A brand-new Asian track barely constructed in time. Dry qualifying and a soaking wet race day. Red Bull locked out the front row of the grid. They came away with two DNFs and nil points.

Championship leader Mark Webber crashed out, narrowing his chances of nailing the championship in what has seemed, until recently, to be his year.

Red Bull’s Golden Boy Sebastian Vettel leading from pole until late on his engine conked out. His championship bid now severely weakened.

Both Ferraris on the podium, split by Lewis Hamilton. Reigning world champ Jenson Button nowhere.

Michael Schumacher in 4th, his third of the season and also his highest-up. Force India’s Vitantonio Liuzzi in a respectable 6th.

What an unpredictable race.

Hamilton had good and bad luck in intriguing combination. On lap 32 a wheel-nut problem on Fernando Alonso’s pit stop let Hamilton pass the Spaniard into 2nd place.

Yet a lap later the McLaren driver ran wide on Turn 1 and let Alonso past again to ultimately win the race.

The best wet-weather racer, Hamilton was champing at the bit for the safety car to go in. Yet at the restart he was promptly jumped by Nico Rosberg.

A lap later Rosberg was taken out by a spinning Webber coming out of Turn 12. It so easily could have been Hamilton that Webber wiped out, yet the Briton clung on with rapidly-deteriorating tyres to take 2nd.

The rain-delayed race had added drama from the rapidly-approaching dusk. As light levels fell, the bright lights of the cars’ steering wheel gear shifters began to dazzle the drivers in the gloom.

Earlier on too visibility had been a source of debate, as to whether or not spray levels from the freshly-laid surface were too high to safely race.

On the radio, Hamilton was saying it was dry enough to recall the safety car, while others, perhaps politically, were saying the opposite.

The odds

Vettel has now had nine poles and only converted two of them to wins. Webber has only converted two out of his five poles. But unlike Webber, there was nothing Vettel could have done better in Korea.

Based on grid positions, Red Bull ought to be dominating. But over and over, mechanical problems or driving errors have conspired against their qualifying success.

By contrast, only Alonso has increasingly wielded the consistency he so often points out is necessary for championship glory.

Alonso has five wins, more than anyone; three of the last four. He has momentum and trajectory on his side. His aura of self-belief is formidable.

True, he inherited this Korea victory after Vettel’s engine expired. But it was no accident that he was in position to inherit that victory, and 25 points is 25 points.

It’s a sign of the closeness of the 2010 championship that with two races to go, all five contenders are still mathematically in contention.

In reality, Alonso has emerged late on this season as a likely candidate for his third world championship. Hamilton’s 18 points have slightly improved his chances and despite Webber’s DNF he is still second in the running.

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