Sebastian Vettel claimed yet another dominant victory in Korea and by doing so took the lead in the Drivers' Championship.
Vettel clinched his third successive victory - and fourth of the season - in dominant fashion in Korea on Sunday where no-one, not even his own team-mate, could compete with him.
The 25 points put the German at the top of the Drivers' standings where he now leads Fernando Alonso by six points as the Ferrrai driver could only manage third. Fourth place went to Felipe Massa despite the Brazilian making it clear in the latter stages that he was quicker than his Spanish team-mate.
It was a miserable race for the McLaren team with Jenson Button being taken out at Turn 3 by Kamui Kobayashi and Lewis Hamilton suffering a suspected suspension element failure that dropped fim from fourth place to tenth at the flag.
It was hazy low sun over the Yeongam circuit, with no chance of rain, as the drivers came round on the parade lap with the ambient temperature at 21C and the track at 24C.
Seven rows of grid:
1.Webber, 2.Vettel, 3.Hamilton, 4.Alonso, 5.Raikkonen, 6.Massa, 7.Grosjean, 8.Hulkenberg, 9.Rosberg, 10.Schumacher, 11.Button, 12.Perez, 13.Kobayashi, 14.DiResta
As the lights went out Mark Webber got more wheel spin on pole than team-mate Vettel in P2 and despite there only being 200 metres to the first turn Vettel managed to get the inside line and lead through Turn 1.
Behind them, Lewis Hamilton got an even better start than the pair of Red Bulls and looked to head between the two just as the gap closed. Fernando Alonso starting from P4 went outside and then switched to the inside of Hamilton between Turns 1 and 2 and was able to use that edge all the way up the straight to Turn 3, a great bit of car positioning.
Vettel was ahead of Webber all the way up the long straight but could hear his engine to his left. As they hit the braking zone for Turn 3 Mark Webber was alongside him but out of position on the outside so Vettel moved across and took the place and had saved enough KERS to keep ahead for Turn 4.
Turn 3 was an almighty sort-out but showed the skill of the front six drivers - Vettel, Webber, Alonso, Hamilton, Raikkonen and Massa - as they entered the braking zone sometimes three abreast.
Further back, the manouvering wasn't so skilful. Jenson Button had already avoided a tap from Sergio Perez who tried to take Turn 1 at an impossibly tight angle and almost hit his 2013 team-mate. Then on the long drag down to Turn 3 Button was sizing up outbraking Nico Rosberg who was alongside him when Kamui Kobayashi lost control and hit both Rosberg and Button hard.
Rosberg was able to continue for a lap but Button's right front wheel was now deranged at an angle and he couldn't continue. Kobayashi's front wing was damaged but he could continue back to the pits. Grosjean managed to stay clear of everyone.
Raikkonen wanted to get past Lewis Hamilton into Turn 4 and Lewis pushed him out wide losing the Lotus momentum, so much so that Felipe Massa was able to get past the Finn into P5 at Turn 5. Raikkonen tried to hold the line into the following corner but the Ferrari was already through.
Positions at the end of Lap 1:
1.Vettel, 2.Webber, 3.Alonso, 4.Hamilton, 5.Massa, 6.Raikkonen, 7.Hulkenberg, 8.Grosjean, 9.Perez, 10.Schumacher, 11.DiResta, 12.Senna, 13.Maldonado, 14.Rosberg
There was little movement in the early stages when the cars were close, because the DRS zone was neutralised by waved yellow flags as Nico Rosberg's car - which had stopped on the long back straight on Lap 2 - was craned away slowly. By Lap 8 Kobayashi had been given a predictable drive-through penalty, although he was already in last place.
When the DRS was finally enabled on Lap 9 Kimi was suddenly 0.4 quicker in S1. At the front the Red Bulls weren't running away with the race, but they were edging clear. On Lap 10 Mark Webber put in the fastest lap and a lap later it was Sebastian Vettel's turn.
Lewis Hamilton had managed to stay clear of Felipe Massa despite the Ferrari driver edging into the DRS zone and on Lap 13 he was first to dive into the pitlane for a scheduled pit-stop, followed in by Hulkenberg, Grosjean and Schumacher.
