By Alex Kapadia
Newly-crowned Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel stormed to victory at the Korean Grand Prix today after the Red Bull team got the tyres strategy spot on.
And Mark Webber’s third place also clinched the Constructions’ Championship for the Milton Keynes-based team for the second year in a row.
All the teams went into the race facing plenty of unanswered questions relating to tyres because wet weather meant they only had one hour of dry running during the two days of practice to assess the performance of the Pirelli P Zero slick tyres on different fuel loads before qualifying and the race.
The Red Bull duo of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber adopted an unusual strategy during qualifying by running exclusively on the P Zero Red supersoft tyres in order to save the P Zero Yellow soft tyres for the race. By contrast, McLaren and Ferrari opted to save as many sets of the P Zero Red supersoft tyres as possible.
Vettel however used the supersoft tyre for his first two stints before taking the soft tyre for the final stint, meaning that he did not need to use his full allocation of tyres to win the race by 12.0s.
Webber finished third after a race-long battle with McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, who qualified on pole for the first time this year and finished second: his first podium since winning the German Grand Prix this year.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s motorsport director, said: “Although we deliberately opted for a bold tyre choice at this race, and the teams had little data to go on due to the weather on Friday, we immediately saw the supersoft tyre lasting for more than 10 laps at the beginning of the race on full fuel and the soft tyre for more than 20 laps.
“It was clear that the track had evolved a lot in a short space of time, and we knew straight from the first round of stops that we were now looking at a two-stop strategy, which was certainly at the lower end of our expectations.
“There were a number of different tyre strategies at work, but in the end the drivers kept up a very good pace on both compounds – with Vettel setting the fastest lap of the race on the final lap with the soft tyres – despite some people predicting four stops or more and significant degradation before the grand prix started.”