Korean Grand Prix 2012

/ Commentary

Race

15:03 The lights come on, and we're away!

15:03 A slow grid formation, Webber and Vettel have been sat there for a little while

15:02 Webber leads the cars back on to the pit straight and very slowly rolls down towards pole position

15:00 Kishen asks how McLaren's race pace is compared to Red Bull. Based on Friday's running, very good. Button was quicker on average by 0.3/0.4s per lap

14:59 We're away on the formation lap and have a few drivers on soft tyres rather than supersofts. The first four outside the top ten - Button, Perez, Kobayashi and di Resta - all start on softs, as do Vergne and de la Rosa

14:58 Tom in Foster City emails in to say: "Hamilton will want to make Mercedes feel justified in selecting him."

That he will, and we may be faced with the sight of his current team-mate being stuck behind his future one...

14:56 The start of this race might see the field taking a while to sort itself out, with the long straights between turns two and three and turns three and four allowing plenty of slipstreaming and position swapping

14:54 Robert emails in from Darwin to say: "My money is on Webber, time for the Aussie to shine!"

It'll be interesting to see if team orders come in to play today. Personally I don't expect to see the Red Bulls swapping places but it is a possibility...

14:53 Grosjean himself knows he may get a rough time in turn one as drivers look to take advantage of his recent problems

14:51 I for one also hope to see Romain Grosjean come through the first lap unscathed. He looked a beaten man after Japan and really needs a clean race to rebuild his confidence.

14:49 Everyone loves a prediction, don't they? Well I'm going to tip Lewis Hamilton to nick this one off the Red Bull's, but the start will be crucial. Even with a faster car you need to find clear air.

14:46 Christian Horner has just told Sky that the front five guys had a bit of a race on the way to the grid, and as a result know how strong their cars are feeling in each sector. Webber has asked for a bit more front wing, something Rosberg has also put on his car after two installation laps to the grid

14:44 Now, hopefully from all that you've gathered that it's set to be an exciting race. If you want to get in touch with us here at ESPNF1 during the race (or with predictions before hand) you can do so either using the link above or via Twitter @ESPNF1

14:40 Jenson Button starts down in 11th place after losing out during the yellow flag period in Q2 yesterday, but he's confident he can make progress with all of his new tyres as long as he jumps the Mercedes quickly. Schumacher and Rosberg are very quick in a straight line though...

14:36 Aside from Webber v Vettel from the front row, another little battle to look out for at the start is Alonso in fourth place and Raikkonen right behind him in fifth. Contact between the two saw Alonso retire at turn one at Suzuka last weekend, and he initially blamed Raikkonen for the clash

14:33 If that grid isn't enough to whet your appetite, then a quick look at Friday's long runs show Ferrari to be quickest with McLaren and Raikkonen also very strong, with the Red Bulls a tiny bit behind. That may have changed after the bit of high-fuel running on Saturday morning, but it highlights that the race isn't cut and dried despite Red Bull's front row lockout

14:30 Hello and welcome to ESPNF1's live coverage of the Korean Grand Prix. The top five in the championship start in the top five positions on the grid, with the main contenders second and third, and the main chasers fourth and fifth.

Lap 1

Vettel beats Webber in to turn one, after some slipstreaming it's Vettel who gets away in the lead and Alonso beats Hamilton in to turn three. Button's race is over before it's begun as Kobayashi takes him out after being way too hot in to turn three as well

Great battling between Raikkonen and Hamilton, Hamilton holds him off and Massa gets past Kimi

Lap 2

Button has stopped on the outside of turn four and Rosberg has now stopped on the long straight after turn two. We're still under yellows.

Kobayashi pits.

Lap 3

Vettel leads by 0.9s from Webber, with Alonso 1.7s back. Hamilton 1.1s behind Alonso, and yellow flags are still out for the stricken Mercedes so no overtaking in to turn three.

Replays of the start show Alonso, Hamilton and Raikkonen going three abreast down the long straight and then Massa joining the fun in turn three

Lap 4

Vettel leads by 0.9s again, though Webber is matching pace. Replays show Kobayashi clipping Buttons rear and then bouncing between Rosberg and Button - taking both out of the race eventually.

Grosjean did will to keep his nose clean and is down in eighth place

Lap 5

Vettel sets the fastest lap and extends his lead to 1.3s. Yellow flags still out in turn three which means no overtaking in to the DRS zone. Rosberg's car is in a gap in the wall and well out of the way, but those yellows are ruining racing at the moment...

