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 tyres 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 tyres in order to save the P Zero Yellow soft tyres for the race. By contrast, McLaren and Ferrari opted to save as many sets of the P Zero Red supersoft tyres 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 tyre for his first two stints before taking the soft tyre for the final stint, meaning that he did not need to use his full allocation of tyres 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 equalling his best career result of seventh place. The Spaniard used two stints on the supersoft tyre 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 tyre choice at this race, and the teams had little data to go on due to the weather on Friday, we immediately saw the supersoft tyre lasting for more than 10 laps at the beginning of the race on full fuel and the soft tyre 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 tyre 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 tyres – 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 tyres 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.
Pit stop summary – 2011 Korean Grand Prix
Vettel: SSU SSU (16) SN (34) 2
Hamilton: SSU SSU (15) SN (33) 2
Webber: SSU SN (14) SN (33) 2
Button: SSU SSU (13) SN (34) 2
Alonso: SSU SN (15) SN (37) 2
Massa: SSU SN (14) SN (34) 2
Alguersuari: SSN SSU (17) SN (37) 2
Rosberg: SSU SN (13) SN (27) &n