• Korean Grand Prix

Vettel cruises to Korea victory

ESPNF1 Staff
October 16, 2011

Sebastian Vettel took his tenth victory of the season at the Korean Grand Prix after passing Lewis Hamilton on the opening lap, as Red Bull secured the constructors' championship for the second year in a row.

Vettel used the slipstream into turn four to dive up the inside of the McLaren, and from that point onwards his Red Bull had the pace to ease away and take victory by 12 seconds. In the second half of the race Hamilton came under pressure from Mark Webber, and found himself engaged in a fantastic battle following the final pit stops.

Hamilton and Webber ran wheel-to-wheel for the first two sectors of their outlaps after pitting together, and each twist and turn of the Korean International Circuit switched the advantage from one to the other. However, the battle was conducted with mutual respect and the pair managed to avoid banging wheels, despite finding themselves pointing at the same point of tarmac on several occasions.

Ultimately the Red Bull lost out, but the battle continued to simmer until the end of the race, with Webber consistently turning up the heat in the final sector of each lap. Hamilton managed to keep him at bay, but admitted after the race that he had "full [steering-]lock on everywhere" as he struggled to get the front of the car turned in. On lap 49 Webber used his speed advantage in the final corner to get past on the run to turn one, but Hamilton kept his cool in the knowledge that he had better traction out of the corner and would then get the DRS advantage into turn three, allowing him to ease back past.

It was a fantastic battle, which left Vettel's own brilliant drive rather underappreciated. However, the recently-crowned champion reminded the paddock of his class as he set the fastest lap of the race on his final tour of the circuit.

Jenson Button finished fourth after dropping to sixth behind the two Ferraris at the start. He managed to regain position by making his first pit stop earlier than the cars around him, and by the end of the race was on the tail of the Hamilton/Webber battle. Unfortunately he wasn't quick enough to join the battle in earnest and then became under pressure from Fernando Alonso, who had been bottled up behind his team-mate Felipe Massa until the final pit stops.

Alonso closed in at roughly 0.5s a lap, but couldn't find a way past the McLaren and in the end gave a rare admission of defeat over the radio, saying: "I give up." Although that won't have impressed his bosses on the pit wall, the gap of 9.4s over Massa at the chequered flag spoke volumes.

Jaime Alguersuari finished in a very impressive seventh position behind the second Ferrari, after overtaking Nico Rosberg on the final lap. At one stage the Mercedes had been battling with Button for fourth, but dropped back down the order and on the last lap was six seconds slower than the leaders as he ran dangerously low on fuel. Sebastien Buemi rounded off a good result for Toro Rosso in ninth after getting the better of Paul di Resta's Force India on lap 49, who had to settle for a point in tenth.

Both Buemi and di Resta would have struggled to finish in the top ten had it not been for an accident between Vitaly Petrov and Michael Schumacher. Petrov was battling with Alonso after the first pit stops when the pair completely out-braked themselves heading into turn three. Fortunately for Alonso he was on the outside of the corner and shot into the ample run-off area, but Petrov was on the inside and had no choice but to use Schumacher as a buffer, destroying the Mercedes' rear wing in the process. Damage to Petrov's steering arm accounted for his retirement, but only after he had limped back to the pits. The safety car came out to allow marshals to clear the remains of Petrov's front wing, bunching the cars up on lap 17 before releasing them again at the end of lap 20.

Formula One now head for India in two weeks time with both titles decided, but plenty of brilliant racing still to come.