The top six all matching pace right now.

Lap 6

Webber takes 0.1s out of Vettel, and the top six do lap times within 0.2s of each other - Alonso the slowest of the top six that time round.

Track is clear again now, so we should see some overtaking down in to turn three now.

Massa doing a good job within a second of Hamilton, and Raikkonen close behind him.

Lap 7

The yellow flags are back out, and DRS has been disabled. Strange, there's no need for it in my opinion - the car is well out of the way. Perhaps marshals are going to move it.

Vergne gets past Maldonado for 13th at turn four and then Ricciardo follows him through

Lap 8

Ah, there's debris on the track on the long straight down to turn three so that's why we have yellows.

Rosberg and Button walked back to the pits in conversation, and Kobayashi now has a drive-through penalty for causing a collision.

Vettel extends his lead to 1.4s and is stretching the field a touch. The top six covered by eight seconds

Lap 9

Vettel sets a new fastest lap and is now 1.8s clear of Webber.

There's now something clearing Rosberg's Mercedes, and Vergne has just passed Senna for 12th in to turn three. There are green flags before the corner but he may have started the move under yellows...

Green flag and DRS enabled. Finally!

Lap 10

Vettel leads by two seconds, while only Raikkonen is within DRS range as he follows Massa. Grosjean very close behind Hulkenberg but yet to find a way through.

Ricciardo passes Senna for 13th using DRS. Raikkonen's DRS let him gain 0.4s on Massa in sector one but then he lost it again in sector two.

Lap 11

Fastest lap from Webber, but it's only 0.05s quicker than Vettel. Raikkonen now over a second behind Massa, while Hamilton is told he's looking at "target stop lap".

Vettel on a good lap here, while Grosjean has Perez for company now as he struggles to pass Hulkenberg

Lap 12

Vettel with the fastest lap and Webber a bit slow, so the gap is up to 2.6s.

Di Resta and Schumacher battle over 10th and Schumacher defends well in the first sector. Vergne has caught the back of them but can't find a way through either.

Lap 13

Vettel's got the hammer down and is now 3.3s clear of Webber. Alonso is 3.1s further back and Hamilton now 2.5s behind. Massa 1.5s behind Hamilton and has Raikkonen within a second.

Hamilton pits from fourth place

Lap 14

The pit lane is getting busy now as Hulkenberg, Grosjean, Schumacher and Vergne come in too. Hulkenberg just stays ahead of Grosjean.

Vettel now 3.9s clear of Webber and Alonso closing in on Webber - 2.8s behind now

Lap 15

Webber pits, as do Massa and Raikkonen, so only Vettel and Alonso staying out so far.

Smooth stops for all although Hamilton has puled a bigger gap over Massa. Perez has stayed out and is up to fourth between Webber and Hamilton. In comes Vettel and he's in and out before Alonso follows him in.

Lap 16

Alonso comes out alongside Perez and defends through turns two and three. Hamilton almost runs in to the back of Perez in to turn three and makes it through out of turn four. He's close behind Alonso now having set the fastest lap on the previous lap. All on soft tyres now

Lap 17

Vettel leads by 4.1s, with Alonso 7.9s off the lead. Hamilton is a second behind Alonso and has about two seconds on Massa who passes Perez in to turn three. Raikkonen stuck behind Perez now

Lap 18

Vettel is so fast at this stage. He sets the fastest lap and extends his lead to 5.1s over Webber. Alonso took half a second out of Webber on the last lap too...

Raikkonen uses DRS to pass Perez in to turn three, as Kobayashi retires. De la Rosa also has retired - both by pulling in to the garage.

Raikkonen is 2.4s behind Massa now after his battle with Perez, and Perez pits for a set of supersofts

Lap 19

Slow stop for Perez. Hulkenberg passes Maldonado using DRS for seventh place - Maldonado yet to pit. Grosjean stuck behind the pair of them right now.

Hamilton radios in to say "These tyres are not going to last". Everyone on a two stop strategy except Maldonado at present, but that's not a good message from Hamilton

Lap 20

Hamilton with a slow lap - a second slower than Alonso and 1.3s slower than Vettel - and Massa is all over the back of him. Hamilton's in trouble here and is very slow... He radios in to say something about a lack of downforce

Referring to the start, Levenesh emails in to say: "Why did Vettel start on the inside line? Webber should have been there, it clearly gave Vettel an advantage from P2." A fair point, although the outside is on the racing line and supposedly grippier

Lap 21

Massa passes Hamilton easily using DRS before turn three. Alonso three seconds behind Webber at present but the Ferrari pace is improving.

