• Korean Grand Prix

Vettel wins to take lead in the championship

ESPN Staff
October 14, 2012

Sebastian Vettel won the Korean Grand Prix from team-mate Mark Webber after a tense finish that saw several drivers take their tyres to the absolute limit over the 55 laps.

Vettel was warned about right-front tyre wear by his pit wall throughout the final stint but in the end finished 8.2s clear of his team-mate, who was having issues of his own. Ferrari's Fernando Alonso finished third, which was the best he could manage given his relative pace to the Red Bulls, but lost his lead in the championship to Vettel as a result.

Felipe Massa finished fourth after a spirited drive that saw him close on Alonso's gearbox before being ordered to back off by the Ferrari pit wall. Kimi Raikkonen's title chances took another knock with a fifth place finish, but it was solid race for the Lotus driver who is now 14 points clear of Lewis Hamilton in the championship.

Both McLaren drivers had disappointing races, with Hamilton suffering a catalogue of issues to finish tenth while Jenson Button was taken out in a first-lap accident with Kamui Kobayashi. Hamilton's problems started on lap 20 when he had a rear suspension failure and dropped behind Massa and Raikkonen while taking a huge amount of life out of his tyres. After making three stops his car's performance got significantly worse in his final stint when a piece of loose Astroturf got stuck on his sidepod and prevented him from attacking the two Toro Rosso's in eighth and ninth. After the race he said his championship hopes were now over.

Vettel took the lead from Webber at the start after using a squirt of KERS to get past on the inside into turn one. He fended off his team-mate in turn three and from that point onwards built up a gap that proved to be unassailable. Webber got closest at the second and final pit stop after Vettel ran wide at turn three on his in-lap. The lead Red Bull soon rebuilt the gap, but it was to the detriment of his tyres and the nerves of the team on the pit wall.

In the final laps Vettel's race engineer sent repeated warnings to the cockpit to tell Vettel to look after his front right tyre in the knowledge that any problems would result in an immediate and severe drop off in performance. However, Vettel's tyre management proved to be spot on by the finish as he crossed the line with a personal best and the fastest final sector of the race.

Behind the Red Bulls, Alonso remained in touch throughout the race to take advantage of any problems ahead and he finished the race 5.7s off Webber. Massa was a further 6.2s off his team-mate after his pace dropped in the final laps, but he still had a 16.5s buffer to Raikkonen as he crossed the line.

Nico Hulkenberg had a very strong grand prix after outracing Romain Grosjean throughout the afternoon to take sixth place. He passed the Lotus twice on track, the second time by taking advantage of Hamilton holding off Grosjean as they battled for position. Jean-Eric Vergne finished ahead of his Toro Rosso team-mate Daniel Ricciardo in eighth after Ricciardo struggled with his tyres towards the end of the race and conceded position.

Both Mercedes and Sauber failed to score points, leaving their battle in the constructors' in stasis with a 20-point gap between the two teams. Kobayashi went from hero in Japan to zero in Korea when he piled past Button and Nico Rosberg at turn three on the first lap and hit both. The Sauber driver appeared to miss his braking point and collided with Button's right wheels before puncturing Rosberg's sidepod and radiator. Button retired on the spot with Rosberg stopping on track a lap later and Kobayashi withdrawing 15 laps after that.

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