Fernando Alonso kept his cool in tough conditions to win the inaugural Korean grand prix after both Red Bull drivers spectacularly retired from strong positions. The Ferrari driver moved into the lead of an increasingly tense Formula One world championship drivers' title battle in the process with victory from McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and his team mate Felipe Massa.
The start of the race in Korea was delayed by 10 minutes due to persistent rain; when the action finally got underway it was under safety car conditions, with pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel leading the field away from his team mate - and long-time championship leader - Mark Webber. Worsening conditions led to a red flag and a further delay of almost an hour with just three laps completed.
The action could finally begin in earnest after another 13 laps behind the safety car. Webber lasted just two and a half, losing control of his car after getting out of line, spinning into a wall, and collecting Mercedes' Nico Rosberg as he spun back across the track.
Vettel looked set for a comfortable victory until lap 46 when he too was forced to retire when his Renault engine spectacularly failed, handing victory on a plate to a measured Alonso who had briefly lost second place to Hamilton in the pit stops earlier in the race during another safety car period. The double world champion then held his nerve to take victory in near-darkness, with the race's two-hour time limit fast approaching.
Michael Schumacher recorded his best finish in his troubled comeback year by bringing his Mercedes home fourth, ahead of Renault's Robert Kubica. Jenson Button's torrid second half to the season continued with the world champion finishing a lowly 12th in his McLaren, a result that surely ends his championship hopes.
Alonso now leads the world championship on 231 points with just two races to go. Webber is 11 points back on 220, Hamilton a further 10 behind on 210 and Vettel is on 206. Button remains on 189.
Provisional race result: (all timing unofficial)
1. Alonso Ferrari 2h48:20.8102. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes +14.9993. Massa Ferrari +30.8684. Schumacher Mercedes +39.6885. Kubica Renault +47.7346. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes +53.5717. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth +1:09.2578. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari +1:17.8899. Heidfeld Sauber-Ferrari +1:20.10710. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth +1:20.85111. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1:24.14612. Button McLaren-Mercedes +1:29.93913. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth +1 lap14. Senna HRT-Cosworth +2 laps15. Yamamoto HRT-Cosworth +2 laps