The low-grip surface at Korea and the high tyre degradation the teams are experiencing could be the a recipe for an exciting race on Sunday.
On top of that the three championship contenders all seem quite evenly matched following the first two practice sessions at the Korean International Circuit.
Tick/untick drivers?óÔé¼Ôäó names to show their laps, click and drag to zoom
After a quiet first practice, Ferrari showed their hand in the second session and got in among the front runners.
As the track surface became cleaner and more rubber went down in the second session, lap times continued to improve, though not as quickly as in the first. That makes it tricky to pick which of the three top teams, if any, might have an edge.
Lewis Hamilton’s fastest time was bettered six minutes later by Fernando Alonso, who went a tenth of a second quicker. Five minutes after that Mark Webber found another tenth.
Alonso pipped Webber to the fastest time in sector two. Webber was quickest in the final sector. McLaren were the fastest of the three in the long first sector (though Renault were quicker still).
So although the top of the times sheets placed Red Bull ahead of Ferrari followed by McLaren, the pecking order might actually be the reverse of that.
1. Michael Schumacher, Mercedes – 316.9kph
6. Jenson Button, McLaren – 315.8kph
7. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren – 314.5kph
12. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull – 307.9kph
13. Felipe Massa, Ferrari – 307.8kph
With two long straights following the first corner this has obvious implications for what could happen on the first lap.
The big question for race day is how much the changing grip levels will influence strategy. As we saw in Montreal, low grip can mean higher than usual tyre degradation. In Canada that forced many drivers to make two tyre stops instead of the usual one.
As the track surface rubbers in the rate at which the tyres ‘go off’ should decrease. During second practice we heard Nico H?â??lkenberg complaining that his tyres were “falling to pieces” and he was warned to expect the same in the race.
Looking at the lap times of drivers like Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton from the end of the session shows how severe tyre degradation was. Instead of finding an incremental improvement in lap time as the fuel load came down their lap times levelled out or even rose.
Vettel had to use the soft tyres earlier than planned in second practice today as he picked up a puncture on his hard tyres. His first laps on soft tyres, much earlier than his rivals, was well off the pace they were setting on hard tyres.
Bridgestone expect that, come the race, the soft (option) tyre will be up to speed:
We saw a lot of graining on both compounds front and rear today. This is related to the dirty surface as the tyres cannot grip the tarmac properly.
This situation should continue to improve with the track surface evolution tomorrow. We expect that the option tyre should give a faster lap time and if the surface continues to improve it should have reasonable durability. How much durability depends on the track surface evolution so this will be the crucial question for the next two days.
What happens to the track in final practice tomorrow will strongly influence what the teams decide to do on Sunday. Drivers who qualify in the top ten, of course, have to start the race using the tyres they qualify on.
In Montreal the Red Bull drivers started the race on hard tyres, expecting the soft tyres would go off too quickly in the early stages. But that gamble failed to pay off.
If any of the top three teams get the call wrong this weekend it could cost them dearly in the championship.
|Pos.||Car||Driver||Car||Best lap||Gap||Lap||At time||Laps|
|1||6||Mark Webber||Red Bull-Renault||1’37.942||16||73||23|
|7||5||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||1’39.204||1.262||8||48||22|
|14||15||Vitantonio Liuzzi||Force India-Mercedes||1’39.881||1.939||16||62||25|
|15||14||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1’39.971||2.029||16||63||22|
|17||17||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1’40.578||2.636||15||60||28|
|18||16||Sebastien Buemi||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1’40.896||2.954||19||61||31|
|22||25||Lucas di Grassi||Virgin-Cosworth||1’44.039||6.097||21||73||29|
An ultimate lap is a driver’s best three sector times added together.
|Pos.||Car||Driver||Car||Ultimate lap||Gap||Deficit to best|
|1||6||Mark Webber||Red Bull-Renault||1’37.936||0.006|
|8||5||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||1’39.125||1.189||0.079|
|14||15||Vitantonio Liuzzi||Force India-Mercedes||1’39.881||1.945||0.000|
|15||14||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1’39.887||1.951||0.084|
|16||17||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1’40.397||2.461||0.181|
|18||16||Sebastien Buemi||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1’40.815||2.879||0.081|
|22||25||Lucas di Grassi||Virgin-Cosworth||1’43.892||5.956||0.147|
2010 Korean Grand Prix
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