Preserving his tyres key to Alonso’s victory (Korean Grand Prix analysis)

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How well drivers looked after their intermediate tyres was decisive for the outcome of the Korean Grand Prix.

In an earlier wet race at Shanghai drivers pitted for fresh sets of intermediate tyres. But this time most of them chose not to, toughing it out to the end of the race, some coping far better than others.

Pit stops

Pit stops

The timing of the third safety car period was crucial. This was when most drivers changed from full wet to intermediate tyres (laps 31 and 32 on the chart above).

It left most of them trying to nurse a single set of intermediate tyres for over 20 laps. Some driver/car combinations fared better than others. The Williams drivers struggled: Nico Hulkenberg went off and decided to change to a fresh set of intermediates. Rubens Barrichello also lost a lot of time.

Felipe Massa began to struggle on lap 46 and Lewis Hamilton’s lap times dipped slightly around the same time, then more severely over the final laps (perhaps aware that he now had a healthy margin over Massa).

With few laps to go, the race clock running down and Hulkenberg not lapping much quicker on his new tyres, no-one else gambled on a late pit stop.

Fernando Alonso was singularly impressive at this point: at times he was over two seconds faster than anyone else in the track, having preserved his tyres brilliantly.

Whether Sebastian Vettel could have done the same is, sadly, something we never got to find out.

Read more: Korean Grand Prix fastest laps

Race progress

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Jenson Button’s pit stop on lap 28 must have been driven by a desire to get off full wets and onto intermediates.

Had they been able to postpone it they surely would have waited two more laps until the group of cars held up behind Timo Glock had dropped further back.

This was the point Button’s race unravelled. The safety car period moments later meant he wasn’t able to gain many places from the cars in front of him when they pitted. Then Sutil steamed down the inside of him at turn five and he lost more ground.

Finally, his early switch to intermediates meant he suffered even more badly with tyre wear at the end. This was a far cry from his well-judged calls in tricky conditions at Melbourne and Shanghai.

Lap chart

Lap chart

The first 17 laps were spent behind the safety car which explains why there’s no ‘lap 1 position change’ chart in this week’s post-race analysis.

Once the race got started there were some notable passes including each of the Mercedes picking off one of the McLarens: Nico Rosberg on Hamilton and Michael Schumacher on Button.

Adrian Sutil had a busy race too: going off at the start, passing and then being passed by Kobayashi, taking Jaime Alguersuari, and finally colliding with Kobayashi.

With five laps to go Williams looked set to finish fifth and sixth, bagging a useful 18 points and moving ahead of Force India in the constructors’ championship. But it all went wrong as both their drivers had off-track moment and Hulkenberg made an extra pit stop.

That allowed Vitantonio Liuzzi past both to extend Force India’s championship lead over them by a single point.

2010 Korean Grand Prix

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    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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    91 comments on “Preserving his tyres key to Alonso’s victory (Korean Grand Prix analysis)”

    1. I Clearly don’t think Alonso got the Win Preserving his Tyres….i think he got the win because of Red Bull’s Unreliability…..
      i don’t think he would have overtaken Vettel and even would have risked making a move that desperately…its just a gift to him…

      1. True,noone is denying this.
        But this could be said in a positive tone too. Why should someone risk overtaking a faster car in wet conditions.

        This topic is more ragarding the fact that had Hamilton not gone wide, Alonso wud have gone past him anyhow.

      2. is Vettel’s particularly unreliable when he’s under pressure? or what’s the matter with him? it’s just too much bad luck.

        Right after the 42nd lap (i.e. full points for the race) he started to say it was getting too dark. I can understand that, but didn’t show a lot of confidence.

        1. RBs unreliability is worse with Vettel than Webber. Maybe Vettel pushes the car & engine too hard? Alonso takes it ever so slightly steadier and brings his car home. Maybe if he had pushed it as hard as Vettel *he* would have got pole, led the race, and blown up through such tactics. The fastest guy to finish wins the race (team orders aside!). Good job Fernando. End of.

