In his latest exclusive feature on Crash.net, David Tremayne - three time Guild of Motoring Writers Journalist of the Year Award winner and multi-award winning F1 author - takes a look back over the Korean Grand Prix…
Okay, so this time Sebastian Vettel's victory wasn't as dominant as his success had been in Singapore, because even he needed to baby his right front tyre throughout a race on the Yeongam circuit which punishes that one in particular.
It didn't help that Pirelli had aggressively brought along their fragile supersoft tyres to complement the mediums. But Vettel's fourth consecutive win, and his eighth of the season, knocked the fight out of Mercedes and Ferrari
as they struggled home with best placings of fifth and seventh, and sixth and ninth respectively. Remember how both marques had needed to win in Singapore to keep their aspirations on track, let alone here?
By the time Red Bull
left Korea, they were within seven points of clinching the World Championship for Constructors, and whether or not he chose to acknowledge it publicly, Vettel was able to contemplate the possibility of wrapping up his fourth consecutive title in Japan this coming weekend, with four races still to run.
Oh yes, Red Bull
remained firmly within their sweet spot last weekend, that's for sure.
In the end it was left to Lotus to pose the strongest challenge, and for a while both Romain Grosjean
and Kimi Raikkonen
looked racy as the team persevered with the latest long-wheelbase iteration of the E21.
It's now crystal clear that the understeer promoted by the new-construction Pirellis has favoured the Frenchman's style and cramped the Finn's, and for a while it seemed like Grosjean was going to be the biggest threat. He snatched second place from Lewis Hamilton
on the opening lap, as Raikkonen ran round in eighth place. And had there not been the safety car intervention on the 31st lap because of a front right tyre delamination for McLaren's Sergio Perez, the Lotus's superior tyre management might have let Grosjean make a run at Vettel. But the safety car put an end to that aspiration, and to his chance of finishing second.
As the race went green at the end of the 36th lap he ran wide in the final corner and to his chagrin Raikkonen, who had moved up during the rash of safety car-induced pit stops, was able to get alongside and grab second going into Turn 1. The immediate deployment of the safety car again because of Adrian Sutil's spin into Mark Webber's grid-penalised and puncture-delayed Red Bull, and the subsequent fire which consumed the latter because of a damaged oil radiator, put things on hold again.
When the race resumed, Raikkonen initially ran with Vettel. But he didn't have the pace to stay there or to mount a challenge, and duly had to settle for an honourable second as an angry Grosjean reluctantly accepted that his own error had entitled the Finn to make his pass.
In the end it wasn't either Mercedes or Ferrari
next, but Sauber. Yet again Nico Hulkenberg
was pushing the C32 along at indecent speed, and he had sufficient traction and straightline velocity to ruin Hamilton's day. On the one occasion on the 48th lap when the Mercedes driver snuck ahead going into Turn 1, Hulkenberg had the issue settled again before they even braked for Turn 3. His was an excellent drive that helped him to stake further claim to the vacant Lotus seat.