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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Image ?? Red Bull/Getty

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

  1. If only Raikkonen qualified 3rd Lotus could actually win imo

  2. Tiananmen said on 5th October 2013, 22:07

    I think there is a possibility that Hamilton can do what rosberg did at the start of Singapore and hold it together

  3. mrgrieves (@mrgrieves) said on 5th October 2013, 23:05

    Maybe i’ve played too much F12013 today but the gear ratio’s for this track will be much different to Singapore so Vettel should get back to his standard good starts.

  4. mnmracer (@mnmracer) said on 5th October 2013, 23:28

    Why does everyone think rain is going to be the one thing that can stop one of the best wet weather drivers?

    • Akshay (@hamilfan) said on 6th October 2013, 4:23

      In my opinion button is the best wet weather driver . The way he read the grip in brazil 2012 was phenomenal . He may not be a hotshot interms of one lap pace but he is a great driver on any ” chaotic race day”

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