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Korea puts Vettel step from title

2013-10-07 03:54


HAT TRICK FOR SEBASTIAN: Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel (front) and Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen cavort on the 2013 Korean F1 GP podium. It was Vettel's third win there. Image: AFP

YEONGAM, South Korea - Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel completed a hat trick of Korean F1 GP wins on Sunday to put himself only a week away from potentially clinching a fourth consecutive Formula 1 Drivers' title.

The 26-year-old's third successive Korean win, and eighth triumph in 14 races, left him 77 points clear of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso with five races - and a maximum 125 points - remaining.

If the German wins in Japan next weekend (as he did in 2012) and Alonso fails to finish in the top eight (as also happened in 2012) the championship will be over.


"That was a very, very disciplined drive. Well done," team principal Christian Horner told Vettel over the radio after the chequered waved. Vettel, now with 34 career wins, replied with his customary whoop of delight.

Alonso could manage only sixth on an overcast afternoon that threatened rain without delivering the downpours that might have mixed up the field and given him more of a hope. The Spaniard now has 195 points to Vettel's 272.

"There's still a chance for Fernando, I think," Vettel conceded, "so we have to stay on top of our game but, to be honest, we're just having a good time.

"I look forward to Japan because it's one of the nicest tracks of the whole season."

Finland's Kimi Raikkonen was second, ahead of Lotus team mate Romain Grosjean, in a race running along familiar lines of Vettel domination before jolting the audience awake with a bang.


McLaren's Mexican Sergio Perez brought out the first safety car with the explosive delamination of his front right tyre which had worn through after hard braking.  It dumped a strip of tread into the middle of the track on lap 31 of 55.

When that safety car came in on lap 36, after the debris had been cleared, Vettel's Australian team mate Mark Webber was hit by Adrian Sutil's skidding Force India at the re-start.

The Australian pulled over, his car on fire, for the second race in a row.

With marshals struggling to put out the blaze with extinguishers, a 4x4 appeared on the track ahead of the field between turns one and two and with its hazard lights on while the official Mercedes SLS AMG safety car brought up the rear.

Vettel had made a clean start from pole, his third in a row, while Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton (fifth at the finish) dropped to third as Grosjean overtook him.


Germany's Nico Hulkenberg, whose reputation was burnished further with what he said had been one of the best races of his career, drove to fourth for Sauber after starting seventh and overtaking Alonso.

The Spaniard skilfully avoided tangling with his Ferrari team mate Felipe Massa, who spun in the opening seconds and dropped to last before recovering to ninth behind Mercedes' Nico Rosberg - who paid the price for a long pit stop to replace a front wing that had been hitting the ground and sending up showers of sparks - in seventh and Jenson Button eighth for McLaren. Perez took the final point.

Britain's Paul di Resta was the first retirement, his sixth race without a point, when he spun his Force India and hit the barriers after 26 laps.

Raikkonen, who will be Alonso's team mate at Ferrari in 2014, passed Grosjean on lap 38 moments before the second pace-car period.e

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