Sebastian Vettel claimed his fourth straight Formula 1 victory in a Korean Grand Prix enlivened by spectacular racing and bizarre incidents in his wake.
The Red Bull driver was joined on the podium by Lotus duo Kimi Raikkonen charging forward from 10th on the grid and Romain Grosjean. As Vettel stormed away into his habitual lead at the start, Grosjean passed Lewis Hamilton for second into Turn 3.
In their wake, a late-braking move from Felipe Massa ended with the Ferrari spinning across the corner apex and scattering the pack behind. Everyone avoided Massa, but Jenson Button and Adrian Sutil picked up wing damage in the traffic jam.
The first half of the race featured Vettel pulling away from a closely matched Grosjean and Hamilton, with Nico Rosberg behind and then Nico Hulkenberg fending off Fernando Alonso and a growing pack. Raikkonen jumped to the front of that group when he made his second pit stop earlier than those around him.
Further up the road, Hamilton began to suffer extreme tire wear in his second stint and tumbled away from Grosjean towards Rosberg, only for the German’s front wing to partially fail in a shower of sparks as he overtook his struggling teammate.
With both Mercedes delayed, Raikkonen gained two more places, just before the first safety car when Sergio Perez’s right front tyre dramatically blew on the long straight after Turn 2. Mark Webber, who had made good progress from 13th, was immediately behind and picked up a puncture from the resultant debris. With the McLaren’s tire carcass in the middle of the straight, a safety car was required.
Vettel stayed clear of the Lotus pair at the restart, with Raikkonen passing Grosjean with a spectacular Turn 1 move a lap later.
Another safety car was imminent, though. Sutil had spun into Turn 3 on the restart lap and clouted Webber, causing the Red Bull to catch fire in the run-off area. A fire vehicle eventually appeared on track to deal with the blazing car, forcing a frantic safety car deployment as the leaders bore down on the fire truck.
After that mess was resolved, the race ran green to the flag, with Vettel edging away from Raikkonen and Grosjean to win.
Behind them, a mighty performance from Hulkenberg earned him and Sauber fourth place. He had pounced on Hamilton’s Mercedes at a restart to take the position, and then clung on under huge pressure from the Briton and Alonso, who were having a thrilling wheel-to-wheel scrap of their own.
Rosberg joined this battle by the end, followed by Button, Massa and Perez, who just denied Mexican countryman Esteban Gutierrez a point.
Williams ran in the top 10 for a long spell after a brilliant first lap from Pastor Maldonado, but the Venezuelan ultimately fell to 13th behind teammate Valtteri Bottas.
Paul di Resta crashed his Force India and both Toro Rossos also retired, Daniel Ricciardo having got as high as seventh in the first stint.
PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTSThe Korean Grand PrixKorean International Circuit, Korea;55 laps; 308.630km;Weather: Dry.Classified:Pos Driver Team Time 1. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1h43:13.701 2. Raikkonen Lotus-Renault + 4.200 3. Grosjean Lotus-Renault + 4.900 4. Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari + 24.100 5. Hamilton Mercedes + 25.200 6. Alonso Ferrari + 26.100 7. Rosberg Mercedes + 26.600 8. Button McLaren-Mercedes + 32.200 9. Massa Ferrari + 34.30010. Perez McLaren-Mercedes + 35.10011. Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari + 35.90012. Bottas Williams-Renault + 47.00013. Maldonado Williams-Renault + 50.00014. Pic Caterham-Renault + 1:03.50015. van der Garde Caterham-Renault + 1:04.50016. Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth + 1:07.90017. Chilton Marussia-Cosworth + 1:12.90018. Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 2 laps19. Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 3 laps20. Sutil Force India-Mercedes + 5 lapsFastest lap: Vettel, 1:41.380Not classified/retirements:Driver Team On lapWebber Red Bull-Renault 36Di Resta Force India-Mercedes 24World Championship standings, round 15: Drivers: Constructors: 1. Vettel 272 1. Red Bull-Renault 402 2. Alonso 195 2. Ferrari 284 3. Raikkonen 167 3. Mercedes 283 4. Hamilton 161 4. Lotus-Renault 239 5. Webber 130 5. McLaren-Mercedes 81 6. Rosberg 122 6. Force India-Mercedes 62 7. Massa 89 7. Sauber-Ferrari 31 8. Grosjean 72 8. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 31 9. Button 58 9. Williams-Renault 110. Hulkenberg 31 11. Di Resta 36 12. Sutil 26 13. Perez 23 14. Ricciardo 18 15. Vergne 13 16. Maldonado 1 All timing unofficial