Red Bull’s double defending world champion proved he’s finding form when it counts when he swept to pole position in Japan last week, and then dominated the race as Ferrari’s Alonso was eliminated in the first corner.
Vettel’s imperious performance, following his impressive win in Singapore, saw the German jump to within four points of Alonso, the championship leader since June, with five races to go.
Ferrari have been bullish about their title chances since the Suzuka fiasco, where Alonso’s Japanese Grand Prix lasted just seconds before he was nudged out by Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus.
But the famed Italian team, in an official release, also noted that Japan had left Alonso with a "bitter taste in his mouth". With their campaign in the balance, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo issued a rallying cry.
"It’s at times like these that I want to see the Ferrari I know” said di Montezemolo. “A team that is focused and that holds its nerve."
McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, who is quitting for Mercedes next year, is fighting to stay in contention after his challenge faltered in Singapore and Japan, mainly due to mechanical problems.
Meanwhile Raikkonen is third in the drivers’ standings, 37 points off the lead and five ahead of fourth-placed Hamilton, in his first season back after a stint in rallying. Next in the table lie Red Bull’s Mark Webber, and Button.
The Korean Grand Prix is in only its third edition, and has suffered teething problems with heavy rain and patchy local interest. Alonso won here in 2010 and Vettel took the honours in 2011.
Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher, who has announced his return to retirement, said: "Korea is one of the more recent additions to the Formula One calendar, and that’s still reflected in the fact that we don’t get too many fans at the race."
Psy, the Korean superstar behind global hit Gangnam Style, is to perform at the grand prix.