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Fernando Alonso celebrates winning the first ever (South) Korean Grand Prix.

FERNANDO ALONSO of Ferrari won his third Grand Prix in four in what was a highly eventful first ever Korean Grand Prix (24 October). The 2005 and 2006 World Champion won the 55 lap race in a time of 2:48:20.810, at an average speed of just 68.350 mph! This is because the race was suspended for over 45 minutes due to torrential rain and standing water on a newly laid track surface. Alonso also set the fastest lap of the race with a lap of 1:50.257 (113.919 mph), which was almost 15 seconds slower than Sebastian Vettel’s (Red Bull) pole time. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton finished in second place, while Alonso’s team-mate Felipe Massa came home in third.

The race’s original start time of 15:00 local time was put back by ten minutes as the race stewards debated over whether or not the race should start under the Safety Car. This ended up being the case, and the SC took Sebastian Vettel and the other drivers around for three laps before the race was red flagged because it was descending into a farce. Alonso radioed the Ferrari pit wall telling them: “These are the worst conditions I’ve ever driven in.

And they’re off…kind of.

As I mentioned earlier the race was suspended for over three quarters of an hour before the rain eased up enough for the SC to lead the cars around again. This was the situation from laps four to the end of lap 17. In my opinion they should have been racing at least two or three laps earlier. Hamilton told the McLaren pit wall that: “It’s almost good enough for inters.” [intermediate tyres] just before the SC came in.

The race started for real at the end of lap 17 with Vettel leading from his team-mate Mark Webber and Alonso. Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) passed Robert Kubica (Renault) at the first corner, and his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg overtook Hamilton at Turn 3 after slipstreaming him on the long straight between Turns 2 and 3. Schumacher meanwhile spent the rest of the lap hassling reigning World Champion Jenson Button (McLaren) and Massa.

But there was to be potentially championship deciding drama on the next lap. Mark Webber – who was leading the championship going into this race – took too much curb exiting Turn 12 and slid across the track and into the wall before bouncing back across the road. Alonso missed the Red Bull, but Nico Rosberg was not so lucky. He tried to squeeze his Mercedes past the Red Bull but didn’t quite manage it, and was taken clean out by Webber who would not be adding to his points total in South Korea. This crash brought out the SC for its third stint in only two racing laps.

Will this cost Mark Webber the title?

Normal service was resumed at the end of lap 23 with Vettel leading from Alonso and Hamilton. Further down the field Schumacher passed Button at Turn 3. Button decided to gamble and pit for inters on lap 27. But unlike in Australia his gamble didn’t pay off as he was unlucky enough to exit the pits right in the middle of a mid-filed scrap.

Lap 29 saw Sébastien Buemi (Toro Rosso) punt off Heikki Kovalainen’s Lotus. But whereas Kovalainen would finish the race Buemi wouldn’t. His race ended just two laps later when he T-boned Timo Glock’s Virgin car at Turn 3. Glock was also forced to retire and the SC came out yet again.

The leaders seized this opportunity to pit with: Hamilton, Massa and Schumacher all going for inters. Race leaders Vettel and Alonso pitted for inters in the next lap, but Alonso’s pit-stop was slow and Hamilton took second place away from his former McLaren team-mate while he was exiting the pits.

Racing got underway again at the end of lap 34. Hamilton went wide at Turn 1 allowing Alonso to retake second place. Massa fancied a run at Hamilton down the straight but the Englishman was wise to what the Brazilian was intending to do at Turn 3, and legally blocked him from trying anything.

Jenson Button’s race went from bad to worse when Adrian Sutil forced him off track on lap 36, causing him to lose yet more places and ground in the title race.

Renault’s Vitaly Petrov had a heavy shunt at the last corner on lap 40 wrecking his car. The replays showed that the impact was indeed hefty, yet to my sheer annoyance Petrov was left there to make his own way out of the car and back to his pit. Absolutely nobody went up to his car to see if he was hurt or not, or to help him back to the Renault garage. What if he was hurt or passed out while walking? Who was there to help him?!

