Vettel Keeps Rolling Along In Korea
YEONGAM, Korea — Sebastian Vettel claimed his fourth consecutive victory in Sunday’s Korean Grand Prix, moving him one step closer to a fourth straight Formula One world driving championship.
As battles raged behind him, the Red Bull driver kept his cool, surviving two safety-car restarts to lead home the Lotus duo of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean, with Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg a superb fourth.
“Extremely happy with the result, great job by the team, we had two very good stops,” explained Vettel after his eighth victory of the season. “I think it was quite good to have the safety car coming out the first time, we were just a couple of corners before the pit entry. And then fortunately we had enough pace to always open up a little bit of a gap even though I think Kimi and Romain, to be fair, were pretty competitive the longer the stint was.
“So I think they did maybe a better job with their tires, looking after their tires,” Vettel added. “But, all in all, yeah, fantastic. I’m just loving what I do. The team is fantastic, I think we all have a good time and just enjoy the moment really.”
Vettel was less dominant in Yeongam than he had been in the previous three races, and had to be careful to nurse his right-front tire in a race in which several rivals ran into graining problems.
Grosjean took the fight to the Red Bull man initially by passing Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes on the opening lap, but the Frenchman was later jumped by team mate Raikkonen. The first safety-car deployment had thrown the Finn a lifeline after he’d run eighth early on as he struggled with understeer.
When Sergio Perez’s McLaren had thrown the tread off its right-front Pirelli tyre on the 31st lap it sent safety-car driver Bernd Maylander into action as the debris was cleared up. After the usual rash of pit stops (which included Red Bull’s Mark Webber taking an extra stop because of a puncture from the debris), the racing resumed on the 37th lap, with Vettel and Grosjean pushing ahead again. But some great opportunistic driving by Raikkonen — allied to a mistake from Grosjean who ran wide in the final corner — saw him jump his teammate going into the first corner.
Just as things were settling down, Adrian Sutil spun at Turn 3, the Force India striking Mark Webber’s Red Bull. The latter caught fire and as a merry blaze erupted the safety car was deployed again on the 38th lap. A fire vehicle also took to the track in front of Vettel, adding to the confusion. The RB9 was eventually recovered so that the racing could resume a second time on the 41st lap.
Now Vettel moved clear but Raikkonen was initially able to keep him honest before having to safeguard his position against his teammate as Grosjean got his second wind. As Vettel nursed his right-front tire after being told off for setting the fastest lap with two to go, he won by 4.2 seconds from Raikkonen, who had Grosjean just .7 seconds behind him.
“It was OK. I mean from the beginning I lost I think one place on the first lap, no, on the first straight, but then there was an accident so get it back,” Raikkonen said. “The car was just understeering too much, the whole weekend, even today, so I have to try to look after the front tire and that was really the limitation on how much I could push and obviously we were stuck behind the traffic after the pit stops and then we decided to stop earlier and it was a good move and obviously the safety car helped a little bit but we had the speed and we could run until the end. So even without the safety car we could have maybe run until the end and still have a podium position. So it was good — but not ideal.”
Lewis Hamilton finished fifth.
Vettel extended his championship lead over Alonso to 77 points and now sits on a total of 272. As a result the German could clinch the title in Japan next week were he to win with Alonso ninth or lower.