Yeongam, 6 October – Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa finished the fourteenth round of the World Championship in sixth and ninth places respectively. Only two teams were represented on the podium, with Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel on the top step flanked by the Lotus duo of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean. The result means that Fernando is still second in the Drivers’ championship, but he trails Vettel by 77 points with a further 125 points on offer from the remaining five races. Felipe is seventh, while Scuderia Ferrari remains second in the Constructors’ although the Mercedes team has closed to within one point. While Fernando didn’t bring home as many points as he would have wanted to, the Spaniard was one of the main protagonists of what was a thrilling, incident packed race, as he tried for much of the race to find a way past the Ferrari-powered Sauber of Hulkenberg, who eventually finished fourth.
For the start all cars, except Ricciardo’s Toro Rosso were on the Supersoft tyre: even those who were outside the top ten on the grid and were free to choose, were clearly keen to dispense with the more fragile of the Pirelli compounds as soon as possible. It was a chaotic start, with Vettel leading from pole, Grosjean passing Hamilton to go from third to second. Felipe spun at Turn 3, narrowly avoiding contact with his team-mate Fernando who was sixth, behind Rosberg fourth and Hulkenberg fifth. The Brazilian continued, but way down in twenty first place. Behind the Spanish Ferrari man, Ricciardo had got a good start to move up from twelfth to seventh, but Raikkonen overtook the Australian on lap 3.
Button pitted on lap 5 to change the nose on the McLaren and by this stage Felipe had moved up to sixteenth, while Fernando was still sixth. On lap 6, Webber who had been dropped to 13th on the grid with a Singapore penalty had brought his Red Bull up to ninth place. Fernando was involved in the battle for fifth, 0.8 behind Hulkenberg and over half a second ahead of Raikkonen, as Felipe pitted on lap 7,switching to the Medium compound. On lap 9, Raikkonen managed to get his Lotus ahead of Fernando, the two men running side by side for a while, while out in front Vettel had a three second lead over the Finn’s team-mate Grosjean. Hamilton and Fernando both pitted together on lap 10, earlier than planned, to take on the Mediums, the Spaniard dropping to eleventh.
Grosjean pitted the Lotus from second on lap 11, going down to fifth, with Hamilton right behind him in the Mercedes. The leader changed tyres on lap 12, and when Raikkonen also came in, it left Webber in the lead, until the Red Bull man came in next time round. At this point, with everyone except Ricciardo having pitted, Fernando was seventh behind Hulkenberg, although he had got ahead of Raikkonen. Felipe was fifteenth between Gutierrez and Sutil. Hulkenberg in the Sauber had Fernando trying all he could to pass and behind the Ferrari was a long train led by Raikkonen in eighth place.
On lap 17, Vettel led Grosjean by 4.1, with Hamilton in the Mercedes, just over 2 seconds behind the Lotus, with the Englishman’s team-mate Rosberg fourth, 4.2 seconds ahead of the Hulkenberg-Alonso duel, although in fact, three cars were involved now, as Raikkonen was sitting on the F138’s gearbox. Felipe was having something of a lonely race in fifteenth place. Fernando was trying all he knew, but could not pass the Sauber and, behind Raikkonen, Webber had now joined the back of this train. By lap 24, Felipe had passed Gutierrez and moved up to eleventh and one lap later, Raikkonen pitted so Fernando now had Webber on his tail, with the Australian diving inside the Ferrari on lap 27, after Fernando seemed to run a fraction wide, at the same time as Hulkenberg pitted.
Lap 28 and Rosberg had to pit the Mercedes from fourth place as the nose of the car was dragging on the ground and Fernando made his second stop at this point, taking on another set of Mediums and dropping to ninth. Next time round, Hamilton came in from fourth for a normal stop and Webber did the same from third on lap 30. It was at this point that the Safety Car had to come out as Perez suffered a tyre failure on the back straight, leaving debris. Vettel and Grosjean came in immediately to change tyres, as did Webber, Ricciardo and Gutierrez. The incident and pit stops did little in the way of changing the order: Vettel, Grosjean, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Hulkenberg, Fernando in sixth ahead of Button, with Felipe in fourteenth place.
The Safety Car came in on lap 36 and immediately there was plenty of drama, including Webber’s Red Bull catching fire in spectacular fashion, after Sutil’s spinning Force India crashed into him and this incident brought out the Safety Car again. Just before then, Raikkonen charged past team-mate Grosjean to go second. Behind Vettel and the two Lotuses, Hulkenberg was fourth having passed Hamilton, with Fernando still sixth behind the Mercedes. The rest of the top ten was made up of Button, Rosberg, Maldonado and Ricciardo. While tyre wear had been severe for everyone, the two Safety Car periods meant that the majority of cars on track would be hoping to get to the flag without a further visit to the pits. Lap 40 and the Safety Car released the cars for the final 15 laps. Fernando launched an immediate attack on Hamilton and the two champions swapped places several times, but the order didn’t change, although it did for Felipe who could not stop Perez in the McLaren passing him to take twelfth place, but on lap 43, the Brazilian got back ahead of the Mexican before the McLaren driver got it wrong, driving into the back of the Ferrari, although both men continued.
