Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Korea, 2012

Vettel takes championship lead with hat-trick of wins

2012 Korean Grand Prix reviewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Korea, 2012Sebastian Vettel took over the lead of the drivers’ championship with an emphatic win in the Korean Grand Prix.

Despite worries about tyre wear in the closing stages, Vettel led a one-two for Red Bull ahead of Fernando Alonso.

But it was a disastrous race for McLaren as Lewis Hamilton’s slim championship hopes faded even further and Jenson Button retired on the first lap.

Vettel takes control

Vettel lined up second on the grid but quickly took the lead at the start – just as he did last year. He beat pole sitter Webber to the first corner, then rebuffed his attack on the run to turn three.

Webber in turn had to hold off Alonso as they sped to turn four, the Ferrari driver having braked daringly late for turn three to pass Lewis Hamilton.

But the other McLaren got no further than the first lap. Jenson Button was hit by the out-of-control Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi at turn three. The furious Button called his rival an “idiot” on his radio as he pulled to a stop with broken front-right suspension.

Nico Rosberg was also involved in the accident – his second first-lap misfortune in as many races – and his Mercedes came to a stop at the beginning of lap two. He managed to find somewhere to park it on the barrier-lined straight leading from turn two.

Yellow flag delay

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Korea International Circuit, 2012Marshals continued to wave yellow flags at the scene of Rosberg’s retirement, in the DRS zone, until lap nine. This caused problems for drivers trying to pass their rivals.

The Toro Rosso pair were stuck behind Pastor Maldonado, with Daniel Ricciardo complaining Jean-Eric Vergne was slowing him down. Vergne was given the ‘your team mate is faster than you’ message, but replied that he was being held up because he couldn’t pass the Williams.

Ricciardo held position behind Vergne and once the yellow flags were withdrawn the pair demoted Maldonado to 15th and later took Bruno Senna as well.

At the front Vettel was drawing away from Webber who in turn was leaving Alonso and Hamilton behind. Hamilton was the first to pit on lap 14, returning to the track a couple of seconds behind Sergio Perez, who had started on softs and was running a longer first stint.

Webber, Massa and Raikkonen reacted to Hamilton’s pit stop on the following lap, leaving Alonso to complete another tour as Hamilton gained on him. When Alonso came on on the next lap he returned to the track just in front of Perez and Hamilton.

He kept the Sauber behind at turn three while Hamilton took a speculative look and nearly paid for it with his front wing. Exiting the next corner Hamilton used his better traction on fresh tyres to out-accelerate Perez and close to within a second of Alonso.

Hamilton’s disastrous day

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Korea International Circuit, 2012This was the high water mark of Hamilton’s challenge during the race. Soon after he began complaining about his car’s handling. “We understand the problem,” said his engineer. “We think it’s a mechanical balance change.”

Hamilton slipped back towards Massa, who passed him with ease in the DRS zone. Soon Raikkonen was on the tail of the McLaren, though he found it tougher to pass. He got by in the DRS zone on lap 24 but Hamilton responded at turn four and claimed the place back.

Raikkonen’s attempts at passing were repeatedly frustrated by Hamilton, to the point that the pair fell over seven seconds behind Massa. But by lap 27 Hamilton reported his tyres “shredding” and had to make an early second pit stop.

McLaren held on to the hope that a third stop might not be necessary but it was in vain. Adding insult to injury, Hamilton collected a loose piece of Astroturf in his final stint which ruined his handling even further.

Having been sizing up the Toro Rossos for a pass, Hamilton ended the race fending off an attack from Perez.

“You’re a bit too close to Fernando”

Vettel’s first stop passed without incident and he continued in the lead. He stayed out longer than his pursuers at his second stop as well but had a scare at turn three on his in-lap, locking up his tyres very hard.

There were worried faces on the Red Bull pit wall after they examined the state of Vettel’s tyres from the second stint. “After the last stop we could see there was not a lot of tread left in the tyre,” admitted Christian Horner afterwards. “Both of them were very marginal at the end.”

