Sebastian Vettel moved a step closer to his third world title with victory in Korea as Lewis Hamilton saw his challenge extinguished in Yeongam.
The McLaren driver entered the race 42 points off the top of the drivers’ championship and needing to make up some ground to keep himself in the hunt.
But the race proved a nightmare for the 27-year-old as he finished 10th and fell 62 points behind new championship leader Vettel, who overtook Fernando Alonso with his fourth win of the year.
A rear anti-roll bar failure during his first stint ultimately proved to be Hamilton’s undoing.
The problem meant an extra pit stop for fresh rubber with the resulting handling problems causing high levels of tyre degradation as he dropped back from an initial fourth place.
The problem was exacerbated when a loose piece of Astroturf became attached to his car during the closing laps, and he ended up just holding off Sergio Perez, his McLaren replacement for 2013, for the final point.
And Hamilton admits his chances of departing McLaren for Mercedes as a world champion are finished.
He said: “I think in terms of winning I think that is it for us, but I think we can still get a lot of points.
“We are 62 points behind now so it is going to be tough.”