Preserving his tyres key to Alonso’s victory (Korean Grand Prix analysis)

How well drivers looked after their intermediate tyres was decisive for the outcome of the Korean Grand Prix.

In an earlier wet race at Shanghai drivers pitted for fresh sets of intermediate tyres. But this time most of them chose not to, toughing it out to the end of the race, some coping far better than others.

Pit stops

Pit stops

Pit stops

The timing of the third safety car period was crucial. This was when most drivers changed from full wet to intermediate tyres (laps 31 and 32 on the chart above).

It left most of them trying to nurse a single set of intermediate tyres for over 20 laps. Some driver/car combinations fared better than others. The Williams drivers struggled: Nico H???lkenberg went off and decided to change to a fresh set of intermediates. Rubens Barrichello also lost a lot of time.

Felipe Massa began to struggle on lap 46 and Lewis Hamilton’s lap times dipped slightly around the same time, then more severely over the final laps (perhaps aware that he now had a healthy margin over Massa).

With few laps to go, the race clock running down and H???lkenberg not lapping much quicker on his new tyres, no-one else gambled on a late pit stop.

Fernando Alonso was singularly impressive at this point: at times he was over two seconds faster than anyone else in the track, having preserved his tyres brilliantly.

Whether Sebastian Vettel could have done the same is, sadly, something we never got to find out.

Read more: Korean Grand Prix fastest laps

Race progress

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Jenson Button’s pit stop on lap 28 must have been driven by a desire to get off full wets and onto intermediates.

Had they been able to postpone it they surely would have waited two more laps until the group of cars held up behind Timo Glock had dropped further back.

This was the point Button’s race unravelled. The safety car period moments later meant he wasn’t able to gain many places from the cars in front of him when they pitted. Then Sutil steamed down the inside of him at turn five and he lost more ground.

Finally, his early switch to intermediates meant he suffered even more badly with tyre wear at the end. This was a far cry from his well-judged calls in tricky conditions at Melbourne and Shanghai.

Lap chart

Lap chart

Lap chart

The first 17 laps were spent behind the safety car which explains why there’s no ‘lap 1 position change’ chart in this week’s post-race analysis.

Once the race got started there were some notable passes including each of the Mercedes picking off one of the McLarens: Nico Rosberg on Hamilton and Michael Schumacher on Button.

Adrian Sutil had a busy race too: going off at the start, passing and then being passed by Kobayashi, taking Jaime Alguersuari, and finally colliding with Kobayashi.

With five laps to go Williams looked set to finish fifth and sixth, bagging a useful 18 points and moving ahead of Force India in the constructors’ championship. But it all went wrong as both their drivers had off-track moment and H???lkenberg made an extra pit stop.

That allowed Vitantonio Liuzzi past both to extend Force India’s championship lead over them by a single point.

2010 Korean Grand Prix

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91 comments on Preserving his tyres key to Alonso’s victory (Korean Grand Prix analysis)

  1. Icthyes, you are right on about Nico’s accident. As far as Fernando is concerned and his big ego, can any one tell which driver without a big dose of selfish character can win the world title.
    He had his good part of bad luck if anyone remember in Valencia and in Silverstone.
    Although I am not a big fan of Ferrari I have to admit that this team under a string of bad result they never lost their focus, I respect that.
    And what about Horner and his siren message that he will let his drivers race? Come the end of the championship and RBR doesn’t win the god above (the austrian)him will start to think to get a smarter person at the helm.

    • dyslexicbunny said on 25th October 2010, 18:41

      Except Luib, I recall reading that Dietrich has already insisted that he would rather lose this year than declare a number 1 or 2 driver. That stance might change next year but I haven’t seen anything otherwise this year.

  2. Alex Bkk (@alex-bkk) said on 24th October 2010, 23:09

    It seems Alonso had some bad luck in the pits and then some good luck when Lewis went off, because he didn’t have to use up his tyres to get around Hamilton. He also just missed the Webber carnage that collected Nico.

    Still he was smart enough not to use up his tyres trying to run down Vettel. I think he would have settled for 2nd place. Alas, Vettel blew his engine and that too was a bit of luck.

