Alonso wins while Red Bull disintegrate in Korea thriller

Fernando Alonso won a chaotic Korean Grand Prix, while disaster struck the Red Bull team, with Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber retiring in separate incidents. Lewis Hamilton had a chance to win but running wide at one of the race restarts scuppered his hopes.

Before the race had even begun, there were huge worries, as heavy rain flooded down on the track, and the start was suspended for 10 minutes. Eventually, the safety car led the cars around for 3 laps, but it became quickly apparent that conditions, particularly visibility, was too poor to race in, and the race was red flagged.

The safety car leads the pack for 3 laps, before the race is red-flagged

The safety car leads the pack for 3 laps, before the race is red-flagged

The cars lined up again, as everyone waited for the rain to clear. After 40 minutes of waiting, the race restarted, again under the safety car. The next problem for Charlie Whiting was getting the race completed before darkness fell on the circuit, and with the soaked track, getting past the 75% mark to award full points.

However, 1 hour after the original start, Bernd Maylander led the cars around again, but many were still complaining of the torrid track. While Lewis Hamilton was keen to get going, drivers like Alonso and Felipe Massa wanted the safety car to stay out for longer, and so it did until Lap 17, when it finally pitted and the racing got underway.

Hamilton lost a place to Nico Rosberg at the restart, but a bigger shock was to come. Only two laps into proper racing, and Mark Webber ran wide onto the grass  at Turn 14, and hit the barriers. He was unable to stop his car moving back across the track, and Nico Rosberg, despite taking to the grass, was unable to avoid slamming into the Red Bull, taking out both cars and prompting another safety car.

By Lap 23, the debris was cleared, and the championship situation had been turned on his head, with the title leader now out. Sebastian Vettel still led, with Fernando Alonso up to second, ahead of Hamilton. Further back, Jarno Trulli and Bruno Senna collided, smashing off Trulli’s front wing, and he retired with suspected suspension damage.

Jenson Button had just been overtaken by Michael Schumacher, as his extreme wet tyres were wearing quickly on the track, which was still quite wet. He made the choice to pit for intermediates, a decision which had previously won him the Australian Grand Prix, but the same would not happen here. This is because on Lap 31, only two laps after he pitted, the safety car came out again, this time for a collision between Sebastien Buemi and Timo Glock, who had been running well in 11th place. Buemi tried to out-brake the Virgin, but hit the side of the car, ripping off his own wheel, and dealing terminal damage to Timo.

With this next safety car, all the frontrunners dived into the pits for inters, Schumacher, Massa and Hamilton on Lap 32, then Vettel and Alonso on Lap 33. These two got away with this stop because they had not been caught behind the safety car, but the same couldn’t be said for Button, who was now stranded in 12th.

Hamilton got ahead of Alonso, thanks to his stop a lap earlier. But, when the safety car peeled away a few laps later, Lewis ran wide at Turn 1, handing 2nd place on a plate to the Ferrari. Vettel begins to move away yet again at the front, Alonso decides to conserve his tyres, Hamilton tried to keep stuck behind the Ferrari, while Massa moves away from Schumacher in 5th.

Adrian Sutil was having a Grand Prix that could maybe be described as adventurous to say the least. He battled hard with Button, shoving the McLaren wide, but both cars lost positions. Soon, he tried a move on Kamui Kobayashi, but ran straight on at Turn 4, losing even more time. Later on, he made another dive, and ended up breaking his own suspension on the Sauber, then crashed into the barriers, though Kobayashi continued without considerable damage.

Vitaly Petrov has a huge crash at the final corner

Vitaly Petrov has a huge crash at the final corner

By Lap 41, there were fears of another safety car, as Vitaly Petrov had a huge crash at the final corner, dropping the car and goes backwards into the tyre barriers. Despite the debris, the racing continued, though Vitaly had thrown away a great chance of a handful of points.

Fernando Alonso, after several laps of tyre conservation, began to apply pressure on Vettel’s lead, bringing the gap down to 1.3 seconds by Lap 42. At this specific lap, the race had passed the 75% mark (meaning full points would be guaranteed if the race was stopped), and suddenly, with some vigour, Vettel began complaining about track visibility, saying that there wasn’t enough light to continue. Charlie Whiting didn’t blink, and signalled that the race would be able to complete all 55 laps in less than the 2 hour limit.

But, in the cruellest twist, Vettel would never get to race those final few laps, as his engine let go! He pulled over on the back straight with smoke pouring out of his now on-fire car. Alonso inherited the lead, while Hamilton took 2nd, and Massa was in the final podium position.

With this latest shock, the championship predictions were thrown out of the window yet again. As it stood, Vettel was going to lose out massively, while Alonso would now take control at the top. The only chance that could now occur was if Hamilton could make a move on Alonso, but he simply didn’t have the pace, dropping 10 seconds behind by the time the chequered flag fell.

Crushed hopes for Vettel as he retires with engine failure

Crushed hopes for Vettel as he retires with engine failure

Robert Kubica stole 5th place off Rubens Barrichello in the dying few laps, while Nico Hulkenberg pitted after a puncture, but managed to fight his way back up to 10th place. Michael Schumacher and Vitantonio Liuzzi were very impressive in 4th and 6th respectively. Kamui Kobayashi and Nick Heidfeld were 8th and 9th.

Despite Vettel’s fantastic performance, to finish first, first you have to finish. Fernando Alonso took the win, in rapidly decreasing sunlight, at the Yeongam track, to take the lead of the drivers’ championship.  He is now 11 points ahead of Mark Webber, who is 10 ahead of Lewis Hamilton, with Sebastian Vettel another 4 points back. While Jenson Button is still in contention, he is now trailing Alonso by 42 points with 2 races to go, and has since given up his championship aspirations. The full standings are available here.

After a 3 hour race, filled to the brim with drama, crashes and incidents, heartbreak and tears of joy (and a little dash of rain), I would declare the first ever Korean Grand Prix to be an outstanding success. With this race has come a series of twists to the 2010 saga, which sets us up for an epic race at Interlagos in 2 weeks time.

Fernando Alonso celebrates in parc ferme

Fernando Alonso celebrates in parc ferme

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