x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Red Bull clinch constructors' title with Vettel win in Korea Grand Prix

World champion wins his 20th grand prix to help his team to the constructors' championship with McLaren's Lewis Hamilton second and Mark Webber third.

Sebastian Vettel, did not start on pole, but soon took control of the lead in Korea to clinch his 20th grand prix win which helped Red Bull Racing to the constructors' championship.
Sebastian Vettel, did not start on pole, but soon took control of the lead in Korea to clinch his 20th grand prix win which helped Red Bull Racing to the constructors' championship.

YEONGAM, SOUTH KOREA // As microcosms go, Sunday's Korean Grand Prix almost perfectly encapsulated the Formula One season so far.

There was wheel-to-wheel racing, there was a tightly packed trio of drivers challenging each other for position and there was Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull coasting to another comfortable victory.

The German driver, who secured his second successive drivers' title last week in Japan, sailed past the chequered flag here 12 seconds ahead of the McLaren-Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, while teammate Mark Webber finished third just 0.4 seconds further back.

The Red Bull Racing pair, in outscoring Hamilton and his McLaren teammate, Jenson Button, also claimed back-to-back constructors' titles.

"Obviously, after winning the Drivers' Championship last weekend and the Constructors' Championship for the team this week, it's fantastic," Vettel said.

"It's good to see the whole team keeps pushing because in terms of preparation it wasn't ideal. I think most of us were [exhilarated] after the win last Sunday night."

Vettel said it was particularly fitting to claim the constructors' title in Korea following the disaster the team endured last year when both he and Webber were forced to retire.

While Webber had spun out after 19 laps, Vettel had been staring at a certain victory when his car suffered problems with its Renault-powered engine.

The inaugural Korean Grand Prix remains his last retirement.

Christian Horner, the Red Bull team principal, said the victory "absolutely makes up for last year and our disappointment here", while Vettel added: "As a team we showed a lot of morale after the engine failure to come back and still win the championship last year. And this year Renault have been faultless; the engine has been working fantastically well."

Sunday, under a moody grey sky, Vettel enjoyed a far more pleasant afternoon.

Were it not for his RB7 starting in second place on the grid behind Hamilton, as opposed to the customary pole where he had begun 12 of the previous 15 contests, the race would have been a flawless example of how this year's world championship has unravelled: Vettel coasting to success as his challengers fought dramatically among themselves.

Look past the German in the drivers' standings and only 26 points separate the top four drivers.

Yet the two-time world champion's victory at the Korea International Circuit was arguably one of his most dominant during a season that has now seen him win 10 races from a possible 16.

Early in the first lap, he leapfrogged Hamilton and he never had to look in his rear-view mirrors for the remaining 101 minutes - which means he missed a real show, for the action going on a few seconds behind him was, as ever, highly entertaining. Hamilton, Webber and Button enjoyed a titanic battle for runner-up.

With five laps remaining only 1.5 seconds separated the trio, and Webber at one point passed Hamilton only to be overtaken moments later.

McLaren's beleaguered Briton was resolute though, impressively holding off the quicker Red Bull to defend his position and stand on the podium for the first time since he won the German Grand Prix in July.

"This was one of my strongest races of the season," Hamilton said.

"There was so much pressure from Mark behind and it would have been so easy to make a mistake, lock up or go wide - but I'm really satisfied that I didn't do so once. I believe that withstanding pressure is the mark of a world champion, and I think I showed that in the race."

Webber said he was disappointed not to get second after a drawn out fight that saw him and Hamilton exchange "haymakers, full on into each other".

Vettel said that while the drivers are more focused on the title he won last week at Suzuka, "for the team, it's the other way around: it's the Constructors' Championship; to know where they match with the other teams.

"It's difficult for everyone to imagine what winning the Constructors' Championship means for the factory. It's a boost, but it's much more than that. It [let's them] know where they match with the other teams and to win back-to-back is outstanding. I think there will be a little bit of a bonus for them, too, so they'll be happy."

As the paddock packed up for the journey to India for the subcontinent's inaugural race, the Red Bull crew sported black T-shirts with gold lettering spelling out what has seemed inevitable for the past month: "Red Bull Racing: 2011 Formula One World Champions".

 

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

 

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