F1 Korea Race Results & Report: Alonso Wins Through Delay, SC, Failures, and Incidents

What Happens When Failures Can Ruin a Race

5:06am EST — Fernando Alonso took victory and the drivers’ championship lead at the inaugural Korean Grand Prix after a water pump change before the race, delayed safety car start, red flag, continued safety car running, many, many racing incidents, and a double DNF from Red Bull, Mark Webber crashing out early on and Sebastian Vettel’s engine blowing up dramatically while comfortably leading. Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa, Michael Schumacher, and Robert Kubica rounded out the top five in an incident-strewn race that ended in the faded evening light, with cars covered in mud and debris.

Vettel won yet another pole in the last moment, pipping session leader Alonso on his final run for the front row start at the brand-new Yeongam circuit during Saturday’s qualifying. Webber made it a Red Bull front row, relegating Alonso to starting third. Hamilton and Rosberg completed the top five starters for the 2010 Korean Grand Prix. Button started seventh after a generally uneventful qualifying session for the entire grid. As a reminder, Petrov had a five-place grid penalty for causing a collision in Japan, dropping him from his fifteenth-place qualifying to start twentieth. Ferrari was frantically fixing a water leak in Alonso’s gearbox, with no penalty as there was no replacement, just before the race. Some drivers were out on intermediate tires and others on extreme wet tires for their reconnaissance laps, with spins aplenty.

Rain had fallen most of the night and morning, stopping occasionally, but the rain was falling as the drivers waited on the grid, leaving the first F1 race at Yoengam to start on a wet circuit. First, word traveling around the pit lane was the possibility of a safety car start, with race control first deciding on a ten minute delay because of a patch of heavy rain on the circuit, then a start behind the SC under “wet conditions.” The first of fifty-five laps began within a plume of mist behind the safety car. Senna pitted on L2 from last for what appeared to be no particular reason. Rob Smedley was on the radio to Massa, letting him know that the rain was scheduled to last another ten or fifteen minutes and the tires needed to be nursed along. Meanwhile, Alonso’s engineer was telling him that the other drivers concurred and that a red flag was likely while Alonso said that they were the worst conditions he had ever driven in. The race was stopped halfway through the third lap, with the field gridded back up and stopped to wait for the rain to ease. Vettel’s L3 time behind the SC was three minutes.

Nearly an hour after the race was to have started properly, race control said that the race would begin in ten minutes’ time, behind the SC, for more than one lap. Five minutes after the announcement, the rain began falling with a will again, though not nearly so heavily as earlier. di Grassi pitted on L4, continuing on with full wet tires. Yamamoto and Schumacher both took a brief trip off the track as the rain continued to fall lightly and Hamilton was very encouraging about the “good” conditions. With ten laps gone, all under the safety car and broken by a red flag, the order had not changed. Hamilton was quite keen to get racing, hoping for a chance to win back some points, whilst Webber saw little change in conditions, happily leading in points. Some forecasts had the rain ending soon, and others saying that more rain would be coming soon. di Grassi pitted again on L14, after setting the race fast lap on L11.

By the end of L17, the SC was back in, letting the drivers race for the first time on the Yeongam circuit. Vettel led into the first turn, with Webber looking around his teammate into turn 2. Rosberg spoiled Hamilton’s return to racing by attempting to pass him for fourth, doing so halfway through the lap. Button took a look on Massa, but did not manage a pass while Schumacher stuck his nose in for sixth as well. Various latter-pack cars were off and on in slippery conditions through Turn 1. Webber slid across the kerb and broke his suspension hitting the wall, then into Rosberg on L19, forcing the SC again. Multiple drivers pitted, though none in the top ten. On L20, back under the SC, Vettel led Alonso, Hamilton, Massa, Button, Schumacher, Kubica, Hulkenberg, Barrichello, and Sutil as the top ten.

Conditions under the SC did not look good for Alonso, having dropped well behind Vettel, only to gain the time right back. Some of the other mid-pack drivers who were stopping did so for the intermediate tire. The SC returned to pit lane at the end of L23. Vettel had the start again well in hand as none of the other drivers were terribly pushy on the restart, except Liuzzi, who nearly ran into the back of Sutil back in tenth. Trulli and Senna had a collision, removing Trulli’s wing and leaving it on the circuit later in L24. Trulli pitted and went straight into the garage with continued and constant hydraulic issues, though he returned to racing soon thereafter, just as race control announced that their incident would be investigated. The top four were separated by around two and a half seconds each, with Button one and a half behind Massa. di Grassi was out, having slid into a sponsorship sign while on intermediates, on L27. Schumacher took a daring and clean move on Button for fifth while Trulli pitted and retired.

