Formula One has not made life easy for itself as it tries to establish a foothold in South Korea. In three years the race promoters have squandered over ?é?ú100m on the event.
It’s not difficult to see why. The Korea International Circuit, a typical dreary Hermann Tilke clone, is stamped on the indifferent countryside almost 200 miles from the capital Seoul.
A telling sign of the lack of local enthusiasm for the event is that for F1’s fourth visit there remains just a single category on the support bill. Local fans report there is little in the way of promotion.
If that is unlikely to raise your anticipation for the weekend ahead, the championship situation is not likely to help matters. Sebastian Vettel’s hat-trick of wins since since the summer break has realistically destroyed his rivals’ hopes of beating him.
Another win this weekend could see him head to Japan ready to clinch the crown. That being the case, thoughts are increasingly turning to preparing for next year.
There is an outside chance the growing tropical storm Fitow could arrive in the region in time for the race. However the developing weather forecast increasingly projects the path of the storm will be away from the vicinity of the circuit.
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||Medium and Super-soft|
*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix
Pirelli are bringing the same tyre combination that was used in Singapore – super-soft and medium tyres – the former being a viable choice despite Korea’s medium-to-high speed corners because the track surface offers minimal grip.
It’s another sign of how little the track gets used. That, and the ‘provisional’ notification besides next year’s race on the FIA’s 2014 calendar, is a further sign F1 might not be making many more visits to South Korea.
Korean Grand Prix team-by-team preview
Vettel scored a hat-trick of wins in Singapore and is aiming for the same in Korea this weekend. He’s led all bar 12 of the 165 laps raced at this track. Had it not been for an engine failure while he was leading in 2010, no one else would have won this race, so he has to start the weekend as favourite.
Team mate Mark Webber begins the race on the back foot as he has a ten-place grid penalty having earned his third reprimand of the season in Singapore.
“For 2014, because of the much larger changes to the cars on the engine side and also the aero aspect, it?óÔé¼Ôäós naturally much harder to test components now,” said technical director Pat Fry, “but there will be some small development bits we can run during this year?óÔé¼Ôäós remaining free practice, looking more on the reliability front than anything else, which means we have busy Fridays planned for the next six races.”
Sergio Perez is in need of a strong result this weekend after a few indifferent races and amid some doubts over his future at the team. He hasn’t scored a point in his previous two visits to Korea.
Romain Grosjean had a luckless weekend in Singapore: his practice running was riddled with technical problems, despite which he nonetheless qualified third, only to retire with engine problems while he was on course for a podium finish.
“Hopefully there won?óÔé¼Ôäót be a repeat of any of the issues we suffered in Singapore,” he said. “It would be nice to have some better luck and have a straightforward Friday, another good qualifying result and then a strong finish on Sunday.”
The contest between Mercedes and Ferrari for second place in the constructors’ standings is one of the more interesting aspects of the championship at the moment. Mercedes tend to qualify better but come under pressure from the red cars on Sunday. However they were unable to keep up with the flying Red Bulls in Singapore.
This time last year Nico Hulkenberg and Force India were really flying and he enjoyed one of his best races of the season, putting a fine double pass on Lewis Hamilton and Romain Grosjan on the way.
Paul di Resta admitted “the disappointment still feels quite fresh” after his late-race retirement during the Singapore Grand Prix – which cost the time a vital chance to reduce the points gap to McLaren.
“When you have a race like that you just want to get back in the car as soon as possible,” he added.
Pastor Maldonado had one of his better races of the season so far in the last race and is aiming to score the team’s second points finish of the year: “I was close to finishing in the points in Singapore and we will be looking to learn from that race and make the adjustments needed to challenge for a top ten finish.”
Toro Rosso expect the Korean circuit to suit the STR8 – with Sauber looking ever more threatening they need it to.
Charles Pic says he never really found a balance he was happy with on his car at Singapore. Caterham remain ahead of Marussia on pace at the moment but the 13th place finish they need to move ahead in the championship continues to elude them.
Max Chilton was the first of the Marussia drivers to cross the line last weekend and he wants to build on that result: “I feel there is a real momentum building now which I am obviously keen to maintain,” he said.
2013 driver form
|Driver||G avg||R avg||R best||R worst||Classified||Form guide|
|Sebastian Vettel||2.38||1.92||1||4||12/13||Form guide|
|Mark Webber||6.00||5.25||2||15||12/13||Form guide|
|Fernando Alonso||5.69||3.25||1||8||12/13||Form guide|
|Felipe Massa||8.15||6.55||3||15||11/13||Form guide|
|Jenson Button||9.77||8.92||5||17||13/13||Form guide|
|Sergio Perez||11.15||10.85||6||20||13/13||Form guide|
|Kimi Raikkonen||7.38||4.67||1||11||12/13||Form guide|
|Romain Grosjean||8.85||8.50||3||19||10/13||Form guide|
|Nico Rosberg||4.00||6.18||1||19||11/13||Form guide|
|Lewis Hamilton||3.38||4.77||1||12||13/13||Form guide|
|Nico Hulkenberg||11.00||10.36||5||15||11/12||Form guide|
|Esteban Gutierrez||16.85||14.00||11||20||11/13||Form guide|
|Paul di Resta||13.31||10.10||4||20||10/13||Form guide|
|Adrian Sutil||11.08||10.30||5||16||10/13||Form guide|
|Pastor Maldonado||15.92||13.30||10||17||10/13||Form guide|
|Valtteri Bottas||15.46||13.75||11||16||12/13||Form guide|
|Jean-Eric Vergne||13.23||10.75||6||14||8/13||Form guide|
|Daniel Ricciardo||10.38||11.60||7||18||10/13||Form guide|
|Charles Pic||19.85||16.45||14||19||11/13||Form guide|
|Giedo van der Garde||19.38||17.00||14||21||11/13||Form guide|
|Jules Bianchi||19.23||16.73||13||19||11/13||Form guide|
|Max Chilton||20.54||17.77||14||20||13/13||Form guide|
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2013 Korean Grand Prix
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Image ?é?® Red Bull/Getty, Ferrari/Ercole Colombo, Daimler/Hoch Zwei