Well, if like the local Korean TV director, you largely ignored Sebastian Vettel, this morning that was an entertaining way to start a Sunday. On and off-track scraps, sparks, fires and fire trucks all served up some spectacular diversion for the dozens of Korean fans who bothered to turn up. The Championship is of course all-but-decided, and could be all over this time next week. Another win for Vettel and Fernando Alonso finishing just two places lower than he did today and that’s it; 14 seasons of racing in the 21st Century and nine of them won by just two men, both Germans.
Alonso wasn’t able to chalk up any more than eight points as both Lotus and Mercedes were quicker than Ferrari today. As was Nico Hulkenberg who seems to be grabbing every opportunity to remind everyone how good he is. Why on earth they need reminding we have no idea. Memories must be short in F1; either that or there really is something in this business of him being too tall.
So. Vettel from Räikkonen and Grosjean. Then Hulkenberg, Hamilton, Alonso and Rosberg up next. And finally another big old group with Button, Massa, Perez, Gutierrez, Bottass and Maldonado. Their scrap for largely Latin American honours after the second safety car was extremely entertaining stuff and remarkably free of contact.
But back to the front. So what’s going on at Lotus? Romain Grosjean has been the dominant driver in these last two races and looked like he had the pace to beat Räikkonen today. He was clearly surprised when Kimi put the move on him, causing the boss to get on the phone and lay down the law as he saw it. But the damage had been done, and there was some very familiar looking sulking going on in the driver’s den and on the podium. RoGros is much more smiley than that. Still, if your team is going to have a ‘Multi 21 moment’ it might as well be at the end of the season when you know one of your drivers is already packing his bags.
Lotus will likely sign Hulkenberg, and not Felipe Massa. One assumes this means that Lotus’ well-publicised money problems are over. Hulkenberg was awesome today, making a great start and forcing Lewis Hamilton to crowd source a way past. The hive mind sadly didn’t have any more idea than Lewis. The Sauber is quicker in a straight line and out of the corner than the Merc, but it was still the talent that kept him ahead. Hulk fourth, Ham fifth.
Lewis didn’t look happy. His Mercedes, a thousand times better this year than either he or Rosberg (seventh today after a spectacular onboard fireworks display when the nose came loose) ever imagined it would be, so they shouldn’t be too downbeat that the W04 can still show its Achilles Heel — its appetite for tyres — as it did today. Still, had all the stuff at Silverstone not forced Pirelli to change track, then things could have been very different by now.
Pirelli came in for some stick this weekend from buddies Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber. Webber, with five races to go clearly no longer cares too much. Strategy and driving had him on course for a podium today from his penalised 13th on the grid until Sergio Perez’s right front let go in the biggest possible way, causing Webber to puncture bringing out the first safety car.
The way Webber sees it, it was Perez’s tyre failure that caused his puncture; “I got a puncture from someone else’s puncture, mate,” he told Sky. It’s his belief also that the major lock up Perez suffered just before the delamination (the possible cause) was caused by Perez having to press on with tyres that were already shot. There’s nobody else in Webber’s crosshairs here.
And Webber’s afternoon got worse. When trying to make up places he got assaulted by Adrian Sutil, causing an enormous and immediate KERS fire. With the RB9 literally being consumed by fire in front of his eyes, Webber seemed in no hurry to walk away. I wonder what he was thinking there, watching the Red Bull burn away. Meanwhile on another part of the circuit a Jeep was making its way on to the track and to the fire, authorised to do so by the Yeongam Fire Chief, and not by Charlie Whiting’s team.
It lent the event a slightly parochial tone. What with then empty grandstands it’s hard to imagine anyone really wants this event on the schedule. It all feels a bit like Korean car industry used to be like, but really isn’t anymore. Either it needs to move on, or F1 does.
So to Japan, and a track as deliciously flowing and potent as the endlessly twisty supermarket car park layout in Mokpo will never be. Will it suit the Red Bull? What do you think?