2013 KOREAN F1 GRAND PRIX
Sebastian Vettel brought his Red Bull home in first place yet again this week, in a chaotic Korean Grand Prix.
The two Lotuses followed him home, while Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg took a spirited fourth place for the troubled Sauber team.
Webber and Ricciardo had a race to forget. Webber drove a storming race before being hit by multiple disasters and, for the second race in a row, a burning car. Ricciardo, too, drove well, but was finished off by a car failure.
PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING
The Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton was looking ominous for Red Bull, topping both Friday practice sessions. Vettel hit backon Saturday, with a huge advantage in free practice three. Kimi Raikkonen's back was tested by a nasty crash on Friday
He carried that momentum through to qualifying, with Hamilton splitting the Red Bulls. Webber, of course, was to be shunted back ten places after his alleged indiscretion in Singapore.
The Australian was reasonably happy with his pace, using a setup to try and reduce the impact of his penalty.
Lotus' Romain Grosjean took Webber's third place on race day, his teammate Raikkonen ruing a mistake leaving him the slowest in Q3.
The Ferraris had a mediocre session, starting in the middle of the top ten.
McLaren had a shocker, with both cars missing Q3 while Sauber had their best qualifying of the year, with both Swiss cars getting through. Daniel Ricciardo's run of form deserted him, his Toro Rosso only carrying him to thirteenth.
The rain that was expected earlier in the week failed to materialise. Ricciardo was the only driver to line-up on the medium tyre, one slot ahead of compatriot Webber.
Vettel leapt away through turn one. At turn three and it all went wrong for Massa. The Brazilian braked far too late with three cars to his left and he spun across the apex of the corner, tagging his teammate. Both of them got away with it, though.
Maldonado had a huge start, getting through to eleventh while Vettel sorted himself out nicely with a second lead by the end of lap one. Grosjean also picked up a spot, shouldering past Hamilton.
The Button-Perez aggro from earlier in the year resurfaced, too, with the McLarens fighting for position. Mark Webber took up the battle with Perez as soon as DRS was available, fighting past the Mexican at turn four.
Ricciardo made the most of the melee, moving up to eighth. He and Raikkonen had an entertaining battle through the first few corners of lap four, with the two racing very hard but fairly, with the Finn triumphing.
Webber passed Maldonado, twice in the same corner, before passing and driving away. Maldonado pitted two laps later, as did Gutierrez.
Raikkonen drove past Alonso at turn three on lap nine, but the Ferrari driver didn't go down without a fight. On the next straight, Alonso got back beside the Lotus and harried him through the next sequence of corners.
On lap ten, Vettel receieved the first of several messages from the pitwall, warning him of a fast-wearing front right tyre.
Grosjean pitted on lap eleven to cover Hamilton, with the other Mercedes coming in behind him. The trick worked, but not before a very creative few corners from both drivers as they battled for the position.
Vettel pitted on lap 11 from a five second lead, stopped for just 2.6 seconds. As he departed the pits, Raikkonen arrived.
These stops brought the top three within striking distance, Vettel's lead significantly smaller, but the German set about rebuilding to four seconds by lap seventeen.
Webber pitted on lap 13, taking on the medium tyre, one of only a few drivers to stretch the super-soft so far.
Ricciardo was the last of any driver to pit, and ran fourth ahead of Mercedes' Rosberg. Rosberg passed the Australian on lap eighteen, pitted shortly after.
A conga line began to develop behind Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg, with Alonso, Raikkonen, Webber and Button behind him. This gave Webber the opportunity to get close and watch as Alonso's increasingly frantic efforts to pass the German wore away the Ferrari's tyres.
Vettel again was in trouble with his front right, his engineer imploring him to drive around the problem. Hamilton was convinced his tyres were in worse shape as the Mercedes dropped another five seconds from Vettel in just two laps.
Raikkonen pitted in an attempt to jump Hulkenberg on lap 26, putting him in tenth behind Ricciardo.
The yellow flags came out on lap 26 after Paul di Resta spun off the exit of turn twelve. The Force India appeared to simply fall off the road and hit the barriers, tearing off the right rear tyre.
Hulkbenberg finally pitted, releasing Alonso and Webber. Webber pulled off an opportunistic pass on Alonso at turn six, going around the outside and then driving away.
Hamilton's woes worsened as his teammate came right up on his gearbox. Rosberg pulled out from behind the Briton and his front wing promptly fell on to the road surface as it appeared the bolts holding the nose on the Mercedes failed.
