Sunday’s Korean Grand Prix was an all-German affair as Sebastian Vettel took a significant step toward a fourth consecutive world title and Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg dragged his Sauber to a stunning 4th place.
The reigning World Champion’s clean break from pole was key to his dominance as he never allowed challengers Romain Grosjean and Lewis Hamilton to get near him, sprinting more than a second and a half clear at the end of the first lap. Thereafter he managed his tyres and car to perfection, the only concern being a broken water bottle that prevented him from keeping hydrated in the fifty-five lap race.
Behind him the racing was some of the best of the season as Nico Hulkenberg worked his strategy to perfection, taking advantage of a safety car period beginning on lap thirty-two to jump his Sauber up into 4th place behind Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen, who also benefited from the events. The opportunity arose after McLaren’s Sergio Perez shed his front-right Pirelli tyre on the fast straight down to turn three, the Mexican’s woes courtesy of a violent lock-up at the first corner while on worn rubber. This in turn necessitated an early second stop for Mark Webber, who hit the debris and punctured his own tyres.
Racing got back underway soon after, but almost immediately brought back out the safety car when Adrian Sutil span his Force India into the side of Webber and punctured the Red Bull’s sidepod. The resulting fire left the Australian in flames for the second race in a row and even prompted the unusual sight of a fire car sharing the track with the F1 drivers after a mix-up over safety car positioning. Vettel remained unruffled and again made a perfect re-start to breeze into the distance.
The final chapter of the race centred on Hulkenbergs efforts to repel attacks from Hamilton, Alonso, Button and Rosberg as the three World Champions and multiple race winner attempted to sneak by. However, Hulkenberg and Sauber had worked their gearing to perfection and the German left Hamilton standing repeatedly at the exit of the first two corners, even re-passing the Briton before the DRS line on the one occasion he managed to nip past. Button eventually fell behind Rosberg, his tyres the victims of a long second stint that was forced by an early pitstop when his car was damaged in a first lap incident that saw Felipe Massa spin at turn three.
Fireworks erupted at Lotus as Raikkonen and Grosjean’s battle over 2nd ended with the Frenchman asked to maintain position behind the Finn; despite smiling on the podium their body language betrayed the awkward atmosphere and one can only wonder at what went on behind closed doors in the team debriefing.
“I think Mercedes had more range than us today, but we were able to win which is great.” stated Vettel after the race.
“It was a very strong performance from the whole team and I’m happy. We’re just focusing on continuing to take one step at a time and trying to get the best out of the car at every single race.”
CLASSIFICATION – RACE – KOREAN GP
|15||Van Der Garde||NED||Caterham|
|20||Sutil||DEU||Force India||Accident Damage|
|21||Webber||AUS||Red Bull||Accident Damage|
|22||Di Resta||GBR||Force India||Accident|