Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Korea, 2010

Unfamiliar territory for next McLaren-Red Bull showdown

2011 Korean Grand Prix previewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Korea, 2010
Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Korea, 2010

Sebastian Vettel’s engine failure while leading the 2010 Korean Grand Prix was a serious setback in his championship campaign.

This year he arrives in Korea with the championship already won. Can he now make amends for last year’s disappointment in this race?

The venue for the 16th round of the world championship remains something of an unknown quantity for the drivers.

Korea’s F1 track was only completed at the 11th hour last year and the combination of freshly laid tarmac and dust from building work made it very slippery.

Race day was hit by a massive rainstorm, so the teams head into this weekend with little more useful data than they did 12 months ago.

Vettel’s misfortune last year meant victory fell into Fernando Alonso’s lap. The Ferrari driver narrowly beat him at Suzuka and may be encouraged to see Pirelli’s tyre choices for this race do not include any of the harder tyres Ferrari has struggled with.

Pirelli’s soft and super soft tyres will get a lot of punishment on a track that includes three high-speed straights and some quick turns. This looks a particularly aggressive choice of tyre given that Bridgestone opted for hard and soft tyres last year, indicating we may see a busy pit lane on Sunday.

As new tracks go, Korea has a little more character than we’re used to. In places the drivers have to cope with limited run-off, particularly in the final sector.

There were no vast expanses of tarmac run-off waiting for Mark Webber or Vitaly Petrov when they crashes in last year’s race – both of them hit walls. Barriers have been moved back in places this year but there is still little room for error around this part of the circuit.

Webber was just seven-hundredths of a second off beating Vettel to pole position last year. He’s rarely been that close to Vettel in 2011 – even so his sixth on the grid in Japan was surprisingly low for him.

Korea International Circuit, 2011 Korean Grand Prix

Korea circuit information

Lap length 5.621km (3.493 miles)
Distance 55 laps (309km/192 miles)
Lap record* 1’50.257 (Fernando Alonso, 2010)
Fastest lap 1’35.585 (Sebastian Vettel, 2010)
Tyres Soft and Super soft

*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix

Korea track data in full

After Suzuka there may now be a realistic possibility that a Red Bull might not be on pole position on Sunday.

Jenson Button was less than a hundredth of a second off beating Vettel to pole at Suzuka. And Lewis Hamilton showed he had pace to beat the RB7 before failing to get his final lap in.

I could probably copy and paste a line about ‘Hamilton needing to bounce back from a disappointing weekend’ from most of this year’s race previews.

Without wishing to add yet more to the reams already written on his current predicament here and elsewhere, suffice it to say that a little luck and one good result can do a lot to resolve a driver’s troubles.

At the very least, he could do with staying away from Felipe Massa on the track.

The intra-team battle at Mercedes intensified in Japan when Nico Rosberg’s weekend was ruined by an hydraulic problem in qualifying. With four races remaining his resurgent team mate is now just three points behind.

Rosberg was bitterly unlucky in Korea last year, being taken out by the spinning Webber having already passed Hamilton. Michael Schumacher profited to claim his best result of the season. This will definitely be a contest to keep a close eye on this weekend.

There will also be a new face on the track this weekend. Jean-Eric Vergne will make his first of three appearances in first practice for Toro Rosso.

Who do you expect to win in Korea? Can McLaren take the fight to Red Bull in Korea? Have your say in the comments.

2011 F1 driver form

Q avg R avg R best R worst Classified Form guide
Sebastian Vettel 1.27 1.6 1 4 15/15 Form guide
Mark Webber 4 3.43 2 5 14/15 Form guide
Lewis Hamilton 3.73 3.85 1 8 13/15 Form guide
Jenson Button 4.8 3.08 1 6 13/15 Form guide
Fernando Alonso 4.53 3.43 1 7 14/15 Form guide
Felipe Massa 5.73 6.62 5 11 13/15 Form guide
Michael Schumacher 10.33 8.09 4 17 11/15 Form guide
Nico Rosberg 7.73 7.92 5 12 13/15 Form guide
Nick Heidfeld 13.36 8.5 3 12 8/11 Form guide
Vitaly Petrov 9.87 10.54 3 17 13/15 Form guide
Rubens Barrichello 14.2 13.25 9 17 12/15 Form guide
Pastor Maldonado 13.8 14.67 10 18 12/15 Form guide
Adrian Sutil 12.33 10.31 6 15 13/15 Form guide
Paul di Resta 12 11.36 6 18 14/15 Form guide
Kamui Kobayashi 13.27 10.33 5 16 12/15 Form guide
Sergio Perez 13.31 11.33 7 17 9/13 Form guide
Sebastien Buemi 15.2 11.33 8 15 12/15 Form guide
Jaime Alguersuari 14.87 12.33 7 21 12/15 Form guide
Heikki Kovalainen 18.13 16.1 13 19 10/15 Form guide
Jarno Trulli 19.29 16.4 13 20 10/14 Form guide
Narain Karthikeyan 23 20.5 17 24 6/7 Form guide
Vitantonio Liuzzi 22.43 19.6 13 23 10/14 Form guide
Timo Glock 20.6 17.73 15 21 11/15 Form guide
Jerome D’Ambrosio 22.07 18.08 14 22 13/15 Form guide
Pedro de la Rosa 17 12 12 12 1/1 Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo 22.71 19.4 18 22 5/7 Form guide
Karun Chandhok 20 20 20 20 1/1 Form guide
Bruno Senna 10.25 13.25 9 16 4/4 Form guide

2011 Korean Grand Prix

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Image ?? Red Bull/Getty images