Fernando Alonso won the Korean Grand Prix today in very difficult conditions, his first wet weather win, ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa.
It was a real game changer of a day as far as the championship is concerned, with Red Bull’s two title contenders failing to score; Mark Webber crashing out and Sebastian Vettel’s engine failing near the end. After a long fightback from being 47 points behind Webber after Silverstone, Alonso now has control of the points table.
So heavy was the rain at 3pm that the race started behind the safety car 10 minutes late. After three careful laps the Race Director Charlie Whiting decided to suspend the race. Fernando Alonso had radioed to say that the conditions were the worst he had ever driven in, while Jenson Button said that he couldn’t see where he was going.
After a delay of almost an hour the race was restarted behind the safety car for the 24 cars to circulate and clear water from the track. As the rain stopped Hamilton said via radio it was dry enough to race, Webber wasn’t too keen.
On lap 17 it was decided that it was safe to race and the field was released. Schumacher passed Kubica immediately for 8th, Rosberg passed Hamilton for 4th, the Mercedes looking strong at the start of proper racing.
On lap 20 Webber lost control of his car, spinning and hitting the wall, then was hit by Rosberg. Both cars were eliminated on the spot and the safety car was deployed again. It was a shame for Rosberg who looked particularly racy. Michael Schumacher had the most convincing weekend of his comeback so far with fourth place, so Rosberg could have been on the podium today.
This left Vettel leading from Alonso, Hamilton, Massa, Button, Schumacher, Kubica and Hulkenberg.
Petrov pitted for intermediate tyres on lap 21 and climbed to seventh place, running well until he crashed heavily on lap 41.
The race was restarted on lap 23. Vettel immediately opened up a two second lead over Alonso, who opened up a similar lead over Hamilton. Schumacher was pushing hard and soon went past Button for fifth place. Button was struggling at this point, three seconds a lap off the pace. He pitted on lap 28 for intermediate tyres, but rejoined behind a train of cars in P17.
Further back Timo Glock was up to P13, knowing that an 11th place would vault Virgin ahead of Lotus into 10th place in the Constructors’ Championship. With cars dropping out ahead, it could have been his, but sadly for him he was taken out by Sebastian Buemi on lap 31. This triggered another safety car. Buemi was hammered by the stewards for it, rightly, and will take a five place grid penalty in Brazil, as will Sutil.
But Hamilton was struggling on the new intermediate tyres and Alonso repassed him at the restart for second place.
Vettel led until the closing stages, but then his engine blew up spectacularly, robbing him of the chance to take the title lead. He now trails Alonso by 25 points.
Schumacher had his most convincing weekend since his comeback with a fourth place. The team made a set up change on the second grid which helped him in the conditions. Also scoring a vital sixth place was Tonio Liuzzi. This helped keep Force India 6th ahead of Williams in the Constructors’ Championship and may give his detractors in the team pause for thought, despite another unconvincing performance in qualifying.
With two races to go Alonso isn’t taking anything for granted. He has been on a strong run since July, scoring 133 points from seven races, but as Webber’s crash today shows, the new points system changes things quickly.
Alonso said that luck had been the biggest difference in his season since the mid point, where he started stringing results together.
“We’ve been competitive since Silverstone, ” he said. “We had a problem there, the car improved a lot and the team has done a fantastic job. We struggled to get on the podium at a certain part of the season, but we won more races than expected, today was luck with Webber crashing and Vettel’s engine. Finishing every race is what’s important. Next races we need to keep on the podium.”
KOREAN GRAND PRIX, Yeongam, 55 laps
1. Alonso Ferrari 2h48:20.810
2. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes + 14.999
3. Massa Ferrari + 30.868
4. Schumacher Mercedes + 39.688
5. Kubica Renault + 47.734
6. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes + 53.571
7. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth + 1:09.257
8. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 1:17.889
9. Heidfeld Sauber-Ferrari + 1:20.107
10. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth + 1:20.851
11. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1:24.146
12. Button McLaren-Mercedes + 1:29.939
13. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth + 1 lap
14. Senna HRT-Cosworth + 2 laps
15. Yamamoto HRT-Cosworth + 2 laps