Hello, good morning and welcome to forumula1.com’s live coverage of the Korean Grand Prix.
The big news this morning is that it is massively wet in Yeongam, and the start has been delayed by ten minutes. The track was slippery at the best of times and the standing water has made it extremely tricky to navigate.
The Red Bulls at the front want the race started behind a safety car, and the more rain comes down the more likely that looks. McLaren, unsurprisingly, don’t want that.
6.57am (GMT) The race will now start behind a safety car. Red Bull will be happy with that, although the uncertainty of the conditions is more bothersome for them than for anyone else. If it had been dry they might have just scampered off for a one-two, so the rain’s good for the spectacle, at least.
7.02am Sebastian Vettel’s race engineer Rocky lets him know that the forecast is that the rain will reduce in intensity in the near future.
Fernando Alonso’s support from Felipe Massa may come into play as well in these conditions.
7.10am The race has started behind the Safety Car. Fernando Alonso says thatover the team radio that these are “the worst conditions he ever drove”. Martin Brundle explains on the BBC that he is probably referring to the amount of grip available rather than the amount of water on the track.
7.14am They have now red-flagged the race. Jenson Button said that he cannot see the front tyres of his own car.
7.17am So they’re now sitting on the grid. There must be a real sensation of frustration amongst the fans who are watching this both at the track and on early morning TV, because there doesn’t seem to be any promise that the rain will stop. Red Bull’s system says 40 minutes. But no one has any idea.
7.23am The word is now that 75% race distance is the most likely option, because there “it’s just not possible to see anything” on track at the moment according to Timo Glock.
7.25am Red Bull’s Christian Horner has been speaking to the BBC, discussing the possibility that the race won’t start at all, and that some complicated type of calculation would have to be employed to allocate the points.
7.28am Charlie Whiting is under pressure here. There’s an expectant crowd of nearly 100 000, a global TV audience, a sodden and treacherous racetrack and a race to run. Does he risk it? It’s a big call. Jonathan Legard helpfully adds that the crowd are “puzzled”. No they’re not, you patronising wally.
7.32am Mark Webber says that everybody is just going to have to “wait and see”.
7.35am Martin Whitmarsh reminds us all that full points will only be awarded if 75% race distance is completed. He also says that we are “running out of time”, owing to the daylight fading.
7.41am Nothing is happening now. Maddening for a lot of people, but the drivers’ safety has to be paramount.
7.45am The rain seems to have lessened a bit, although that might just be wishful thinking from millions of fans who have to listen to Jonathan Legard telling us that the sport is more complex than it looks. Dear God, please give him something to talk about.
7.48am Michael Schumacher says that what worries him is “the lack of possibility of escape” if someone were to have an accident. He’s right. There would be nowhere to go and there would be carnage. Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso, Safety Car driver Bernd Maylander and Christian Horner are in earnest discussion at the front of the grid.
7.53am The race will be restarted at five past the hour. Behind the Safety Car again. But they have to get it going. The track, according to Eddie Jordan, is “too new.” He’s saying that all the new resin has risen to the surface, and made it effectively an ice rink.
7.57am Lewis Hamilton is happy with the edict to start the competition. He sticks two thumbs-up to the camera, mouthing what looks like “let’s race!” The Medical Car is going round.
8am The drivers are back in the cars now.
8.05am They are back under way again, behind the Safety Car. It does look less wet. “It’s a little bit better than before,” says Sebastian Vettel. But you get the distinct impression he would prefer not to race at the moment.
8.07am So what we have now is an exhibition of extremely fast cars behind a normal one, going extremely slowly. It’s now Lap 6, and this all counts. Martin Brundle would have started the race if he was in charge.
Lap 7 Still they potter round. Rubens Barrichello is being told that the rain will last for another 20 minutes, and then that will be it. Vettel says that the water is less now on the straight than it was. Michael Schumacher takes an off-track excursion. He is seeing where the grip is, the wise old head.