          1. I doubt that Vettel actually does much significantly different to any other driver, I mean, surely a Rookie is more likely to actually damage his own car… If Vettel was doing anything significantly wrong, I’d imagine the Red Bull engineers talking quietly to him until the problem goes away that way.

            I reckon it’s just bad luck on his part.

        2. The theory is that Vettel was saying it was too dark because he knew his engine was going to give up, hence the counter-punch of Hamilton declaring everything was fine.

          Hulkenberg had a slow puncture which made his late stop necessary.

          1. dyslexicbunny
            25th October 2010, 15:26

            Exactly. I’m betting that Red Bull knew there was an engine problem and wanted them to end it with Vettel on top instead of DNF. That’s all there is to it.

      3. Just to get an idea of why it is important.. imagine this.

        If HAM had NOT gone wide after the restart, so he was in the 2nd position when VET lost the engine.

        Since his tyre was good until the last lap, he could have overtaken HAM even towards the end. Also, it was this reason that he was able to keep HAM a good distance away from him.

        1. Err HAM went wide at the restart because his tires were already shot by then.
          he radioed the pit wall to tell them this and that he may struggle for grip after the restart. In fact, he suggested he may have to come in for fresh tires.

          1. HAM ran wide at the restart because he made a mistake under brakes. He only pitted on lap 31 to get fresh tyres and he ran wide on lap 35. A couple of those laps were behind the safety car as well. I doubt that his tyres were shot in four laps.

            I’m pretty sure he had set the fastest lap at one stage after running wide in turn 1. He made a mistake. Judging by Alonso’s pace towards the end I doubt it would have made a difference.

            1. Hamilton was on the radio explaining that he had no front end grip.

              Hamilton was struggling in the wet, but he went faster as the track dried up. The setup obviously was simply not good for racing in the rain.

            2. I’ll add that Hamilton was complaining about tire wear under the safety car, and suggesting a second stop. I found that shocking at the time. Given the gap he had over Massa in the end, I wonder if running hard and then taking that second stop would have been better.

    2. Seems like Alonso could have overtaken Hamilton late in the race if he hadn’t went wide at the third restart (maybe also Vettel??). Too bad we didn’t see a fight for the win. We are getting way too little of it lately in F1.

    3. Younger Hamilton
      24th October 2010, 18:07

      Now correct if im wrong Keith but if we had a dry race,would Seb still have that engine failure its likely isnt it because it was wet and in wet conditions and races with several safety car periods,Engines tend to be less worked up due to the speeds the cars are doing.Its just a suggestion

      1. True, it’s better for the engines to be driving at slower speeds and accelerating easier. But I’m not sure whether the engines were turned on or off during the red flag. If they were on, it couldn’t be good for the engine.

        1. I think they may well have been on but as soon as they stopped they’ll have slung in those big fans to keep the engines cool.

    4. i don’t know why but this passed me by during the race but it did! lewis should have been leading after seb went pop. i should be so annoyed but i am not as alonso would have flown by him, alonso showed again true class in the last 5 laps he was just sticking to the track unlike lewis. on todays performance (ok he had the luck) fernando deserves the title, and i even as a lewis and mclaren fan hope he does it for the simple reason, as a racing fan he is quality.

    5. You can call it a gift if you like, Rahim, but the fact is that Alonso does not have the fastest car in F1 . . . yet he leads the championship. Not Massa, not Hamilton – Alonso.

    6. *To look at the past year’s Statistics…Whoever wins the 1st race wins the title…
      1- Vettel was leading but he got an issue and Alonso Won
      **i thought to myself, whoever wins in Korea should or will take the title…
      2- Look what happened again….Vettel was leading he got a problem and Alonso Won….

      i think the Forces are with Fernando Alonso and now i’ve given up on it…
      It will be sad to see Alonso win as i’m not his fan but u can’t go against nature…

      1. That’s why Alonso is considered in Spain as a Saint. He controls his team, the FIA, drivers in front of him, and even the destiny. ;)

      2. “To look at the past year’s Statistics…Whoever wins the 1st race wins the title…”

        That is until you go back to 2005…

    7. Does anybody know what oil company made the tarmac for the Korean GP?, if its Shell that would go a long way to explaining why those Ferrari’s were kind to their tyre’s.