Vettel received repeated urgent messages from race engineer Guillaume Rocquelin during the final stint. “From now on you could be down to the cord on the right front,” said Rocquelin late in the third stint.

“Be very careful under braking. Remember what happened,” he added, reminding Vettel that when the tyres went it would be without warning.

Behind him Webber had to be increasingly wary of Alonso, who was coming on strong after treating his tyres with care at the beginning of the third stint. At that point Massa was closing on him rapidly, and Ferrari were quick to remind him that occupying a place on the track in front of his team mate is not the way to ensure a contract renewal for 2013.

“You’re a bit too close to Fernando,” warned Rob Smedley. “I think you could back off at least another second.” Massa obliged, and was later informed when Alonso had picked up his pace.

Vettel takes victory

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Korea International Circuit, 2012Vettel’s lap times dipped towards the end of the race as he heeded the team’s advice. Webber claimed the fastest lap on the penultimate tour as Red Bull put a lock on the first one-two for a team this season.

Third place for Alonso was not enough to stop Vettel from taking the championship lead, which the Ferrari driver has held since June. Massa was a dutiful fourth, Raikkonen over 16 seconds behind in fifth.

Nico Hulkenberg briefly lost position to Romain Grosjean following the last pit stops. But when the pair caught the slowing Hamilton the Force India driver positioned his car perfectly at turn four to pass the pair of them.

Vergne and Ricciardo secured a double points finish for Toro Rosso, while the hobbled Hamilton clung on to the final points position. But he is now 62 points adrift of Vettel, and his championship hopes have gone from being a long shot to to highly unrealistic.

Paul di Resta, Michael Schumacher and the Williams pair also finished on the lead lap, while Vitaly Petrov led home Heikki Kovalainen, the Marussia duo and Narain Karthikeyan.

Until the Japan/Korea double-header no driver had won consecutive races this year. Now Vettel has won three in a row, and has the points lead in the championship to boot. A third world championship beckons for Red Bull’s rising superstar.

2012 Korean Grand Prix

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166 comments on “Vettel takes championship lead with hat-trick of wins”

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  1. At the beginning of the season I was pretty happy with how competitive Mercedes was looking. But honestly, I’m not even sure how it’s possible for a team like that to not only fall that far behind, but with a staff like that even. It’s sad enough Brawn-Schumacher haven’t made more of their renewed collaboration, but for crying out loud, they have some very experienced men on board and still they keep falling behind.

    Mercedes seems to be the only team that keeps on running into problems with understanding the tires, messing up strategy, etc. At this rate, I actually am cheering for Sauber to overtake Mercedes in the Constructor’s championship. Sauber have, in the past, had good cars, but due to a lack of development fallen behind. Not so much this year and I honestly feel they deserve that 5th place.

    1. @npf1 Mercedes are really disappointing and it’s a shame because they have (apparently!) good staff behind them.

    2. And some say Hamilton has chosen wisely to jump ship and join Mercedes. I dread his move could be the worst in his career.

  2. Yawn. Just give the championship to Vettel already. And the next one too because we all know he’ll win it. And the next one. And the next…

    1. Even last year he never won more than 3 races in a row.

    2. it’s not over yet…some of commentators may regret their words two weeks later. Many time this year we have seen the powers change…In Singapore Mclaren seemed to be unreachable one race later both ferrari and red bull were faster. In one week Red Bull look very strong …what will happen two weeks later…just wait and see…wait and see

  3. I think we need to start getting used to the fact that finger boy is going to be a 3 time world champion. Hard for a Hamilton fan to accept but that is the reality. Ferrari hasn’t got the car to challenge and once again Adrian and his team have won the development race. Shame that Mclaren had the fastest car at the begining of the season and seem to have dropped the ball both in development and operation.

    1. Its difficult for an Alonso fan too. Got nothing against Vettel but it seems far too easy once again. Raikonnen really struggled for his first WDC, whereas Alonso’s been struggling ever since 06 and Lewis since 08 yet Vettel is cruising to title after title.

      1. If You look at it from RBR view it is certainly not an easy season, but they have worked harder and smarter than the rest and now they are in the position where they decide. But we have seen the balance of power change several times over this season, so its still open.

