x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Vettel will not let up steam in India

Five things we learnt in Korea: The performance of the Red Bull driver and his team was the mark of champions, and more.

A Red Bull crew member alerts Sebastian Vettel on Lewis Hamilton's status.
A Red Bull crew member alerts Sebastian Vettel on Lewis Hamilton's status.

1. Red Bull refuse to lose focus

With the Drivers' Championship wrapped up in Japan and the team's heads still spinning from the Suzuka celebrations, there were doubts whether Red Bull would arrive in Korea as focused as they had been the previous 15 races. Such doubts were laid to rest, however, as the Austrian marque comfortably claimed a second successive Constructors' Championship.

The performance at Korea International Circuit, in which Sebastian Vettel dominated from the third turn of the first lap, came after being outpaced by McLaren-Mercedes throughout practice and qualifying. The focus Vettel and his team showed on Sunday was the mark of champions, and proof that they have no intentions of letting their standards slip in the final few races of the season.

With India offering new territory and a new challenge for the team, they will be ready to dominate again and strengthen their following across the subcontinent.


2. Hamilton begins road to redemption

Lewis Hamilton has been fighting his rivals on the track and his inner demons off it. Having failed to finish on the podium in any of his past five grands prix, the Briton has cast a miserable figure in the F1 paddock. Constantly courted by controversy and roundly criticised for recent incidents involving Ferrari's Felipe Massa, the 26-year-old looked downcast even after securing pole for Sunday's race.

Hamilton's explanation was that qualifying was just a small step and winning on Sunday was what mattered. "This is business," he said - a far cry from the kind of language usually associated with the young man who has said in the past he lives only for racing and his family.

After finishing second behind a vastly superior Red Bull, he still did not appear overjoyed. His words were underwhelming and his face emotionless, yet when the McLaren press release appeared he was proclaiming "it's good to be back!". The 26-year-old clearly has issues; whether the result in Korea has banished them we will have to see, but it's without doubt a positive step in the road to recovery.


3. Petrov will face problems in India

Vitaly Petrov, following his shunt into the rear of Michael Schumacher, was given a reprimand from the race stewards and handed a five-place grid penalty for the next race in India. With all 24 drivers exploring new grounds at the Buddh International Circuit, starting near the back of the field is the last thing any driver would wish for.

The Russian, while racing Alonso, approached the turn too quick and missed the braking point; while Alonso ran wide, Petrov had left himself with little choice but to plough into the back of Schumacher's Mercedes. He can have few complaints about being cast the guilty party, but he may feel aggrieved by the penalty as the collision bore a marked resemblance to the seven-time world champion's shunt into the back of Sauber's Sergio Perez in Singapore, for which he was given only a reprimand.


4. Alguersuari hitting the right notes

Jaime Alguersuari has seen his debut album Organic Life reach No1 in his home country, but it is the noises he is making on track that will please his Toro Rosso bosses. The Spaniard is in a head-to-head battle with teammate Sebastian Buemi for a race seat next year, with Daniel Ricciardo confirmed to race for the Italian outfit in 2012.

At the final race in Brazil, whether it is Alguersuari or Buemi who is replaced in first practice by French rookie Jean-Eric Vergne will depend on who arrives in Sao Paulo with fewer points. Alguersuari went to Yeongam leading his stablemate and following what he called his "best" result on Sunday, he now leads the Swiss by seven points.

The 21-year-old punched above his car's weight once again to finish seventh, the highest placed runner behind the big three racing marques of Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari. So long as he can maintain that form in India and Abu Dhabi, it will almost certainly be Buemi who bids adieu in Brazil to his seat in F1.


5. Racing is growing - in the south.

Such is the remoteness of the southwestern county of Yeongam, home of the Korea International Circuit, that many Koreans in the northwest of the country had little idea the grand prix was even taking place. Justin Park, a resident of Seoul, said when asked if he was attending the Korean Grand Prix that he "thought the race was last year".

Following a wet Friday that appeared to attract few spectators, several thousand turned out for Saturday's qualifying session and more again appeared for Sunday's race. Organisers told The National they had sold 80 per cent of the 130,000 race tickets and when they published the official figures on Sunday evening, they listed the attendance for the day at 84,174. The weekend total, they said, was 160,236.

While such figures seem embellished, there is no denying a larger crowd than expected turned out. Packed stands sang the national anthem proudly and when Vettel bowed to them post-race, the cheers emanated throughout the paddock. If the race can be marketed further north it can go from strength to strength.



Follow The National Sport on @SprtNationalUAE & Gary Meenaghan on @GMeenaghan