KOREA GP ’11 – THE WAY OF THE MASTER


Oh, I love being right. In my previous post, I predicted a win for Vettel in Korea and whaddaya know.. It came true. I should have put some money on that 😉 Ok, to be honest I was not half as confident after qualifying on Saturday. A surprise pole position for Lewis Hamilton. And a full 2 tenths ahead of Vettel as well. What was going on? To be honest, I’m not sure. Judging by Vettel winning the race, one could suggest RedBull went for an optimal race pace setup and one that also were kinder to the tires. This in fear of a repeat of Japan where the tires were gobbled up real fast.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Let us run through the highlights of the race, shall we?

THE RACE

2 McLarens on the clean side, 2 Red Bulls on the dirty side. Should be easy peasy for Hamilton to keep his lead right? Lights out and we are set for an incredibly eventful 1st lap. Webber loses a position to Button at turn 1 while Vettel keeps 2nd place. But to my surprise, Vettel is slipstreaming down the long straight right on the heels of the McLaren. Hamilton defends well at the end of the straight but leaves room on the inside for the next corner. Vettel jumps at the chance and takes the lead with a brave move and some very late split-second braking.

I have no time to compose myself from this surprising lead change as I see Webber do a fine bit of racing himself. He has been passed by Massa as well who managed to pass both him and Button at turn 3. Great stuff. But old rubberface Webber is not taking this lying down and disposes of both Button and Massa in the matter of 2 corners. Well done.

Alonso is behind his teammate in 5th. We are waiting for him to let Scandal Man through but no such thing happens. Much to the anguish and frustration of Alonso fans all around Im sure.
After this Vettel steadily increases his lead. Button is the first McLaren to pit. We hear over the team radio that the goal is to overtake the two Ferraris in front by doing this. But no such luck! Rosberg pits on the same lap and actually gets out ahead of Button. The Mercedes pit crew have been the only team to have a better turn around time in the pitstops than Red Bull. Outstanding.

The drama isnt over though. Rosberg gets too eager at the arguably worst pit exit in F1 and outbrakes himself a little. Button is not one to ask twice and takes the position. What he didnt calculate on was that Rosberg could now take full advantage of the DRS down the straight and he then just blasts by him with ease. Button is not pleased at all and tries every trick in the book to get by. Eventually he only had to wait until the next time on the straight. DRS deployed, position retaken.

All of a sudden the Safety Car is sent out. We quickly find out that it is Petrov that has fulfilled his long time wish to ram into the side of a 7-time world champion. Ok, maybe it wasnt his biggest wish but he did it nonetheless. Schumis Mercedes is looking rather sad and in dire need of some rearwing Viagra. He pulls off to the side while Petrov makes it into the pits. But the front of the car had taken too severe a beating to carry on. Incident here: http://youtu.be/Slbt487bNIQ

Replays also show some insane racing between Alonso and Petrov leading up to the crash. Alonso is incredibly lucky not to do the same as the Russian. He comes at turn 3 with insane speed, braking way way too late. And he would have surely taken out Schumacher if the German didnt turn in for the corner when he did. I guess Alonso was afraid of getting Petroved again: http://youtu.be/RpdkTT9lZjM

After the Safety Car period, Hamilton is on a mission. Vettel just about manages to keep Hamilton out of DRS reach. Very close to the 1 second mark for several laps. In the meantime Mark Webber catches up with the two in front and can use his DRS on the McLaren in front. But the DRS zone is a couple of hundred meters too short to really make an impact on Hamilton.

Eventually Vettel starts pulling away and the race settles a bit. The remaining 20 laps or so is all about the rest of the best: Hamilton, Webber, Button and Alonso. The guy in front is in a class of his own.

Red Bull for some inexplainable reason manages to get Webber in for new tires on the exact same lap as Hamilton. Not what the Aussie wanted Im sure. Out of the pits there is some brilliant racing between the two. The Australian actually manages to get past but Lewis strikes right back for a repass. Fair, tidy and awesome to watch. Hats off to the gents. The pit stop and subsequent scrap can be seen here: http://youtu.be/a3JlauLlaNI
(Apologies if FOM have managed to take the linked videoes down)

Webber passes Hamilton again a few laps before the end. The mistake he made this time was passing him on the start-finish straight. Meaning that all Lewis had to do was deploy the DRS down the main straight and he was ahead again. Fun stuff though 🙂

Alonso have finally made it past his teammate and is pushing very hard to catch up with bunch led by Lewis Hamilton. He does some very impressive qualifying style laptimes and gets within a couple of seconds to Button. Even within the one second mark for the DRS, before we hear this message from the Spaniard. “I give up. I give up”: http://youtu.be/tTLNEI8XUh4
I dont know what to make of that message, really. Im sure there is a lot of explanations floating around. But it cant be what a race engineer wants to hear. Its not a motivation message, is it. Even if it was a snide remark at the team for keeping him behind Massa for so long.

CONCLUSION

Anyway – Vettel romps to victory in Korea, 12 seconds ahead of a gaggle of world champions and a teammate. And he sets the fastest lap at the end just for laughs. 10 wins he shouts on the team radio as the constructors title is secured with Mark in 3rd. What a season it has been for the fizzy drinks team. And there are still 3 races to go. A masterful performance and Driver of the day for me. His overtake for the lead was the move of the race.

Runner-up for driver of the day is Lewis Hamilton. It took a cool head and some fine defensive driving to keep that Red Bull behind. He always got a better exit for the main straight so the DRS was useless since Mark was too far back. In the face of criticism, it seems Hamilton have started to redeem himself. What it also shows is that Vettel was capable of passing the Brit, Webber was not.

Another standout driver in Korea is Alguersuari. Driving extremely well in the Toro Rosso. Running as high as 3rd before his pit stop. He looks set for an 8th place behind Rosberg, but manages to pass him on the very last lap for 7th. Well done DJ Jaime.

Douche of the day goes to Vitaly Petrov. A clumsy move took out an innocent Schumacher and the Russian was rewarded a grid penalty for the next race.

SORENS RACE RATING

6.5 out of 10. Good solid race. A bit dull at parts but some great racing moments scattered througout plenty makes up for it.

Now we turn our eyes to the rally scene. Or at least I do. Its the Rally of Spain coming up. Kimi gets another shot at some hardcore tarmac stages. He will undoubtedly stay clear of Henning Solberg this time. But will he keep it on the road? Stay tuned 🙂

Love,
Soren

P.S.
My post-script is dedicated to Dan Wheldon who was a true racer that unfortunately lost his life while driving an Indycar at Las Vegas Speedway on Sunday. I saw him win the Indy 500 earlier this year and he came across as a down to earth, all around good guy. He is now no more, leaving behind a wife and 2 children. A sad day indeed. There is only slight comfort in that he died while doing what he loved. And it serves as a reminder that motorsport is and will remain dangerous. Goodspeed and RIP Dan Wheldon.

Images © Korean GP/Sutton/Clive Rose, Getty Images/Red Bull

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