With five races to go in the 2012 season, the Formula 1 teams had found their way to Korea and the Yeongam Korea International Circuit this weekend. There have been a few interesting things happening in Formula 1 lately, mostly related to driver’s changing seats ahead of the 2013 season: Lewis Hamilton will leave McLaren, where he has spent all of his F1 career so far, and move to Mercedes. The result is that Michael Schumacher is retiring from F1 (again). And it’s about time, the guy is 43 years old now, and it’s time to drop out and let a younger driver in (again).
Sergio Perez will leave Sauber and take Hamilton’s seat in McLaren. Perez has done a great job in Sauber and the move to McLaren could prove to be a great career boost for him. It will also be very interesting to see what Hamilton can do in Mercedes. The 2012 car has been competitive at times, but not good enough to consistently compete with the top teams. Mercedes is currently fifth in the constructor championship, 119 points behind Lotus-Renault.
In Korea, Red Bull filled the front row on the starting grid, with Mark Webber on pole position and Sebastian Vettel second on the grid. The Korean circuit is not used for anything but F1 races and as a result, the outside of the start-finish lane is usually quite dirty. On the plus side, the everyone on the dirty side has the shortest distance to go through the first corner, something Vettel took advantage of during the start when he passed Webber. Through the first corner we were all wondering who Romain Grosjean would crash into, but amazingly he didn’t hit anyone. Instead, it was Kamui Kobayashi who hit Jenson Button on the first lap, forcing Button to retire with a smashed up front right tire. Kamui simply braked to late. Did he get a little bit too eager after this podium finish in Japan last weekend? Kamui was rewarded with a drive through penalty for the incident with Button and the Japanese also had to retire himself later in the race
After a few fierce laps, with Red Bulls and Toro Rossos fighting thir respective team mates, everything calmed down a little. Nico Rosberg retired early and Lewis Hamilton complained time and time again about the car over the team radio: Tire degradation, lost down force and a nervous car. Hamilton finished 10th, and with Button retiring on the first lap, this was not a good day for McLaren.
Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo, on the other hand, had a very good day; moving from 21st to 9th. In the end, Red Bull brought home a one-two victory with Vettel in front of Webber. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso finished third. Felipe Massa, also driving for Ferrari, probably could have tried to overtake Alonso, but was clearly told on the team radio to stay back. Alonso has a very real chance to win the championship and there’s no way Ferrari will allow Massa to screw that up. Hang in there, Massa! With the performance in the last two races, it’s likely that he will keep his seat in Ferrari in 2013 and then it’s a new season with clean sheets.
The championship is pretty damn tight this year, compared to last year. There are four races left and anything can happen. One of the races is on a completely new track, on the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas. None of the drivers have every raced a lap on the track, and it’s going to be an exciting race. Very exciting, indeed.