Korean Grand Prixview

By on Monday, October 8, 2012

The Japanese Grand Prix may still be fresh in the minds, but it’s already time to switch focus to the Korean Grand Prix at Yeongam. Sebastian Vettel’s victory closes him to within four points of championship leader Fernando Alonso, who failed to finish after a first lap collision with Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn, as well as McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, remains in the hunt for the championship, but their hopes are becoming increasingly forlorn. Felipe Massa and Kamui Kobayashi went a long way to securing their F1 futures by finishing on the podium, while the likes of Alonso, Romain Grosjean and Sergio Perez will be looking to bounce back after a trying weekend in Japan.

History

The Korean International Circuit debuted on the F1 calendar in 2010, when the circuit wasn’t really finished and problems with the drainage of the tarmac exacerbated the torrential weather conditions. After a stoppage of an hour and a half, Hamilton infamously exclaimed that it was dry enough for Intermediate tyres, Webber crashed out of the title hunt and Vettel’s engine blew as he pleaded for the race to be brought to a premature halt due to the fading light. Alonso claimed victory on that occasion, but a year later Vettel rested the demons of 2010 by claiming a comfortable win after passing pole sitter Hamilton on the opening lap.

The safety car has appeared in both Korean races

The track

While on paper the circuit layout looks as if it was scribbled by a child, Sector 2 of the lap is a challenge for the drivers. A couple of fast, sweeping corners can easily catch them out, although why the straight between Turns 2 and 3 is so unnecessarily long is anyone’s guess. It does represent the best overtaking opportunity of the lap though. The final corner is quickly becoming the circuit’s iconic corner; a medium speed right hander with a wall on the inside and on the outside. Even though the aim was to create a street circuit effect, it has yet to happen. Recent videos still suggest the circuit surroundings are unkempt and it remains to be seen whether the race will continue into 2013, even if it does have a contract.

Can Vettel win again?

What might happen?

All the talk is of Vettel romping away to the title, even if he has a four point deficit to Alonso. But Massa’s second place in Suzuka – combined with the fact that Red Bull always runs strongly at the Japanese circuit – suggests that the outcome of the championship battle is far from certain. Getting a good set-up is obviously vital, but how much pain do you take in Sector 2 to gain from a good straight line speed? Expect Red Bull and McLaren to be strong, while Lotus will be praying that their planned upgrades pay off and lift Raikkonen to that elusive victory. The preliminary weather forecast points towards a dry weekend, but after the deluge of 2010 – and the wet practice of 2011 – don’t rule anything out. If the weather does play a part, it plays perfectly into the hands of Alonso.


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