Red Bull again! Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel occupied the front row for the start of the Korean Grand Prix, in pole and P2 respectively, marking the second consecutive week Red Bull locked down the front row in qualifying. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) and Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) started third and fourth respectively.
Vettel got Webber at the start, taking P1 before the first corner. Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber) took out Jenson Button (McLaren) during the first lap, with Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) also retired during the fray. Alonso was in P3, swapping places with Hamilton. Kobayashi pitted on Lap 2 for a new front wing and Vettel and Webber traded fast sector times at the front. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) was in P5, with the top 4 unchanged by Lap 6.
Kobayashi served a drive-thru penalty on Lap 9. Massa took P4 from Hamilton as the race progressed. The second round of pit stops began during Lap 27, with tire wear reported by Vettel a couple of laps later. Vettel’s lead over Webber at the halfway point was 8.9 sec. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) moved into P5 on Hamilton’s stop, but had yet to make his second.
Romain Grosjan (Lotus) pitted on Lap 34 and immediately began putting up fast-lap times, while Raikkonen retained fifth place following his second stop. Vettel retook fastest lap on 38, his lead over Webber standing at 6.8 sec. The running order on Lap 42 was unchanged: Vettel, Webber, Alonso, Massa, Riakkonen.
Front-right wear started being reported by a number of drivers, particularly Vettel, on Lap 45 (of 55), but the teams were eager to have them remain on track rather than take a third pit stop. @F1grid reported Vettel’s consecutive laps-led streak as the fifth longest ever, behind Ascari, Clark, A. Senna, and Mansell. By Lap 49, however, he was being asked to slow down to preserve his tires, holding a 10-sec lead with 6 six laps to go.
In the meantime, Massa, newly re-signed by Ferrari, started turning fastest laps, closing the gap to Alonso (Lap 51). With three laps to go, Webber had only cut Vettel’s lead to 8.5 sec, but the German was being warned of potential spontaneous tire failure. With 2.5 laps to go, Hamilton, running in P10, picked up a streamer of astroturf on his right sidepod, draping toward the rear wheels.
Vettel and Webber held on to finish 1-2. Vettel’s fourth victory of the year gave him the driver’s championship lead over Alonso, with the 1-2 extending the team’s constructor’s lead. It was the first 1-2 finish for any team in 2012. The win also tied Vettel with Jimmy Clark and Nicki Lauda at 25 on the career list. Alonso and Massa finished third and fourth, with Raikkonen’s P5 making him the only driver to score points in each 2012 race. Alonso’s podium was his ninth on the year, more than any other driver.
Further back, the Toro Rossos of Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo moved from P16 and P12 on the grid to finish eighth and ninth respectively. Hamilton’s tenth-place finish extended McLaren’s point scoring streak to 54 races, second all-time to Ferrari at 55. Ferrari, however, overtook McLaren for second in the 2012 constructor’s championship.
Driver standings - Top 10
215 - Sebastian Vettel (Germany) - RBR-Renault
209 - Fernando Alonso (Spain) – Ferrari
167 – Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) – Lotus-Renault
153 - Lewis Hamilton (Great Britain) - McLaren-Mercedes
152 - Mark Webber (Australia) - RBR-Renault
131 - Jenson Button (Great Britain) - McLaren-Mercedes
93 - Nico Rosberg (Germany) – Mercedes
86 – Romain Grosjean (France) – Lotus-Renault
81 – Felipe Massa (Brazil) - Ferrari
66 – Sergio Perez (Mexico) – Sauber-Ferrari
Constructor standings - Teams scoring points
367 - RBR-Renault - Vettel, Webber
290 - Ferrari - Alonso, Massa
284 - McLaren-Mercedes - Hamilton, Button
255 – Lotus-Renault – Raikkonen, Grosjean
136 - Mercedes – Rosberg ,Michael Schumacher
116 - Sauber-Ferrari – Perez, Kamui Kobayashi
89 – Force India-Mercedes – Paul di Resta, Nico Hulkenberg
58 - Williams-Renault – Pastor Maldonado, Bruno Senna
21 – STR-Ferrari – Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne
Next event: 2012 FORMULA 1 AIRTEL INDIAN GRAND PRIX – New Delhi, Oct. 26-28, 2012