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GP Week : Issue 191
It was like déjà vu all over again, when sebastian Vettel pulled off another textbook racing start at the Korean International Circuit, opening up a 2.1 second lead over the course of the first lap and setting course for yet another lights to flag win. Behind the defending world champion the race was for the two remaining spots on the podium. There was a brief moment on lap 11 when Vettel did not control the pace; the young German was in the process of making his first pit stop and passed the lead of the race over to teammate Mark Webber. The Australian made his own stop on the next lap, passing the lead back to the driver who does little else but dominate races. Lewis Hamilton lost second place to Romain Grosjean early in the first lap, setting the stage for an ongoing battle between the two. Hamilton was the first of the pair to pit, but Grosjean made his own stop for fresh rubber one lap after the Briton, and when he emerged from the pits he was perfectly placed to battle the Mercedes driver for what was then fifth place. After the first round of stops were complete, the lap 11 battle between Hamilton and Grosjean – won by the Frenchman – saw the two racers fighting for the right to bookend Vettel on the podium. For the first half of Sunday’s race there was the prospect of a decent battle between the Mercedes and the Lotus, but Hamilton was struggling with extreme levels of degradation that saw him lose considerable time to Grosjean. On lap 19, the pair were split by 1.5 seconds. By lap 24, the gap was 5.8 seconds, and Hamilton was on the radio to the team saying “I’ve been through the graining process, they’re dead.” One lap later and Grosjean had an 8.4 second lead over Hamilton, whose team had yet to call him in to the pits. By lap 27, Hamilton was 15 seconds behind the Lotus and being passed by teammate Nico Rosberg, who had been gaining at the rate of 2.5 seconds a lap. Rosberg sped past Hamilton, a broken front wing sparking all the way, and was called in to box while the Briton desperately pleaded to be allowed to box, telling the team “these tyres are f***ed” . On lap 30 Hamilton pitted at last, but with a slow stop for Rosberg when the broken front wing proved tricky to remove Mercedes’ race was in tatters. Also in tatters was Sergio Perez’ right front tyre, which delaminated Silverstone-style on lap 31, bringing out the Safety Car and giving Vettel – who was perfectly placed at the pit entrance – a free stop in the process. The restart at the end of lap 36 was chaotic, with a spinning Adrian Sutil collecting Webber in an incident that saw the Australian stranded trackside, his car engulfed in flames. The Lotus driver pairing fought hard at the front, with Kimi Raikkonen getting the best of his teammate, before the Webber incident brought out both a never-before-seen Safety SUV and then the real Safety Car with Bernd Maylander at the wheel. In the last 15 laps the Korean Grand Prix came alive behind the race leader, with Grosjean giving chase to Raikkonen while Nico Hulkenberg and Hamilton fought hard for fourth place. The Sauber was ultimately superior on Sunday afternoon, with far more traction on the corner exit, while the Mercedes was visibly lacking even in the straight line speed that is traditionally its strength. With 10 laps to go, Fernando Alonso joined the Hulkenberg-Hamilton fight, but the Ferrari driver was unable to improve on sixth place. Vettel took the chequered flag with a 4.224s lead over the second- placed Raikkonen, the narrowest of his recent winning margins. 29 GPWEEK.com // 29 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> KOREA