Preview: Korean Grand Prix
The Formula 1 roadshow rolls in Korea this weekend and with just five races remaining the third Korean Grand Prix could have a huge bearing on the destination of the drivers’ championship.
While several drivers have a mathematical chance of winning the title, it is hard to see the championship going to someone other than Fernando Alonso or Sebastian Vettel with just four points separating the pair.
The momentum appears to be with Vettel after his victory in Japan last weekend and he might have the upper hand this time around, given he won in Korea 12 months ago by 12 seconds.
Interestingly, Alonso has also tasted success around the Korean International Circuit as he won when Formula 1 One made its inaugural visit to South Korea in 2010, claiming victory after starting from 8th on the grid.
Alonso’s hopes of challenging in Japan were ended on the very first lap when he was struck from behind by Kimi Raikkonen, the second time this year his race has been ended by an incident involving a Lotus driver.
His premature exit allowed Vettel to reduce the gap to four and the Spaniard cannot afford to have another poor week if he wants to end his wait for a third drivers championship.
In the build-up to Korea, Ferrari have hammered home the need for the team to work together to produce a car capable of challenging Vettel in the closing races but Alonso knows luck could play its part.
“Now we start a sort of mini-championship, run over five Grands Prix,” Alonso said in Japan. “The aim will be to score at least one point more than all the others. What happened to us today could happen to the others next time: the wheel turns and that is what races are all about.”
Vettel has the faster car at his disposal but Red Bull have suffered from a lack of consistency throughout the season and that could prove costly to the reigning world champion.
Despite dominating in Japan, Vettel is refusing to think too much about the championship because he fears others could have a say in the destination of the title.
“Every weekend can be different and instead of then having a bad weekend and still finishing fourth or fifth, you might then be only 10th, because of guys like Sauber and Kamui [Kobayashi], Sergio [Perez] and other guys – the Lotus is very strong this year – so they all keep scoring consistently but obviously one of us at some point has to park and watch the race from the outside, which is not nice and something you don’t hope for,” he stated.
McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton is still in with a chance of winning his second championship before making the move to Mercedes.
The 2008 champion was fulsome in his praise for the car in Japan despite Red Bull dominating the weekend and team principal Martin Whitmarsh sees no reason why McLaren cannot end the season with both titles.
“The result in Suzuka showed that anything can still happen in this world championship,” Whitmarsh said.
“I’m still convinced that we can fight for, and win, both titles in 2012 – and we head to Korea determined to narrow the gap to the top in both world championship points tables.”
The post-race talk from Japan has centred around Romain Grosjean’s latest first-lap incident which all but ended Mark Webber’s challenge.
The Frenchman has been warned an improvement is needed, while Red Bull’s Christian Horner believes it is down to Lotus to get the driver under control.
He has apologised to Webber for the incident and will be looking to make amends this weekend.
Friday, October 12
Practice 1 02.00-03.30
Practice 2 06.00-07.30
Saturday, October 13
Practice 3 03.00-04.00
Sunday, October 24
The Korean International Circuit was completed just in time for the inaugural race in 2010 but there have been chances and it now presents a stern test for drivers, especially when it comes to tyre management.
Each lap is 5.615km in length with a mix of medium and high-speed corners which will lead to the tyres coming under severe pressure. The right choice of tyre will be key, while the threat of heavy rain could pose another dilemma for teams.
The lack of action at the Yeongam circuit throughout the year means it will be very dirty in the opening sessions of the weekend, resulting in low grip and there could be several spills during Friday practice.
The single DRS zone remain on the main straight, while a number of verges have been laid with asphalt and painted with green non-slip paint and drainage has been improved in the pit entry.
Other changes have been to the circuit since 2011, including the lowering of the ‘sausage’ kerb on the apex of turn 18 and higher debris fences on the right between turns 7 and 9.by: Michelle, October 11, 2012