Rob Smedley with some good information for Massa, praising his pass and then saying: "Pull away from him now because I'm sure it's just graining"

Lap 22

Webber is almost 7 seconds behind Vettel now, and Alonso closes the gap to Webber to 2.6s. Massa is less than four seconds behind his team-mate and doing a very good job. Raikkonen close behind Hamilton as the McLaren continues to struggle.

McLaren tells Hamilton it believes he has a "mechanical balance change, but it is safe" after he asks "What is the problem?"

Lap 23

Hamilton is so slow, especially in the first sector. He's already 3.4s behind Massa and had to defend from Raikkonen in to turn three, doing a good job of it too.

Alonso is reeling in Webber for second now...

Lap 24

Webber leads Alonso by 1.6s. Raikkonen uses DRS to pass Hamilton easily before turn three, but Hamilton saves some KERS and muscles his way back up the inside in to turn four.

Maldonado has pit and Grosjean is now 1.3s behind Hulkenberg for seventh place. Ricciardo the big winner up to ninth and showing good pace - catching those ahead.

Lap 25

Vettel leads by 8.3s and Webber has Alonso 1.3s behind. Massa catching too - 4.7s behind Webber - while Hamilton is over seven seconds behind Massa already. This is really hurting Raikkonen.

Lap 26

Fastest lap from Vettel as Webber radios in to ask for more front wing as he keeps locking the fronts. As you were at the front but Hamilton continues to be very slow.

Vergne passes Schumacher for 10th place using DRS - the Toro Rosso a very quick race car today. Di Resta within two seconds of Schumacher and he has Perez a second behind him.

Hamilton pits for a set of soft tyres and to try and get the car sorted. Looks like a switch to three stops as we're not yet at half race distance.

Lap 27

A slightly slow stop for Hamilton but he was already dropping back so it's less crucial. He rejoins ahead of Vergne in ninth place. Actually, it's Ricciardo he's ahead of so he's eighth, before Hamilton says the car feels "very nervous"

Lap 28

Vettel told to look after his front right tyre and he eases off a bit. He's now 8.9s clear of Webber, who has put a gap of 1.8s between himself and Alonso. Massa is catching Alonso now...

Lap 29

Vettel's pace is still good but Webber is starting to go quicker behind him. Webber with the fastest lap and he's now 8.5s behind Vettel. Alonso 2.2s back and Massa within three seconds of his team-mate.

Grosjean close behind Hulkenberg again - now for sixth after Hamilton's stop - but he's too far back to make it past using DRS.

Lap 30

Gap at the front down to 8.3s, while Alonso almost matches Webber but Massa takes 0.2s out of those ahead with the fastest lap. If he keeps this pace will Ferrari allow him to pass Alonso and have a go at Webber?

Raikkonen is out of the picture now 11 seconds behind Massa. Grosjean tries round the outside of Hulkenberg in to turn three but can't get by.

Lap 31

After Hamilton's troubles a timely email in from Bra who says: "For all the promise that Ron and his team show they just aren't delivering a package good enough to compete with Red Bull consistently Hami is right to leave them for a fresh start and look after himself"

Hulkenberg doing a really good job for Force India - his team-mate di Resta has just pit and is down in 15th place

Lap 32

Webber's pace has just dropped off, the front tyres are starting to drop off for everyone. Grosjean pits from seventh place and comes out behind Schumacher in 11th.

Hamilton told that McLaren wants him to try to get to the end of the race on this set of tyres and if he can do so he'll be fighting for sixth place. Webber pits from second for a new set of soft tyres as Alonso was flying behind him.

Lap 33

Vettel's lead over Alonso was 10 seconds, with Massa two seconds further back. Hulkenberg has to pit to cover Grosjean who has done the fastest middle sector... and Grosjean is ahead as Hulkenberg loses out in to turn three

Lap 34

Vettel shows that he has plenty of life left in his tyres as he does his personal best lap and extends his lead to 10.6s. No sign of the Ferrari's pitting yet though.

Grosjean with the fastest lap.

