FORMULA ONE / The victory helps Red Bull retain the constructors' crown
Double World champion Sebastian Vettel won the Korean Grand Prix in crushing fashion on Sunday to help his Red Bull team retain the Formula One constructors title after a dominant season.
Just a week after cruising to third place in Japan, where Vettel confirmed himself as the 2011 drivers World champion, the 24-year-old German drove to his 10th win this year, and 20th of his career.
Vettel started second on the grid, but took the lead from Briton Lewis Hamilton of McLaren on the opening lap to pull clear and produce a flawless drive to the chequered flag.
He came home in a winning time of one hour, 38 minutes and 1.994 seconds, 12.019 ahead of Hamilton, who drove a splendidly controlled defensive race to stay ahead of Vettel's Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber.
The Australian finished third, ensuring Red Bull clinched its second successive team title, ahead of Briton Jenson Button in the second McLaren, and two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso of Ferrari.
“Fantastic Seb, well done, a great drive,” said Red Bull team chief Christian Horner. “Mark, we have won the constructors — well done!”
“Yes, yes, yes and yes again,” screamed Vettel, the sports youngest double champion. “Yes and that makes 10 wins now!”
Vettel delivered a final flourish with the fastest lap of the race on his last circuit as the top five were separated by just 15 seconds.
Felipe Massa was sixth in the second Ferrari ahead of Jaime Alguersuari of Toro Rosso, Nico Rosberg of Mercedes, Sebastian Buemi of Toro Rosso and British rookie Paul Di Resta, who grabbed a point for Force India team in 10th place.
Seven-time champion Michael Schumacher, 42, was forced into an early retirement after his Mercedes car was damaged in a collision with Vitaly Petrov of Renault, for which the Russian apologised.
On a cool, grey day with intermittent drizzle, the race started in dry conditions with Hamilton leading off the grid from his 19th pole position.
Behind him, the field squeezed up through the first two corners feeding into the long back straight where Vettel pulled into Hamilton's slipstream.
Having set himself up, the new double champion exploited his position with a bold passing move under braking into turn four. The Red Bull swiftly opened up a 1.2 seconds lead, Hamilton having given no resistance.
Button also made a poor start and fell to sixth on the opening lap as the leaders jostled for places, and by the start of lap two Vettel led Hamilton ahead of Webber, Massa, Alonso and Button.
The order remained unchanged until lap 14 when Button pitted first ahead of Rosberg. On release, they ran side by side with Rosberg narrowly ahead in the pit lane before Button conceded position, only to regain it immediately as Rosberg appeared to falter in the fray.
Hamilton pitted a lap later and was followed in by Vettel, Red Bull immediately covering the Mercedes strategy before an uncontrolled attack by Vitaly Petrov saw him slide into Schumacher at turn three on lap 17.
The Renault driver slammed into the back of the old champions Mercedes, causing serious damage to both cars. Schumacher lost his rear wing and suffered a puncture and had to retire on track.
Petrov limped to the pits before abandoning his race with broken steering as the safety car came out for three laps. On resumption, Webber resisted a charge from Button as the order resettled with Vettel 1.4 seconds ahead of Hamilton, Webber and Button, up to fourth. Webber then closed on Hamilton and began a series of attempts to pass him, with thrilling wheel-to-wheel racing on lap 33 as they interchanged positions before both pitted and, within a lap, resumed their battle.
But the duel cost both drivers time and allowed Vettel to pull clear by more than 10 seconds. The scrap for second also encouraged Button, in fourth, to close the gap with Alonso hot on his tail.
Again and again, they scrapped and challenged, but in the dramatic action Hamilton hung on and behind him each driver did the same.
The results: 1. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1 hour 38:01.994s; 2. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) +00:12.019; 3. Mark Webber (Red Bull) 00:12.477; 4. Jenson Button (McLaren) 00:14.694; 5. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 00:15.689; 6. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 00:25.133; 7. Jaime Alguersuari (Toro Rosso) 00:49.538; 8. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes GP) 00:54.053; 9. Sebastien Buemi (Toro Rosso) 01:02.762; 10. Paul di Resta (Force India) 01:08.602; 11. Adrian Sutil (Force India) 01:11.229; 12. Rubens Barrichello (Williams F1) 01:33.068; 13. Bruno Senna (Lotus-Renault) 1 lap; 14. Heikki Kovalainen (Lotus) 1 lap; 15. Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber) 1 lap; 16. Sergio Perez (Sauber) 1 lap; 17. Jarno Trulli (Lotus) 1 lap; 18. Timo Glock (Virgin Racing) 1 lap; 19. Daniel Ricciardo (Hispania) 1 lap; 20. Jerome d'Ambrosio (Virgin Racing) 1 lap; 21. Vitantonio Liuzzi (Hispania) 3 laps
Standings: Drivers: 1. Sebastian Vettel 349, 2. Jenson Button 222, 3. Fernando Alonso 212, 4. Mark Webber 209, 5. Lewis Hamilton 196, 6. Felipe Massa 98, 7. Nico Rosberg 67, 8. Michael Schumacher 60, 9. Vitaly Petrov 36, 10. Nick Heidfeld 34, 11. Adrian Sutil 28, 12. Kamui Kobayashi 27, 13. Jaime Alguersuari 22, 14. Paul di Resta 21, 15. Sebastien Buemi 15, 16. Sergio Perez 13, 17. Rubens Barrichello 4, 18. Bruno Senna 2, 19. Pastor Maldonado 1.
Constructors: 1. Red Bull 558, 2. McLaren 418, 3. Ferrari 310, 4. Mercedes GP 127, 5. Lotus-Renault 72, 6. Force India 49, 7. Sauber 40, 8. Toro Rosso 37, 9. Williams F1 5 . — AFP