      1. Umm, I don’t know much about Tarmac, but I think it is made out of Tar (mainly) and a few other additive substances. Now Tar is made out of coal, right? Where does oil come in the picture?

        I hope someone more knowledgeable can answer about how Tarmac is made.

        1. William Wilgus
          24th October 2010, 18:53

          No, ‘Asphalt’ and stones, with other ingredients to tailor it for specific uses. While the British and others refer to it a ‘tarmac’, here in the United States it’s usually referred to as ‘black top’; but it’s also commonly called ‘asphalt’

          For more info, you might want to see

      2. William Wilgus
        24th October 2010, 18:43

        Shell doesn’t make tarmac. It’s made by local companies by adding and mixing the ingredients in a large heated hopper. The ingredients are specified either by the paving company or the road engineer. That said, it could have been that Shell supplied some of the petroleum-based products, but they would not have been a ‘special’ product made to benefit Ferarri.

      3. well, even if Shell made the tarmac (quite improbable), the only parts of the car that are in contact with tarmac are tyres, and they’re made by Bridgestone in the same way for everyone…

      4. Doesn’t compute. The tyres are the same for everyone.

      5. This comment should be the CTOTD:

        That’s not Comment of the day, just Conspiracy Theory of the Day.

    8. Could someone please indicate the meaning of the Y axis on the race chart.

      1. Seconds and Laps are the 2 axis

      2. It’s for position.

      3. True the Y-axis for the Race Position Charts is “seconds” – but more specifically it is “seconds behind the lead car”.

        Enigma is correct for the Lap Position Chart.

    9. I disagree. Key was Hamilton running wide & Vettel retiring.

      1. Have you read all the comments before you? This has been long discussed. The point is that given the tire wear, Alonso most likely would have overtaken them anyway.

      2. Alonso was simply lucky with the misfortune of others. Otherwise he was simply in 4th place! hahaha

        1. You are right, he had was lucky that the other drivers had the misfortune that he was faster ;)

        2. The only misfortune he benefitted from was Vettel going pop. He got ahead of Webber and Hamilton becuase they both made mistakes and Alonso didn’t. That isn’t luck.

    10. This was a far cry from his well-judged calls in tricky conditions at Melbourne and Shanghai.

      Melbourne was exactly the same as today, in that he was forced to change the tyres because they were dead. The difference to today is he went onto inters and not dries, maybe Jenson is only good at preserving dry tyres. Maybe it’s his difficulty in heating tyres up, in Shanghai he almost threw his race away when he went off the circuit and he couldn’t get the heat back into the inters, causing Hamilton to close in on him.

      Both McLarens had trouble with tyre temperature this weekend though so I’ll let him off the hook on this one.

      1. And given that Hamilton’s fastest lap was within 2/10ths of Alonso’s, I believe the article’s title sums it up nicely.

        1. well said…button looked like he just got out ov a honda…..iv never rated him..he shuld av been at least behind massa…mclaren shuld av never ov employed him an i fink whitmash is slowly realisin it….nex year is his last……i hope

          1. While I can understand using “av” instead of “have” and “iv” instead of “I’ve” in order to save time typing this comment, the word “of” is presumably pronounced the same as the ‘word’ “ov”, but has the same number of letters thus rendering the usage of “txt spk” or whatever you wish to call it, pointless.

            1. Lol, u av summed tat up g8

            2. G8 stf James, u ov prolly € it well. :-)

              It gets annoying when some homeboys mix their local phonetics when writing in the so-called “text speak” ON THEIR PCs!! I would accept that in an SMS for obviously cost reasons. But not in normal writing as we do here.

