- Korean Grand Prix - The Final Stint
A round-up of the good, the bad and the downright ugly from the 2013 Korean Grand Prix
- Korean Grand Prix
One step closer
The question is no longer whether Sebastian Vettel will win this championship but where and when he will win it. It's possible for him to seal the title in Japan with a victory if Fernando Alonso finishes ninth or lower. Vettel has won three of the last four Japanese Grands Prix, and on his current form it would be a brave person who bets against him making it four from five next weekend. Such is his lead, that even if Vettel fails to finish at the next three races and Alonso wins them, he would still be leading the standings by two points. But rather than get depressed about how one-sided this season has become, we should really be enjoying watching a driver in his prime; a driver who has the potential to become the most successful of all time. "He's only 26 years of age and what you guys don't see is how much effort he puts in in his preparation, his training and in the application he has in the job that he does," Christian Horner told reporters after the race. "He's hugely self critical, he's always looking at areas where he can improve and he will look at this race to see what areas he can be stronger in. I think it's that inward looking attitude that he has that keeps driving him forward."
The incredible Hulk
Not that it was required, but Nico Hulkenberg served up a timely reminder of his undoubted talent to any team interested in his services next season with fourth place. Not only was the result hugely impressive, but so was the manner in which he achieved it; in the face of intense pressure from first Fernando Alonso and latterly Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton said after the race that he and Alonso deserve to be fighting at the front, but so does Hulkenberg, who outperformed his car. The biggest downside he has is his weight, with the 2014 regulations making that even more of a disadvantage and allegedly putting teams off signing him. It's already bad enough that he's yet to be given a front-running car, but it would be a travesty if he isn't on the grid next year.
The Story of the Weekend
- Shock: No one expected to see a fire truck on track as the cars continued racing
- Shocker: Paul di Resta - He spun out for the third race in a row, which will only fuel rumours he might struggle to get a drive next year
- Best overtake: Kimi Raikkonen - His move on Romain Grosjean was brave and done on older tyres than his team-mate
- Best lap: Lewis Hamilton - At the restart after the second safety car - lap 41 - he twice lost a place to Fernando Alonso, who appeared to have the faster car at the time, but twice gained it back
- Worst lap: Pastor Maldonado - On lap 45, and in just a few corners, he dropped from tenth and a potential point for Williams to 13th behind team-mate Valtteri Bottas
- Drive of the day: Nico Hulkenberg - He absorbed pressure from behind throughout the race to keep the Sauber in a position that it did not deserve to be in
Tyre delaminations were meant to be a thing of the past after the construction changes Pirelli made in Hungary, but when the tread on Sergio Perez's right-front tyre unravelled from the carcass a lot of bad memories came flooding back. All drivers struggled with the front tyres this weekend and as the race progressed, locking the front right became a regular sight throughout the field. Heading into the first corner on lap 31, Perez suffered a massive lock up and on the next straight the delamination followed. Pirelli motorsport boss Paul Hembery said there was nothing Pirelli could do if drivers flat spot tyres: "From the telemetry it was a big flat spot," he said. "It put a huge hole right the way through the tread block. There is not a lot we can do about that one." However, Mark Webber, who was following Perez at the time and suffered a puncture from the debris, was not pleased: "I picked up a Pirelli puncture off [the debris from] a Pirelli tyre. It's pretty impressive." We shouldn't forget that Pirelli was asked to produce tyres that degrade when it entered F1, but we also shouldn't forget that safety comes first.
One of the more bizarre - and potentially dangerous - moments of the season occurred after the restart following the safety car period for tyre debris on the track. Mark Webber's car catching fire and then being left to burn was odd enough, but then the emergence of a fire car in front of race leader Sebastian Vettel, before the safety car had been redeployed, was farcical. Fortunately, marshals waving white flags (which alert drivers to a slow vehicle on track) and the fact that the car was visible in the distance on the longest straight on the circuit averted any potential disaster. If the fire car was required then the safety car should have already been deployed, and there needs to be an inquest after the race in to what went wrong. Fires may be fairly rare in Formula One compared to past years, but the handling of the whole situation needed to be much better.
The dynamic at Lotus
For the second race in succession, Romain Grosjean enjoyed an impressive weekend but saw Kimi Raikkonen finish higher, largely through better luck. Grosjean would have beaten Raikkonen in Singapore but for his car letting him down, and the same would have happened in Korea but for the safety car period. However, Grosjean lost second place to his team-mate through his own error in the penultimate corner allowing Raikkonen a run on him into Turn 1. Grosjean wanted the team to employ team orders to let him have a go at Vettel on fresher tyres, but it was already favouring him by letting him race Raikkonen to the flag and potentially jeopardise a double podium. With Raikkonen leaving for Ferrari, Grosjean is the future at Lotus and the team's hierarchy will want him to beat his team-mate during the rest of the season with the drivers' championship out of the window.