    He took his time and let the race come to him, and at the end he had the fastest car on the track.

    Brilliant driving in my opinion.

    Great graphs Keith!

  3. I think also Seb would have loose his tyres earlier than Alonso, besides Alonso’s didn’t look to well in the last ten laps he was still fying over the circuit.

  4. newdecade said on 24th October 2010, 23:46

    Anyone know if this means Vettel requires a 9th engine now… and associated 10 place grid drop? As I understand he went into the event on his 8th, and I doubt he can get to the end of the season on spares.

    • clairvvoyant said on 25th October 2010, 1:42

      vettel can use a new engine(9) with no grid penalty because he had the the failure on the race and didn’t change engine between two races

      • Stretch (@stretch) said on 25th October 2010, 1:52

        Well there’s a massive loop hole.
        Why haven’t all the teams done this previously?

        • Alex Bkk (@alex-bkk) said on 25th October 2010, 2:16

          What give up the No.1 position in a GP with just a few laps remaining?

          • Stretch (@stretch) said on 25th October 2010, 2:43

            No, when other teams have had engine failures within a race, that are out of their control.

            If this is the case, those who have an engine blow up, should have an extra engine, in addition to the eight to accommodate the loss, without a grid penalty. This would leave them with 8 overall working units a one destroyed.

            I thought the rules were that they start the season with eight engines and if they go over this, they will then get a ten place grid drop.

          • Scottie (@scottie) said on 25th October 2010, 2:50

            I’d imagine that rule’d apply to any position… big loop hole for anyone mid-field. Renault? Williams? etc

        • Alex Bkk (@alex-bkk) said on 25th October 2010, 4:35

          Sorry, I didn’t mean for that to sound as sarcastic as it looks in print Stretch.

          I’m just not sure about the rule. Remember Alonso’s blown engine in the Malaysian grand prix?

          He wasn’t penalized the next race because he was still with the engine allocation rule.

          Is Vettel still with the rule? I though he had used his allotment of new engines.

          I really don’t know… clarification anyone?

          • Stretch (@stretch) said on 25th October 2010, 5:33

            Yeah, it’s all good.
            Before this afternoon, I though the rule was pretty clear. Now, it doesn’t seem as simple.

          • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 25th October 2010, 7:32

            Drivers only get a penalty if they use a ninth engine. If Alonso blew his engine in the next race, it’s up to the team to decide whether any of his old stock of engines are up to doing a race distance, or whether there’s less risk in taking a new engine and the ten-place grid drop.

            But an engine failure in one race doesn’t automatically mean a penalty in the next one.

    • Alonso has been on spares after Monza …. go figure.

  5. Regis said on 25th October 2010, 3:06

    A fantastic win from a great driver, Congratulions Fernando, he trully deserves the title this year.

    It would have been interesting to see Seb not having a failure as the last few laps could have been epic.

    Its funny how everyone was saying that Fernando would strugle on an old engine yet Seb’s car blew up with a fresh one. (i think)

    Can’t wait for the next race !!! :)

  6. J-Roc said on 25th October 2010, 3:53

    I would like to see a chart/ graph explaining why
    Jarno Trulli is still in Formula 1.

  7. F1Mike said on 25th October 2010, 8:35

    On the tarmac: Tar was used until the early 70’ties when it was banned as it is carcinogen. Since then bitumen has been used. Bitumen is a bi product from the oil refinery process, and yes Shell does produce bitumen, but I think it’s a long shot to think they influenced the tarmac:-))
    Most possible the surface layer on the Korean track is a mastic with a high bitumen content, lower layer is usually asphalt concrete.

  8. F1Mike said on 25th October 2010, 8:49

    The sporting regulations says (28.4 (e)) ‘If an engine is changed in accordance with Article 34.1 the engine which was replaced may not be used during any future qualifying session or race with the exception of the last Event of the
    Championship.’ which means that basically everybody is OK with engines for Bahrain, but as I see it Vettel has to take a new engine at Interlagos as his eight engine surely isn’t going to make it, and thus must take a 10 grid position penalty. Alonso has the choice to either chance a blown up engine, or get a new with a 10 grid place at Interlagos (I believe he’ll go with the chance), but we all know that Ferrari engines suffer when they are near the end of life, so should think the championship is now between Webber and Hamilton.

