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GP Week : Issue 171
23 GPWEEK.com // 23 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> KOREA strong performance in Suzuka last week, the Brazilian racer spent substantial portions of the afternoon lapping faster than Alonso before being told to keep his distance over team radio. Massa’s return to form came too late for the Brazilian to have any chance in the 2012 drivers’ championship; the best that he and Ferrari can hope for now is that the plucky Paulista will be in a position to defend Alonso from his title rivals. Now that the Scuderia have drivers in both of their cars, the team have been able to overhaul the beleaguered McLaren in the all-important constructors’ standings; Ferrari lead their long-time rivals by a six-point margin. Speaking to the Brazilian media in the paddock after the race, a confident Massa said that, at this point in the championship, it was only rational that the team had asked him to keep pace behind Alonso. “I had the pace to fight Mark [Webber],” the Ferrari driver said, “but I am just happy to have such a strong car.” It was a terrible day for McLaren, who suffered a seemingly endless tragi- comedy of errors. Jenson Button was the first man to retire from Sunday’s race; the Briton was knocked out of the Korean Grand Prix by a charging Kamui Kobayashi, who also managed to collect the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg in his one-man demolition derby. In the aftermath of the race, Button had harsh words for both Kobayashi and his future McLaren team-mate Sergio Perez, both of whom he accused of reckless driving standards not befitting the top tier of international single-seater motorsport. “It seems both Sauber drivers think the first lap of the race is the only lap,” Button complained. “[They] have got a great car underneath them and could score such great points here if they just kept their heads together. I don't know what they were doing. I got a really good start and passed Michael [Schumacher] and was alongside Nico [Rosberg at Turn 1] when Perez came from nowhere, chucked it up the inside, out-braked himself and hit the car in front. “I had to run wide and push Nico off the circuit to stop an incident, so then Nico and I had a drag race down the back straights, Saubers all over the back of us. Basically I braked very, very late as I'm sure Nico did, and then suddenly got a big bang on the right hand side and Kamui came flying past. I don't know how he hit two of us, which was pretty special. It's very poor driving standards, considering this is the pinnacle of motorsport. It's not just a slight misjudgement, it’s massive.” Button’s bad day was only the beginning of McLaren’s struggles – Lewis Hamilton was able to finish the race, but held on to only a single point after struggling with an MP4-27 hampered by a broken rear anti-roll bar. With shaky handling and excessive tyre wear to contend with, Hamilton did well to finish the race in P10. “Sam Michael just came to me and said that we had a rear suspension problem in the first stint, but they said it was safe for me to drive,” Hamilton explained. “I did ask [over the radio] but I wasn't expecting them to tell me. They said ‘we know what the problem is’, but I was just fighting the whole way with the car.” The Briton’s woes were not limited to problems with his suspension – two laps before the chequered flag, he collected a piece of the badly-laid Astroturf that lined the circuit, and had to drag his car to the finish with the green material wrapped around his right sidepod, making the already poor handling even worse. Ahead of Hamilton on track were the twin Toro Rossos of Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne, both of whom drove an excellent race. After a difficult weekend that saw the team struggle to pin down the ideal set-up, Ricciardo and Vergne settled into a confident stride in the opening stages of the race, avoiding the Turn 1 and 2 troubles before creeping their way up through the pack, seemingly in stealth mode.