2012 Korean Grand Prix preview
Korea is staging its third Grand Prix and will be followed by F1′s return to India, the fourth Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and then on to the USA for the first race at the Circuit of the Americas.
This quartet are all examples of the modern Grand Prix circuit template which bear the hallmarks of F1 architect Hermann Tilke’s designs.
They all feature long, wide straights bookended by slow corners intended to create opportunities for overtaking. Besides their location and architecture, they differ mainly in the detail of sequences of corners that make up the remainder of the lap.
Korea features a few quick corners including the left/right flick at turns seven and eight, and the 180-degree left-hander turn 11. After that the tempo of the track reduces slightly and the drivers also find they have less room to make mistakes.
On the original plan, the final sector was to be surrounded by buildings. They haven’t appeared yet, but the less generous run-off means an error in this part of the lap is more severely punished.
Korea circuit information
|Lap length||5.621km (3.493 miles)|
|Distance||55 laps (309km/192 miles)|
|Lap record*||1’39.605 (Sebastian Vettel, 2011)|
|Fastest lap||1’35.585 (Sebastian Vettel, 2010)|
|Tyres||Soft and Super–soft|
*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix
There is little action to be seen at the track besides F1 which has an effect on the surface, as Timo Glock explains:
“Every year this is a bit of a strange race weekend because the track is not used very often outside of Formula 1. This makes it difficult on a Friday in particular as the track is always quite dirty and takes a while to come up to grip level.”
As a result Pirelli have brought their softest tyres for this race, despite the quick corners in the middle of the lap: “Korea has the highest lateral energy loadings of all the circuits where we use the super-soft tyre,” said motorsport director Paul Hembery.
The vast majority of drivers made two pit stops during last year’s race. The softer rubber produced a significant amount of marbles which made conditions treacherous for those who ventured off-line.
It also caused other problems. A chunk of rubber lodged in Lewis Hamilton’s front wing, disrupting the airflow and causing handling problems which left him scrapping furiously with Mark Webber to hold onto second.
The pit lane exit caused problems during last year’s Grand Prix. During second practice Nico Rosberg ran wide at the first corner and his Mercedes hit the Toro Rosso of Jamie Alguersuari as he was leaving the pits.
Korean Grand Prix team-by-team preview
Among the new components on the RB8 at Suzuka was a Double DRS rear wing, improving the car’s straight-line speed, which has previously been a weakness. That should make life easier for them on Korea’s long straights and those at subsequent Tilke tracks as well.
Their most significant weakness this year has been alternator failures, which they are particularly susceptible to at circuits with slow corners. Korea has six turns taken at less than 100kph (62mph), so expect them to pay close attention to this potential vulnerability.
Sebastian Vettel’s victory at Suzuka moved him within striking distance of Fernando Alonso in the drivers’ championship, with just four points separating them now. A repeat of his 2011 Korea victory would put him clear in front for the first time since April.
Neither McLaren driver made it onto the podium in Japan, failing to make the most of an opportunity to significantly reduce their deficit to Alonso.
Lewis Hamilton took pole position at Korea last year and feels he is due a victory at the track: “I think we’ve had the potential to win both Korean Grands Prix in the past, but I’ve never had a race weekend there on which everything has gone quite right for me.”
Ferrari’s potential in Japan was disguised by misfortune in qualifying and Alonso’s first-lap retirement. The team believe the car was quick enough to qualify on the second row, but Alonso lost time due to Kimi Raikkonen’s spin, then caught Vettel at the chicane.
His race ended at the first corner. But Felipe Massa enjoyed a strong race and the ease with which he was able to leapfrog Jenson Button and Kamui Kobayashi at the first round of pit stops demonstrated that the F2012′s race pace was very good indeed.
That should give them cause for optimism heading to Korea, where Alonso won in 2010, delivering a devastating blow to Vettel’s championship hopes.
With one car compromised by a grid penalty and the other eliminated at the start, Suzuka was a point-less weekend for Mercedes.
Michael Schumacher is optimistic about the potential of the W03 at this circuit: “The basic characteristics should be more favourable for us than in Japan,” he said.
Lotus will become the latest team to introduce a ‘Coanda’ exhaust at the Korean Grand Prix. They will be hoping for better success with this than their Double DRS, the introduction of which has been repeatedly postponed.
This is Kimi Raikkonen’s first visit to Korea, so he will need to avoid a repeat of the problems he experienced during practice at Suzuka and spend time getting up to speed on the track.