A lap later and it was Mark Webber, Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen in for untroubled stops, and then on Lap 15 it was Vettel and Alonso. There were no passes for position as a result of the stops although Alonso exited the pitlane alongside the yet-to-stop Sergio Perez and both raced up to Turn 3 side by side. Alonso managed to outbrake the Sauber and the following Lewis Hamilton got past Perez soon after.
Sergio Perez might have had thoughts about making his soft tyres last a lot longer but by Lap 18 he was losing a lot of time. On that lap he dropped 1.5 seconds in Sector 2 alone and was straight into the pits. The many predictions that some teams might be one-stopping were very soon put to rest.
Positions at the end of Lap 20:
1.Vettel, 2.Webber, 3.Alonso, 4.Hamilton, 5.Massa, 6.Raikkonen, 7.Hulkenberg, 8.Grosjean, 9.Maldonado (not stopped) 10.Schumacher, 11.Ricciardo, 12.DiResta, 13.Perez
On Lap 20 Lewis Hamilton suddenly looked to be struggling. He had closed up on Alonso after the first stops but then the gap started to go out and he was a second a lap slower than the cars around him. After the race it was diagnosed that it was a possible rear anti-roll bar failure.
Hamilton wasn't able to resist Felipe Massa for very long and was soon under pressure from a very patient Kimi Raikkonen, who clearly couldn't hang on to the pace of the two Ferraris in front of Hamilton. On Lap 23 Hamilton was able to push Kimi wide around the outside of Turn 3 after the DRS zone. On Lap 24 Kimi got past Lewis into Turn 3 and then Lewis fought back with a KERS boost up the inside taking the place back into Turn 4. The battle was only settled when Lewis headed into the pits on Lap 26 for more tyres.
In front of him things weren't looking good for Mark Webber in the second stint, something not really picked up by the TV feed. Webber was significantly slower than Vettel, Alonso and Massa. On Lap 23 these three did 36.3 in the first sector while Mark could only manage a 36.7. The gap from Webber to Alonso came down from 3.0 on lap 20, to 2.6, to 2.3, to 1.6, and then 1.3 on Lap 24.
Alonso hovered just out of DRS range while the TV cameras focused on the likely sparks between Raikkonen and Hamilton. Then on lap 26 Mark started to show a bigger advantage in the second sector and the gap started to go out to 1.8 and then 2.2 and then 2.3 and the crisis seemed to have passed. By Lap 28 Mark was putting in the fastest lap of the race but by that stage Vettel was nine seconds up the road.
Nico Hulkenberg was enjoying a race-long battle with Romain Grosjean and the Lotus driver was having difficulty trying to find a way past into Turn 3. On Laps 29 and 30 it was close, but Hulkenberg had the craft to elude him and use his KERS to keep ahead despite the DRS favouring the car behind.Massa was right up there in touch with Alonso all of the race and just 12 seconds covered the front four on Lap 31 while there was another 11 seconds back to Raikkonen and 17.5 back to the Hulkenberg vs Grosjean battle. Hamilton, having stopped much earlier than the others, had yet to take places back.
Mark Webber and Nico Hulkenberg then pitted for the second time on Lap 32, Alonso on Lap 34, Massa, Vettel and Raikkonen on Lap 35. On new tyres Grosjean finally got past Hulkenberg but was under pressure, as evidenced by a rallycross moment where he crossed the grass and went straight on in the final kink on Lap 34.
Positions at the end of Lap 36:
1.Vettel, 2.Webber, 3.Alonso, 4.Massa, 5.Raikkonen, 6.Hamilton, 7.Vergne (one stop), 8.Grosjean, 9.Hulkenberg, 10.Ricciardo, 11.Schumacher, 12.DiResta, 13.Perez
On Lap 37 Vettel had a lead of 6.8 seconds from Mark Webber who was 4.5 ahead of Fernando Alonso, who was only 1.4 seconds in front of Felipe Massa. At this stage of the race Massa's Ferrari looked so quick that it was capable of catching the second Red Bull - on Lap 37 Massa put in a 1:42.689 to Alonso's 1:44.192.