              The worst thing James, is that some think they can hide their lack of knowledge or grammar behind those texts. Which is a shame if you ask me :-(

            3. Even if he had used “of”, it would still read “have never of” which is frankly depressing.

    11. Now I might start calling him Smooth Fred

    12. I got the feeling Schumacher and Kubica preserved theirs also since they were both faster than Hamilton and Massa close to the end. Barrichello in the other hand..

    13. The first 17 laps were spent behind the safety car which explains why there’s no ‘lap 1 position change’ chart in this week’s post-race analysis.

      Why not a “lap 18 position change chart?” Looks like there was a lot of movement there at the ACTUAL start of the race.

    14. A bit off-topic, will Mark Webber get a penalty for ruining Nico Rosberg’s race? Lewis got one for 2008 Canada and Vettel got one for 2010 Spa. I hope he doesn’t, but I think he will, have Mercedez complained?

      1. It was a genuine error, it would be the most ridiculous penalty ever.

        1. He got a pretty harsh penalty for his error: A DNF and much of his chance for the WDC.

          1. Webber is -11 to Alonso.

            Or roughly, two 1-2s (WEB ALO) or one 1-3 (WEB xxx ALO) with two rounds remaining.

            I would be hesitant to say that Vettel or Hamilton (one race win behind Alonso) are out of chances. Alonso’s record at São Paulo, if we are to assume anything from the past, is pretty stellar though.

            1. Let’s suppose that the RBR’s hadn’t DNF’d. With Vettel, Webber and Alonso in the podium and Hamilton 4th we would have:

              Webber 238
              Vettel 231
              Alonso 221
              Hamilton 204

              Alonso and Hamilton would still have a chance, but the RBR’s would look a lot harder to beat.

        2. But you can understand how Nico’s position is similar to Kimi’s and Jenson’s in the 2 mentioned examples. While Lewis and Vettel made error of judgement, Mark Webber made an error.

          If Mercedez do complain about it, then perhaps Webber might, IMO.

          1. No, I can’t. Kimi was hit by a Hamilton not paying attention and Vettel creamed into Button because of careless driving. Webber was powerless to stop himself from moving. If it’s anyone’s fault it’s Nico’s; if something is sliding to the left the dumbest thing to do is to try to pass it on its left-hand side, especially when that means going on the grass right next to a wall.

            1. In all fairness he could have slammed the brakes on when he was rolling backwards but I think he was hoping to roll off-track rather than be sitting there.

            2. True Icthyes, Nico had a few Nano seconds to hit the metal but he obviously misjudged the tempo at which Webber was sliding and he almost got through as Webber slammed his rear.

              But judging by the way Sutil and Buemi were given deferred race penalties for Brazil, I don’t see why Webber should (yet again!!) go scot-free.

        3. Conspiracy theorists might think he was trying to get Fernando or Lewis out (or both!), a la Schumacher ’94. He probably didn´t know that Nico had overtaken Lewis (why would he want to take out Nico anyway?).

          No, I don’t believe it. But I bet someone out there does.

      2. right after retirement, Rosberg said that in his opinion Webber hadn’t braked and so he let his car move without control. However, none in Mercedes complained, so maybe that comment was only due to the anger of the moment.

      3. It was just bad luck on Rosberg’s part that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

        Hamilton was penalised because he failed to obey the red light at the end of the pitlane, an offence drivers are routinely disqualified for. Vettel made the sort of silly mistake a driver at his level shouldn’t be making and needlessly collided with another driver.

        There’s no reason to penalise Webber, who was pretty much a passenger by the point he hit Rosberg. It’s hardly Australia ’94 territory.

    15. Off-topic: The championship calculator is terrific, but now with the Korea race over it should be updated.

      1. Jamie has kindly sent updated code over and I’ll make the changes later.

    16. Icthyes, you are right on about Nico’s accident. As far as Fernando is concerned and his big ego, can any one tell which driver without a big dose of selfish character can win the world title.
      He had his good part of bad luck if anyone remember in Valencia and in Silverstone.
      Although I am not a big fan of Ferrari I have to admit that this team under a string of bad result they never lost their focus, I respect that.
      And what about Horner and his siren message that he will let his drivers race? Come the end of the championship and RBR doesn’t win the god above (the austrian)him will start to think to get a smarter person at the helm.