Team mate Romain Grosjean finds himself in the spotlight again over his driving following another first-lap tangle in Japan. Above all else, his priority for this weekend must be to avoid getting in any more trouble.
Vijay Mallya is pleased with his team’s progress ahead of their home race, which follows Korea: “We have scored points in the last four races, including two fourth places, and we’ve already scored more points than we did during the whole of last year.
“Our car will suit some tracks more than others, but as long as we keep picking up the points we can keep the pressure on the teams around us. Korea should be good for us and hopefully Abu Dhabi and India.”
After the high of Kobayashi’s podium at Suzuka, Sauber admit they are facing a more difficult race at Korea. The long straights are a particular concern, as Sergio Perez explains: “Because we are usually lacking a bit of straight-line speed, it won’t be an easy Grand Prix for us.”
However the two cars should fare better than last year, when they could only manage a lapped 15th and 16th.
This is the first track on the calendar that Jean-Eric Vergne already has experience of from an F1 weekend. Unfortunately the practice session he drove for Toro Rosso last year was so wet he completed just nine laps.
Daniel Ricciardo has been on a good run of form since returning from the summer break. He’d have scored in all of the last four races had he not run out of fuel at the Parabolica on the last lap at Monza.
Williams’ chief operations engineer Mark Gillan says the team’s objective for Korea is “to get both cars home in the points” – something they’ve only managed once so far this year.
Pastor Maldonado has tended to do particularly well on tracks where the super-soft tyre is used this year, so look out for him making an appearance in Q3 again, and perhaps even getting among the championship contenders.
Giedo van der Garde will drive for the team again during the first practice session, taking over from Vitaly Petrov.
Narain Karthikeyan will have to give up his car for the first practice session once more as Dani Clos gets another outing. Although Karthikeyan didn’t drive in last year’s race, he did have a run in first practice, so this won’t be his first time on the circuit.
Marussia have reduced the gap to Caterham in recent races and have a fair shot at holding on to the tenth place in the constructors’ championship they claimed in Singapore.
2012 driver form
|Q avg||R avg||R best||R worst||Classified||Form guide|
|Sebastian Vettel||4.6||5.07||1||22||14/15||Form guide|
|Mark Webber||7.07||6.8||1||20||15/15||Form guide|
|Jenson Button||6.33||7.79||1||18||14/15||Form guide|
|Lewis Hamilton||5.07||5.42||1||19||12/15||Form guide|
|Fernando Alonso||6.2||3.62||1||9||13/15||Form guide|
|Felipe Massa||10.73||9.14||2||16||14/15||Form guide|
|Michael Schumacher||9.2||7.63||3||11||8/15||Form guide|
|Nico Rosberg||9.07||7.86||1||15||14/15||Form guide|
|Kimi Raikkonen||8.07||5.33||2||14||15/15||Form guide|
|Romain Grosjean||6.71||7.56||2||19||9/14||Form guide|
|Paul di Resta||10.93||9.36||4||14||14/15||Form guide|
|Nico Hulkenberg||12.47||10.64||4||21||14/15||Form guide|
|Kamui Kobayashi||10.47||9.5||3||18||12/15||Form guide|
|Sergio Perez||12.4||7.91||2||14||11/15||Form guide|
|Daniel Ricciardo||13.93||12.29||9||17||14/15||Form guide|
|Jean-Eric Vergne||16.73||12.75||8||16||12/15||Form guide|
|Pastor Maldonado||11||11.73||1||19||11/15||Form guide|
|Bruno Senna||14.67||12.5||6||22||14/15||Form guide|
|Heikki Kovalainen||18.07||16.64||13||23||14/15||Form guide|
|Vitaly Petrov||18.87||16.58||13||19||12/15||Form guide|
|Pedro de la Rosa||21.64||19.33||17||22||12/14||Form guide|
|Narain Karthikeyan||23.14||20.13||15||23||8/14||Form guide|
|Timo Glock||20.43||17.08||12||22||13/14||Form guide|
|Charles Pic||21.27||17.91||15||20||11/15||Form guide|
|Jerome D’Ambrosio||15||13||13||13||1/1||Form guide|
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2012 Korean Grand Prix
- Alonso: ‘We’re fighting against Newey’
- Vettel earns Driver of the Weekend for Korea win
- Korean Grand Prix gets lowest rating of season so far
- F1 fans’ videos from the 2012 Korean Grand Prix
- Korea “most disappointing race” this year for Williams
Image © Korean GP/Sutton