4th October 2010
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
On 24th October 2010, Fernando Alonso won the Korean Grand Prix. Victory in the race at Yeongam, along with both Red Bulls of Webber and Vettel retiring, meant the Spaniard found himself leading the Drivers’ championship, having completed a climb up the order that, at Silverstone, had seemed impossible. Unfortunately, the finale, on that black night in Abu Dhabi, would not be a happy one for the Spaniard or the Scuderia.
The race was affected by rain which meant the track was barely driveable because of the amount of water on track and also because of the lack of visibility, to the extent that the start was delayed and then took place behind the Safety Car. After just three laps, the red flag came out and it took fifty minutes before a second restart, again behind the Safety Car staying in front of the pack until lap 17. On lap 18, Rosberg passed Hamilton and, next time round came the first major incident: Webber lost control of his car, hit the barriers and bounced back onto the track, swipng the innocent Mercedes driver, after Fernando had managed to dodge round him. The race immediately had to be neutralised again and this time it lasted to lap 23. On lap 25 the order was as follows: Vettel leading Fernando by 2.5, followed by Hamilton at 5.3, Felipe at 7.5, Button at 9.1 and Schumacher at 10.3. On lap 27, the former Ferrari man overtook the reigning world champion who, clearly in difficulty, decided to pit, switching from extreme wets to intermediates.
On lap 30, Buemi crashed into Glock and once again the Safety Car came into play. Vettel and Fernando missed the chance to pit immediately, but all their closest followers did, starting with Hamilton and Felipe. The two leaders came in on lap 31: while the German had no problems, the same could not be said of the Spaniard, who lost precious seconds and was thus passed by Hamilton. The restart came on lap 35 and Fernando immediately took back second place, forcing the English McLaren driver into making a mistake who braked late into Turn 1. Now began the most interesting part of the race, with the front runners having to deal with a track that was drying slowly, at least on the racing line, with the risk of the intermediate tyres wearing out rapidly: whoever did the best job of managing the situation would have the best chance of winning. The front four took turns at posting purple times, all running with six to eight seconds of one another. On lap 45 came a second dramatic moment: Vettel’s engine began to show signs of failing at the start of the pit straight and blew up completely before Turn 1, forcing the German to park his Red Bull on the longest straight on the track. Fernando thus had a clear road ahead of him and proved he had done the best job of managing the tyres: his lead over Hamilton went form 1.4 to 5.4 in seven laps before the Englishman gave up the chase (+10.8 on lap 53. Felipe was also struggling but his third place was now safe given that Schumacher had to cope with the tyres that were now finished. Fernando backed off only in the final two laps and crossed the line almost 15 seconds ahead of Hamilton.
“First and foremost, keep calm and carry on!” said Domenicali after the race. “Today was a fantastic dat which has turned around the situation in the Drivers’ championship and which has, if only partly, opened up the Constructors’ classification again, but we are well aware that the most difficult part starts now. There are two races to go: we will have to tackle them with the same fierce determination which has allowed us to come back from a situation many thought was impossible. I have already said so many times before, but I want to repeat it again today; what matters the most in final part of the season is the mindset of the team and the drivers, reliability and concentration. This weekend, we have shown we can do it, even in very tricky conditions like those we had today.”