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Vettel secures hat-trick to hit the front
14 October 2012
Sebastian Vettel has moved to the head of the F1 standings after securing a dominant victory in Korea, heading a Red Bull Racing 1-2 and taking his third win in a row.
The German had qualified on the front row of the grid alongside Webber but made a better start when the lights went out to take the lead into turn one.
Although Webber attempted to come back at him on the long run down to turn three, Vettel was able to maintain his position at the front and would then remain out front for the remainder of the race, even when forced to ease off in the closing stages due to concerns about his tyres.
It meant the defending champion led from start-to-finish for the second successive race and meant he has now overhauled Fernando Alonso for the championship lead with just four races now left to run.
In a race that was far from being a classic, it would turn out to be a relatively straight-forward affair for the top three runners. Having failed to make the most of arguably his one and only chance to get back ahead of Vettel, Webber remained second all the way to the flag despite also suffering concerns about his tyres towards the end, while Alonso minimised his losses to Vettel by taking third.
The Spaniard did close on Webber towards the end but in truth, he never had the pace to match the Red Bull duo out front and third was the best result he could have hoped for, although he has now slipped to six points behind Vettel in the standings.
Alonso's closest challenger turned out to be Felipe Massa, who produced an impressive drive to more than match his team-mate. In the second half of the race, the Brazilian was able to close up on Alonso for the final podium position before a radio call from the team to maintain the gap saw him settle for fourth spot.
Kimi Raikkonen was a lonely fifth for Lotus while sixth went the way of Nico Hulkenberg, with the German producing an impressive drive for Force India. He would produce a rare moment of excitement while dicing for position with Romain Grosjean and Lewis Hamilton – making the most of squabbling between the pair to take both in one fail swoop before racing away up the road.
That left Grosjean in seventh, with the Frenchman at times appearing to be somewhat cautious in his approach given his recent run of incidents on track, with Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo providing Toro Rosso with reason to cheer as they both picked up points.
A strong run from both saw them race into the top ten, with Vergne securing inter-team honours in the final stages when Ricciardo started to suffer from excess tyre wear.
The pair had also been fighting to see off the challenge of Lewis Hamilton in the closing laps after the race turned out to be nothing short of a disaster for McLaren.
Having already lost Jenson Button on the opening lap of the race when he was taken out the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi at turn three – an incident that also saw Nico Rosberg forced into retirement – McLaren's hopes of a strong result with Hamilton came to an end during his second stint when he suffered rear roll bar failure.
With the Briton also forced to swap to a three-stop strategy, he dropped back from fourth early on to instead find himself scrapping for the final point, which he managed to secure despite being forced to complete the closing laps trailing a section of Astroturf from the sidepod of his car, which had come loose at turn 13 and was picked up the McLaren when it ran wide.
Sergio Perez was just four-tenths of a second behind at the finish ahead of Paul di Resta and Michael Schumacher, with Mercedes again failing to pick up any points after the seven-time champion lacked pace throughout.
Williams also endured a difficult race with Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna only able to finish 14th and 15th, ahead of Vitaly Petrov who was best of the rest for Caterham.
Alongside Rosberg and Button, Kobayashi – who served a drive through for the first lap incident - was forced to retire on lap 17 with damage he picked up in the clash while Pedro de la Rosa was also forced to bring his HRT into the pits on safety grounds after suffering a sticking throttle.
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