      1. dyslexicbunny
        25th October 2010, 18:41

        Except Luib, I recall reading that Dietrich has already insisted that he would rather lose this year than declare a number 1 or 2 driver. That stance might change next year but I haven’t seen anything otherwise this year.

    17. It seems Alonso had some bad luck in the pits and then some good luck when Lewis went off, because he didn’t have to use up his tyres to get around Hamilton. He also just missed the Webber carnage that collected Nico.

      Still he was smart enough not to use up his tyres trying to run down Vettel. I think he would have settled for 2nd place. Alas, Vettel blew his engine and that too was a bit of luck.

      He took his time and let the race come to him, and at the end he had the fastest car on the track.

      Brilliant driving in my opinion.

      Great graphs Keith!

    18. I think also Seb would have loose his tyres earlier than Alonso, besides Alonso’s didn’t look to well in the last ten laps he was still fying over the circuit.

    19. Anyone know if this means Vettel requires a 9th engine now… and associated 10 place grid drop? As I understand he went into the event on his 8th, and I doubt he can get to the end of the season on spares.

      1. vettel can use a new engine(9) with no grid penalty because he had the the failure on the race and didn’t change engine between two races

        1. Well there’s a massive loop hole.
          Why haven’t all the teams done this previously?

          1. What give up the No.1 position in a GP with just a few laps remaining?

            1. No, when other teams have had engine failures within a race, that are out of their control.

              If this is the case, those who have an engine blow up, should have an extra engine, in addition to the eight to accommodate the loss, without a grid penalty. This would leave them with 8 overall working units a one destroyed.

              I thought the rules were that they start the season with eight engines and if they go over this, they will then get a ten place grid drop.

            2. I’d imagine that rule’d apply to any position… big loop hole for anyone mid-field. Renault? Williams? etc

          2. Sorry, I didn’t mean for that to sound as sarcastic as it looks in print Stretch.

            I’m just not sure about the rule. Remember Alonso’s blown engine in the Malaysian grand prix?

            He wasn’t penalized the next race because he was still with the engine allocation rule.

            Is Vettel still with the rule? I though he had used his allotment of new engines.

            I really don’t know… clarification anyone?


            1. Yeah, it’s all good.
              Before this afternoon, I though the rule was pretty clear. Now, it doesn’t seem as simple.

            2. Drivers only get a penalty if they use a ninth engine. If Alonso blew his engine in the next race, it’s up to the team to decide whether any of his old stock of engines are up to doing a race distance, or whether there’s less risk in taking a new engine and the ten-place grid drop.

              But an engine failure in one race doesn’t automatically mean a penalty in the next one.

      2. Alonso has been on spares after Monza …. go figure.

    20. A fantastic win from a great driver, Congratulions Fernando, he trully deserves the title this year.

      It would have been interesting to see Seb not having a failure as the last few laps could have been epic.

      Its funny how everyone was saying that Fernando would strugle on an old engine yet Seb’s car blew up with a fresh one. (i think)

      Can’t wait for the next race !!! :)

    21. I would like to see a chart/ graph explaining why
      Jarno Trulli is still in Formula 1.

      1. Afraid that one’s well beyond my capabilities :-)

    22. On the tarmac: Tar was used until the early 70’ties when it was banned as it is carcinogen. Since then bitumen has been used. Bitumen is a bi product from the oil refinery process, and yes Shell does produce bitumen, but I think it’s a long shot to think they influenced the tarmac:-))
      Most possible the surface layer on the Korean track is a mastic with a high bitumen content, lower layer is usually asphalt concrete.

    23. The sporting regulations says (28.4 (e)) ‘If an engine is changed in accordance with Article 34.1 the engine which was replaced may not be used during any future qualifying session or race with the exception of the last Event of the
      Championship.’ which means that basically everybody is OK with engines for Bahrain, but as I see it Vettel has to take a new engine at Interlagos as his eight engine surely isn’t going to make it, and thus must take a 10 grid position penalty. Alonso has the choice to either chance a blown up engine, or get a new with a 10 grid place at Interlagos (I believe he’ll go with the chance), but we all know that Ferrari engines suffer when they are near the end of life, so should think the championship is now between Webber and Hamilton.

