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Race - Alonso wins in Korea, double DNF for Red Bull 24 Oct 2010

Race winner Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari celebrates on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Korean Grand Prix, Race, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Sunday, 24 October 2010 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB6.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Korean Grand Prix, Race, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Sunday, 24 October 2010 Cars follow the Safety Car.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Korean Grand Prix, Race, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Sunday, 24 October 2010 Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Renault R30 crashes out of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Korean Grand Prix, Race, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Sunday, 24 October 2010 Bruno Senna (BRA) Hispania F1 Racing Team (HRT) HRT F1 under the safety car sign.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Korean Grand Prix, Race, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Sunday, 24 October 2010

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso scored one of the biggest wins of his career in a rain-affected Korean Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon, and a day of total disaster saw neither Red Bull driver finish. Mark Webber crashed out early while running second, and Sebastian Vettel’s engine blew up as he was leading on the 46th lap.

The result puts Alonso into an 11-point championship lead over Webber, 231 to 220, with just two races left.

As dusk fell and the race was just completed before the two-hour cut-off point, what had begun as impending disaster for Korean race organisers turned instead into a brilliant triumph. But it was edgy. After the rain got heavier just before the start, the race was red-flagged after just two laps had been run behind the safety car. That led to a lengthy delay until it was resumed as conditions got marginally better, but after the restart at 16.05 the safety car continued to lead the field for another 15 laps before racing finally began on the 18th.

Vettel sprinted into the lead from Webber with Alonso third and Mercedes GP’s Nico Rosberg deposing McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton for fourth. But then Webber spun and hit the wall in Turn 13 on the 19th lap, collecting Rosberg. Out came the safety car again until Lap 24, whereupon Vettel resumed control ahead of Alonso and Hamilton.

After their pit stops between Laps 31 and 32, Hamilton jumped Alonso for second as the Spaniard had a minor delay due to arriving slightly sideways and making it difficult for mechanics to reach the right front wheel, but they were racing under the safety car again after Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi had taken out Virgin’s Timo Glock on the 31st under braking for Turn Three.

As racing resumed on the 35th lap, Hamilton ran wide in Turn One as his front wheels were locking, handing second back to Alonso. And that’s how it seemed likely to stay as Vettel built a lead of 2.7s by Lap 41. But then Alonso and Hamilton began to move in, and going into Turn One on Lap 46 the Ferrari dived inside the Red Bull to take the lead. On the exit to the corner Vettel’s engine blew, and as Mark Webber breathed a sigh of some relief, Red Bull had their head in their hands.

Now it was Alonso’s race to lose, but though Hamilton gave it everything he had, annihilating the Ferrari in the first two sectors, Alonso was able to make it all back in the final one. Towards the end Hamilton dropped back, keeping a badly worn right front intermediate tyre alive, and was 14.9s adrift as a delighted Alonso took his fifth win of the year and his 26th overall.

The day was also a disaster for the fifth title contender Jenson Button, who lacked Hamilton’s pace as he suffered brake problems and was taken off the road at one stage by Force India’s Adrian Sutil, who was involved in five other incidents in an adventurous afternoon. Button’s McLaren sustained some damage, and that and his brake problems limited him to a 12th place finish. With 189 points he is almost out of the title fight.

Felipe Massa made it a great day for Ferrari and boosted their once flagging hopes in the constructors’ championship, by taking a distant third place ahead of Michael Schumacher, who had his best race of the year to fourth place in the second Mercedes. Red Bull still lead that, with 426 points, but McLaren now have 399 and Ferrari are back in the hunt with 374.

The race was also a disaster for Williams, who had Rubens Barrichello and Nico Hulkenberg running fifth and sixth with five laps to go, but then the latter had to pit for fresh tyres on Lap 51, and the former got sideways and lost places to Renault’s Robert Kubica and Tonio Liuzzi on Lap 52. The Brazilian’s moment ruined the Italian’s chances of fighting the Pole, on whom he had been closing in his Force India after a superb drive, but sixth place was a great fillip for a man who is frequently underrated.

Barrichello recovered to take seventh, ahead of the BMW Saubers of Kamui Kobayashi and Nick Heidfeld, and Hulkenberg recovered to snatch the final point from Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari on the last lap. Force India thus have 68 points, with Williams right behind on 65.

Behind Button, Lotus’s Heikki Kovalainen survived a bruising race, having initially fought Glock’s speedy Virgin until Buemi tapped him into a spin. His was the first new team car home, in a valuable 13th place, ahead of the HRTs of Bruno Senna (who was hit early on by Jarno Trulli’s Lotus) and Sakon Yamamoto.

Sutil was the first non-finisher, having spun on Lap 29, then had incidents with Button and Kobayashi, run wide in Turn One and lost a place to Alguersuari, then hit Kobayashi and brought about his own retirement on the 47th lap with damaged front suspension. Behind Vettel, Vitaly Petrov went off in a sizeable accident on the 40th lap, trashing another Renault R30, while Glock looked a likely new team winner until Buemi’s assault eliminated them both. With Di Grassi getting short-braked by an HRT and crashing into a tyre wall, what at one time looked like a promising race for Virgin as Glock ran 13th early on soon became a major disappointment.

The world championship fight is still raging, but now the odds are beginning to swing in Ferrari’s favour.

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