Sebastian Vettel survived a late tyre scare to move back to the top of the Formula One drivers' championship with a dominant victory in Korea, as McLaren's title hopes disintegrated.
The Red Bull driver got the jump on team-mate Mark Webber from second on the grid and was able to ease away to his third win in a row and go six points clear of Fernando Alonso, despite concerns his right-front tyre would wear out in the closing laps.
Webber was a solid second as Red Bull became the first team to secure a one-two finish in 2012, with Alonso getting the maximum out of his Ferrari with third place.
But Lewis Hamilton could only finish 10th after suffering with tyre degradation and fell 62 points behind Vettel with just 100 points up for grabs from the final four races. Team-mate Jenson Button was a first-lap retirement and is 84 points adrift of the German.
The second Ferrari of Felipe Massa was fourth with Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus fifth ahead of the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg, Romain Grosjean in the second Lotus and the Toro Rosso pair of Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo.
Vettel got the better start from the dirty side of the grid and went up the inside of Webber into turn one to take a lead he never relinquished. Behind the two Red Bulls the Ferraris made good starts as Alonso got by Hamilton and Massa made a move on Raikkonen for sixth.
But behind them Button, who had started 11th, and Nico Rosberg were already out of the race. The pair were clouted by the wayward Sauber of Suzuka hero Kamui Kobayashi at turn three and went no further, the Japanese driver serving a drive-through penalty before being forced to park up in the garage.
Vettel quickly began to eke out a lead over Webber as the top six held position through the first-round of stops.
The German was advised to cool his pace with eight laps to go as the drivers struggled with heavy wear on their right-front tyres. A further warning was issued to the German with five laps to go, while Hamilton's woes were compounded as he picked up a loose strip of Astroturf under his McLaren which slowed his pace.
Vettel continued to receive increasingly concerned messages from race engineer Guillaume 'Rocky' Rocquelin, but ultimately came through to take the win by 6.8 seconds from Webber and close in on becoming just the third man to win three straight titles. Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher are the others.