    • but we all know that Ferrari engines suffer when they are near the end of life, so should think the championship is now between Webber and Hamilton.

      You mean engine-wise? ….. yes, but there are so-many other factors on race a day

  9. Stretch (@stretch) said on 25th October 2010, 10:28

    Well, that’s interesting. I didn’t know that regulation that the drivers cannot reuse replaced engines in future events until Abu Dhabi. Wasn’t Alonso swapping between all his working engines from throughout the year in the last few quali/races.

    Anyway, looking through the regulations, nowhere does it say that if a driver has an destroyed engine that has occurred due to reasons beyond his or his team’s control, he can accept a new engine without penalty (as in clairvvoyant’s comment above). However, this is stated about gearboxes. (As from Article 28.6)

    Now, from the regulation above (28.4 in F1Mike’s comment), Vettel cannot reuse his older engines from throughout the season because:
    “the engine which was replaced may not be used during ANY future qualifying session or race with the exception of the last Event of the Championship”

    This, with regulation 28.4-a)(which is about eight engines a season otherwise ten place grid drop), must surely mean that Vettel has to take a 10 place drop at Brazil?
    But, this mustn’t be the case, as this would be massive news!
    Spare cars, engines, gearboxes and homologated parts sporting regulations

  10. Brendan said on 25th October 2010, 10:51

    There’s so much conjecture about the engine rules. It’s obvious that Vettel will have to replace his engine after the fireworks of Korea. If he uses an older engine which is still within his quota of 8, then I guess no penalty applies. As we know, often, older engines are used for practice before newer engines are used for qualifying and the race. However, if Vettel has to use a fresh engine, that would appear to be his 9th engine.

    Alonso’s situation differs in that he does not currently have to change his engine, even though he has used his allocation of 8 engines. Likewise, I’m guessing that if an engine blows, he then faces the same dilemma Vettel faces now. If he uses an old engine within his allocation of 8, then he’s likely to be ok. However, it he goes to a 9th engine, I’m thinking he will face the same situation which Vettel now faces.

    A definitive opinion from someone who knows the rules and implications would be welcome. Under these circumstances, will Vettel have to take a grid penalty if he takes a 9th engine and Alonso likewise?

    • Alonso is in a different situation as Vettel since he has no blown engine. Remember when Massa started with a 9th engine, he could not be penalised because he was already at the back of the grid.

      So, the way I see it is quite simple: Vettel has blown his 8th engine and this engine has done 3 races with aprox.1600km from it’s 2000km life. So if he changes engine now the penalty will set-in, BUT …. he can go back to the engine he used before this blown one without penalty. That is the way I understand it.

      • dyslexicbunny said on 25th October 2010, 18:46

        My understanding was that Massa was penalized but since he was 24th, it had no effect on where he started.

  11. F1Mike said on 25th October 2010, 11:25

    I think there is no doubt that if any driver takes a 9th engine then it’s a 10 grid position penalty.
    The question is if you are allowed to use old engines, from the above quoted paragraph it would seem it is OK to use them for practice, but not for qualifying/race?

  12. engines said on 25th October 2010, 11:56

    I think ALO has one engine used only once, the engine used at Spa, so it is quite “fresh” (didn’t use it for long) and can be good for Brasil.
    Red Bull usually use the same engine for two races, so they don’t have experience for engines used in 3 races or more. Ferrari used the engines up to four times, so in principle they know their limits.
    For the FPs, all teh teams can use old engines without penalty.
    It would be nice an article about engines for the last two races of the season :-)

  13. Damon said on 25th October 2010, 14:28

    I think that the error when Hamilton went wide could be the best mistake he ever made. There’s no doubt alonso was quicker and he was going to be all over him, which would probably have made Hamilton lose it or they could have ended up taking each other out

  14. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 26th October 2010, 2:06

    On the restart Schumacher also overtook Kubica.

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