Alonso leaps into F1 title lead

Spaniard angling for third world championship after wet conditions see Webber and Vettel crash out of Korean GP.

    Taste of victory: The first Korea GP trophy looks good enough to eat after it put Alonso top of the standings [AFP]

    Fernando Alonso seized the Formula One championship lead as Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel both crashed out of the Korean Grand Prix.

    The Ferrari driver took the chequered flag after the inaugural race at Yeongam was delayed by a downpour, started, stopped again and then re-started behind the safety car after a 48-minute wait.

    With two races to go, and a maximum 50 points to be won under the new scoring system, Alonso celebrated his fifth win of the year to turn a 14-point deficit into an 11-point lead over Red Bull's Webber.

    At 34, Webber is hunting for his first world title, as is rookie German Vettel, who could have taken the championship lead on Sunday.

    Title favourite

    But Alonso, who cackled and whooped wildly as he crossed the line, will now be favourite for a third title after securing his third win out of four Grand Prix races.

    McLaren's 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton finished second, 14.9 seconds behind, and moved up to third overall with 210 points, 21 behind Alonso.

    Korean Grand Prix results

    1 F Alonso (ESP) Ferrari
    2 L Hamilton (GBR) McLaren
    3 F Massa (BRA) Ferrari
    4 M Schumacher (GER) Mercedes
    5 R Kubica (POL) Renault
    6 V Liuzzi (ITA) Force India
    7 R Barrichello (BRA) Williams
    8 K Kobayashi (JPN) BMW Sauber
    9 N Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber
    10 N Huelkenberg (GER) Williams
    11 J Alguersuari (ESP) Toro Rosso
    12 J Button (GBR) McLaren
    13 H Kovalainen (FIN) Lotus
    14 B Senna (BRA) HRT
    15 S Yamamoto (JPN) HRT

    Brazilian Felipe Massa was third for Ferrari.

    Webber, who had started in second place behind teammate Vettel, crashed out on the wet and slippery track with the race proper barely started after what seemed an eternity behind the safety car.

    "Totally my fault," the Australian, winner of four races this season, told the BBC after making his way back to the paddock.

    It was only his second retirement in 17 races.

    "I got on the kerb on the exit of Turn 12 and it was a very slow-motion moment off the back of that kerb. Totally my mistake. Wasn't my day."

    He was one of many to feel the pain, with only 15 of the 24 cars still running at the finish.

    Vettel, who had seemed destined to win and take over the championship lead for the first time this season, was halted on lap 46 with a blown engine.

    "You saw, the engine stopped and I couldn't do anything. We'll see, there are two races left," he told Italy's RAI television.

    Vettel fell to fourth on 206 with McLaren's reigning champion Jenson Button finishing out of the points and effectively relinquishing his title.

    The Briton is now 42 points off the lead.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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