For those of you who missed the Korean GP, Fernando Alonso won the delayed and rain-hit race from Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa, allowing him to take the championship lead. Both Red Bulls failed to finish the race, with Mark Webber crashing out on the 17th lap and Sebastian Vettel retiring of engine failure ten laps from the end of the race. The other title contender, Jenson Button, finished a lowly 12th, out of the points and seemingly out of contention.
The title standings with two races to go:
1. Alonso, 231 points
2. Webber, 220 points
3. Hamilton, 210 points
4. Vettel, 206 points
5. Button, 189 points
And some personal points/observations:
- In my last post, I mentioned how Fernando Alonso was beginning to look like a good bet for the title. Much as I hate to blow my own trumpet, it appears to be coming true. He's certainly got the form for it- three wins in the last four races, six podiums in the last seven. The Ferrari also looks to be a competitive force at Interlagos, the next race, so there's a good chance for Fernando to put his title rivals even more under pressure. At the same time, Felipe Massa's podium was a good way for him to bounce back from a nightmare weekend at Suzuka, and it will be him that will play the most critical role in his home race next Sunday.
- Most of the predictions of Red Bull's dominance failed to take into account the team's unreliability, particularly in the case of Vettel. After problems with the car cost him wins in Bahrain and Australia, the engine blowup in Korea made for a sorry hat-trick, and one which has probably cost him the title. Something to think about is: had he won all three races mentioned above, he would have had the chance to wrap up the title in Brazil next week. Instead he has to come from way behind, and with team-mate Webber also in the hunt, it'll be hard to see which driver they will favour.
- As for Webber himself, his mistake was only the second retirement of the season, but simply could not have happened at a worse time. More importantly, the crash was a pretty amatuerish mistake to make, even in wet conditions, and is the sort of thing that may well knock the confidence of someone whose championship challenge has been the most based on reliability. At least he comes to Brazil knowing that he's got a good chance of winning, having done so last year.
- It was a mixed weekend for McLaren, whose car seems the slowest of the three championship contenders,but who had a lot more luck than either of the others. Although Hamilton effectively threw away his chances of victory by going off and allowing Alonso to pass him, it was inevitable he would have got through anyway, so it didn't make too much difference. Either way, second is a great result to get him back into the thick of the fight. Button, on the other hand, completely chose the wrong tyres, but even without that struggled in conditions he normally excels in. It seems extremely likely now that Jenson will be handing his title over, perhaps even in Brazil, the venue he won the title last year.
- Mercedes got the better of Renault in the battle for fourth in the constructors' championship, with Michael Schumacher again impressing in fourth- the Rainmaster loving both the Korean track and the adverse weather conditions. Team-mate Nico Rosberg was unlucky to be caught up in Webber's crash early on, as it seemed like he would be on for a decent finish as well. As for the Renaults, Kubica's fifth was somewhat disappointing after he was quick in practice, while another crash for Vitaly Petrov has marked his card even further as he goes for a race seat in 2011.
- There were also good races for BMW Sauber (8th and 9th) and Williams (7th and 10th), and a great drive from Tonio Liuzzi for Force India to take 6th, his best result of the season. The form of the team has tailed off significantly after a promising start, so it was good to see them taking decent points for the first time in quite a while.
- Finally, the first race at the Yeongnam track, still being finished as the race was being held, wasn't too bad. OK, so there may have been teething problems, like fans trying to get into the track an hour after the official race start (although the one-hour delay caused by the extremely wet conditions did aid them somewhat), but for a track that was reportedly very close to not being ready to host even a go-kart race, the organisation was good, as was the racing, although of course it may well have been different in the dry. The rain conditions, coupled with the already slippery track surface, brought good racing, but the driver's refusal to drive in the early, monsoon-like conditions may well have been right on balance, even if it did lead to questions about the finish of the race, which happened under darkening sunset conditions.