Following last week’s drama at Suzuka, there’s no time to relax for the teams and drivers as Formula One travels onto Korea for the sixteenth round of this year’s World Championship.
Held at the Hermann Tilke-designed Korean International Circuit, this weekend marks the third running of the Korean Grand Prix and is set to provide a dramatic race with the title battle hotting up as we enter the final stretch of the 2012 season.
It seems apt, therefore, that F1 is off to a circuit where the only drivers to have won happen to be the top two in the drivers’ standings. Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel are separated by just 4 points following Vettel’s win last time out coupled with Alonso’s retirement after colliding with Kimi Raikkonen at the first corner.
In terms of the championship, the maths this weekend is simple. If either Alonso or Vettel take victory on Sunday, they will leave Korea as the championship leader. Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton are too far back to trouble the leaders this time around.
Opened for business in 2010, this 5.6 kilometre circuit is essentially made up of two parts. The first half of the lap is made up of straights and hairpins, with the second half composed of a series of medium and slow corners which twist their way back to the start/finish line. The straight between turns 2 and 3 is the longest on the F1 calendar, coming in at 1.2km.
Due to the Jekyll and Hyde nature of the Korea circuit, this weekend could well see each of the top three teams in with a chance of victory. The first part of the lap with its long straights and slow corners should favour the McLaren, which has good traction and top speed, whereas the Red Bull looks more likely to be quicker over the second part of the lap. Ferrari aren’t the strongest on either of these areas, but they do have a decent all-round package and on a circuit which tests all areas of a car Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa should both be aiming for the podium this weekend.
Lotus have fallen back with their car of late but if their updates work this weekend they may be able to propel themselves into the fight for victory. However, their car has consistently been quicker in hot conditions over the year so the weather could play a big part in their chances. The forecast for this weekend is for sunny weather, but the temperature at 20-22C might be just a tad too cool for them to challenge. As for Mercedes, their car performed well on the Tilke tracks earlier in the season but they have since fallen away, so it seems unlikely that they will be in the hunt. Sauber, on a high from Kamui Kobayashi’s podium last weekend, will be looking to maintain that form here, and having used good strategy all year to make progress, could well do the same on Sunday in their efforts to repeat that result.
Of the other midfield runners, all of them have reason to be confident of a good result. Force India and Toro Rosso have noticeably picked their games up since the summer break and are both looking the strongest they have all year. Williams have remained relatively stagnant, but with Pastor Maldonado regularly outdriving the car on a Saturday to qualify high up the grid, they too can not be ruled out.
Whatever happens this weekend, with the title race hotting up, and the season entering its final stretch, we should be in for a cracking race come Sunday.
2010 – Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
2011 – Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)