Fernando Alonso claimed victory in a dramatic inaugural Korean GP which saw the world championship turned on its head after both Red Bull drivers failed to finish for the first time this season.
For a long time it appeared that Sebastian Vettel would be in line to benefit from a rare error by team-mate Mark Webber, who put a wheel off the road on only the second lap of a wet race that eventually started after 17 laps behind the safety car but, even as he was reporting that it was getting too dark to see the braking points at certain corners, the German lit up the gloom as his engine let go.
The failure allowed Alonso to take the lead just as the race qualified for full points – after doubts that it would reach the 75 per cent distance required – and the Spaniard had enough in hand to keep Lewis Hamilton at bay. The McLaren man would have been in prime position to succeed Vettel as leader had he not made an error at the third restart that handed back the advantage he had gained from a slow Ferrari pit-stop, but kept himself in the hunt for a second title by claiming the 18 points for second place.
The final podium position went to Felipe Massa, who drove a steady race in the second Ferrari to deny Michael Schumacher a first top three finish since returning to the top flight. The German was equally comfortable ahead of Renault’s Robert Kubica and Force India’s Tonio Liuzzi, while another former team-mate, Rubens Barrichello, and Williams team-mate Nico Hulkenberg dropped down the order in the final few laps.
A double points finish for the Grove outfit almost went begging when Hulkenberg ran out of tyres, promoting the Saubers of Kamui Kobayashi and Nick Heidfeld, but the German repassed Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari to round out the points.
There was nothing to show, however, for Jenson Button or Nico Rosberg. The German was an innocent victim of Webber’s accident, while an ill-timed pit-stop and deteriorating handling mired the reigning world champion down in twelfth spot, effectively ending his hopes of a repeat title in 2010.