      1. but we all know that Ferrari engines suffer when they are near the end of life, so should think the championship is now between Webber and Hamilton.

        You mean engine-wise? ….. yes, but there are so-many other factors on race a day

    24. Well, that’s interesting. I didn’t know that regulation that the drivers cannot reuse replaced engines in future events until Abu Dhabi. Wasn’t Alonso swapping between all his working engines from throughout the year in the last few quali/races.

      Anyway, looking through the regulations, nowhere does it say that if a driver has an destroyed engine that has occurred due to reasons beyond his or his team’s control, he can accept a new engine without penalty (as in clairvvoyant’s comment above). However, this is stated about gearboxes. (As from Article 28.6)

      Now, from the regulation above (28.4 in F1Mike’s comment), Vettel cannot reuse his older engines from throughout the season because:
      “the engine which was replaced may not be used during ANY future qualifying session or race with the exception of the last Event of the Championship”

      This, with regulation 28.4-a)(which is about eight engines a season otherwise ten place grid drop), must surely mean that Vettel has to take a 10 place drop at Brazil?
      But, this mustn’t be the case, as this would be massive news!
      Spare cars, engines, gearboxes and homologated parts sporting regulations

    25. There’s so much conjecture about the engine rules. It’s obvious that Vettel will have to replace his engine after the fireworks of Korea. If he uses an older engine which is still within his quota of 8, then I guess no penalty applies. As we know, often, older engines are used for practice before newer engines are used for qualifying and the race. However, if Vettel has to use a fresh engine, that would appear to be his 9th engine.

      Alonso’s situation differs in that he does not currently have to change his engine, even though he has used his allocation of 8 engines. Likewise, I’m guessing that if an engine blows, he then faces the same dilemma Vettel faces now. If he uses an old engine within his allocation of 8, then he’s likely to be ok. However, it he goes to a 9th engine, I’m thinking he will face the same situation which Vettel now faces.

      A definitive opinion from someone who knows the rules and implications would be welcome. Under these circumstances, will Vettel have to take a grid penalty if he takes a 9th engine and Alonso likewise?

      1. Alonso is in a different situation as Vettel since he has no blown engine. Remember when Massa started with a 9th engine, he could not be penalised because he was already at the back of the grid.

        So, the way I see it is quite simple: Vettel has blown his 8th engine and this engine has done 3 races with aprox.1600km from it’s 2000km life. So if he changes engine now the penalty will set-in, BUT …. he can go back to the engine he used before this blown one without penalty. That is the way I understand it.

        1. dyslexicbunny
          25th October 2010, 18:46

          My understanding was that Massa was penalized but since he was 24th, it had no effect on where he started.

    26. I think there is no doubt that if any driver takes a 9th engine then it’s a 10 grid position penalty.
      The question is if you are allowed to use old engines, from the above quoted paragraph it would seem it is OK to use them for practice, but not for qualifying/race?

    27. I think ALO has one engine used only once, the engine used at Spa, so it is quite “fresh” (didn’t use it for long) and can be good for Brasil.
      Red Bull usually use the same engine for two races, so they don’t have experience for engines used in 3 races or more. Ferrari used the engines up to four times, so in principle they know their limits.
      For the FPs, all teh teams can use old engines without penalty.
      It would be nice an article about engines for the last two races of the season :-)

    28. I think that the error when Hamilton went wide could be the best mistake he ever made. There’s no doubt alonso was quicker and he was going to be all over him, which would probably have made Hamilton lose it or they could have ended up taking each other out

      1. Yeah, I was thinking the same.

      2. Actually, Hamilton was incredibly lucky that Rosberg passed him too. Otherwise Webber would have taken Hamilton out.

    29. On the restart Schumacher also overtook Kubica.

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