      2. @brum55 – Only 2011 was a “cruise” (cruise meaning destroy the field). 2010 and 2012 were close run things. I agree with @palle , that anything can happen, Alonso can regain mid-season form and take the title still.

        1. In 2010 I feel if Vettel’s car had been more reliable he would have won it as easily as he did in 2011 despite being half the driver and far more error prone than he is today. The fact the WDC fell into his lap in the last GP that year doesn’t change that. In terms of pace Red-Bull were dominant that year. You’re correct that the season wasn’t a cruise but his wins in Valencia, Japan, Brazil and of course Abu-Dhabi were. Just like his wins in Japan and Korea in the last two weeks and Singapore once Lewis DNF’d.

          Ferrari have done well to out-develop McLaren for the first time for a while, however Red-Bull are on another level. Newey & Red-Bull are just continuously embarassing McLaren and Ferrari as they have done the last 3 years. There is nothing to suggest Ferrari will suddenly out think Newey. The man is a wizard!

    2. As a RBR fan this season has been anything but “easy” on my nerves. A little too close for comfort IMO.

  4. Felipe you’re a bit too close to Fernando, he is crying lol.

  5. So McLaren decided to bring a unique update to Lewis Hamilton’s car for the race

    This title is Vettel’s to lose and it’s hard for me to take personally. Alonso will be a nice winner but for the Vettel towin 3 years in a row, I am worried for F1’s competitiveness.

  6. It was sad to see a top team like Ferrari failing to show real management due to the excessive power their top driver is granted. The claims from Alonso that RedBull is the fastest car while Ferrari is the best team only makes it worse when the fact is that the team could have played their cards a lot better today and hence have limited the damage.

    With Massa catching Alonso, if it wasn’t for the team orders, they should have taken advantage of the situation instead of panicking. Massa was clearly faster and they could easily have sent Massa past by use of the DRS only in order to let Alonso gain the DRS advantage on the following lap to pass Massa. They could effectively have switched position every other lap until Webber was reeled in and then let Massa attack Webber forcing him to defend, drive slower and waste rubber while letting Alonso save his own.

    It seems more than likely to me that they could have brought Alonso up to second this way. Instead we just got the typical distress order telling Massa to back off.

    A pity for the race as well as the championship!

    1. Its a good idea to try something new – actually let the two drivers of the same team work together to improve. However the drivers are super ego’s – You always have the risk that the number two driver don’t want to give position back. In this respect F1 is still very oldschool and traditional. And it might could work with Alonso and Massa, cause the latter knows his position, but it would never work in RedBull. I’m glad they didn’t try it, but it could have been interesting to watch.

    2. +1. I thought of it too, but in the hindsight, we do not know how much of a damage that increased pace would have caused to the tires. There was a .4 sec (I Believe) advantage whenever DRS was used in that zone but it would have equally made both cars suffer higher degradation and left both cars vulnerable to tire problems, if the issue with the tires actually occurs.

      3-4 is the best result for Ferrari since they are within touching distance in the WDC and gained a place in the WCC. With an updated and hopefully faster car, maybe they can convert this into a 1-2 in India to renew their hope for both championships.

      There are races still left in the calendar and the situation can change very quickly in every race.

  7. There is no question that Red Bull is faster this season, but I’m not sure if i agree that Ferrari has a better team.
    I’m sure that another big problem Hamilton had with his cars handling was the astro-turf he got stuck under his car once he ran off the track.
    Regardless, I think that everyone did an excellent job of planning and organizing of pit stops and tire changes. Very exciting race! I can’t wait to see what the teams have in store for us next week.

  8. Please God, dont let that little kid to spoil this superb season by raising his finger at the end of season

    1. For some of us seeing his finger raised will be the perfect end to this great season!

    2. If he get’s the title it will be fully deserved. The only reason why I wouldn’t want to see Vettel win is a bunch of whiners getting of on how he only wins in a superb car and how he isn’t such a great driver etc etc, while he has outscored and outqualified Webber massively ever since joining Red Bull even though Webber was once seen as a briljant qualifier and was vastly more experienced then Vettel.

