October 6th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Sebastian Vettel has taken his 8th win of the season and third Korean Grand Prix victory in a row, ahead of the Lotus pair of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean. Nico Hulkenberg finished fourth for Sauber after a thrilling battle with Lewis Hamilton.
Sebastian Vettel is streaking towards his fourth world title. This victory, his fourth in as many races, puts Vettel potentially within one race of the 2013 World Championship. If he wins next week in Japan and Fernando Alonso finishes ninth or lower, Vettel will secure the title with four races to spare.
Nico Hulkenberg delivered arguably the drive of his career and easily the finest performance of this race by finishing fourth for Sauber. He started seventh and made a flying start to run fifth on the opening lap. The safety car was deployed on lap 31 when Perez suffered a spectacular tyre failure on the straight between turns 2 and 3, and when racing resumed, Hulkenberg lined up Lewis Hamilton on the run down to turn 3 and passed the Mercedes on lap 36.
From then until the end of the race, there was a furious battle between Hulkenberg and Hamilton. Hamilton was quicker around most of the lap, but Hulkenberg had incredible traction on the exit of turn 1, which allowed him to stay ahead in the DRS zone on the long straight before turn 3. Hamilton did manage to pass Hulkenberg into turn 1 on lap 48, but Hulkenberg passed him straight back in the DRS zone, assisted by the massive straight-line speed of the Sauber.
In the closing stages of hte race, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg caught Lewis Hamilton, but none could make it past him. Rosberg managed to pass Button, who then dropped back, but Rosberg could make no impression on Alonso ahead.
Kimi Raikkonen delivered another inspired drive through the field. The Finn started ninth and finished second. He was fortunate that the safety car came out shortly after he made an early second pit stop, which helped him to manage his tyres to the end of the race. He also gained several places as the drivers around him pitted under the safety car and was third at the restart.
An aggressive battle then ensued betwen Raikkonen and second-placed Romain Grosjean. Raikkonen had a run on Grosjean down the start-finish straight and pulled out to pass into turn 1. Grosjean moved across very late to defend and there was very nearly contact between the two Lotus drivers. Raikkonen managed to take the place, however, which he held to the chequered flag. Grosjean finished third.
Mark Webber provided plenty of entertainment during the race. He started down in 13th due to a 10-place grid penalty and made a cautious start, making up just one place in the early laps. But then he started to move forward, eventually leading the race briefly when Sebastian Vettel made his first pit stop. Webber was out of position at that point, but was realistically looking at challenging for the podium before an incident after the first safety car ended his race.
When Perez's tyre failed, Webber had just pitted and emerged ahead of Lewis Hamilton who had also pitted in the preceding few laps. Hamilton was close enough to pass, however, which he did with DRS on the run down to turn 3. But in the process, he and Webber ran over the debris from Perez's car that had just blown its right front tyre ahead of them. Webber picked up a puncture on the pieces of Perez's tyre, which meant he had to pit again under the safety car and that put him back several places, out of the points.
When the safety car went back into the pits, Webber kept his nose clean at the restart, but under braking for turn 3, Adrian Sutil lost control of his Force India and cannoned into the side of Webber's Red Bull. Initially, it lookd like both cars had survived the incident, but then flames started to issue from Webber's car. The Red Bull ended up with a brightly burning right exhaust bank and engine cover, which did considerable damage to the car. Sutil recovered to the pits and was sent back out on the track, but retired a few laps later.
Webber's fire brought out the safety car for the second time but, bizarrely, it was not the first non-F1 car on the track. There was a course car driving down the long straight ahead of all of the F1 cars, with the safety car bringing up the rear. It was an unusual and quite dangerous situation, as the course car is not nearly quick enough to do the job of the safety car. In the end, everyone managed to avoid it and the safety car period carried on.
Paul Di Resta added to his string of non-finishes by crashing out all by himself. Shorlty after he made his first pit stop, Di Resta simply lost the back end of his Force India going through a right-hand corner and broke his rear suspension against the barrier on the edge of the run-off area. It's Di Resta's fourth retirement in as many races and makes it now six races since his last points finish. A season that started so well has fallen apart for the Force India driver.
Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel look set to take both championships again this season, but behind them the battle for second is hotting up. Mercedes are now just one point behind Ferrari in the Constructors' Championship. Fernando Alonso is 28 points clear of Kimi Raikkonen, who is once again ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the Drivers' Championship, but it looks like Raikkonen and Hamilton could have quite a battle for third place until the end of the season.
Full results from the Korean Grand Prix:
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||55||Winner||1||25|
|2||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus-Renault||55||+4.2 secs||9||18|
|3||8||Romain Grosjean||Lotus-Renault||55||+4.9 secs||3||15|
|4||11||Nico Hulkenberg||Sauber-Ferrari||55||+24.1 secs||7||12|
|5||10||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||55||+25.2 secs||2||10|
|6||3||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||55||+26.1 secs||5||8|
|7||9||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||55||+26.6 secs||4||6|
|8||5||Jenson Button||McLaren-Mercedes||55||+32.2 secs||11||4|
|9||4||Felipe Massa||Ferrari||55||+34.3 secs||6||2|
|10||6||Sergio Perez||McLaren-Mercedes||55||+35.1 secs||10||1|
|11||12||Esteban Gutierrez||Sauber-Ferrari||55||+35.9 secs||8|
|12||17||Valtteri Bottas||Williams-Renault||55||+47.0 secs||17|
|13||16||Pastor Maldonado||Williams-Renault||55||+50.0 secs||18|
|14||20||Charles Pic||Caterham-Renault||55||+63.5 secs||19|
|15||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||55||+64.5 secs||20|
|16||22||Jules Bianchi||Marussia-Cosworth||55||+67.9 secs||22|
|17||23||Max Chilton||Marussia-Cosworth||55||+72.8 secs||21|
|18||18||Jean-Eric Vergne||STR-Ferrari||53||+2 Laps||16|
|19||19||Daniel Ricciardo||STR-Ferrari||52||+3 Laps||12|
|20||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||50||+5 Laps||14|
|Ret||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||36||+19 Laps||13|
|Ret||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||24||Accident||15|