Much like a jeep on the rampage, The Alternative Review seeks to once again buck the trend and shed some fresh light on the proceedings of the Korean Grand Prix. After a rather dull first half of the race that left many fans rolling their eyes at the prospect of another runaway win for Vettel, the midfield action soon spiced things up and eventually heralded a rather entertaining – albeit frenetic – grand prix.
Seb’s runaway train shows no signs of stopping
Sebastian Vettel predictably took another huge step towards his fourth consecutive world title in Korea, winning the race with a controlled performance that saw him push when he had to, but otherwise it was about easing the car home. Mercedes’ perceived threat to the defending world champions withered as the weekend went on as Lotus turned out to be surprise contenders. Vettel put in a champion’s drive that allowed him to look after his car and monitor the gap, with his fastest lap just three laps from the ending proving that he still had the pace left in the car as well as giving Rocky the jitters. It’s been an inevitability that Vettel would win the title for a while now, but he heads to the Japanese Grand Prix – his favourite race on the calendar – with a chance of sealing the deal. Frankly, we are in the midst of an era of total dominance by Vettel, and the stats back this up: he has led 209 of the last 213 laps, won the last four races and started on pole in the last three. Had it not been for Alonso’s streak of second place finishes – Suzuka would be his Westminster Abbey (the location of his coronation). All in all, another epic display from the German driver on Sunday.
“Kimi, Romain is faster than you”
Romain Grosjean had every reason to be disappointed with third place in Yeongam after running well to sit an easy second behind Vettel for a large chunk of the race. In fact, the first safety car period cost him a guaranteed eighteen-point haul, allowing Kimi Raikkonen to sneak past on the second restart. Grosjean’s luck was so bad that a single mistake on the final corner allowed Raikkonen to pass heading into turn one, and all hopes of the Frenchman fighting back were extinguished by the appearance of the jeep on track. The safety car saved Raikkonen’s race, as he had been staring down the barrel of a three-stop strategy, having made an early second stop in order to undercut the train of cars wrangling with Nico Hulkenberg. It worked perfectly, but the safety car certainly came in handy, allowing him to preserve his tyres and as a result have the pace to stay ahead of Grosjean. Romain – unsurprisingly dissatisfied – quibbled over the radio, asking to be given the position back. His team refused, saying that he had fresher tyres and should catch Raikkonen, with the difference at the line being just half a second. It was good to see Lotus allowing their drivers to race out on track, and frankly, Grosjean would have paid the same price had it been any other driver besides his teammate. Regardless, a great double podium for the team.
The Incredible Hulk
Without a shadow of a doubt, Nico Hulkenberg was the star of the Korean Grand Prix. After being bombarded with talk about being ‘too heavy’ for the new era of Formula One cars, the German driver responded in incredible fashion. Having taken advantage of Massa’s sideways moment at turn three and the evasive action taken by many, Hulkenberg pushed on in fifth place with Alonso and Raikkonen behind. Many expected the Ferrari driver to easily catch and dispose of him, but Alonso soon dropped off the back of the Sauber and into the clutches of the Finn and Mark Webber, who had made his way through the field. All the while, Hulkenberg kept about his business in fifth and it appeared to be set – ten points for Sauber, good job guys. However, the safety car saw Hamilton be reeled in and, possessing a fantastic straight line speed and traction off turn two – Hulkenberg made the pass look relatively simple. What followed was nothing short of titanic. The chasing group of Hamilton, Alonso and Webber have sixty-three grand prix victories and three world championships between them, but it didn’t show. In what has been written off as a ‘dud’ car, Hulkenberg was superb, spending eighteen
laps defending from the Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull triumvirate that was futile. It will be a travesty if this brilliant driver is not in Formula One next season.
Force India’s rough patch continues
Another weekend, another lacklustre race for Force India. As damaging as the tyre changes may have been, another double DNF (four for the season now) means that all hopes of catching McLaren are effectively over. Adrian Sutil raced like he had left half his brain at home (much as he did in Korea a few years ago), whilst Paul di Resta finished in the wall once again. It is a shame to see the deal wither after such a superb start to the year, but something seriously has to be looked at. The team has scored just three points in the last six races, with di Resta failing to finish the last five. By all means, it always felt like “how long will they stay ahead of McLaren?”, not “will they stay ahead?”, yet this collapse has been staggering. Had both drivers not started the season so brilliantly, they could be deemed to be under pressure for 2014. As hard as the tyre change may have hit the team, new Pirellis do not stop a car from finishing the race…
Yes, it’s here. If you follow me on Twitter, you will know just how hilarious I found this event. Following Sutil’s run in with Mark Webber and the subsequent fire on his car, the Korean marshals were incredibly tardy in making any kind of effort to put out the blaze. Therefore, the decision was taken to send out a car with the fire marshals in to tend to the stricken RB9 which was out of danger on the exit of the hairpin. Usually, for a vehicle such as this to go out on track, the safety car must accompany it to bunch the field and give it a clear passage. However, the order was given (by whom it is not clear) to send out the jeep ahead of the field, meaning that on the main straight on just the second lap of green flag running following the safety car, Vettel and co. were met with quite a bizarre sight. The safety car was then deployed behind the pack, having to scythe past the twenty or so runners and get into its rightful position. The jeep then moved aside and put out the blaze that by this point had destroyed the back-end of Webber’s car, but it will go down in history as being one of the strangest sights in a grand prix, up there with the track invaders at Hockenheim and Silverstone, Ferrari’s fuel hose debacle in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix and – most shockingly – Narain Karthikeyan’s brief spell in P10 for HRT at the 2012 Malaysian Grand Prix.
Images courtesy of Octane Photographic.