The wing stayed on the car, but a shower of sparks from both sides of the wing ended his charge. The stop to change the nose took far longer than it might have as the team struggled to remove the part.
While this drama unfolded, Hamilton was on the radio begging to stop.
Alonso pitted at the same time as Rosberg. Hamilton pitted the next lap, his stop going far better than Rosberg's and putting him out behind Raikkonen but ahead of Hulkenberg.
This left Webber third. He was racing Alonso, who had started carving his way through the field after the Spaniard's stop. Webber pitted for another set of medium tyres ion lap 31. As Webber chased down McLaren's Perez, the Mexican's front right tyre exploded.
The incident appeared to have been caused by a huge lock-up into turn one, burning through the carcass and causing a delamination.
The ensuing moments saw Hamilton pushed past a cautious Webber while Vettel and Grosjean capitalised on the Safety Car being scrambled.
Webber had to pit again, a puncture from Perez's failure. He dropped to eleventh, stuck on a set of super-softs having run out of the medium tyre.
The restart finally came several laps later and Vettel immediately drove away from Grosjean who had his own teammate right on his gerabox.
For the second race in a row, Webber's car cooked itself after Adrian Sutil spun and backed into Webber.
"I think the KERS caught fire very quickly because the contact was very high. I would've liked to get somewhere a bit closer to an extinguisher but I wanted to get out myself," Webber said.
Red Bull Racing later confirmed it was a split oil radiator and not the KERS. Sutil was later penalised, but for speeding in pit lane.
Bizarrely, next time around, Vettel stumbled upon a Jeep which appeared to have sent itself out on to the track to tend to Webber's burning RB9.
Just before, that however, Raikkonen had passed Grosjean into turn one in a brave move, that put the Finn on Vettel's tail for when the Safety Car eventually found its way on to the track.
The next restart was on lap 41.
Hamilton got by Alonso at turn three and then again at the next corner, to take fifth, putting the Mercedes driver behind Hulkenberg.
The battle for tenth was fierce. Maldonado held the place at the beginning of lap 45 but a gigantic squabble involving Perez and Massa as major protagonists and Gutierrez and Bottas as bit players. After a multi-corner battle, Maldonado emerged in fourteenth, Massa tenth.
Once again, Hulkenberg was driving defensively, keeping Hamilton and Alonso behind, with Button and Rosberg bearing down on them. Hamilton made the move on lap 48, but the Sauber driver hit back out of the turn, the German having far better traction and taking back the place.
This put Hamilton in Alonso's clutches, the two former teammates duking it out for fifth as Hulkenberg kept them at bay.
Towards the front, a disgruntled Romain Grosjean was arguing with his team about being told to stay where he was. At the front, Vettel was being cautioned about the state of his tyres. Naturally, he set the fastest lap.
Daniel Ricciardo ground to a halt on the second last lap, his Toro Rosso parked out of the way. The other Toro Rosso, that of Vergne's, was also in trouble.
"It’s déjà vu, as I had the same scenario here last year, when I came down to Turn 3 with a few laps to go, I braked and the car immediately shot to the left," Ricciardo said.
"That time it cost me one place. Once I got out of the cockpit this time, I could see there was a mechanical problem at the front left corner."
Vettel crossed the line, followed by Raikkonen and Grosjean. Hulkenberg held on to a fine fourth place and Hamilton a frustrated fifth.
Formula 1 returns next week at Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix.
2013 Korean F1 GP Results
- Vettel - Red Bull-Renault 1h43:13.701
- Raikkonen - Lotus-Renault + 4.200
- Grosjean - Lotus-Renault + 4.900
- Hulkenberg - Sauber-Ferrari + 24.100
- Hamilton - Mercedes + 25.200
- Alonso - Ferrari + 26.100
- Rosberg - Mercedes + 26.600
- Button - McLaren-Mercedes + 32.200
- Massa - Ferrari + 34.300
- Perez - McLaren-Mercedes + 35.100
- Gutierrez - Sauber-Ferrari + 35.900
- Bottas - Williams-Renault + 47.000
- Maldonado - Williams-Renault + 50.000
- Pic - Caterham-Renault + 1:03.500
- van der Garde - Caterham-Renault + 1:04.500
- Bianchi - Marussia-Cosworth + 1:07.900
- Chilton - Marussia-Cosworth + 1:12.900
- Vergne - Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 2 laps
- Ricciardo - Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 3 laps
- Sutil - Force India-Mercedes + 5 laps
Fastest lap: Vettel, 1:41.380
- Driver - Team On lap
- Webber - Red Bull-Renault 36
- Di Resta - Force India-Mercedes 24