Do Ferrari have any answers?
Sky F1 pundits Martin Brundle and Anthony Davidson fear there may be no stopping Red Bull after Vettel takes the lead of the World Championship; Felipe Massa expected to stay on at Ferrari but Ted Kravitz predicts imminent changes at Sauber with appointments of Hulkenberg and Gutierrez
By Pete Gill. Last Updated: October 15, 2012 8:23am
Sky Sports F1 pundits Martin Brundle and Anthony Davidson have questioned whether Ferrari can have any answer to Red Bull's seemingly-unstoppable end-of-season momentum after Sebastian Vettel took the lead of the World Championship in Korea.
Sunday was a day of double celebration for the World Champions as Vettel overtook long-time leader Fernando Alonso in the Drivers' Championship while the team substantially extended their lead of the Constructors' equivalent over both Ferrari and McLaren as Mark Webber followed Vettel home to seal a Red Bull one-two.
While McLaren endured a day of disaster, Ferrari at least presented a valiant fight with Alonso securing third place ahead of team-mate Felipe Massa. Nonetheless, as the dust settled on Sunday night, the consensus in the Korea paddock remained that the title is on the verge of slipping out of the Spaniard's grasp.
"I just don't see that Ferrari have an answer to this Red Bull such is its pace now," mused Sky F1's Martin Brundle. "If they had an answer, they would have delivered it by now. They just don't have enough grip, enough downforce, to respond - and I know that Red Bull have a load more pieces coming to India as well."
Indeed, it is Red Bull's rate of development which seems to have proved pivotal in this year's championship contest, with the team once again working around the clock in Korea to fine-tune RB8 cars now carrying a Double DRS device to critical effect.
"As Christian [Horner] pointed out to you guys earlier, they are the team working here [in the paddock] the latest. They just keep on reinventing their cars - how can Ferrari answer that?"
It's a question which Anthony Davidson also had no answers to.
"I really can't see Ferrari developing their car to the extent that Adrian Newey is able to do down at Red Bull," admitted Anthony. "It just seems too much now. They are so strong that I can't see it changing."
Massa's performance will, however, have brought a crumb of comfort to the beleaguered Ferrari team. A week on from his first podium in over two years, Massa shadowed Alonso to the line despite appearing to have the pace to beat his team-mate. The Brazilian's reward is likely to be the imminent confirmation that he will be staying with the team for another season.
"I think he's upped his game since they told him he had a chance of staying," added Martin. "He's relaxed and become the old Felipe Massa. That was a great drive from Felipe after his podium at Suzuka last week. Confidence is everything in these cars."
Yet changes for the 2013 grid are afoot, with Sauber very much the focus of the rumour-mill in Korea. The team are certain to make at least one change to their current line-up for next season with Sergio Perez bound for McLaren as Lewis Hamilton's replacement, but it has now emerged that, despite his third-placed finish at Suzuka, Kamui Kobayashi is set to be dropped so that Nico Hulkenberg can partner newcomer Esteban Gutierrez.
"We think Force India are about to lose Nico Hulkenberg to Sauber," confirmed Ted Kravitz in his post-race video blog. "The open secret in the paddock this weekend is that Sauber will announce maybe as early as this week that Gutierrez, their Mexican long-time test driver and apprentice, will replace Kobayashi and that Perez's place as the senior driver will go to Hulkenberg.
"I wouldn't be a surprise if they bench Kobayashi for the rest of the season and put in Gutierrez to give him some race time. He does have a super licence so it is possible - but probably not probable."