Sebastien Vettel continued his string of dominant performances this past weekend, claiming his third victory in a row, and second at the Yeongam circuit in as many years.
As the fastest car in the last two practice sessions going into Saturday's qualifying, Vettel was trumped only by his Red Bull teammate Mark Webber in the final round of qualifying, losing out on the pole position by 0.074 seconds.
There was discussion that Vettel’s may have suffered after approaching Felipe Massa in the final sector going into his qualifying lap, but the German took it in stride.
"It is not Felipe's fault,” Vettel told Formula1.com. “I should have known earlier. If anything it was my mistake."
Shrugging off his qualifying performance, Vettel's position on the starting grid didn't last long. Before the first corner, the two-time defending champion was able jump ahead of Webber before beating him out in a wheel to wheel drag race down the next straight. From there he didn't look back, taking a clean victory and jumping ahead of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso for a six point lead in the championship.
Alonso was able to salvage a much needed third-place finish behind Webber after suffering two retirements in the last four races. Combined with teammate Felipe Massa's fourth-place finish, the Ferrari duo were able to move to second in the Constructor's Championship ahead of a McLaren team that suffered with pace issues all weekend long.
Managing to qualify the McLaren in third after barely making it past the first qualifying round, Lewis Hamilton was promptly pushed back to fourth on the first lap then suffered an anti-roll bar failure after the first pit stop that left him fighting for the points and finishing tenth. Teammate Jenson Button suffered an even worse fate starting 11th on the grid where he was pushed by Sauber driver and future McLaren teammate, Sergio Perez. He was then finished off by Kamui Kobayashi, also of Sauber, who slammed into the Brit, puncturing his front right tire and destroying his suspension, forcing both drivers to retire.
Kimi Räikkönen was able to bring the Lotus across the finish line in fifth place, a result he predicted as being the best possible finish for the team before qualifying. As the only driver to complete every lap this 2012 season, the Finnish driver's consistency has helped him retain third in the championship with 167 points, behind Vettel's 215, and Alonso's 209. It is impressive in a car that was only expected to finish in the top ten this season.
Looking ahead to the final four races in India, Abu Dhabi, Texas and Brazil, Vettel isn’t getting caught up in the so-called mental edge he appears to have over Alonso.
"I think we can take nothing for granted, we have to look after ourselves,” he told Formula1.com. “Whether we have a mental advantage or not, psychological advantage or not [over Alonso] I don't really care. I'm not into those kind of things. As I said, we look after ourselves. There's a lot of things we have to focus on to do a perfect job and that is the target every weekend."
Alonso, who has led the championship since the sixth round in Monaco, recognizes the Scuderia team has their work cut out for them.
"We seem to extract the maximum from the car when we are under pressure and, as I said, four beautiful races to come with good possibilities for us to fight for the championship,” the Spaniard told Formula1.com.
“It will depend obviously on the updates in the car… I think the performance of the car will depend on that."
For now the drivers' championship is a two-horse race. The only question that remains is whether Vettel and Red Bull can continue their winning streak or if Alonso can put together his own string of impressive performances like we saw earlier in the season.