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Korean Grand Prix: McLaren woe plain to see as Bulls march on

While Lewis looks beleagured, Vettel is finding form

Vettel is 2.789/5 favourite in the early market to follow up last week’s drive with another victory at Yeongam on Sunday, where he drove so superbly to secure his tltle in style last season. And it isn’t hard to see why.

Ralph Ellis isn't fooled by the McLaren boss's optimism - you won't catch our man backing Lewis Hamilton to land the Drivers' Championship. You will, however, stand a good chance of collecting if you get on the Red Bull drivers for Sunday's race in Yeongam.

If you asked Martin Whitmarsh if his glass was half full, or half empty, he'd probably say it was overflowing. McLaren's team principal is clearly the ultimate optimist.

Four days after his two drivers found themselves pushed into the minor places in Suzuka, Whitmarsh is still talking up the team's chances. He says they can not only respond to the new pace found by Red Bull's technical innovation, but go beyond it. "I'm still convinced we can fight for, and win, both titles in 2012 - and we head to Korea determined to narrow the gap to the top in both world championship points tables," he says.

If you believe him then there's money to be made. McLaren are 5.85/1 to close a 41 point gap and win the constructors' championship, while Lewis Hamilton is an astonishing 25.024/1 to make up the 42 points needed to win the drivers' championship. Personally I can't see it.

We've talked all season about the technical arms race that has been central to the 2012 campaign. It's been a year where the boffins back at base have been the key people. The drivers might be the stars of the sport, but it has been the mechanics and engineers who have had the greatest influence on the most open Formula One campaign in memory, and at the moment when it matters it seems that Red Bull have come up with the key development.

Sebastian Vettel's outstanding performance in Japan was mostly down to his car's new "double DRS" system. However much Whitmarsh might be trying to talk up McLaren's chances it is inconceivable that his team can have matched that - especially not in the space of a week while the car is on the other side of the world to its' garage.

Throw in the ongoing Hamilton sideshow, his Twitter squabble with team mate Jenson Button, and the reluctance to share too many development secrets with a driver who is leaving, and the drivers' title race looks far more like a straight contest to see if Fernando Alonso can put enough podium finishes together to protect a lead that is down to just four points.

Vettel is 2.789/5 favourite in the early market to follow up last week's drive with another victory at Yeongam on Sunday, where he drove so superbly to secure his tltle in style last season. And it isn't hard to see why.

He proved last year that it's a track where if you get an early lead in a fast car you will be pretty much impossible to catch. The long straight after turn one looks as if it was designed to give room for overtaking - but in the event there were only 29 'moves' in the entire Grand Prix in 2011, barely half the average for the year's races. This season they have extended the DRS zone by 80 metres to try to encourage a bit more action, but that only sounds like good news if you're driving a Red Bull with a double DRS.

That might just be a clue to the best bet of the weekend. Mark Webber is the other guy with access to the fastest car, as he proved taking second place on the grid last week. Everybody focused on how Alonso was put out of the race by Romain Grosjean's first lap recklessness, but don't forget that Webber was also caught up in the crash. Give him a clear run this time and 2.767/4 for a podium finish looks a decent bit of value.

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11 October 2012

Formula One

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