it his second retirement this season. Webber was leading in the Drivers' Championship before the race, and had high hopes of increasing his lead, with a good race result today.
Sadly he ran wide and spun his wheels, which caused him to go across the track and to a safe stop. On his way to do so, unfortunately the Mercedes driver, Nico Rosberg was a casualty as he got collected beyond both drivers control. The safety car remained on the track until the end of lap 23, allowing the race marshals to clear the cars and debris safely. There was more misery to come for the Red Bull team, as Vettel accompanied his team mate in retirement from the race. The German suffered engine failure on lap 46, which left the team and drivers scoring no points in the race.
On lap 25, there was a further incident to be added to the list, as Senna and Trulli had a coming together at Turn 6. Trulli lost his front wing and had a trip to the pits to repair the damage. However, Senna escaped with little damage to his Hispania car, and was able to carry on going. The Brazilian driver brought his car to the finish line in one piece and got 14th place. While Trulli was in the pits he briefly stayed in the garage, as it was thought his car had hydraulic problems. He was back on the track not long after, but the incident between the two drivers, was to be investigated by the race stewards. It was later confirmed that they would take no further action with the drivers.
As well as the surprising line up that occurred with the front-runners, due to the shocking turn of events during the race, seven time World Champion, Michael Schumacher achieved his best result, of the season and secured fourth place. Early on in the race, even though the Mercedes driver is usually the rain master in such conditions, Schumacher had a slight blip and went off course, but managed to get himself back on track. On lap 18 he showed his talent in the wet and got back on form, as he challenged Renault's Robert Kubica for eighth place at the time. The German succeeded with the manoeuvre, and in the end the Polishman lost out, as he finished the race, one place behind to secure fifth position. Kubica also had a near miss in the pits on lap 32. As he was about to exit his pit box, he nearly went into the path of Force India's Adrian Sutil, who was leaving the pit lane at the same time. Luckily the pair managed to avoid a collision, and both drivers continued to race on.
Sutil seemed to be very much in the limelight at various points in the race. The German was fighting for position with defending World Champion, Jenson Button in the other McLaren on lap 36. Nevertheless, Sutil took advantage of the opportunity when Button had a slight wobble, which saw the Briton temporarily drop to 15th place. On lap 29, Button was the first of the front-runners to pit for intermediate tyres. His early pit stop later led him to lose grip, with the track conditions changing. As a result of this, Button was not able to get close to the others ahead of him to improve his position. Button managed to get himself a little better off, but finished out of the points in 12th position.
Sutil did get a stroke of his own bad luck though, just two laps later, when he ran wide and lost places to Sauber's Nick Heidfeld and the Toro Rosso driver, Jaime Alguersuari. The Spaniard finished in 11th place for his team. By lap 47 it was curtains for Sutil's race, when he had a coming together with Kamui Kobayashi in the other Sauber. The race stewards have since looked into the incident, and Sutil will face a five-place grid penalty at the next race in Brazil. Kobayashi was able to stay in the race, and picked up an eighth place finish. Kobayashi's German team mate, Nick Heidfeld, followed closely behind to take ninth position. Although Sutil's race came to an end, his Italian team mate, Vitantonio Liuzzi, made his way to eighth place at that stage, and was heading for a point scoring finish on lap 48. Liuzzi was able to go two places better by the end, and completed the race with an impressive result for the team in sixth position.
For Vitaly Petrov in the sister Renault, his day was running quite smoothly, when he was having a battle for position with fellow ex GP2 racer, Nico Hulkenberg in his Williams on lap 31. Petrov carried on racing for another ten laps, when his luck changed and he made it back-to-back race retirements. The Russian was approaching the final corner near the pit entry, when he ran wide slightly and this spelt the end of his race. On the other hand, for Hulkenberg he had a rewarding drive to pick up the last top ten point scoring position. His Brazilian team mate, Rubens Barrichello also brought his car safely passed the finish line, to take seventh position.
On lap 32, there was more drama unfolding, and the safety car was required for a third time. Sebastian Buemi for Toro Rosso and Timo Glock in his Virgin Racing car, came together and both went off the track. Consequently, both drivers did not return to the race, and the stewards had more work on their hands. It was reported on lap 34 that they would be investigating the incident between the pair. The stewards have now announced that Buemi, will receive a five-place grid penalty at the next race in Brazil. They declared that the Swiss driver caused an avoidable accident, and he will face the consequences of these actions with the grid drop. At the end of the same lap, the safety car returned to the pits once the debris was clear again.
Of the new teams in Formula One this season, Lotus were making good progress in practice and qualifying ahead of the race. Both drivers got on the wrong side of the race stewards today though, as Trulli had a collision with Hispania Racing's, Senna. Trulli's team mate, Heikki Kovalainen, was under investigation by the stewards on lap 36, for speeding in the pit lane. As punishment from the stewards, Kovalainen had to serve a drive through penalty. The Finnish driver still completed the race, and landed himself 13th position.
Due to any threat of the Red Bull drivers making a charge for a point scoring position being removed after they retired from the race, Alonso swiftly took the lead on lap 46. All three drivers who made it onto the podium, managed to maintain their positions, until the very end when they reached the chequered flag.
The turn of events in the race now means that Alonso takes the lead from Webber and is still in the hunt for the Drivers' title. The Ferrari driver has now won five races this season, more than any of the other front-runners. The points he picked up for the win today, means that he leads Webber by a small margin of 11 points. Hamilton is a further ten points behind Webber, and current fourth placeman, Vettel is just 4 points adrift from Hamilton. The Defending World Champion, Button is in fifth place for the title, and trails Vettel by 17 points.
Where the Constructors' title is concerned, the gap between the top three teams is not quite as close. Red Bull have built up quite a gap, and are 27 points ahead of McLaren. The difference between McLaren, and currently fighting in third, Ferrari, is two points, with the Italian team 25 points off second place.
As Formula One heads to Brazil in two weeks time, there are just two races to go until the end of the season. With today's action packed race, the battle for both titles, and in particular the Drivers' one, is still very much up for grabs. The way the race unfolded today, just proves that they can be unpredictable, when certain factors play a part. It means that any one of the top five contenders, still has the opportunity to fight for the title and be crowned World Champion.