FORMULA ONE / Hamilton finishes second; nightmare for Webber and Vettel
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso won a rain-hit and chaotic Korean Grand Prix to seize back the Formula One World championship lead on a nightmare Sunday for his Red Bull rivals.
In an inaugural race that turned out to be one of the longest in Formula One history — delayed by a downpour, started, stopped and then re-started behind the safety car after a 48 minute wait before ending almost in the twilight — the Spaniard could scarcely believe his good fortune.
With two races to go, and a maximum 50 points to be won under the new 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 scoring system, Alonso celebrated his fifth win of the year to turn a 14-point deficit into an 11-point lead over Red Bull's Australian Mark Webber.
Webber crashed out early on, handing the championship baton to teammate Sebastian Vettel before the German suffered an agonising engine failure nine laps from the end while leading.
McLaren's 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton finished second, 14.9 seconds behind, and moved up to third overall with 210 points, 21 behind Alonso. Brazilian Felipe Massa took the final podium place for Ferrari.
Vettel fell to fourth on 206 points with McLaren's reigning champion Jenson Button finishing 12th. The Briton is now 42 points off the lead and effectively, if not mathematically, out of the title equation.
If events again fall into Alonso's lap, in the most unpredictable of seasons, he could even wrap up his third title in Brazil in two weeks' time at the same Sao Paulo circuit where he won the other two for Renault in 2005 and 2006.
“Beautiful, beautiful. You and the whole team deserved this. Grande!” declared Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali over the radio to Alonso.
Webber, who had started in second place behind Vettel on pole, could testify to that. He skidded on the wet and slippery track, hit the wall and then collided with Nico Rosberg's Mercedes with the race proper barely started after what seemed an eternity behind the silver safety car.
Red Bull's lead cut
It also allowed McLaren to cut Red Bull's lead in the constructors' standings to 27 points. “To be on top all the time and controlling the race, there was nothing we could have done better. We did more or less, a perfect job. The race is still on,” said the 23-year-old.
Webber must surely have had to suppress an inner whoop of joy, despite the blow for his team, even if Alonso is now the man to beat.
Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi was sixth for Force India.
The results: 1. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), 2 hours, 48 minutes, 20.810 seconds; 2. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), 2:48:35.809; 3. Felipe Massa (Ferrari), 2:48:51.678; 4. Michael Schumacher (Mercedes), 2:49:00.498; 5. Robert Kubica (Renault), 1:49:08.544; 6. Vitantonio Liuzzi (Force India), 2:49:14.381; 7. Rubens Barrichello (Williams), 2:49:30.067; 8. Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber), 2:49:38.699; 9. Nick Heidfeld (Sauber), 2:49:40.917; 10. Nico Hulkenberg (Williams), 2:49:41.661; 11. Jaime Alguersuari (Toro Rosso), 2:49:44.956; 12. Jenson Button (McLaren), 2:49:50.749; 13. Heikki Kovalainen (Lotus), 2:49:27.567; 14. Bruno Senna (Hispania), 2:48:30.504; 15. Sakon Yamamoto (Hispania), 2:48:47.837; 16. Adrian Sutil (Force India), 46 laps; 17. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), 45; 18. Vitaly Petrov (Renault), 39; 19. Timo Glock (Virgin), 31; 20. Sebastien Buemi (Toro Rosso), 30; 21. Lucas di Grassi, (Virgin), 25; 22. Jarno Trulli (Lotus), 25; 23. Mark Webber (Red Bull), 18; 24. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes).
Standings: Drivers: 1. Fernando Alonso (231 points); 2. Mark Webber (220); 3. Lewis Hamilton (210); 4. Sebastian Vettel (206); 5. Jenson Button (189); 6. Felipe Massa (143); 7. Robert Kubica (124); 8. Nico Rosberg (122); 9. Michael Schumacher (66); 10. Rubens Barrichello (47); 11. Adrian Sutil (47); 12. Kamui Kobayashi (31); 13. Vitantonio Liuzzi (21); 14. Vitaly Petrov (19); 15. Nico Huelkenberg (18); 16. Sebastien Buemi (8); 17. Pedro de la Rosa (6); 18. Nick Heidfeld (6); 19. Jaime Alguersuari (3); 20. Heikki Kovalainen (0); 21. Jarno Trulli (0); 22. Karun Chandhok (0); 23. Bruno Senna (0); 24. Lucas Di Grassi (0); 25. Timo Glock (0); 26. Sakon Yamamoto (0); 27. Christian Klien (0).
Constructors: 1. RedBull-Renault 426; 2. McLaren-Mercedes 399; 3. Ferrari 374; 4. Mercedes 188; 5. Renault 143; 6. Force India-Mercedes 68; 7. Williams-Cosworth 65; 8. BMW Sauber-Ferrari 43; 9. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 11; 10. Lotus-Cosworth 0; 11. HRT-Cosworth 0; 12. Virgin-Cosworth 0 . — Agencies