Button pitted from ninth on L29 for intermediates as teammate Hamilton took the race fast lap; Sutil also stopped. Vettel was suggesting that his tires would not last the race, though his engineer informed him that rain was coming. On the inters, both Kovalainen and Sutil spun independently of each other, though Kovalained was helped along by Buemi while Kobayashi barely escaped. L30 still had Vettel leading Alonso, Hamilton, Massa, and Schumacher as the top five, with three or more seconds separating each driver. Hulkenberg pitted for a change to the inters as well, coming under fire from Petrov, who neatly took tenth away from him. Buemi was the next driver out of the race, having a twitch then a wiggle at the rear and then t-boning Glock, bringing out the SC on L32 and more drivers into the pits. Hamilton, Massa, Schumacher, Kubica, Barrichello, Alguersuari, and many, many other drivers were in, most for inters. Kubica and a Force India had a close call as the Pole attempted to leave his box before the crew had released him. Vettel and Alonso remained on the track. Vettel was in the next time around, and onto intermediates. Alonso stopped and was stuck in a long stop with a right front wheel nut issue, losing position to Hamilton and also onto the inters. Meanwhile, the stewards determined that no action was necessary for the Trulli/Senna incident, though the Buemi/Glock one was under investigation.

At the end of L33, still under the SC, Vettel led Hamilton, Alonso, Massa, Schumacher, Barrichello, Petrov, Hulkenberg, Kubica, and Kobayashi as the top ten. Hamilton was nearly challenging Vettel for the lead as word went out that the SC would come in at the end of L34. Vettel, though, had a good start, and Hamilton slid out of position and onto the runoff into Turn 1, leaving second to Alsonso and Massa to attack for the podium position. In the continued investigations from the stewards, Kovalainen was investigated for speeding on the pit lane, resulting in a drive-through penalty. It was messy for Button down in twelfth, getting forced off by Sutil and getting stuck with those other drivers who switched to inters early. The Briton dropped to fifteenth. By L36, Alonso was gaining slowly on Vettel, only 1.2s behind with the sky lightening. Hamilton was 2.7s behind Alonso, Massa 1.5s off Hamilton in fourth, and Schumahcer over three seconds behind Massa.

Vettel soon regained his tenths with a race fastest lap, seventeen laps to go, a half hour left in the two hour limit, and darkness beginning to fall. Alonso was also receiving instructions to preserve his tires. Alonso had dropped back to two and a half seconds as Petrov had a pretty big off across the run-off next to the pit lane through Turn 17 from seventh position, after having started twentieth. It did not bring out the SC. However, L42 had come and gone, allowing for an awarding of full points, no matter how the race ended. It was a race of protecting tires as the laps began ticking down. With just ten laps to go, Vettel led Alonso by just .6s. Alonso took the lead from Vettel just before the German’s engine blew. He had just been complaining that he could not see the braking markers and that the race should be stopped for low light. Bits and pieces were falling out of the rear of the car down the front straight, a double DNF for Red Bull.

Hamilton was a second and a half behind Alonso on L46, with Massa nearly seven seconds behind the Briton. Schumacher, Barrichello, Hulkenberg, Kubica, Liuzzi, Kobayashi, and Sutil were the top ten at the end of L47. Meanwhile, Sutil took himself out of the race whilst attempting a pass on Kobayashi, who appeared to continue on completely unscathed. The gaps between the top five running drivers continued to increase as they all tried to save their tires on the drying track in the fading light, with five laps left. The closest drivers on the circuit were Kubica, looking to take on Hulkenberg for sixth, and Button trying to take eleventh from Alguersuari. Hulkenberg pitted on L52 while the light was nearly gone on the track. Button would not be able to pass Alguersuari, having spun himself about on the final turn. Kubica did manage fifth as Barrichello’s tires gave him trouble, also allowing Liuzzi by. The Sutil/Kobayashi incident was also under investigation, though the time was running out to make a decision before the race ended, with just two laps left. Alonso had ten seconds on Hamilton by that point, stretching out his lead to just about fifteen seconds at the flag, and eleven points on Webber in the drivers’ championship.

Final Positions for the 2010 Korean Grand Prix:
1. Alonso
2. Hamilton +14.9
3. Massa +30.08
4. Schumacher+39.6
5. Kubica +47.7
6. Liuzzi +53.5
7. Barrichell0 +69.2
8. Kobayashi +77.8
9. Heidfeld +80.1
10. Hulkenberg +80.8
11. Alguersuari +84.1
12. Button +89.9
13. Kovalainen +1 Lap
14. Senna +2 Laps
15. Yamamoto +2 Laps
di Grassi


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