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GP Week : Issue 171
It was a much-needed boost for the Italian team, who have spent much of the season caught in an odd hinterland between the mid-field and the Caterhams. Ricciardo’s performance was particularly noteworthy, as the Australian driver equalled his career-best F1 finishes (four races in P9) despite struggling with brake issues for the closing phase of the 55-lap grand prix. “W ith about 10 laps to go, I found myself going straight on at Turn 3 and at first I thought it must have been a suspension failure because the car suddenly shot to the left and I could not stop it,” Ricciardo explained. “However, I realised I could keep going, even if every time I braked the car pulled to the left and I was locking the front a lot. Unfortunately, that cost me eighth place, but at least I was able to give it up to my team-mate.” But while the Korean Grand Prix delivered a number of strong performances, and led to upheaval in both championships, it will not go down in history as a classic piece of motorsport. A largely processional affair made more interesting by mechanical issues affecting much of the pack, the only real moments of tension came about in the closing stages, when the front-runners had driven the rubber off their tyres. Despite Vettel’s position at the head of the pack, the Red Bull driver did not have enough of a buffer to pit in the final 15 laps, and nor did any of those hoping to stay in the fight for points. Rather than being treated to a thrills and spills display over overtaking attempts both successful and unsuccessful, audiences kept their ears tuned to the pit radios, the air waves filled with near-hysterical race engineers beseeching their charges to take care of what little rubber they had remaining, or risk throwing it all away as they raced on cords. Perhaps the worst offender was Vettel himself, who was under strict instructions from Rocky to slow down at certain corners to try and reduce the severe wear that was developing on his right front tyre. As the chequered flag approached, that list of cautious corners grew ever longer. Not that Vettel listened – as tends to be his wont, with the win in his sights the Red Bull driver threw caution to the winds, setting purple sector after purple sector as his race engineer chewed his nails to the quick. “I think a lot of people suffered issues with the front today so in the last stint I tried to control it a little bit more and have more juice in the tyre until the end,” Vettel said in the post-race press conference. “Obviously we had the gaps and we were controlling that towards the end, but once you reach the point when the front tyres are gone it’s sudden death, so there's no point of return. We were obviously talking a lot over the radio trying to stay on top of the problem and manage the front tyres quite well – which I think we did until the end – so I'm very happy with the result.” And so he should be. Vettel leaves South Korea leading the drivers’ championship for the first time since Barcelona, and he is in no doubt that the RB8 is now the best car on the grid. Hamilton’s hopes are history, Alonso’s ambitions are just that, and the fat lady has moved on to selecting her sheet music. 24 GPWEEK.com // 24 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> KOREA Don't forget The Flying Lap live every week on http://smibs.tv CLICK HERE