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Page last updated at 21:26 GMT, Monday, 25 October 2010 22:26 UK

A missed opportunity for Hamilton

Fernando Alonso

Korean Grand Prix in 90 seconds

By Martin Brundle
BBC F1 analyst

Should Lewis Hamilton have won the Korean Grand Prix?

He may well have done had he not braked a little too late into Turn One at the final safety car restart and run wide.

That gave Fernando Alonso back the second place he had lost because of a slow pit stop for intermediate tyres and meant the Ferrari driver, not Hamilton, took the lead when the Renault engine in Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull broke on lap 44.

It's true that Alonso was faster than Hamilton at the end of the race, when the McLaren's tyres were more heavily worn, but until then Hamilton had largely matched Vettel and Alonso for pace, and McLaren had the better strategy having pitted Hamilton a lap earlier than his main rivals.

Had Hamilton won, that would have meant a net 14-point turnaround for him against Alonso and he would have been right in the heart of the championship battle, instead of 21 points adrift as he is now. This left McLaren slightly flat despite Hamilton's strong second place.

Mark Webber spins at the Korean Grand Prix

Webber crashes out of Korean GP

Given that, judging by his radio messages, Hamilton had been the driver most keen to get the race under way, it was ironic that he was passed by Mercedes' Nico Rosberg the first time racing got under way.

As it happens, that turned out to be a stroke of luck - otherwise, Hamilton may have been the one who was taken out by Mark Webber's spinning Red Bull on the next lap.

The Australian's crash came as a result of one of those awful slow motion spins all racing drivers have experienced.

Webber ran wide in the adverse-camber Turn 12, a corner where he had spun in practice, but for all the world it looked as if he had saved the car.

On-board footage suggests Webber pick up a little too much throttle on the soggy artificial grass just beyond the kerbing, and round he went into the opposite wall. As he rebounded, he sadly took out the impressive Rosberg.

Webber seems to prefer to be the hunter rather than the hunted, and he normally rebounds with a vengeance, as we have seen on other occasions these past two seasons. He needs to now that Alonso is 11 points ahead. If Webber loses this championship, that spin will haunt him.

Vettel did everything right - apart from mystifyingly choosing to race in the fading light with a medium-smoke visor. No wonder he was complaining about the light while leading a dozen laps from the end. Why didn't they change it during the red-flag period?


The German's engine failure was a cruel twist of fate and his championship chances now look to be in nearly as many pieces as his pistons were on the main straight.

Red Bull had locked out the front row for the eighth time this season. A safety car start suited them perfectly and Vettel positively took off every time it pulled in, which was three times in total.

It was the first double non-finish for Red Bull this season and the seventh time Vettel has not converted pole position into a victory.

The team must crystallise their undoubted speed in the most convincing manner in Brazil and Abu Dhabi if they want to win one or both of the titles.

Vettel was immense, although Alonso increasingly had him covered. And for all the laps Vettel led, the Spaniard was the class act of the day.

Alonso stayed out of trouble, kept the car on the black bits, and nursed his long-serving intermediate tyres far better than anyone else.

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton

Title not out of reach - Hamilton

It was a champion's drive from the man who back in July, when 47 points adrift, declared he was confident he could still win the championship.

This was Alonso's third victory in four races, and his sixth podium in the last seven races. He is on a major roll and will now take some stopping.

For the fifth title contender, though, it is all but over.

Jenson Button had one of his off days, despite it being his kind of race. Some new parts on the car compromised his braking, and his pit stop under racing conditions just before a safety car put him into a lot of traffic.

One of the cars Button found himself racing was Force India's Adrian Sutil, who used Button, among several others, as target practice.

Button would finish 12th, ahead only of a Lotus and two Hispanias. He was a very sad man after a race which recorded his first non-points finish of the season.

Mercedes seemed to be the most proactive in changing their cars to a more wet set-up during the red-flag period after just three laps.

Once the race had officially started, the cars were out of parc ferme restrictions and changes were permitted. Michael Schumacher took advantage to drive an impressive and committed race into fourth place for the third time this season.

A return to the podium for Ferrari's Felipe Massa, Robert Kubica's solid fifth place for Renault, another double points finish for Williams and Sauber, and Vitantonio Liuzzi's strong sixth place for Force India, meant there were some happy drivers poking around in the post-race pitch black.

It was a thrilling race, for so many reasons. A new venue with an intriguing layout and heavy rain arriving only on race day was an explosive combination.

Martin Brundle, Eddie Jordan, Jake Humphrey and Eddie Jordan

Title hopes pretty much over - Button

To help European television transmission times, the Asian races tend to start at 3pm local time, and darkness is never far away from the scheduled finish.

The combination of failing light and rain made for a busy afternoon for race director Charlie Whiting but the drivers have pretty much universally praised his decision to delay the start and then use the safety car to start the race.

I felt strongly that the race could have started earlier, as did Hamilton judging by his frequent radio calls.

Of course, there will always be spray when the track is wet; there always was. It's a case of driving accordingly in extreme conditions. I have raced in and commentated on much worse conditions than that.

Still, Korea threw up a unique set of circumstances.

The resin on top of the newly laid asphalt prevented water from soaking into the surface and running away.

Button said the whole circuit looked like a lake and the spray was the worst he had ever known, but Hamilton confirmed there was not actually any aquaplaning when the race eventually got under way.

By amazing coincidence, after two hours and 48 minutes on track including the red-flag period, the 55 laps and daylight ran out at exactly the same time.

Many drivers have commented that the gearshift lights on their steering wheels, which have to be bright to be seen in the regular sunshine, were dazzling and blinding them in the near darkness at the end.

It was very marginal and the race could reasonably have been finished three laps earlier.

There were incidents and crashes galore as several drivers misjudged their braking on the extremely slippery surface. Sutil and Toro Rosso's Sebastian Buemi will both take five-place grid drops in Brazil for making heavy contact.

It was a rather surreal weekend all said and done, and the inaugural South Korean GP was deemed a success.

Nevertheless, there are several aspects of the hurriedly constructed track and infrastructure which they need to address for next year.

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see also
Alonso wins as Red Bull implode
24 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Red Bull 'will not favour Webber'
24 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Alonso cautious over title hopes
24 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Button downbeat on title chances
24 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Korean GP as it happened
24 Oct 10 |  Formula 1

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