Lap 8 Lewis Hamilton memorably describes conditions as “good”.
Lap 10 Lewis then asks his team to maximise fuel consumption for his car. This is clever thinking by the Englishman. He knows the race is unlikely to be a full one, so his car will be lighter if he can burn some fuel off.
Lap 12 Mark Webber doesn’t think the conditions are getting better. But the consensus is the cars will be better able to cope with the adverse weather at racing speed, where they actually have some downforce. Martin Brundle wonders whether this will set a precedent – that every time the track is wet and there’s standing water, the Safety Car will lead them out. Delaying the race may be a ploy, the unwritten insinuation is, from Ferrari and Red Bull who have a lot to lose from an unpredictable race.
Lap 13 It has also been pointed out that no one has fallen off the road yet, so how bad can the conditions really be? If I were in charge I’d give it a go, and see how many people fell off at racing speed. You could always red flag it and delay it again.
Lap 14 David Coulthard, at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, says that Lewis’ engineers are telling him that not every driver “has the same enthusiasm” for racing on water as he does.
Lap 16 Lewis points out, in jest or not, that he thinks “it’s almost intermediates”. He’s right to make a point. They should get on with it now, frankly.
Lap 17 There it is. Safety Car in this lap.
Lap 18. They’re racing! Schumacher passes Kubica into Turn One, and Hamilton is passed by Rosberg too! Rosberg into fourth, but otherwise the order remains the same. It’s Vettel, Webber, Alonso, Rosberg, Hamilton, Massa, Button, Schumacher, Kubica.
Lap 19 For all Hamilton’s enthusiasm, he has lost a place at the restart.
Lap 19 Mark Webber drops it! A bit wide on a right hander – he spins and collects Nico Rosberg on his way back across the track. They are both out of the race. That was a massive impact as Rosberg tonked Webber.
Lap 20 The Safety Car is out again. Hamilton up to third.
Lap 21 Vettel must be chuffed, although Alonso is by no means out of this race. None of the front runners has pitted yet.
Lap 22 Jenson Button is going to have to overtake somebody if he wants to keep his championship alive and profit from Webber’s retirement. Webber, of course, will be praying now for more rain so that full points are not awarded and the damage to his championship aspirations is minimised.
Lap 23 The big question now is whether and when they go for intermediates.
Lap 24 They are racing again, it’s been green-flagged. McLaren have to make their supposed wet weather superiority pay here. Senna and Trulli collide, and Trulli’s front wing now sits in the middle of the track. Everyone out here wants to race to 42 laps, the magic number which represents full points, so they don’t want another safety car.
Lap 26 Vettel is flying. He’s stretching a gap to Alonso, and Alonso is not slouching either. Hamilton is being left behind a bit by the two in front.
Lap 27 Those on inters, and there aren’t many, are really not as fast as those on wets. Schumacher passes Button with a great move! Meanwhile, Lucas di Grassi drops it trying to overtake Sakon Yamamoto and puts it in the wall.
Lap 28 It’s Vettel, Alonso, Hamilton, Massa, Schumacher, Button, Hulkenberg, Kubica, Barrichello, Sutil, Liuzzi, Alguersuari, Glock, Petrov, Buemi.
Lap 29 McLaren are putting inters on Jenson Button after seeing Nick Heidfeld set a reasonable time on the medium tyre. Button comes out behind a world of traffic, the poor sod.
Lap 30 Vettel is told that there’s more rain to come, so he’s not going to change.
Lap 31 Webber accepts “it was totally my fault.” Ouch! Buemi hits Glock after forgetting where the brake pedal is. Big crash. Safety Car out. Massa, Hamilton, Schumacher, and half the grid into the pits. Hamilton and Massa are back out on track in what seems like a flash.
Lap 32 Race leader Vettel pits. Alonso also pits, but has a problem with his right front…and Hamilton’s through! Vettel and Hamilton now, first and second. He’s right up there now thanks to the Safety Car. This could be entertaining. Turned out Alonso’s issue was a faulty wheel nut. Pesky.
