Yeongam (Korea) - 15 Oct 2011 6:43 UTC
Newly-crowned world champion Sebastian Vettel has won his 10th grand prix of the season, after claiming the lead on the opening lap from his grid position of second place and using the correct pit stop strategy to maintain his advantage. He now has the chance to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of 13 wins in one season. With Vettel’s team mate Mark Webber finishing third, Red Bull Racing has sealed the manufacturers’ championship for the second year in a row – taking its 25th win at the same time.
The Korean Grand Prix weekend got off to a wet start on Friday, meaning that the teams only had one hour of dry running on Saturday morning to assess the performance of the Pirelli P Zero slick tires on different fuel loads before qualifying and the race. This meant that the teams still had many unanswered questions as they lined up on the grid for the very first start in Korea under dry conditions: the inaugural race last year started behind the safety car.
The Red Bull Racing duo of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber adopted an unusual strategy during qualifying by running exclusively on the P Zero Red supersoft tires in order to save the P Zero Yellow soft tires for the race. By contrast, McLaren and Ferrari opted to save as many sets of the P Zero Red supersoft tires as possible. All the drivers who finished the race stopped twice, with the exception of the Sauber duo of Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez, as well as HRT’s Vitantonio Liuzzi, who all stopped three times.
Vettel however used the supersoft tire for his first two stints before taking the soft tire for the final stint, meaning that he did not need to use his full allocation of tires to win the race by 12.0s. Webber finished third after a race-long battle with McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, who qualified on pole for the first time this year and finished second: his first podium since winning the German Grand Prix this year. Positions two to five in Korea were covered by just four seconds at the end, with Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari equaling his best career result of seventh place. The Spaniard used two stints on the supersoft tire and a final longer stint on the softs: a similar strategy to Vettel.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery commented: “Although we deliberately opted for a bold tire choice at this race, and the teams had little data to go on due to the weather on Friday, we immediately saw the supersoft tire lasting for more than 10 laps at the beginning of the race on full fuel and the soft tire for more than 20 laps. It was clear that the track had evolved a lot in a short space of time, and we knew straight from the first round of stops that we were now looking at a two-stop strategy, which was certainly at the lower end of our expectations. There were a number of different tire strategies at work, but in the end the drivers kept up a very good pace on both compounds – with Vettel setting the fastest lap of the race on the final lap with the soft tires – despite some people predicting four stops or more and significant degradation before the grand prix started. Finally, I’d like to congratulate Red Bull Racing for taking the constructors’ championship once more in what has been a remarkable season for them.”
The Korean Grand Prix marked the final appearance for Pirelli’s P Zero Red supersoft tires this year, having also been used in Monaco, Canada, Hungary and Singapore. The remaining three races will all use a combination of the soft and medium P Zero compounds.