Sebastian Vettel showed no sign of letting up on Sunday, winning the Korean Grand Prix to underline his dominance of the Formula One season one week after clinching his second straight drivers’ championship.
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Vettel, who started from second on the grid, passed pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton on the first lap and dominated the 55-lap race before crossing the finish line in a time of 1 hour, 38 minutes, 01.994 seconds, 12 seconds ahead of the McLaren driver.
After a night of celebration at a karaoke bar in Suzuka following his title-clinching race in Japan, Vettel arrived in South Korea looking a little weary. Hamilton claimed pole for Sunday’s race, ending Red Bull’s perfect streak of winning pole position for every race this season.
”Preparation wasn’t ideal as most of us were tipsy after Sunday night,” Vettel said. ”But to come here and come back in the race was fantastic, the car was so much fun to drive, it was getting quicker and quicker.”
Red Bull’s Mark Webber was third – securing back-to-back constructors’ titles for the team – followed by McLaren’s Jenson Button and Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso, with second through fifth tightly bunched as they crossed the line.
Vettel claimed his tenth F1 victory of the season with three races remaining, meaning he still has a chance of matching Michael Schumacher’s record of 13 wins in a season.
As happy as he was to win the championship, Vettel was somewhat frustrated with his third-place finish in Japan and vowed he would work hard to return to the top of the podium in Korea.
”I am very happy with how the race went and we got everything out of the car,” Vettel said. ”Last week was special but it took time to sink in, we finished third and I had the feeling we were a little close and we could have done a little better. Here, it was a brilliant race from start to finish.”
Sunday’s race got off to a clean start with Vettel passing Hamilton on turn four of the first lap and opening up a 2.9-second lead over the McLaren driver after 10 laps.
Hamilton made his first pit stop after 16 laps and was followed in by Vettel. The safety car came out on the 17th lap after Renault driver Vitaly Petrov slammed into the back of Schumacher’s Mercedes, ending the race for both.
At the restart three laps later, Vettel lead by 1.1 seconds over Hamilton, with Webber and Button following.
On lap 34, Hamilton and Webber both pitted and came out with Hamilton in second and Webber third. The two engaged in side-by-side racing with Hamilton holding his position.
Vettel made his final pit stop on lap 35, briefly giving up the lead to Alonso, who had yet to make his final pit stop. The German moved back into the top position on the 37th lap and held the lead for the remainder of the race.
With Vettel holding a comfortable 11-second lead over the last 10 laps, much of the focus shifted to a heated battle for second place between Hamilton and Webber.
”We had a fight before the pit stop and after the pit stop,” Webber said. ”We were throwing haymakers at each other, nothing extreme, just real good racing.”
Webber did finally get past the Briton, but Hamilton immediately made use of the open rear wing to repass on the main straight and did well to hold off the Red Bull driver in the closing laps to claim second place.
”It was a long, long battle and, to be honest, I didn’t know if I could keep him behind me,” Hamilton said.
Red Bull had used a novel strategy in qualifying to save a set of the harder tires, but forecasts of three and four-stop strategies proved unfounded, with only two stops required.