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Motorsport | Formula 1

Sebastian Vettel - Red Bull © MNI

Korean GP: Exclusive Race Report

Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull-Renault) took the lead on the first lap in Sunday's Korean Grand Prix and never looked back, taking his tenth win of the season.

Pole man Lewis Hamilton (McLaren-Mercedes) never got close to the race leader and spent the final part of the race in a wheel-to-wheel battle with Mark Webber (Red Bull-Renault) who finished just 0.4 sec behind, giving his team the 2011 Constructors' Championship.

Jenson Button (McLaren-Mercedes) dropped three places on the opening lap but fought back to fourth place, followed by Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa in the two Ferraris. The final points went to Jaime Alguersuari (Toro Rosso0, Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) and Sébastien Buemi (Toro Rosso).

Vettel has already won the championship, but there is still a spirited battle for second place with three races to go. Button currently lies second with 222 points followed by Alonso (212), Webber (209) and Hamilton (196).

With this result, Red Bull put the seal on back-to-back Constructors' titles with an unbeatable total of 558, followed by McLaren (418) and Ferrari (310).

As the race got under way, Hamilton got away cleanly from pole to lead Vettel into the first corner with Button in third, but within a couple of corners, Massa got past into third as Vettel challenged for the lead and then got past Hamilton into the lead.

Further back, Webber and Alonso also got past Button who dropped from third to sixth.

Light rain was predicted early in the race with the air at 21ºC and the track at 24ºC on a very smoggy day in Korea.

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Hamilton was 1.1 sec behind race leader Vettel, and needed to get within one second to be able to start using his Drag Reduction System and close the gap to challenge for the lead. He set the fastest lap of the race - 1'45.020 - on lap 4 as he piled on the pressure.

This was McLaren's 700th grand prix and after starting from pole, the team was hopeful of a victory.

Hamilton appeared to be paying the price for hurting his tyres in Saturday's qualifying where he dominated all three sessions. He had dropped back to 2.0 sec behind Vettel on lap 7 and was looking forward to the first pit stop for fresh tyres.

On lap 9, Vettel set a new fastest lap of 1'44.727 as fuel loads dropped, and Button began to close up on fifth-placed Alonso.

Leading Positions on Lap 10

1 Vettel
2 Hamilton +2.9
3 Webber +7.1
4 Massa +8.7
5 Alonso +9.6
6 Button +10.2
7 Rosberg +12.4
8 Petrov +16.6
9 Schumacher +19.5
10 Alguersuari +21.4

Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber-Ferrari) and Rubens Barrichello (Williams-Cosworth) were the first to make pit stops for fresh tyres, as Button began to challenge Alonso for fifth place.

Sergio Perez (Sauber-Ferrari) passed Bruno Senna (Renault) for 15th place on lap 11 as Vettel set a new fastest lap of 1'44.401.

There was a great scrap developing for fourth place between Massa, Alonso and Button as they were joined by Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), the four covered by just two seconds.

Button pitted on lap 13 and was followed in by Rosberg. The Mercedes pit crew were marginally quicker than their McLaren counterparts, and Rosberg was released a split second earlier, the two cars leaving the pits side-by-side. Rosberg crossed the pit lane line ahead and accelerated away in front of Button, but he outbraked himself at the end of the pit lane, allowing Button to get past. Rosberg fought back immediately once they reached racing speed and got the place back again before Button repaid the compliment a lap later.

Second-placed Hamilton pitted on lap 15, followed by Alonso. Button sailed past Adrian Sutil (Force India-Mercedes) as he began to work his way back up into his correct race position.

Race leader Vettel pitted for fresh super-soft tyres as Vitaly Petrov (Renault) crashed into Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) at Turn Three breaking his rear wing and leading to his retirement.

Petrov had overtaken Alonso leading towards the corner, but both of them missed their braking points. Petrov overshot into the back of Schumacher, while Alonso ran straight of the track and took a long detour back onto the track, and was missed by centimetres by Petrov's Renault missile after he had hit Schumacher's Mercedes.

"I was suddenly 180 degrees in the wrong direction," said Schumacher. "It does happen occasionally. I wasn't really paying much attention to what was happening it the back."

"It was my fault," said Petrov. "I apologise to Michael. That's racing."

The Safety Car was deployed because of debris on the track.

Petrov returned to the pits for a new front wing and steering arm.

Leading Positions on Lap 20

1 Vettel
2 Hamilton +0.7
3 Webber +2.6
4 Button +3.2
5 Rosberg +4.3
6 Massa +5.1
7 Alonso +5.8
8 Alguersuari +7.0
9 Di Resta +9.0
10 Sutil +20.9

The Safety Car withdrew at the start of lap 21 and Button immediately began attacking third-placed Webber as Vettel once again pulled out a lead in excess of one second over Hamilton, preventing him from using his DRS.

