Formula One : Doldrums and Drama In Korea


Image by waegook cook via Flickr

After much chatter that the circuit was not ready, the Korean Grand Prix took place in appalling conditions today. Medium rainfall spelt waterlogged track as the new asphalt struggled to drain. The race started 10 minutes late behind the pace car and was then halted with the grid taking up positions again at the start, more or less in qualifying order. Vettel had excelled on Saturday to take pole ahead of championship leader and team-mate Webber. Alonso, Hamilton, my one-to-watch from last season Nico Rosberg and Massa followed.

A full forty minutes later, the yawning subsided and the race resumed behind the safety car. Hamilton kept telling the pit that he wanted to race, whilst predictably Vettel would be happy to take the pace car result – both for the benefit of the stewards listening in. After 20 minutes or so, full racing resumed and they started tumbling off the track. Webber span and collected Rosberg to leave Massa and Schumacher to surprise Hamilton. Suddenly we had a race and there was a series of carve-ups in the middle order as Buemi, Liuzi, Kobayashi and Heidfeld took on the race despite the slippery conditions. Carnage followed. The safety car had a busy day.

Ever the sportsman, Webber held up his hands at his own misfortune. The leaders took up the race and it became clear that Vettel could control the pace with relative ease. As Alonso started to close, Hamilton could not keep up and the finishing positions seemed a safe bet. That said, the conditions meant that nothing could be taken for granted. The toss-up between full wets and intermediate tyres opened up a lottery in the complex combination of car dynamics and tyre choice.

With 10 laps to go, leader Vettel was treated to the familiar feeling of his car dying beneath him. The German really had the race – and the championship lead – in the bag when his engine exploded. Despite the shock of the moment, he wrestled the car to safety on the main straight, allowing the race to continue to the end. Fair play to the man. This left Alonso to take the race, with Hamilton a useful 2nd and Massa, back in the money, in 3rd (having been nudged by his team to start performing, prior to arriving in South Korea).

Highly entertaining, the race ran into the dusk and for the full distance despite the challenge of the weather. The result puts the sly Spaniard into the lead in the Championship, but with Webber, Hamilton and Vettel still in touch. Jenson Button’s sorry 12th arose from a car that just did not suit him and puts him out of the championship hunt, but he was laughing gamely in the post-race interviews (as he said, what else could he do). So that leaves him to support Lewis, with Massa covering Alonso’s back, in the final 2 races. The season is still open to any of 4 drivers still in the hunt.

The BBC managed to fill the gaps well, particularly as there was less on-screen time for the awful Legeard, and more for the entertaining and illuminating David Coulthard (skulking in the McLaren ‘Mission Control’ centre back in the UK) and Eddie Jordan. Thank heavens for Martin Brundle who provides enough substance to gloss over his amateur partner in the commentary booth. Sadly, Legeard continues to have no opinions, no insight and no game ! ” So Martin – what do you think this means ?”

Roll on Brazil (7th November) and Abu Dhabi (14th November) for an exciting 2010 season climax.