The German pipped Britain’s Lewis Hamilton in Yeongam to win his 10th race of an utterly dominant season and could yet equal Michael Schumacher’s record of 13 triumphs in one campaign.
“People now expect us to take it easy, but we are here to win and do our best,” said Vettel. “We had a chance to win today and we took it.”
Vettel, who clinched his second successive drivers’ championship in Japan last week, admitted his relief at confirming Red Bull’s place at the top of the constructor’s standings.
“It was a lot of pressure off the shoulders today when I crossed the line,” he added.
Hamilton started on pole, having knocked Red Bull off first place on the grid for the first time this season, but was passed by Vettel on the first lap and had to fight off his rival’s team-mate Mark Webber for second.
“This was a good, strong result for the team,” he said. “The guys didn’t put a foot wrong all weekend, so we should be proud of today’s result – but man, it was hard.”
Hamilton’s McLaren colleague Jenson Button kept Fernando Alonso at bay to claim fourth place, with the other Ferrari of Felipe Massa fifth and Scotland’s Paul di Resta 10th for Force India.
Veteran Schumacher retired on lap 17 after being hit by Renault’s Vitaly Petrov, a transgression that earned the Russian a five-place grid penalty for the Indian Grand Prix later this month.
RESULTS | KOREAN GRAND PRIX
RACE RESULT: TOP SIX
1. Sebastian Vettel 1hr 38mins 01.994secs
2. Lewis Hamilton 1:38:14.013
3. Mark Webber 1:38:14.471
4. Jenson Button 1:38:16.688
5. Fernando Alonso 1:38:17.683
6. Feilpe Massa 1:38:27.127
1. Sebastian Vettel (C) 349 points
2. Jenson Button 222
3. Fernando Alonso 212
4. Mark Webber 209
5. Lewis Hamilton 196
6. Felipe Massa 98
1. Red Bull 558 points
2. McLaren 418
3. Ferrari 310
4. Mercedes GP 127
5. Renault 72
6. Force India 49