There was contact between Senna and Kobayashi as the two disputed 14th place, and as they tripped over each other, they were joined by Heikki Kovalainen (Lotus-Renault) and team mate Jarno Trulli.

Just over six seconds covered the leading four cars, with fifth-placed Rosberg losing touch with them, 3.5 sec behind.

On lap 26, Rosberg had a huge lock-up at the end of the main straight, allowing both Ferraris past and he pitted for fresh tyres, opting for the harder of the two compounds, and hoping to be able to run to the end, 25 laps away.

At the front, Vettel had 1.2 seconds over Hamilton, with Webber just 0.7 sec behind and Button 4.9 sec further back.

Vettel and Hamilton were both on the super-softs, whereas Webber was on the softs and able to maintain the same pace.

Maldonado pitted and retired on lap 31 as Webber started to attack Hamilton for second place.

Hamilton was under maximum pressure from Webber, but was hoping to stay out as long as possible so that when he made his next pit stop, he could run for the chequered flag from there. Both Hamilton and Webber pitted on lap 33 and the battle resumed, with both drivers on new prime tyres and 21 laps to go.

On the first lap out, Webber got past Hamilton, but the 2008 world champion fought back, and the two went head-to-head, taking corners side-by-side with maturity and respect, but Hamilton emerged ahead as race leader Vettel pitted for tyres.

Webber set a new fastest lap of 1'41.755 on lap 35, just 0.4 sec behind Hamilton and well within the DRS zone.

Vettel, on fresh tyres and a reducing fuel load, set a 1'40.974 as team mate Webber once again began to attack Hamilton as Button starting closing up on the pair of them, 1.9 sec behind.

With 16 laps remaining, Hamilton was pushing his tyres hard in keeping Webber behind, whereas team mate Button, routinely easier on his tyres, was edging ever closer to the two of them. With no need to defend against anyone, Vettel was able to pull out a 10-second lead.

Fifth-placed Alonso, 5.5 seconds behind Button, set a fastest lap of 1'40.623 on lap 40 and would soon be joining the 2009 world champion for a possible four-way fight for second place.

Leading positions with 10 laps remaining

1 Vettel
2 Hamilton +11.2
3 Webber +12.0
4 Button +13.7
5 Alonso +16.8
6 Massa +22.4
7 Rosberg +38.8
8 Alguersuari +40.0
9 Di Resta +51.3
10 Buemi +52.7

Once again Webber began attacking Hamilton, ducking and diving left and right to try and find a way past, and allowing Button to get closer and nearly into the DRS zone.

On lap 47, Button got to within a second of Webber and began to line up the Australian for an attack over the remaining seven laps.

Webber got past Hamilton on lap 48, but the McLaren driver now finally had his chance to use his DRS and sailed back past the Red Bull as Button closed up on Webber.

Webber set a new fastest lap of 1'40.513 on lap 50 of 55 as he got his head down and focused on wresting second place from Hamilton as Alonso got within a second of Button and started using his DRS as all four began to close up on slower cars.

Alonso appeared unable to close up on Button and announced over his radio: "I give up! I give up!"

On the penultimate lap, Hamilton, who had obviously been nursing his tyres, set the fastest lap of the race - 1'40.459 to secure second place.

But Vettel stamped his authority on everyone with not just another win, but also a fastest lap of 1'39.605 on the final tour.

2011 Korean F1 Grand Prix Results
Pos Driver Nat Team Time
1 Sebastian Vettel GER Red Bull
2 Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren +12.0
3 Mark Webber AUS Red Bull +12.4
4 Jenson Button GBR McLaren +14.6
5 Fernando Alonso ESP Ferrari +15.6
6 Felipe Massa BRA Ferrari +25.1
7 Jaime Alguersuari ESP Toro Rosso +49.5
8 Nico Rosberg GER Mercedes +54.0
9 Sébastien Buemi SUI Toro Rosso +62.7
10 Paul di Resta GBR Force India +68.6
11 Adrian Sutil GER Force India +71.2
12 Rubens Barrichello BRA Williams +93.0
13 Bruno Senna BRA Renault +1 lap
14 Heikki Kovalainen FIN Lotus +1 lap
15 Kamui Kobayashi JAP Sauber +1 lap
16 Sergio Perez MEX Sauber +1 lap
17 Jarno Trulli ITA Lotus +1 lap
18 Timo Glock GER Virgin +1 lap
19 Daniel Ricciardo AUS Hispania +1 lap
20 Jerome d'Ambrosio BEL Virgin +1 lap
21 Vitantonio Liuzzi ITA Hispania +3 laps
DNF Vitaly Petrov RUS Renault DNF
DNF Michael Schumacher GER Mercedes DNF
DNF Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams DNF


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