My mood was much improved however when – at the start of lap 46 – the Renault engine in Vettel’s Red Bull began to sound ill. The same had happened to him while he was leading in Bahrain, and just like in the season’s first race Alonso passed him for the lead. Vettel continued to slow through Turns 1 and 2, and just a Hamilton pulled out to take second his engine went BANG! 😀 After parking his car at a marshal’s post on the straight the German grabbed a fire extinguisher to put out the flames that where engulfing the engine just like Heikki Kovalainen did in Singapore. Once again Red Bull failed to take advantage of their epic qualifying speed and their superior race pace.

Will this cost Sebastian Vettel the title?

A lap later Sutil ended his race by crashing into Kamui Kobayashi’s Sauber whilst trying to outbrake him at Turn 4. It later came to light that Sutil knew he had brake problems and was fined $10,000 (£6,400) for dangerous driving. Personally I’d have banned him from the Brazilian Grand Prix to send a message out to the drivers that such actions are both intolerable and stupid. Sutil and Buemi have also been handed five-place grid bumps for the Brazilian GP for causing their respective crashes.

Back to the race now, and a new problem…the light. Because we westerners don’t want to get up too early in the morning on a Sunday the power/s that be decided to start the race at 15:00 Korean time. That coupled with the slow race pace and 45 minute delay meant that the Sun had pretty much set over the track, and the drivers were out there in near darkness. Hamilton didn’t mind this at all mind you.

McLaren pit wall: “Lewis, how is the light?

Hamilton: “Light’s good!” 😉

Now, I’ve always gotten up for races and qualifying ever since I was a small boy. True fans would get up to watch the race no matter how early it is. Here’s an idea for a regulation next year: All races with the exception of Singapore and Abu Dhabi will start at 14:00 local time. Not 15:00, 16:00 or 17:00, 14:00. Singapore will start at 20:00 local time, Abu Dhabi at 17:00 local time. What do you reckon?

Anyway, Alonso managed to navigate his way through the darkness to win the longest Grand Prix since Monaco 1960 (Lotus’s first win). He now leads the championship by 11 points from Webber, 21 from Hamilton, 25 (a race win) from Vettel and 42 from Button who finished down in 12th place.

The next race is Brazil at the weekend. The Interlagos circuit has seen the last five championships decided, and can see this run continue in favour of Fernando Alonso if:

  • He wins, with Webber no higher than 5th.
  • He is 2nd, with Webber no higher than 8th, as long as Vettel or Hamilton don’t win.
  • He is 3rd, with Webber no higher than 11th, as long as Vettel or Hamilton don’t win or come 2nd.

Red Bull can win their first ever Constructor’s Championship if they finish first and second. But this is F1 2010. Absolutely anything can happen.

DRIVERS’ STANDINGS (17/19 GPs)

Pos

Driver

Constructor(s)

Points

Gap From 1st

1

Fernando ALONSO (ESP)

Ferrari

231

2

Mark WEBBER (AUS)

Red Bull

220

11

3

Lewis HAMILTON (ENG)

McLaren

210

21

4

Sebastian VETTEL (GER)

Red Bull

206

25

5

Jenson BUTTON (ENG)

McLaren

189

42

6

Felipe MASSA (BRA)

Ferrari

143

88*

7

Robert KUBICA (POL)

Renault

124

107*

8

Nico ROSBERG (GER)

Mercedes

122

109*

9

Michael SCHUMACHER (GER)

Mercedes

66

165*

10

Rubens BARRICHELLO (BRA)

Williams

47

184*

*Can’t win title.

There are 50 points still available

CONSTRUCTORS’ STANDINGS (17/19 GPs)

Pos

Constructor

Engine

Points

Gap From 1st

1

RED BULL (AUT)

Renault

426

2

MCLAREN (ENG)

Mercedes

399

27

3

FERRARI (ITA)

Ferrari

374

52

4

MERCEDES (GER)

Mercedes

188

238*

5

RENAULT (FRA)

Renault

143

283*

6

FORCE INDIA (IND)

Mercedes

68

358*

7

WILLIAMS (ENG)

Cosworth

65

361*

8

SAUBER (SUI)

Ferrari

43

383*

9

TORO ROSSO (ITA)

Ferrari

11

415*

Yet to Score

LOTUS (MAL), HRT (ESP), VIRGIN (ENG)

Cosworth (All)

0

426*

*Can’t win title.

There are 86 points still available

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