Vettel grabs championship lead with Korean victory
14 October 2012 – Sebastian Vettel has won his third consecutive Grand Prix, winning in Korea on Sunday afternoon. Now at the top of the title race, he led home Mark Webber in the first team one-two result of 2012. Fernando Alonso completed the podium as Ferrari jumped McLaren for second place in the Constructors’ Championship.
While this afternoon’s race brought no title-deciding moment in particular, it only highlighted the fact that Red Bull Racing are significantly quicker than their nearest rivals. Posting his quickest personal lap on the final tour, Vettel led Webber home by 8.2 seconds, with Alonso some 14 seconds off the lead as McLaren struggled.
The start always was set to be crucial. Lewis Hamilton was quickest off the line but found himself boxed in behind the pair of Red Bulls. At the first corner, Vettel dived up the inside of Webber and, after defending the lead into the crucial Turn 3, proceeded to drive away from the field. Behind, both Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg exited early following first-lap contact with Kamui Kobayashi; the Sauber driver received a penalty and he too would retire from the Grand Prix.
All of the front-runners elected for two-stop strategies, with Felipe Massa looking like the faster Ferrari but being instructed to run behind his team-mate. In the sole remaining McLaren, Hamilton suffered a miserable run to the final point which was only compounded by picking up a large chunk of artificial grass when chasing the Toro Rosso duo; they impressively scored points, with Jean-Éric Vergne allowed through by the slowing Daniel Ricciardo. Overhauled by a handful of rivals, Hamilton was forced to make a third pit-stop as his tyres were destroyed.
Kimi Räikkönen kept his nose clean for a top five result as Lotus ran coandă-style exhausts for the first time, but his title challenge is all but over as both Vettel and Alonso again scored more points. Nico Hülkenberg impressed to finish sixth for Force India, having pulled off a sensational double pass on dicing Romain Grosjean and Hamilton halfway through the 41st lap. Grosjean, incidentally, was desperate to enjoy a clean race and did so, achieving a solid six points for seventh position.
Korea will not be remembered as a positive event for neither Mercedes nor Sauber; the two teams contesting fifth position in the standings both failed to score. Pastor Maldonado was the only man to attempt a one-stop strategy en route to 14th place, curiously posting his personal best time on the final lap. Pedro de la Rosa did not enjoy his 100th Grand Prix start as he became the fourth and final retirement.
Continuously warned to look after his tyres in the final quarter of the race, Vettel picked up career victory number 25 which puts him level with former Champions Jim Clark and Niki Lauda for sixth place in the all-time rankings. The double podium finish also marks rostrums 75 and 76 for Red Bull, which entered Formula 1 in 2005.
Formula 1 continues with Round 16 of the 2012 season and the sport’s second trip to India in a fortnight’s time