Lap 34 Lewis is not happy with his tyres, and as they get under way it looks as though he’ll be defending….and Alonso’s already through, and Massa’s threatening! Hamilton went massively deep into Turn One, and lost out immediately to his great rival.
Lap 35 Heikki Kovalainen was speeding in the pit lane, and is punished accordingly with a drive through. Jenson Button is having a torrid time down in the field. Adrian Sutil takes him, and Button goes off, and he’s now down in 15th. He cannot afford to finish there.
Lap 36 It’s Vettel, Alonso, Hamilton, Massa, Schumacher, Barrichello, Petrov, Hulkenberg, Kubica, Liuzzi, Kobayashi, Sutil, Heidfeld, Alguersuari, Button, Kovalainen, Senna, Yamamoto.
Lap 38 Sutil goes off, trying to overtake Kobayashi. All his hard work undone.
Lap 39 Alonso is told to conserve his tyres. Hamilton, meanwhile, has just set the fastest lap. This isn’t over, and unhappily for Webber, it looks almost definite that full points will be won now.
Lap 41 Vitaly Petrov has had a massive crash at the final corner. A big slide that ends up with a big impact in the tyre wall. He is ok, and out the car, but it was another mistake in slippery conditions from the Russian rookie.
Lap 42 There doesn’t seem to be any sign of the Safety Car as a result of Petrov’s crash.
Lap 43 Alonso could really threaten Vettel here as we approach the final part of the race. They are not a million miles away from each other, the front three, and with half an hour of racing left and tyres falling off in a big way, it could yet be wheel-to-wheel.
Lap 44 “I cannot see anything in Turn One,” says Seb Vettel. He wouldn’t. What he wants is the race to end now, methinks. It is getting dark though, to be fair. I’m not sure we’ll get much more now.
Lap 46 Vettel’s engine blows! Great drama! Fernando Alonso takes the lead…what terrible luck for Red Bull and the German. Hamilton into second. Attritional stuff here.
Lap 47 Sutil. who has been combative all afternoon, spins trying to overtake Kobayashi and hits him. He’s out, although it looks like Kobayashi can continue.
Lap 48 Button is still trapped behind Toro Rossos and Saubers. It hasn’t been a great afternoon for the Englishman – evidence about what happens when tyre gambles don’t go so well.
Lap 49 Vettel walks disconsolately back to the pits. His mechanical failures have really cost him this season. Helmut Marko, the big boss, hugs Vettel as they meet in the pit lane.
Lap 50 We may well get 55 laps here, which is nice. The race has finally settled down after non-stop drama. Hamilton is losing buckets of time to leader Alonso, but as long as he gets to the end it won’t be a problem.
Lap 52 Hulkenberg pits. There is no grip out there. Button spins. Hamilton is fighting the car. The no-drama period didn’t last long. Alonso is still pushing, because quite rightly, he thinks that going quicker is paradoxically safer. Temperatures are kept up, etc. It is basically dark now, with three laps left.
Lap 54 Alguersuari and Hulkenberg are fighting like dogs over a bone over tenth place, the final point.
Lap 55 FERNANDO ALONSO WINS THE KOREAN GRAND PRIX
A superb effort from Alonso, who profited from the Red Bulls’ problems but nevertheless drove wonderfully to conserve his rubber in difficult conditions.
Hamilton comes in second, with Massa third. Michael Schumacher is a creditable fourth, with Kubica fifth, Liuzzi sixth, Barrichello seventh, Kobayashi eighth, Heidfeld ninth, Hulkenberg for the final point, Alguersuari 11th, Button 12th, Kovalainen 13th, Senna 14th, and Yamamoto the last of the finishers.
This leaves the championship beautifully poised, with Alonso leading it from Webber. No one is out of it yet, which is great.
That’s it from me, thanks for following.