Felipe then made up two places at once, to get into the points, when he managed to deal with the scrapping Gutierrez and Perez in a single bold move. Further up the order, Hamilton was doing his utmost to pass fourth placed Hulkenberg, with Fernando ready to make the most of any slip ups as he watched the duel ahead of him. On lap 48, the Mercedes briefly got ahead of the Sauber but Hamilton couldn’t make it stick as Hulkenberg applied the DRS. All this meant that Fernando was right on the back of the Mercedes, but he also had his mirrors full of Button’s McLaren. That’s how it ended, with Vettel extending his lead over Fernando, as the German took another comfortable win. This isn’t the time to start looking at the championship situation as all eleven teams work long into the Korean night to pack up and head across the Sea of Japan for next Sunday’s race in Suzuka.
Korean GP – Onward and upward
Stefano Domenicali: “After positive results in Belgium, Monza and Singapore, there’s no use denying that today’s result doesn’t make us happy. We were hoping to be able to attack the two Mercedes on the opening lap, as we knew we could deal with their race pace. Unfortunately, that was not the case and the incidents just after the start affected our race, wiping out any chance of getting close to the podium. In these conditions we didn’t manage to get the most out of our car and now the only thing we can do is keep our concentration high for the next round in Japan, where we get an immediate chance to redeem ourselves. Even if the Drivers’ title is now an almost impossible target, we still have an obligation to continue to give our all to the very end of the Championship, because we are still fighting for second place in the Constructors’ Championship”.
Fernando Alonso: “We knew this would be a difficult race and unfortunately the results confirmed the concerns we had already experienced on Friday, when we had a few problems with tyre degradation on the long run. It wasn’t a surprise to be off the pace in qualifying, as that’s been the case since the start of the season, but the fact that we didn’t have the pace in the race was one. Unfortunately, at the start, I couldn’t keep the Sauber behind me and that meant I had a particularly stressful race in terms of the tyres. What happened to Felipe at the third corner was not a problem for me: there were a lot of us there at that point and someone must have touched him. I tried to avoid him and continued without it affecting my race, because by then, I was already behind Hulkenberg. Now we must think only about Suzuka and try to get back on the podium, rediscovering the form we usually have on Sunday, that allows us to fight at the front. Vettel is a very long way off in terms of points, but above all in performance terms and we cannot expect miracles between now and the end of the championship. Second place in the Constructors’ championship is probably a more realistic target, but one thing’s certain, we are not giving up now and we will give it our best shot right to the very end”.
Felipe Massa: “Today’s race was really very complicated, because my chances of getting a good result evaporated right from the first lap, when I found myself in the middle of a group, all of us fighting and I decided to go down the inside to try and brake later. Unfortunately, some of the cars were slower and in order to avoid driving into one of the Mercedes, I was forced to move over to the right, ending up in a spin. Luckily, the car was alright, but at that point I was contemplating a race from the back of the pack. Thanks to a few nice passing moves I still managed to bring home some points, which was a good thing compared to how it looked after the start. Today, we weren’t competitive and there were at least three or four teams quicker than us, including Sauber, but I hope this was mainly track dependent and that our car will be better suited to the Suzuka track”.
Pat Fry: “Today the top places were out of reach, in what was a very tense race for both our drivers, caught in traffic behind the Saubers from start to finish. On this track, their two cars were able to make the most of better traction on the exit to the corners and their high top speed made life difficult when trying to overtake them. At the start, Fernando managed to close on Rosberg at the first corner, but had to back off so as not to go off the track, which helped Hulkenberg get past on the straight. Once he was behind, he had to deal with tyre wear and it was a real shame, because our pace was not lower than that of the Mercedes. As for Felipe however, the spin going into Turn 3 dropped him to the back. On lap 15, after a climb up the order that took him to fourteenth place, he found himself behind Gutierrez. Both Fernando and Felipe did their utmost and fought hard all weekend against tyre degradation and graining, which was particularly high, because of the characteristics of this track. For Suzuka, we will try and improve and get back to aiming for a podium finish, because we certainly don’t want to be fighting for sixth and ninth”.
Korean GP – Alonso and Massa in the top ten
Yeongam, 6 October – Scuderia Ferrari ended the Korean Grand Prix in sixth place with Fernando Alonso and ninth with Felipe Massa. The result means the Spaniard maintains second place in the Drivers’ classification, the same position as the Scuderia in the Constructors’, where they lead Mercedes by a single point, 284 to 283.
Alonso got off the line well, but there was nowhere for him to go and on the first lap, braking for Turn 3, Massa had a spin with Fernando narrowly avoiding making contact with his team-mate, crossing the line in sixth at the end of the opening lap, while Felipe had to begin a long climb up the order from the back of the field.
Massa made his first pit stop on lap 6, going from Supersofts to Mediums, with Alonso doing the same four laps later, rejoining behind Hulkenberg, with whom he had an exciting duel for fifth place throughout much of the race. However, Fernando was never able to get past. He made his second stop on lap 28, followed by Massa two laps later and the Brazilian went back on track during a safety car period when Mark Webber’s car caught fire. Alonso was still sixth, with Felipe moving up to twelfth. When the race was on again on lap 41, Hulkenberg, Hamilton and Alonso were locked together in a fantastic tussle which went all the way to the flag. Massa’s fightback was rewarded with the two points that come with ninth place. The race was won by Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull.