Start critical for Vettel’s rivals as rain risk fades

2013 Korean Grand Prix pre-race analysis

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Korea International Circuit, 2013With the prospect of rain during the Korean Grand Prix looking increasingly unlikely, Sebastian Vettel’s rivals must capitalise on the start as their last, best chance of keeping him from victory.

Weather

As early as Wednesday the consensus among weather forecasts was that Tropical Storm Fitow would head away from South Korea and towards China. Nonetheless many headlines appeared claiming a typhoon was going to hit the track on Sunday.

Confidence in the predictions that the storm will stay away has continued to grow since then. At most F1 may see some rain during the build-up to the race, and there is a decent chance Sunday will remain dry until the chequered flag.

“The threat of storms has certainly abated somewhat since the beginning of the week,” said Lotus trackside operations director Alan Permane. “However I think we can still expect to catch the outskirts of the bad weather meaning we could see some rain overnight and early tomorrow morning if not for the race itself.”

Overnight rain may reduce what little rubber build-up there has already been at the track, giving teams that were already having problems with graining even more of a headache.

The start

Start, Korean Grand Prix, 2012With two long straights immediately following the first corner there is plenty of potential for position-swapping at the start of the race.

From second on the grid, Lewis Hamilton has a vital chance to launch an attack on Sebastian Vettel. Last year Vettel started from second place and got down the inside of pole sitter Mark Webber, taking the lead of the race which he went on to win.

But there are plenty of drivers pinning their hopes on getting away well at the start, including Fernando Alonso, who made an excellent getaway in Singapore two weeks ago.

McLaren have opted for a longer seventh gear ratio which they expect will help them on the straights. “The first couple of laps should be really interesting for us,” said Button.

Strategy

Romain Grosjean, Lotus, Korea International Circuit, 2012A two-stop strategy was the preferred route for most drivers last year and Pirelli expect the same to be the case this year, despite having replaced the soft tyre compound with the medium

However some teams are concerned about how long they will be able to make the super-soft tyres last, including Ferrari. Alonso said the weekend so far has been “harder than usual”.

“Up until now we have always had a good race pace,” he explained. “Both yesterday and today we suffered on the long runs and that means we must absolutely improve for tomorrow.”

“We have a few problems with the tyres which we are unable to manage as well as the others: there?s a lot of graining and if you push very hard in the first sector you almost risk being unable to finish the lap. We will have to find the right compromise to get them to survive the number of laps proposed by our engineers, because the ideal strategy is still a two stop.”

Mercedes are more positive about their chances for tomorrow’s race which should give them a chance to regain ground lost to Ferrari in the constructors’ championship and perhaps even take on Red Bull. “Our high-fuel performance in Friday practice looked pretty strong and I am sure we can have a reasonable race on that basis,” said Ross Brawn.

Adrian Sutil, Force India, Korea International Circuit, 2013Another team to keep an eye on is Force India, as Paul di Resta was able to run longer on the super-softs than many of his rivals in Singapore. He’s hoping for more of the same tomorrow.

“We?ve been focussing more on our race pace ?ǣ as we did in Singapore,” said Di Resta. “Hopefully that will pay off for us tomorrow because our long run performance and tyre wear yesterday appeared to be very good.”

The front-right tyre takes the most punishment at this track as Vettel almost discovered to his cost last year. Having locked up the tyre early on he had to take great care to preserve it later in the race.

He will start on the super-soft tyre, as will every driver who reached Q3, including Mark Webber despite his subsequent demotion to 13th. He admitted afterwards he’d “taken a bit of pace out of the car” in qualifying – i.e. sacrificed downforce to cut drag and improve his straight-line speed.

Here’s all the data from qualifying for the Korean Grand Prix:

Qualifying times in full

Driver Car Q1 Q2 (vs Q1) Q3 (vs Q2)
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1’38.683 1’37.569 (-1.114) 1’37.202 (-0.367)
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’38.574 1’37.824 (-0.750) 1’37.420 (-0.404)
3 Mark Webber Red Bull 1’39.138 1’37.840 (-1.298) 1’37.464 (-0.376)
4 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1’39.065 1’38.076 (-0.989) 1’37.531 (-0.545)
5 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’38.418 1’38.031 (-0.387) 1’37.679 (-0.352)
6 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’38.520 1’37.978 (-0.542) 1’38.038 (+0.060)
7 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’38.884 1’38.295 (-0.589) 1’38.223 (-0.072)
8 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1’38.427 1’37.913 (-0.514) 1’38.237 (+0.324)
9 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1’38.725 1’38.327 (-0.398) 1’38.405 (+0.078)
10 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1’38.341 1’38.181 (-0.160) 1’38.822 (+0.641)
11 Sergio Perez McLaren 1’39.049 1’38.362 (-0.687)
12 Jenson Button McLaren 1’38.882 1’38.365 (-0.517)
13 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1’38.525 1’38.417 (-0.108)
14 Adrian Sutil Force India 1’38.988 1’38.431 (-0.557)
15 Paul di Resta Force India 1’39.185 1’38.718 (-0.467)
16 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1’39.075 1’38.781 (-0.294)
17 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1’39.470
18 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1’39.987
19 Charles Pic Caterham 1’40.864
20 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1’40.871
21 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1’41.169
22 Max Chilton Marussia 1’41.322