  9. @keithcollantine It’s Guillaume Rocquelin, not Rocqueline!

  10. NOT OVER YET ferrari should have a new parts for the next few races and it’s not over until the fat lady sing

    1. UNLESS one of those parts is an actual fat lady, to ride on Vettel’s car, it’s over.

      1. I Love the Pope
        15th October 2012, 4:54

        This comment wins the internet.

        Seriously. We need to close it down now. This cannot be topped!

      2. You are now officially the most amusing person alive.

  11. Funny how Alonso, Hamilton and their fans are suddenly warming to each other. The words of praise go back and forth, a total turnaround from the past.

    I`ve been wondering why this is happening and think I got an answer.

    In the past Alonso and Hamilton were bitter rivals, both of them determined to be considered among the greatest ever. After 2007 both of them were left to wonder what might have been achieved if they had cooperated a little better. They ended up with the same point total that season, but the title went to Raikkonen. That is the reason both Alonso and Hamilton speak highly of the other these days as to say anything else would be to indirectly belittle themselves in the process. Here`s an example: If Alonso should say that Hamilton is not world class he would in reality at the same time say that he, Alonso, isn`t world class either as they achieved about the same in same material 2007. So when alonso is praising Hamiltons ability to “win in a sub-par car” he`s indirectly praising himself as well.

    The two drivers have even more in common, they have the same “enemy”. “If your enemy is my enemy then you`re my friend”. The enemy in question is Sebastian Vettel. He`s a very big threat to both Alonso`s and Hamilton`s chances og being considered the greatest of their generation and among the greatest drivers in F1. Alonso was considered the new shining star in 2005 and 2006, Hamilton was seen as the same when he arrived in 2007 and 2008. But that`s history now, and their glory has faded somewhat, there`s a new shining star in F1. If Vettel goes on to win this year and perhaps 2,3 or 4 championships more before he retires both Alonso and Hamilton will be considered as “also-rans” in F1-history as they will not be able to show numbers anywhere near that at the end of their career. Alonso is allready 31 with 2 titles to his name, Hamilton is 27 with 1 title to his name.

    Vettel`s success is driving both Alonso and Hamilton crazy these days. It`s not just the fact he`s winning races and titles, it`s the fact that he`s much younger than Alonso and two years younger than Hamilton. If he wins the championship this season I think Alonso`s chances of achieving more in F1 than Vettel is gone. Vettel will have 5 or 6 years after Alonso`s retirement to rack up the numbers. The same goes for Hamilton, he`s not going to win the championship this year and will struggle to be a three time champion even at 30. He`s maybe on a path to equal Alonso`s numbers, but a long way behind Vettel at this stage. The way Vettel is going he might have double as many race wins and four times as many Championships as Hamilton when Vettel is 27!

    I was sceptical of Vettel in 2009 and most of the 2010-season. But he showed his metal and mental strenght towards the end of 2010. As a conequence I had to reevaluate my opinion of Vettel, I had to realize he was one of the very best drivers out there. Then came 2011, and everything I saw confimed my new belief he was one of the very best. 2012 has been a tough year for both Red Bull and Vettel, if he`s able to win the championship again I think he has to be considered the best driver in F1 these days. I mean what can you say, finger or no finger, he`s been in F1 full time since 2008. He`s won a rece or several every single year. The last four years he`s been with a team capable of challenging for the Championship. He`s been in contention every single year and has won two years with the third not yet decided, but he`s definitely in the running this year too.

    You might luck into 1 title in formula 1, but it`s impossible to luck into 2 or 3 titles. That really takes something special.

    1. +1 for sure.

      I’ve been an RBR fan since they started in F1 and I’ve always wondered at the hate SB has garnered during his tenure in F1. Nobody wins back to back championships (and gets to the verge of a third one) because of only a good car. If that were the case (the car was simply that much better) Webber would have been much closer to Seb these past two seasons.

    2. Superb post. 100% agree.

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