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Class of the Field
Adam Barton

A Formula One fan since he was six, back while Häkkinen and Schumacher were having many an epic battle, Adam has seen a great deal. From German domination (twice), to British determination (once) and a Spanish invasion. A near compulsive fan who one day hopes to write about the sport for a living, outside of F1 Adam also authors his own blog One Guy's Opinion.

Vettel strikes critical blow // The Red Bull driver dominated Korea, but the Toro Rosso duo shone too

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It’s happened: Fernando Alonso has finally relinquished his championship lead that he has held since Malaysia, twelve races ago. It’s fair to say it’s been coming and he’s not out of it but it’s a long road back. His successor at the top and future Ferrari teammate if you are to believe the papers today, was back to his usual dominant self just as the fight appears to be disappearing from Fernando Alonso.

Vettel’s recovery puts Alonso on the rack

Both main title contenders showed their fallibility over the course of the weekend, despite effectively making it a two horse race for the championship. Fernando Alonso was solid but was clearly not the fastest Ferrari while, for once, Sebastian Vettel made an error when it mattered in qualifying. The difference between the two of them is that Vettel got the opportunity to atone for his Saturday error with a lovely Sunday drive.

Catch him if you can
Catch him if you canCredit: Mason/Getty

With the aid of some rather suspect marshalling in the DRS zone, Vettel was able to pull off his 2011 trick of breaking the DRS and scampering off into the distance. From there it was largely plain sailing, bar an error on his in lap where he misjudged the wear on his right front tyre and locked up badly into the hairpin. He came close to repeating the trick in the final laps but Red Bull’s management of his attempts on fastest laps, while laughable as ‘Rocky’ sounded more and more concerned, did the trick as he cruised home to complete his hat trick of wins, his fourth of the season and 25th in total. And I have to say that it looks extremely ominous to Fernando Alonso because this sounds exactly like any of his 11 race wins last year.

Toro Rossos on the rise?

I read an article during the long summer break saying that Toro Rosso had given up on 2012, but since they said that, they have more than tripled their points tally in half the amount of races. It appears that the lack of experience in that team really affected them and left them clutching at straws for setup and R & D direction.

It’s not a stretch to think that this could be Red Bull’s lineup come 2014

But now that Jean-Éric Vergne has got three quarters of a season under his belt and Ricciardo a whole year, the team appear back on track to recover. Both drivers had really mature performances on Sunday, particularly Vergne who held off Lewis Hamilton on fresh tyres for fifteen laps. You have to wonder where the team would have been had they kept Sébastien Buemi or Jaime Algersauri on.

The better of the two drivers on the day was probably Daniel Ricciardo, moving up from 21st on the grid to ninth. He made up a good amount of places at the start and took it from there, showing great pace throughout the race. Both drivers now do seem to have far brighter futures than we first thought and it’s not a stretch to think that this could be Red Bull’s lineup come 2014.

The Hulk takes Force India honours

I seem to be mentioning one or other of the Force India drivers every race now. The car has made big strides and it is allowing these two young drivers, who appear to hold the key to the driver market, to show their ability on the regular basis.

I have never really considered Nico Hülkenberg as a blisteringly fast, Lewis Hamilton-esque driver, I always saw him as a good driver that would get what was on offer from the car, but I’m having to re-evaluate my opinion of him. He was sublime in Korea, benefitting from Romain Grosjean’s rather tentative start and running with it.

For large parts of the race, he was untroubled by the quicker Lotus, although he eventually relented midway through the race. But like any good driver, he fought back and took what was probably his one opportunity to get back ahead, as Grosjean was held up by Hamilton. The move was stunning, outbraking the Lotus on the outside of turn four before sticking it out on the outside and stopping Lewis Hamilton from blocking him off getting the inside to turn five. Job done, sixth secured and possibly even his best drive of the season, if you consider that he rather inherited fourth in Belgium.

Back to the drawing board

Hands up if you need a faster chassis this weekend
Hands up if you need a faster chassis this weekendCredit: Glenn Dunbar/LAT

After a great season so far, Williams looked lost in Korea, finishing 15th and 16th, ninety seconds behind the cruising Vettel. The car was so out of touch that Pastor Maldonado finished only two seconds ahead of teammate Bruno Senna in a very anonymous race. Credit should go to Senna for being that close to the Venezuelan but it should probably be noted that Toro Rosso and the Force India of Nico Hülkenberg gave both Sauber and Williams an absolute pasting in the ‘privateer’ league. It’s possible that on their small budgets, Sauber and Williams have reached the maximum of their chassis and don’t have the resources to develop it. If that is the case, the lower midfield could be lot closer next year, with most sticking to a similar chassis for 2013.

Korea isn’t my favourite track on the F1 calendar. It’s one of the modern-day Tilke-domes that are designed to be fun to drive rather than encourage overtaking. And what is it with Hermann Tilke and having a massive straight somewhere on the track? Anyway, alongside Valencia, it must be one of the ugliest venues to host a Grand Prix with concrete walls wherever you look and a tendency for processional racing.

But nonetheless, with its place late on the calendar, it always seems to be a race after which you can rule out the pretenders in the championship hunt. Yesterday was no exception as Lewis Hamilton admitted the fact that a second title was beyond his reach, as Kimi Räikkönen and Mark Webber also effectively fell by the wayside. Ferrari will be desperate to bring upgrades as soon as possible; otherwise, after such a tough start to the year, Sebastian Vettel may be cruising to title number three.