Felipe Massa duly got the warning call from engineer Rob Smedley "Felipe, you're bit too close to Fernando, back off to a couple of seconds."
Hamilton still held on to sixth place but in some cases was two seconds a lap slower than Grosjean. The McLaren looked like a sitting target but when Grosjean tried a move round the outside at Turn 3 on Lap 40, Hamilton ran him off the track. The Lotus driver couldn't make the overtaking move stick as it had been off-track (like Vettel in Germany) and as they both shaped up for Turn 4 Nico Hulkenberg drove around the outside of them both, Hamilton pushed him onto the kerbs, but there was too much of the Force India to push him all the way and then Hulkenberg had the line for Turn 5. The move of the race.
Now fully engaged in proceedings again Lewis put in a personal best lap time before pitting for his third set of tyres on Lap 42. He set off after Jean-Eric Vergne on a set of supersoft tyres but such was the straightline speed advantage of the Toro Rosso that even with DRS Lewis couldn't get close enough going into Turn 3. Vergne caught and passed the struggling Daniel Ricciardo, but just as Hamilton looked to take advantage in the final few laps he hooked up a piece of torn Astroturf to the sidepod and trailed it around to the flag.
The front seven positions didn't change between Lap 41 to the flag on Lap 55. Despite being asked to back off, Felipe Massa was only 1.2 behind Alonso on lap 42. Massa was heard to be asking about Mark Webber's lap times but was obliged to drop back. (Last year he finished in front of Alonso)
The final ten laps of the race was filled with worries over the state of the tyres and in particular Sebastian Vettel's tendency to go for fastest lap at the close. His team thought that the tyre taking the most load, the right front, might go at any second and his engineer, Rocky, told him this repeatedly. "Sebastian, I'm sorry to be on your case but you will not know till it's too late!"
As it was, the man who had stopped for tyres earlier, Mark Webber, rained on Seb's parade by putting in the fastest lap on the penultimate lap, a 1:42.037 to edge the gap out to Alonso to 6.6 seconds. Seb countered with a personal best on his final lap but it was a long way off fastest. The new World Championship leader told Adrian Newy afterwards that if he backed off and let the tyres go cold he got problems as well.
Vettel came across the line for his third win of the 2012 season in a row, having led all three Korean grands prix from 2010 to 2012 with the exception of 12 laps (when he retired in 2010). Mark Webber took second with Alonso third and Massa an easy fourth, a country mile clear of Raikkonen in fifth, Hulkenberg in sixth and an intact Grosjean in seventh.
Lewis Hamilton, complete with Astroturf, couldn't catch Vergne in eighth or Ricciardo in ninth but managed to fend off Perez to hold onto 10th. Probably not the result he was expecting when he was sat on the grid and a lot of hard work with a "nervous" car that looked a problem to drive.
Although the momentum is with the Red Bull team and Vettel, the race pace of the revised Ferrari F2012 showed that they are not far away and Felipe Massa will certainly be wearing red in 2013. The same might not be said of Kamui Kobayashi.
01. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1h36:28.651
02. Webber Red Bull-Renault + 8.200
03. Alonso Ferrari + 13.900
04. Massa Ferrari + 20.100
05. Raikkonen Lotus-Renault + 36.700
06. Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes + 45.300
07. Grosjean Lotus-Renault + 54.800
08. Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1:09.500
09. Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1:11.700
10. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes + 1:19.600
11. Perez Sauber-Ferrari + 1:20.000
12. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes + 1:24.400
13. Schumacher Mercedes + 1:29.200
14. Maldonado Williams-Renault + 1:34.900
15. Senna Williams-Renault + 1:36.900
16. Petrov Caterham-Renault + 1 lap
17. Kovalainen Caterham-Renault + 1 lap
18. Glock Marussia-Cosworth + 1 lap
19. Pic Marussia-Cosworth + 2 lap2
20. Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth + 2 laps
Did Not Finish
Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 17
Rosberg Mercedes 2
Button McLaren-Mercedes 1