The rain is a great leveller, they say, and it has certainly upset the applecart again in the F1 2010 World Championship, with Fernando Alonso
triumphing in a sodden inaugural Korean Grand Prix to move into the lead of the title standings – and with it close in on a third career crown.
Even as he languished some 47 points adrift of the world championship lead post-Silverstone back in the summer, Alonso has remained adamant that he would be the man on top come season's end. Few, in truth, believed him. They do now.
The most prolific winner of 2010 following his Korean success – with five victories to his credit from 17 races – the Spaniard will carry an eleven-point lead over erstwhile pace-setter Mark Webber
into the final two outings in Brazil and Abu Dhabi, and firmly installed as the new favourite to claim glory. The Australian, surely, will be kicking himself for his early error without which he would be comfortably clear of team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who similarly failed to score due to a late-race engine failure. What happens between now and Interlagos will be fascinating.
With the feared heavy rain arriving right on-cue in the build-up to the race – and sending Ferrari's Felipe Massa
and Virgin Racing's Timo Glock
spinning on their way around to the grid, with Michael Schumacher similarly having a 'moment' of his own on the slippery track surface – conditions were deemed too dangerous to risk a normal start, and thus the safety car led the field away ten minutes after the scheduled 'lights-out' time.
With defending F1 World Champion Jenson Button
likening the 1.2km straight to 'a lake' and current title protagonist Alonso describing the situation as 'the worst conditions in which I've ever driven a car', the decision was taken after only four laps to red flag proceedings and have a re-think.
As time ticked by and discussion after discussion took place, concerns increased regarding just how much daylight was left, recalling memories of Malaysia 2009 – but just under an hour later, the safety car was deployed once more to lead the cars from the grid in qualifying order, in the hope that at last some real racing might be able to go ahead.
As the safety car motored on, Sakon Yamamoto
went briefly off-piste whilst Lucas Di Grassi pitted, following the example of Bruno Senna during the first safety car period, though in the Hispania rookie's case, it was so that a wheel that had been fitted the wrong way round initially could be rectified.
Whilst the general consensus amongst drivers were that the track was still too sodden to allow racing to begin, there was one dissenter, with Lewis Hamilton
champing at the bit to get going as he urged over his pit-to-car radio that it was 'almost intermediates' territory 16 laps in. Just over a lap later, the McLaren-Mercedes star's prayers were answered.
The ever-opportunistic Schumacher darted down the inside of Renault's Robert Kubica
at the re-start, whilst a handful of corners later Nico Rosberg
pulled off a bold move on Hamilton for fourth. Meanwhile, just behind, a racy-looking Schumacher was harrying Button for P7, as Vettel completed the first real 'racing' lap almost three full seconds clear of the pursuing Webber.