Alonso wins South Korean GP to take championship

Sunday, October 24, 2010

YEONGAM - Fernando Alonso kept his nerve in treacherous conditions to claim victory in Sunday’s inaugural South Korean Grand Prix and take the lead in the drivers’ standings with just two races remaining.

Championship rivals Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber of Red Bull both failed to finish in an action-packed race that saw three safety car phases, including the start, and also had to be suspended for 50 minutes because of rain and poor visibility.

“One of the best races of the year for us and for the team,” said Alonso, who started the race from the second row behind the two Red Bulls.

“A fantastic achievement for Ferrari, we have been competitive all weekend.”

Lewis Hamilton remained in the race for the drivers’ title with a second-place finish, followed by Felipe Massa in the second Ferrari.

Michael Schumacher showed his prowess for driving in the rain by coming home in fourth for Mercedes.

“It is still a great result, I am very happy with it,” said Hamilton. “It was really about bringing the car home and score as many points.”

Two-time champion Alonso now has 231 points after winning three of the last four races, 11 clear of previous championship leader Webber, who remains on 220 after crashing out. Hamilton sits third on 210 points, four clear of Vettel.

Jenson Button’s hopes of successfully defending his title are all but over after the McLaren driver finished out of the points to sit 42 points behind Alonso with just 50 points the maximum tally available in the last two races.

“It has been a horrific day really,” said Button after trailing home in 12th.

With rain pouring down, organizers decided to start the race under safety car conditions but, with the drivers clearly struggling with the poor visibility and lack of grip, the red flag emerged at the end of just three laps.

The cars returned to the track after a near 50-minute suspension, again under safety car conditions, and racing only began in earnest when FIA race director Charlie Whiting called the safety car in at the end of lap 17.

Vettel, who started from pole, immediately began pulling away from Webber while Nico Rosberg overtook Hamilton to move up to fourth behind Alonso.

It did not take long for more drama as Webber’s race came to an abrupt end on lap 19 when the Australian lost control, spinning across the track before colliding into the Mercedes of Rosberg, whose involvement also ended as a result.

The safety car was called out immediately afterwards, returning at the end of lap 23.

Once again, Vettel looked confident in the conditions and immediately began to pull away from second-placed Alonso. Hamilton began losing ground in third, followed by Massa, with Schumacher overtaking Button to move up to fifth.

The safety car was deployed for a third time on lap 32 when Timo Glock collided with Sebastien Buemi. Hamilton, Button and Massa all pitted while Vettel and Alonso remained on track for a further lap before coming in for their first stop to swap on to intermediate tyres.

Alonso suffered a slight problem with a wheel nut at his stop, causing the Spaniard to return behind Hamilton in third. The safety car phase lasted just two laps and Hamilton immediately lost the advantage gained on Alonso by running wide to allow the Ferrari driver regain second place.

However, just as it looked like Vettel would secure victory from pole to move top of the drivers’ standings, the Red Bull driver’s engine blew up on lap 45 to hand victory to Alonso in a time of 2 hours, 48 minutes and 20.810 seconds.

“It is obviously not a very nice moment but I think there is nothing that we could have done better,” said a disappointed Vettel.

“It is still 50 points (available), obviously it would be easier if we had won today.”

The F1 season continues on Nov 7 with the Brazilian GP in Sao Paulo and Alonso will not be taking anything for granted in the penultimate race of the season, despite being the man in form after enjoying wins in four of his last seven starts.

“Here it was bad luck for Mark and Sebastian. Anything can happen in the next race,” Alonso said.

“Being on the podium, being consistent, is the key to winning a championship.”

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