October 6th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Lotus showed their pace again in Korea, delivering a strong double points finish with Kimi Raikkonen second and Romain Grosjean third. Sebastian Vettel won the race for Red Bull.
Grosjean was third on the grid after thoroughly outpacing Raikkonen in practice and qualifying. And in the race it looked like Grosjean would again have the edge on his team-mate, particularly as Raikkonen started down in ninth after making a mistake on his Q3 run in yesterday's qualifying session.
Grosjean made a strong start and passed Lewis Hamilton to take second place into the first corner. From then on, he was chasing Sebastian Vettel, but did not quite have the pace to reel him in. Vettel pulled away gradually, but was unable to disappear into the distance in the manner seen at the last race in Singapore.
Raikkonen was helped by the safety car when Sergio Perez's right front tyre exploded at high speed. Raikkonen had pitted fairly recently, and when some of the drivers ahead of him pitted under the safety car, he was able to slot into third place. A small mistake from Grosjean after the safety car allowed Raikkonen an opportunity to pass, which he was quick to take. Grosjean defended quite aggressively, nearly causing contact between the two Lotuses down the start-finish straight, but Raikkonen made it through unscathed.
Grosjean was not happy about being passed by Raikkonen, and asked the team to order Raikkonen to let him through. But the Lotus management was not about to enforce team orders and allowed the drivers to race to the finish. Grosjean was quicker in the closing laps than Raikkonen, but was unable to pass and had to settle for third place.
Kimi Raikkonen has moved back into third place in the Drivers' Championship with this result. He is six points ahead of Lewis Hamilton, which means we could still see his position change again this season. Raikkonen is unlikely to overhaul Fernando Alonso, who is currently 28 points ahead in second place. Romain Grosjean is 8th in the drivers' table, and has a chance to pass Felipe Massa, who is 17 points ahead, in the remaining 5 races of the season.
Lotus are in a very comfortable fourth place in the Constructors' Championship, 158 points ahead of next-placed McLaren. They are 44 points behind Mercedes, and will no doubt be keen to close the gap, but it seems unlikely that they will be able to overhaul the Silver Arrows in just five races.
This is what the drivers had to say after the race:
Kimi Raikkonen: “Second place is ok and a good result for the team, but we’re here to win and having to fight your way to the front from a bad starting position is not ideal. Qualifying was pretty awful for me, but it’s difficult to say whether a better grid position would have made the difference. Sebastian was faster than us at the end; not massively, but a little bit for sure and his tyres were fresher too so I think it would have been tough to catch him in any case.
"We were closer to the Red Bull today than we have been in some races, but not close enough. People might say it was good luck with the safety car, but sometimes these things go with you and others they go against you. We made up some places even before that happened, and if we hadn’t had the speed then we wouldn’t have been in a position to take advantage. You could see at the end that we had more than enough pace to keep the others behind, so I think it’s deserved.”
Romain Grosjean: “It’s a fantastic result for the team. Of course, one step higher on the podium would have been better for me and two steps better would have been superb, but it didn’t quite work out that way. Our battle with Lewis [Hamilton] was good and our pace was great, but the two safety car periods hurt our attempts to battle for the win.
"After the restart I should have been in front of Kimi on the road, but it was my mistake which let him past. I went a bit wide in Turn 15 and got on the Astroturf – which is very slippery – and that let him get a run on me. Then there were yellow flags into Turn 3 so I couldn’t take the place back straight away. Of course, I was asking the team to let me past Kimi as I was on fresher tyres, but they left us to race which is our philosophy of fair play. You lose so much downforce in sectors two and three and obviously our cars are pretty close on performance so it’s pretty hard to pass, but we have to be very happy with a double podium.”