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GP Week : Issue 138
F1 KOREA >> No sign of complacency, in other words; no zipping-up of the rain jacket for warm tea behind closed doors: Seb Vettel and his boys were hard at work. In the dry, on Saturday, when the teams for the first time were able to accumulate the data they desperately craved (but did not necessarily need) it was again McLaren-McLaren, with Jenson on this occasion finding a better lap on super-softs to induce knowing smiles from supporters over lunch. Seb, in traffic on the options, was down in P9. Thus they went into qualifying; thus RBR played their card. The two RB7s emerged from the pit lane for Q1 not on the primes so heavily favoured by the quick teams; both Seb and Mark were on option tyres – and the impact was stunning. One, it showed just how creatively and aggressively RBR were treating the weekend; two, it made everyone else (McLaren, Ferrari) wonder about the set of new primes they wouldn’t be taking into the race ... To his everlasting credit, Lewis Hamilton nonetheless took the pole – his first pole since Canada last year. He looked fast and clean and very Lewis Hamilton-like (which is to say absolutely on the limit of a pretty good car); and, post-qualifying, he coined the phrase “I will try to lead the race responsibly tomorrow” – this in answer to the clamouring throngs who have of late been confusing Lewis’ private live with his ability to drive racing cars. Again the dead-pan expression. Again the unsaid words: “You were after me like vultures and now you’re chasing me like flies”... Seb, though, was P2, despite having to race Team Lotus hard for the honour of not being slowest on the straight. Fingertippy, flush with the surface of the road, and as flowing and as lump-free as he regularly makes it look, Seb’s Q3 performance will inevitably be lost in the superlatives of his many other great laps in 2011 – and in the difficulties of really seeing the drivers close-up in Korea (compared with the splendor of Suzuka and the walls of Singapore). Quicker than Jenson Button, though, and (again) his team-mate, Seb was quite clearly again maximizing his chassis-tyre-aero-engine package. Lewis had the clean side, Seb the dirty – but it seemed not to make a difference. Seb was right there with the McLaren as they accelerated downtoTurn1–andhewasonthe brakes later, too – a first, early sign that Red Bull would have the full-fuel edge. Lewis maintained his lead on the long ‘back’ straight, as he would – but again, under brakes, Seb could feel a slight advantage. Andsohewentforit–justashe went for the outside of Fernando Alonso through the Curva Grande at Monza. He braked later for T3, put his nose 25