A phlegmatic and somewhat rueful Sebastian Vettel was left to reflect that there was 'nothing' he and Red Bull Racing 'could have done better' in this weekend's inaugural Korean Grand Prix – a race that at one stage saw him leading the F1 2010 World Championship, yet ended in retirement and with his title hopes severely dented.
Having seized pole position – incredibly, his ninth from 17 outings this season – around the Korea International Circuit in qualifying, Vettel went on to dominate the delayed race 24 hours later, never once ceding his advantage or putting so much as a wheel out-of-place in treacherous conditions in which so many of his competitors, Red Bull Racing team-mate and world championship rival Mark Webber included, got it very wrong.
Indeed, following the Australian's accident, the German stood to end the weekend with a handy eleven-point margin at the top of the drivers' standings – enough, the sport's conspiracy theorists might say, to encourage Red Bull to begin to place their eggs solely in Vettel's basket. And then, with just ten laps to go, the Renault engine in the back of the 23-year-old's RB6 went bang.
“This is obviously not a very nice moment,” he mused. “I think it was very, very tricky and a difficult race for all of us. It was getting dark towards the end; I had a medium visor on my helmet and in some corners it was difficult to see the bumps on the track or the reference for braking – Turn One in the first sector was quite bad, and some places in sector two, Turns Eleven and Twelve, and then the last sector in particular was a bit darker – but the guys finished the race, so there must have been some visibility at least.
“To be at the front of the field all the time and controlling the race and looking after my tyres, I think there's nothing we could have done better. All-in-all, I think we did more-or-less a perfect job, also with the result yesterday in qualifying – even if looking back, obviously it would have helped our result if they had stopped the race with ten laps still to go! I think there has been a bit too much [unreliability] this season for us – of course everyone has had ups-and-downs, but I think we've had quite a lot in particular. You can't change it, though.”
The failure – far from the first time his car has let him down in 2010 – cost Vettel some 25 points and saw him slip two spots to fourth in the drivers' standings, now a full race victory adrift of new leader Fernando Alonso with only 50 points remaining up for grabs. He is adamant, however, that it is far from over yet.
“Obviously it would have been much easier if we had won today and the engine hadn't broken, but that's life and how it goes sometimes,” he maturely conceded. “We will keep our heads down for the last two races and keep doing what we have been doing to try to get the best out of the car. I think in terms of speed, there is nothing we have to improve. We have a very strong team and a strong car and we know we are the quickest. I can go to sleep tonight knowing I did everything I could today, and we still have everything to play for.”
“Renault must apologise to the whole team for the engine failure on Seb's car,” added the French manufacturer's chief track support engineer Fabrice Lom. “We need to investigate more before giving more details about the failure – it was an engine that was on its third grand prix, but it obviously wasn't expected.
“What a bad result for us; we scored no points after starting on the front row – it's a big disappointment. We are still in the battle for both championships, though, and we will continue to push very hard – we took a hit today, but we will bounce back stronger in Brazil.”