Sector times

Driver Sector 1 Sector 2 Sector 3
Sebastian Vettel 34.404 (2) 42.685 (4) 20.005 (1)
Lewis Hamilton 34.630 (12) 42.599 (1) 20.172 (4)
Mark Webber 34.502 (6) 42.668 (3) 20.154 (3)
Romain Grosjean 34.653 (14) 42.612 (2) 20.229 (5)
Nico Rosberg 34.609 (9) 42.738 (5) 20.129 (2)
Fernando Alonso 34.457 (4) 42.901 (6) 20.444 (7)
Felipe Massa 34.493 (5) 43.200 (13) 20.437 (6)
Nico Hulkenberg 34.382 (1) 43.011 (8) 20.518 (10)
Esteban Gutierrez 34.626 (11) 43.078 (10) 20.535 (11)
Kimi Raikkonen 34.590 (7) 42.907 (7) 20.457 (8)
Sergio Perez 34.612 (10) 43.086 (11) 20.650 (13)
Jenson Button 34.653 (14) 43.032 (9) 20.624 (12)
Daniel Ricciardo 34.649 (13) 43.180 (12) 20.509 (9)
Adrian Sutil 34.443 (3) 43.302 (15) 20.686 (15)
Paul di Resta 34.606 (8) 43.285 (14) 20.696 (16)
Jean-Eric Vergne 34.727 (16) 43.382 (16) 20.672 (14)
Valtteri Bottas 34.985 (18) 43.656 (17) 20.829 (18)
Pastor Maldonado 34.920 (17) 43.912 (18) 20.809 (17)
Charles Pic 35.141 (19) 44.639 (21) 21.084 (20)
Giedo van der Garde 35.245 (20) 44.572 (20) 21.054 (19)
Jules Bianchi 35.388 (22) 44.412 (19) 21.369 (22)
Max Chilton 35.323 (21) 44.679 (22) 21.320 (21)

Speed trap

Pos Driver Car Speed (kph/mph) Gap
1 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 320.0 (198.8)
2 Felipe Massa Ferrari 319.4 (198.5) -0.6
3 Mark Webber Red Bull 319.0 (198.2) -1.0
4 Sergio Perez McLaren 318.8 (198.1) -1.2
5 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 317.7 (197.4) -2.3
6 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 317.6 (197.3) -2.4
7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 317.5 (197.3) -2.5
8 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 317.4 (197.2) -2.6
9 Adrian Sutil Force India 317.2 (197.1) -2.8
10 Paul di Resta Force India 317.0 (197.0) -3.0
11 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 316.5 (196.7) -3.5
12 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 315.8 (196.2) -4.2
13 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 315.6 (196.1) -4.4
14 Jenson Button McLaren 314.4 (195.4) -5.6
15 Pastor Maldonado Williams 313.4 (194.7) -6.6
16 Valtteri Bottas Williams 313.3 (194.7) -6.7
17 Max Chilton Marussia 312.3 (194.1) -7.7
18 Jules Bianchi Marussia 312.1 (193.9) -7.9
19 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 310.7 (193.1) -9.3
20 Charles Pic Caterham 310.4 (192.9) -9.6
21 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 310.3 (192.8) -9.7
22 Romain Grosjean Lotus 310.2 (192.7) -9.8

Over to you

What does the Korean Grand Prix have in store for us? Can anyone keep Vettel from another win? And how will the all-important start unfold?

Share your views on the race and the weekend so far in the comments.

2013 Korean Grand Prix

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42 comments on Start critical for Vettel’s rivals as rain risk fades

  1. dragoll (@dragoll) said on 5th October 2013, 12:30

    @keithcollantine was this intended, it doesn’t read right to me:

    “sacrificed downforce to but drag and improve his straight-line speed.”

    as always, ur analysis is always great

  2. DC (@dc) said on 5th October 2013, 12:33

    Unless technical problems develop, Vettel is unstoppable. The race is for second.

    • kpcart said on 5th October 2013, 15:19

      not really, the race is for first, Hamilton has a car quick enough to do it this weekend, we will see tomorrow if he is fast enough to do it, I suspect not, as vettel is the best driver (along with Alonso, but his car wont compete) during a whole racer – mr. consistency.

      • W (@yesyesyesandyesagain) said on 5th October 2013, 17:34

        The Ferraris are setup for top speed it looks like; I would not be surprised to see Alonso and Hamilton fighting for second. That huge straight makes passing with DRS pretty easy.

        • ” I would not be surprised to see Alonso and Hamilton fighting for second. That huge straight makes passing with DRS pretty easy.”