Lap 35

Vettel with a slow lap - 1.2s slower than his previous - I think as he negotiated traffic. Alonso pits and rejoins a long way behind Webber, who is also in traffic. Alonso blocked by a Marussia on pit exit but he's past before turn three.

Vettel with a massive lock-up in to turn three and he runs wide. Desperately needs to pit. Massa in too.

Lap 36

Grosjean ran wide in the final corner and is lucky to avoid a big kerb that prevents drivers cutting it. Could have been very nasty but he's got away with it.

Massa and Raikkonen have also pit. Perez uses DRS to pass Maldonado for 13th and sets the fastest lap. Vettel gets the hammer down after his poor in lap.

Lap 37

Vettel's lead is only 5.3s now. Webber would have been even closer but Vettel pulled away from him by 1.6s in the final two sectors. Not the greatest few laps from Vettel as he is told he needs to make this set of tyres last and to ease his pace.

Di Resta close behind Schumacher for 11th but still can't find a way past.

Lap 38

Another very quick lap from Vettel - the fastest lap by some distance as he pulls away from Webber by 1.5s. He's warned again to forget about Webber and look after his tyres. These laps will not be doing much good.

Di Resta uses DRS to pass Schumacher for 11th. Perez close behind them both.

Lap 39

The only man matching Vettel's pace was Massa and he had just taken 1.5s out of Alonso. Cue the inevitable message from Ferrari: "You're a bit too close to Fernando, you can drop back another second and stay about 2.5 - 3s behind and that should be OK".

Perez tries to dive up the inside of Schumacher in to turn three but can't make it stick.

Lap 40

Hamilton has Grosjean and Hulkenberg right behind. He's told to push as he'll need to pit again, but Grosjean attacks around the outside of turn three. Hamilton defends well, but Hulkenberg picks apart the pieces to go round the outside of both drivers in turn four and hold the inside line in to five. Great move and Hulkenberg up to sixth

Lap 41

Vettel leads by 8.1s and has settled his pace down again. Alonso is 4.6s behind Webber now while Massa is 1.5s behind his team-mate - not quite the order.

Raikkonen is in a race of his own in fifth - 16s off fourth and 13s clear of Hulkenberg - whule Ricciardo in ninth is catching Grosjean and Hamilton but 10s behind.

Lap 42

Grosjean uses DRS but is too far behind Hamilton this time. Grosjean seems a bit tentative when trying to make moves stick at present.

Hamilton radios in and says "box this lap, OK?" He's in big trouble. Vettel is told "Sebastian, you're doing a good job but from what we can see the front right is still wearing away"

Lap 43

Hamilton puts on supersofts and rejoins behind Vergne in 10th place. Massa continues to be quicker than Alonso but holds station.

If Vettel is going to hit tyre trouble he has got a good advantage, now 9.5s clear of Webber. And Webber did pit first

Lap 44

Ben emails in to say: "Mclaren is really delivering a disaster performance for Hamilton and the whole team as a whole... Can't give no reliability to drivers or competitiveness, I was sad when Lewis decided to drop Mclaren, but now I see it is likely the best decision, only not sure whether to the right team."

Hamilton does two personal best sectors on the new tyres and is 1.6s behind Vergne.

Lap 45

Jason says: "Massa is doing great! He is very competitive. Looks like he will retain he's seat with the Prancing Horse!" but a few of you annoyed that Ferrari won't let him past Alonso. He may have been able to attack Webber earlier, but it's too late now.

Webber is told: "That front right is wearing, just don't forget about it". The top four all settled down but Hamilton is the man to watch now as he's within a second of Vergne

Lap 46

Hamilton might have Vergne in sight but Ricciardo is 10s up the road ahead so 9th looks like his best bet unless others hit tyre trouble.

I speak too soon. Ricciardo has just run very wide at turn three as he has a lock-up and has a very slow lap. He's only 4.6s ahead of Vergne now...

Lap 47

Vettel told by his race engineer to lose some speed in a number of corners to save tyres. His pace is fine though. Vergne defends from Hamilton very well in turns three to six. Ricciardo remains slow.

Astroturf is chunking up on the outside of turn 13, but seems not to be causing a problem for now.

Lap 48

Vettel still leads by 10s while Alonso does the fastest lap to close within 4.7s of Webber. Quick sectors everywhere now, although Vettel is concerned about his tyres now. Long exchange with his race engineer... half a chance for Ferrari?

