Vettel Again – But Is He Off to Ferrari?

October 15, 2012 11:17 am

Sebastian Vettel took a vital step toward retaining his Formula One World Championship crown yesterday by claiming a dominant victory in the Korean Grand Prix.

The Red Bull driver snatched the lead from teammate Mark Webber on the first lap and never looked back, despite worries that significant tyre wear may have forced him to retire.

Vettel now leads the championship by six points from Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who finished 3rd in the race.

Jump for joy: It’s three wins from three races for Sebastian Vettel

The day was less than successful for British drivers Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Paul Di Resta. Hamilton lost out to Alonso on the exit to turn two as the Spaniard put his foot down earlier and accelerated past the 2008 World Champion, while Button made an excellent start to climb from 11th to 8th. Unfortunately for him, he became a victim of an out-of-control Kamui Kobayashi who clattered into the side of Mercedes Nico Rosberg before colliding with Button’s Mclaren and tearing the right-front wheel from its mounting at turn three. Paul Di Resta was unable to make progress during the race and ended the race 12th, calling it a ‘day of bad choices’.

Hamilton, meanwhile, followed on from his disappointing race in Japan with a similarly lacklustre performance in Korea, falling backwards from 4th on the opening lap to 10th at the end of the race, taking only a single point that meant Ferrari overtook Mclaren in the constructor’s championship for 2nd, behind the all-conquering Red Bull. Hamilton struggled with his tyre degradation during the race and had to make three pitstops compared to just two for the front running Red Bull and Ferrari cars, which seemed to do little to halt his fall down the field. He later complained of ‘a suspension problem’ that he felt hampered his pace during the race, but Mclaren have yet to confirm exactly what the issue was.

Ferrari’s Felipe Massa on the other hand was a man on a mission, overtaking Hamilton in the opening laps and applying pressure to team leader Alonso after the second and final round of pitstops. After finishing 2nd in Japan the Brazilian confessed after the race that he felt he could have finished 2nd again in Korea, but was forbidden to overtake Alonso considering the championship position of the two men. Nevertheless, he was once again happy to be scoring solid points and has done much to strengthen his position within the Scuderia. 3rd and 4th places for the cars from Maranello was a decent result given the overwhelming pace of the Red Bull machines, driven by Vettel and Webber.

Lewis Hamilton had a lacklustre day and finished 10th

Kimi Raikkonen maintained 3rd in the championship with a quiet run to 5th position, while Nico Hulkenberg outshone Paul Di Resta by finishing a superb 6th in his Force India car. It was a good day for France, with both Romain Grosjean and Jean Eric Vergne scoring points in 7th and 8th, the Toro Rosso driver finishing just ahead of teammate Daniel Ricciardo who gave the Italian minnows cause for celebration, by scoring more points in 9th ahead of the ailing Hamilton; the Mclaren driver collecting a clump of torn-up astroturf from a disintegrating kerb during the last five laps of the race.

While the dust settled on the Yeongam circuit this morning, rumours arose that Vettel had signed a contract intending to defect from Red Bull to Ferrari in 2014, should the Italian squad meet certain ‘performance clauses’ included in the contract. However, both teams have denied the story, with Ferrari chief Luca Di Montezemolo saying:

“I’ve always said don’t want two roosters in the hen-house. It creates instability in the team”,

and Christian Horner, Red Bull team principal claiming that

“without a shadow of doubt, he will be part of the Red Bull team in 2014.”

But as was the case with Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes move last month, there is no smoke without fire. In the meantime, Vettel and Alonso remain very much rivals, and will clash four times this year before we know who will be the 2012 Formula One World Champion.

Anthony French

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