Unlike past seasons, with four races still to go, predicting this year’s Formula 1 champion is, practically, impossible. That’s because consistency and outright performance are two variables that change greatly from one Grand Prix to another, not least because of their tires’ behavior.
The Korean GP that took place on Suday was yet another race that had most teams and their drivers struggling with tire performance.
Red Bull Racing's (RBR) Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber made the best of their front-row starting positions. In the end, Vettel won the race, his third in a row.
With his main rival for the title, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, managing no better than a third place, the German overtook the Spaniard to the drivers’ standings and is currently leading by six points.
The key to Vettel’s victory, as the RBR driver acknowledged, was getting past his teammate, who started from pole, at the first lap: “I was able to out-accelerate Mark and get side by side, I had the inside for Turn 3 and a good exit, which meant I could stay ahead for Turn 4”, he said.
He added though that the tires’ performance “was marginal for everyone. You couldn’t push too much.” Still, he made almost no mistakes and led Webber to a 1-2 finish for Red Bull by an 8.2-second margin.
Alonso wasn’t far behind, finishing nearly five and a half seconds behind Webber. It was the best the Scuderia driver could do, given the performance gap between his car and the Red Bulls.
A rare sight this year was Felipe Massa matching Alonso’s pace. In Korea, though, he was right behind him and pushing before being ordered to keep his position.
With Jenson Button retiring in the first lap after a collision with Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi and Lewis Hamilton struggling with an anti-roll bar failure throughout the race to finish 10th, it was a disastrous race for McLaren that left Korea with a single point.
Kimi Raikkonen, on the other hand, brought his Lotus home to fifth place. If that doesn’t seem much of an achievement, the fact that the former champion is currently third in the drivers’ championship, 14 points ahead of Hamilton, certainly is.
By Andrew Tsaousis