Lap 49

Vergne now 3.5s behind Ricciardo and Hamilton is going with him. Massa with the fastest lap to stay 2.3s behind Alonso. The Ferrari's starting to push on to try and pressurise the Red Bull's ahead.

The astroturf is really tearing up on the outside of 13 now and being deposited on the track

Lap 50

Alonso now 3.8s behind Webber and almost a second a lap quicker last time round. The Red Bulls pick up the pace though, although Vettel was already warned that if he doesn't look after his tyres he could be "a passenger" at the end.

Hamilton locks up in to turn ten and has to catch the rear. He's still right behind Vergne and Ricciardo is now only 1.4s ahead of the pair.

Lap 51

Vettel has four laps to just ease home. Hulkenberg is catching Raikkonen quickly and is less than 7 seconds behind now.

Ricciardo, Vergne and Hamilton in a row on track now.

Lap 52

Vettel told that "anything can happen under braking" now on his right front, and Webber closes the gap to 9.2s. The last thing Vettel needs right now is another big lock-up like on his second stint.

Vergne dives up the inside of Ricciardo for ninth in to turn three, Hamilton can't follow him through yet though.

Lap 53

Webber now 8.5s behind Vettel and has Alonso 3.6s behind him. Vettel is told told how bad his front right tyre is right now and issued another warning.

What awful luck for Hamilton. A huge bit of astroturf has attached itself to his car and is slowing him massively. He's dropped off the back of the Toro Rossos now.

Lap 54

Perez is only 4.9s behind Hamilton and catching him at three seconds a lap with that problem.

More warnings for Vettel and Webber is only 6.8s behind now. Senna and Maldonado scrap over 14th place in turn three - Maldonado retains his position

Lap 55

Vettel is nursing his car home; he seems to have taken the messages seriously. Webber 6.6s clear of Alonso so everyone comfortable. Perez looks set to steal the last point off Hamilton though...

Sebastian Vettel wins the Korean Grand Prix and takes the lead in the drivers' championship.

Webber comes home second to make it a Red Bull one-two, with Alonso third and Massa fourth. Raikkonen is fifth but what of Hamilton? Perez is right on the back of him in the final sector...

Hamilton holds on by just 0.3s, but it's only one point for Hamilton and surely that's the end of his championship hopes.

Ahead of Hamilton were Hulkenberg in sixth, Grosjean seventh, Vergne eighth and Ricciardo ninth.

The first back-to-back winner this season turns that in to three in a row and Vettel takes a six point lead in the drivers' championship. Vettel looks delighted and strokes his car in parc ferme - he of course had a failure when leading comfortable here in 2010.

Nabil emails in to say: "Ferrari should have unleashed Massa, as he was faster than Alonso and he might have been able to put more pressure on the Red Bull team probably forcing them to accelerate and with there front tyre wearing problem it could have been a win for Ferrari."

In theory it might have caused a few issues, but Massa ended the race 6.2s behind Alonso and 20s off the lead. Ferrari had tyre issues too it appears.

Red Bull was clearly trying to ensure Vettel didn't go chasing the fastest lap, but he did a personal best on the final lap. It will probably annoy Vettel though that Webber took fastest lap. It's Vettel's fourth win of the year and ominously moves him in to the championship lead with four races remaining.

The national anthems ring out on the podium and we'll bring you a bit of reaction as the top three speak to Johnny Herbert before signing off...

Vettel pours champagne over Herbert, and then says: "Fantastic, I'm very, very happy. Obviously the foundation was to have a good start. It was quite close in the first stint but I felt I had a little bit more left. I think we were all a bit worried about the front tyres ... I have to thank the boys for this one. I think we've done another step and that's exactly what we need."

Webber: "The start wasn't sensational, I'll have to look in to it. It's not the best corner to lead off ... at the end of each stint it was difficult to keep the front right alive. A good drive from Seb and a great day for the team."

Alonso: "We have to be happy with the performance today. We finished third and fourth just behind Red Bull which is difficult to beat. Definitely we are moving in the right direction, we just need one more step to match Red Bull ... then it's going to be a magical last four races."

There's a snippet of reaction from you, for all the rest stay with us here on ESPNF1.com. Thanks for joining us today, and we'll be back for the Indian Grand Prix in two weeks with guys in the paddock at every remaining race as the title battle comes to a climax. We can't wait!