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GP Week : Issue 191
In the post-race press conference in Yeongam, Romain Grosjean drew attention to the parallels between that afternoon’s race and the German Grand Prix, two races the Frenchman considers to be missed opportunities of victory. And while beating the ever-dominant Sebastian Vettel in Korea may have been more challenging than a win at the Nurburgring could have been, there is no denying that the Frenchman’s third-place finish could have been a second were it not for his own error – one that saw him hand P2 to teammate Kimi Raikkonen. Friday’s long run data suggested that the E21 was as good as the RB9 on long runs, but Red Bull have long been in the habit of sandbagging in practice. “After the long runs on Friday we chose which tyre we preferred, which was the medium tyre which we knew at some stage would balance the car,” Grosjean explained in the post-race press conference. “It was a matter of how much we could push at the beginning during the first few laps.” At race start and immediately after both Safety Car restarts, Vettel was able to pull off his usual feat of creating a sizeable gap within milliseconds, before extending his lead over the course of the first racing lap. Lotus took a more cautious approach on the restarts, allowing Vettel to capitalise on his 4kph straight-line speed advantage in the run-up to Turns 4 and 5, putting Grosjean and Raikkonen under increased pressure to make up for lost time in the final sectors. But despite their best efforts to chip away at the Red Bull’s lead in the final sector, neither Raikkonen nor Grosjean was able to make a significant dent in the margin to Vettel, so great was his pace in sector one. In a race without two Safety Cars, the E21’s long-run pace might have allowed one of the two Lotus drivers to put Vettel under increased pressure. But the defending world champion had pressures of his own to deal with at the Yeongam track, with the first Safety Car destroying the lead he had built up in the first phase of Sunday’s race. “Without the Safety Car we gained a lot of time and lap places if we'd stopped earlier in the last pit stops, so who knows?” mused Raikkonen after the race. “You have to react and do what you think is the right thing and sometimes certain things help you. My front tyre was pretty done in the end but we finished the race in a pretty good position. We would probably try to run until then anyhow.” A mistake from Grosjean after the second restart gave Raikkonen the chance he need to slip past his teammate, a move that took the Frenchman by surprise and left him begging the team to allow him to pass the Finn. But the Lotus pit wall told their driver to get the job done on track, as team orders would not be implemented. “I was quicker today, but then we have rules not to fight,” Grosjean said after the podium. “I should have avoided the astroturf at Turn 15 and it would have been the end of the conversation.” Another one that got away? 31 GPWEEK.com // 31 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> KOREA