          For Alonso to challenge Grojean and Hamilton, he would need to produce something special in the third sector, so that he can closely follow the cars ahead to use DRS. Ferrari are well-off the pace in that sector and even if Alonso does outmaneuver HAM, GRO and HULK at the start he’ll have a hard time keeping the Lotus drivers and HAM at bay.

      • HoHum (@hohum) said on 5th October 2013, 22:00

        But if Alonso is right about the tyres not lasting the 1st. lap anything could happen, unfortunately this probably means everybody tippy-toeing around inline behind Vettel for the 1st. 50+ laps.

  3. Hamilton was quicker than Vettel in Long run chart yesterday. We have to see whether its true or not .

  4. Now having looked at the time comparisons actually, Alonso really should’ve mounted more of a challenge to Rosberg. The average improvement between Q2 and Q3 (excluding Räikkönen who was abnormally slow and Alonso himself) was 0.214s – that would have put him 0.085s behind Rosberg, using the best times for both drivers as the benchmark.

    The average positive improvement (i.e. excluding all who didn’t improve) was 0.353s, which would’ve put him ahead of Rosberg by 0.061s.

    Clearly the biggest loser was Räikkönen though: had he improved by the same 0.353s margin, he’d have been starting 5th (relative to the actual Q3 times of the drivers) on a 1:37.828. If that had happend, Lotus could’ve been on for a double podium possibly if their Friday long-run pace was a genuine representation.

  5. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 5th October 2013, 12:47

    Here’s a likely scenario for the start:
    Vettel gets a decent getaway and after a great exit out of turns 1 and 2, disappears into the distance, never to be seen again, in classic 2011 style. Behind him Hamilton has a slower start, and will be busy fending off Grosjean, Rosberg, and Alonso, with the latter ending up second by turn four.

    As for the qualifying, I got a little bit excited when I saw Hamilton’s 42.5 in the middle sector, although it turned out to be only a 42.599. I think Lewis could possibly have found a bit more time in S3, but Vettel was out of reach today anyway.

    I’m curious to see what Webber can do from P13 today. I think Mark has put in plenty of solid performances this season, but without any stand-out drives like last year Monaco and Silverstone, the year feels a bit wasted. A podium will be a long shot tomorrow, though at least he shouldn’t have the excuse of short gears in the race.

  6. Also, interesting that Nico Hulkenberg was the fastest man in S1 and high in the speed traps (6th, 2.4km/h behind Alonso). On average of the cars ahead of him, he holds a 7.1km/h speed advantage, so if he makes a good start he might be one to watch in the opening laps.

  7. sato113 (@sato113) said on 5th October 2013, 14:23

    Vettel on pole and chance of rain gone. great…

  8. DaveF1 (@davef1) said on 5th October 2013, 15:10

    Just wondering will Webber have to start the race on the tyres he qualified on or does he get a free choice?

  9. Albert (@) said on 5th October 2013, 15:44

    Hyping The Hulk’s race. This track seems to suit the sauber better, maybe he can deliver a strong result.

  10. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 5th October 2013, 15:57

    Funny Webber says that, yet he’s 6th fastest on the first sector, and his times improve on the 2nd and 3rd ones. Even faster than Vettel on the fast corners of sector 2 !

  11. zoom (@zoomracing) said on 5th October 2013, 16:38

    I hope Hamilton attacks Vettel at the start, but he usually is very weak against Vettel. I don’t have any problem with Vettel winning the race, but please, let’s have some fight at the top.

  12. bull mello (@bullmello) said on 5th October 2013, 16:58

    Clean air will benefit the driver leading by the end of the first lap. Vettle’s starts are pretty good, Hamilton has his work cut out for him. Then it may come down to the cars and drivers able to do better long runs and maybe even a one stop strategy. Interesting that DiResta was able to do the longest runs on super softs, but I would look more at Grosjean being in the position to make a one stopper work and considering his starting position.

  13. Looking at the speed trap datas, Grosjean could be a sitting duck on the first sector of lap 1.

    The Lotus is 5 to 10 kph slower than its main rivals in the longer straight, which I think will cost them a lot defending positions, and even more for overtaking in traffic.

  14. magon4 (@magon4) said on 5th October 2013, 17:45

    I think Grosjean can actually win this if he can make the SS last a little longer…

    • you having a laugh grosjean always chokes the starts for some reason would be surprised if hes fifth by the end of the first lap

      • Merv (@) said on 5th October 2013, 19:31

        I’m convinced it’s because the Lotus is easy on the tyres. RG’s car really didn’t start to work until the end of the first lap in Singapore. Even Kimi had lost places at the start of races this year, I think the E21 just doesn’t work the tyre hard enough at the start of the race.

  15. Chad (@chaddy) said on 5th October 2013, 19:02

    Rosberg out-started Vettel last race, and I see no reason why Hamilton wouldn’t take the lead doing the same. The probability must be in the 20-40% range, and not something like 5% as many seem to write it off.

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