F1: Korean Grand Prix Results & Review
The 2012 Korean Grand Prix is now over and with a bit of luck, it will be the end of Gangnam style as well! After Qualifying on Saturday, it looked as though we could be set up for a classic race. It was a front row lockout for Red Bull but Hamilton and Alonso weren’t hugely off the pace starting on the second row and are both known for their quick starts. With Webber claiming pole as we predicted, it would have only taken either of Hamilton or Alonso to pass one of the Red Bull’s at the start to really set the race on fire; unfortunately this didn’t happen and Vettel was able to take the lead into the first corner and dominate the race from there. It turned out to be a bit of a dreary race with the only real overtaking coming in and around the DRS zone, there was a bit of action at the start with both Sauber’s playing pin ball with Button and Rosberg which saw both of them retire on the first lap.
The title race
Korea was the first time since Valencia in June that the lead of the Driver Championship has changed hands. With three victories in a row, Sebastian Vettel has overturned the deficit and now leads Fernando Alonso by six points. With four races remaining, only Vettel and Alonso can realistically win that coveted crown which would make the victor the youngest three time champion in Formula One history. The Red Bull is undoubtedly the fastest car on the grid and you have to think it will take a big upgrade step from Ferrari or more mechanical problems for Vettel if Alonso is going regain the lead. Both drivers will be happy that their teammates, Webber and Massa respectively have found some form and should be able to take points away from their rival in the upcoming races.
It couldn’t have gone much worse for McLaren on Sunday, even after Button missed out on Q3 because of yellow flags during his run the team were still optimistic that he could make the race work starting on the prime tyres with new options also available. This looked even more likely at the start after Jenson was able to pass Michael Schumacher and was alongside Rosberg when Kobayashi went from hero in Japan to zero in Korea by colliding with Rosberg and twice with Button forcing both drivers to retire. Kobayashi then had to limp back to the pits with a puncture and front wing damage before receiving a drive through penalty. Kobayashi also retired shortly after.
Lewis also started well but as he tried to split the Red Bull’s up the middle they closed the gap and he was forced to lift, allowing Alonso to overtake him. In fourth position he was sandwiched between Alonso and Massa and didn’t look likely to catch Alonso. The first pit stop allowed Hamilton to get closer to Alonso and create a gap to Massa but shortly after he started falling back and was overtaken by Massa. The tyres on Hamilton’s car were being wrecked at an alarming rate and it was later reported that another rear suspension failure had occurred. Despite this, Hamilton raced hard against Raikkonen, retaking the position after initially losing out under DRS but the tyre wear suffered forced Lewis into a three stop strategy and into tenth position. Still Hamilton closed up on the two Torro Rosso’s but in the closing laps after running wide; a loose piece of astro turf got stuck on his car and impeded him until the end of the race. Perez mounted a late charge to take that final point away but Hamilton was able to hold on for the last lap.
The solitary point scored by Hamilton was all McLaren could muster in this disappointing weekend; they have now dropped to third in the championship behind Ferrari. This latest mechanical problem is the third in a row for Hamilton, three races that Vettel has won and has marked the end of his title challenge. Fighting Ferrari for second place is also the best McLaren can really now hope for in the constructors’ championship. Despite the mechanical problems, the McLaren still seems to be behind the Ferrari and Red Bull on race pace so upgrades are desperately needed.
Here is how the points finished:
- Sebastian Vettel
- Mark Webber
- Fernando Alonso
- Felipe Massa
- Kimi Raikkonen
- Nico Hulkenberg
- Romain Grosjean
- Jean-Eric Vergne
- Daniel Ricciardo
- Lewis Hamilton
I really thought Webber would do it this weekend and with a great lap for pole position I was half right. Webber certainly had a strong race and I am sure would have been able to maintain that lead (if allowed) had he been leading after the first lap. Grosjean was able to negotiate the first lap and finished a strong seventh despite not having the new exhaust system available for the race.
Hulkenberg managed one of the best overtaking manoeuvres this season when he was able to pass both Hamilton and Grosjean in one swift move and it seems as though he will be driving for Sauber next season after another Eddie Jordan exclusive!
It was interesting that Massa was actually quicker than Alonso during the race and asked if he could pass to chase Webber down for more points, obviously his request was denied and he was actually told that he was getting too close to Alonso. It is also very likely that Massa will be keeping his race seat for 2013 although it has not been confirmed. If Felipe can carry on this form it will certainly be good for Ferrari to have two competitive drivers once again.
The next Grand Prix is India in two weeks; can Ferrari and McLaren catch Red Bull? With only four Grand Prix left they really are running out of time.