Continued the great race pace seen since the summer break, and confirmed the constructors championship. Vettel took it very easy for the first few laps, and with no signs of bad tyre degradation pushed on to show his pace was 0.5s faster than anyone else’s. Stayed on options for the second stint, and with Hamilton and Webber battling was able to cruise to the end for another win. Webber never seemed as comfortable on the options, and was a full 0.5s quicker on the primes, giving him a slight pace advantage over Hamilton. The McLaren stopped early enough to prevent the undercut, but Webber still nearly made it past on the out lap. Perhaps could have gone long and tried to pass the McLaren on fresher tyres, but a podium nevertheless.
The return of Lewis Hamilton. Pole, and a great drive to second place. Always a couple of tenths up on his team-mate, but did not have the pace of the Red Bulls, especially on the prime tyres. Button had a more eventful race, dropping to eighth, and passing Rosberg twice in the opening 16 laps. Jumped the Ferraris when they hit massive degradation on the options before the first stops and then had a quiet race to fourth. Never really in danger from Alonso, despite being about 0.6s slower as Alonso had fresher tyres.
An eventful race for the red cars. Disaster at the first stops as both cars hit the cliff – Alonso doing two slow laps as Massa was ahead, so pitted first, losing him a total of 10s and dropping him behind Petrov and Schumacher, as well as Button and Rosberg. Petrov removed Schumacher and Rosberg removed himself by flatspotting his tyres. Once free, the Ferraris lapped very quickly at the end of the second stint, and a slow stop for Massa (and quick laps from Alonso) allowed the Spaniard past. Alonso was quicker than Massa, but the underlying pace difference was only 0.2s based on the final stint; a further 0.3s came from the fresher tyres from the later stop. Had Alonso got past earlier, it’s difficult to see that it would have made any difference.
As fast as the Ferraris on the option tyre, the Mercedes were looking strong. Then Schumacher was assaulted and Rosberg never looked as convincing on the primes. Rooted his tyres defending from Massa and made his final stop at about half-distance. Took it very easy on the tyres in the first part of the final stint, matching his pace to Alguersuari to make sure he was ahead after the Toro Rosso stopped. Then pushed harder, and gained from the fact that he had kept the tyres in good condition, but didn’t quite have enough left at the flag (probably fuel – there are no signs of tyre issues in the data) and lost seventh on the final lap.
Stuck at the back of the midfield. This time they were joined by Sauber, and Barrichello was jumped by both of the Swiss cars at the first stops. Was slower than them on pace, and slower than his team mate as well, but finished first of this group as he had a trouble free run. Maldonado was reasonably quick, but got himself a drivethrough for hitting a bollard, and then retired.
Petrov is turning into a bit of an enigma. Horrible in Singapore, he was quick at Suzuka and quick here, splitting the Mercedes on pace in the first stint. After the stops, distracted by racing the delayed Alonso, he missed a braking point and hit Schumacher. A shame, as a big result was on but he earned a grid penalty instead. Senna was 0.5s slower (more on the option) and got stuck at the back of the midfield at the start. Showed a little pace in the middle of the race, but never really recovered.
The Indian cars were within 2s of the ultimate pace, but with Petrov and the Toro Rossos even faster, Di Resta did very well to pick up a point. The Scot was passed by Alguersuari in the first stint and the other Toro Rosso in the final stint. Used an early last stop to get ahead of his team mate, and hung on easily as the tyres lasted well. Sutil started on primes, and went longer in the first stint, stopping under the safety car and passing Di Resta using his newer tyres in the second stint. Didn’t quite have the pace to match his team mate and finished just behind.
A bad race for Sauber. The team which has spent the year being the best on the tyres was the only team to three stop in Korea – and that was enforced as the cars just ate their front tyres. Perez was about a match for the Force Indias on pace, but Kobayashi was again a few tenths adrift. The fact that Perez tyres gave up so badly in the last stint that he stopped with two to go sums up their race. They just got this one wrong.
When they get qualifying right, this team is a threat. The only team to set consistent long stint times on Friday and Saturday morning, they will have known that this was a two stop race, and that they had good pace. Alguersuari was as quick as the Mercedes in the first stint, and had passed both Force Indias on the track by lap six to lay claim to a points place. Petrov took care of himself and one Mercedes, and Alguersuari hunted down the second Mercedes in the final stint, gaining an excellent seventh place on the final lap. Buemi was about 0.5s down on his team mate for pace, but this still made him faster than the Force Indias. He also had a spectacular first stint, passing both Williams and both Saubers. Had sufficient pace to stop later than Sutil and still get past, and chased down Di Resta in the final stint to claim ninth. A fantastic result.
Within 3s of the ultimate pace here, and getting uncomfortably close to Williams, but still about 0.7s off the pace needed to score points. It is worth noticing that Kovalainen lost a mere 10s to Barrichello in the final 30 laps of the race, and some of that was due to being lapped. Finished ahead of the Saubers, although the Swiss cars did beat themselves. Trulli was not happy with the steering once more, and was a few tenths down on his Finnish team mate on the options, but struggled on the prime tyre and finished over half a minute adrift.
Ricciardo threatened it before, and here he beat a Virgin on pace – indeed he overtook D’Ambrosio on track in the second stint. Could match Glock, but lost more time being lapped and finished the best part of 10s behind. Expect him to beat both Virgins in a race by the end of the season. Liuzzi had a first lap stop, and never really recovered. A full second down on pace again, he will be making way for Karthikeyan in India. Will he be back?
Glock was much the faster (by about 0.7s) of the two Virgin drivers, and it was a good job too as Virgin just kept their noses in front of HRT. D’Ambrosio was disappointing, although given how well Glock went in Korea last year it may be partly due to having a team mate who excels at this circuit.