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Formula One's title chase goes slippin' and slidin' in South Korea

October 24, 2010 | 11:53 am


Formula One drivers pilot the most sophisticated race cars in the world. But put them on a brand new track under a steady downpour and their job gets a whole lot trickier.

Just ask Mark Webber, the veteran Australian driver who started the inaugural Korean Grand Prix on Sunday with a 14-point lead in the championship standings and then found disaster on the rain-soaked track in southwestern South Korea.

Shortly after the race went green following a lengthy delay because of showers, Webber's Red Bull car spun on the wet surface, smacked the wall and then was struck by Nico Rosberg, abruptly ending both drivers' race.

"Today wasn't my day," a disheartened Webber said after he walked back to the garage.

Alonso Sebastian Vettel, Webber's teammate, then took the lead. But with only 10 laps left in the 55-lap race, the 23-year-old German saw his race go up in smoke when his engine blew.

That opened the door for Spain's Fernando Alonso to both win the race for Ferrari and take over the championship lead with only two races left in the season, in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

It was Alonso's fifth win of the year and "I think it is the first wet race that I have won, so I am even happier," he said.

Alonso, seeking his third world championship, now leads the standings by 11 points over Webber and by 21 points over former champion Lewis Hamilton of McLaren-Mercedes, who finished second to Alonso in Sunday's race. Vettel is now 25 points back in fourth.

But Alonso said all four drivers remained in title contention. "Nothing has changed," he said. "Anything can happen in the next two races."

Behind the leaders, cars were sliding on and off the track's pavement throughout the race, which was completed with barely enough light as dusk fell.

But seven-time champion Michael Schumacher, long considered an exceptional driver in the rain, finished fourth to match his best result of the season. Schumacher otherwise has struggled to be competitive this year after coming out of retirement to join the Mercedes GP team.

--Jim Peltz

Photos: (Top) Mark Webber's Red Bull car is lifted from the track after crashing in Sunday's Formula One race at the Korean International Circuit in Yeongam, South Korea. Credit: Sung Dae-woo/Associated Press; (Bottom) Ferrari's Fernando Alonso on his way to winning the Korean Grand Prix. Credit: Greg Baker/Associated Press