Sebastian Vettel led a Red Bull one-two on Friday in free practice for a South Korean Grand Prix that could send the Formula One world champion back into the overall lead for the first time since the fifth round.
The 25-year-old German, four points behind Ferrari's Fernando Alonso with five races remaining, set the fastest lap of a clear and sunny day in the afternoon session with a best time of one minute 38.832 se onds. Australian teammate Mark Webber, who lined up with Vettel on the front row of the grid in Japan last Sunday in a race that the German won from pole, was a mere 0.032 slower after being third fastest in the morning.
Alonso was third quickest in the second session, 0.328 off Vettel's pace. McLaren's Lewis Hamilton had kept Alonso off the top in the morning with a best effort of 1:39.148.
Hamilton needs to deny Vettel, last year's winner in Korea, a third win in a row on Sunday to get back into a title fight that looks increasingly like a duel between Alonso and the Red Bull champion.
Michael Schumacher's faltering conclusion to a glorious career hit another bump Friday when he was officially reprimanded for impeding two other cars in practice for the Korean Grand Prix. The seven-time world champion was adjudged to have got in the way of the HRT pairing of Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan in the afternoon practice.
Schumacher, who announced in Japan last week that he was retiring for a second time, was reprimanded after a similar incident earlier this year at Barcelona when he impeded Lewis Hamilton during final practice. The German was handed a 10-place grid penalty for last week's Japanese Grand Prix after he ran into the back of Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne in the previous race in Singapore. Despite the latest mishap, he said: "I was pleased with both sessions today. "As expected, it looks like our car is better suited to the circuit. The day went well."
Mclaren’s tax boost
McLaren have successfully argued in Britain that a £32-million fine they paid after a 2007 Ferrari spying controversy should be tax deductible. The fine was imposed by Formula One's governing body, the FIA, after a dossier of Ferrari data was found in the possession of the McLaren team's then-chief designer Mike Coughlan.
McLaren argued that the fine was "connected" with their trade and should be exempt from corporation tax. A spokesman said: “McLaren Group is a successful UK company which provides high-quality employment and substantial tax revenue.”
"In 2007, McLaren was required to pay a penalty, following a breach of the International Code of the FIA.