Just a few weeks ago, Fernando Alonso looked almost certain to be 2012 World Champion. After a dramatic few races, however, Sebastian Vettel could be set to take over the top spot this weekend.
This weekend sees the third running of the Korean Grand Prix at Yeongam, South Korea. One of the newer venues on the calendar, the Korea International Circuit has yet to capture the imagination of the local population and therefore draws quite small crowds, although that is doubtless partly due to the remote location, some 400 kilometres south of Seoul.
The circuit is engaging to drive, and contains features of many different types of race track. The first sector is composed entirely of straights followed by slow corners, the second sector starts off slow and twisty but then moves into fast and flowing corners, and the final sector is much like a street circuit with walls close to the track and blind corners.
The first race in 2010 saw torrential rain necessitate a start behind the safety car. On the third lap, the race was suspended due to the conditions and only resumed after a 45 minute delay, but still behind the safety car. Once normal racing resumed, Sebastian Vettel looked set for victory before his engine failed on lap 46, handing the win to Fernando Alonso.
In 2011, Vettel had displayed such dominance during the season that he was already World Champion by the time Formula One arrived in Korea. The young German showed no signs of complacency, however, and won the race from Lewis Hamilton. Vettel’s team-mate Mark Webber finished third to seal Red Bull’s second consecutive Constructor’s Championship.
Pirelli are providing their soft and supersoft compound tyres for the race.
The great variety of corners and highly abrasive surface of the Korea International Circuit will test the tyres thoroughly, and degradation is therefore likely to be high. In addition, the circuit is hardly ever used and will therefore have very little grip early in the weekend. As the track rubbers in, lap times should fall significantly, but grip off the racing line is likely to be poor throughout the weekend.
Red Bull have been strong at both of the previous Korean Grands Prix and there seems no good reason to expect their form to change this year. In particularly, the RB8 should be quick through the second and third sectors.
After winning the last two races in Singapore and Japan, Sebastian Vettel is very much in form, and goes to Korea as the favourite for victory. He will also be spurred on by the knowledge that victory on Sunday would ensure that he leads the Drivers’ Championship with just four races remaining.
Circuit Length: 5.615 km
Race laps: 55
Race length: 308.630 km
Lap Record: 1:39.605 – Sebastian Vettel / Red Bull (2011)
Race winner: Sebastian Vettel / Red Bull
Pole position: Lewis Hamilton / McLaren – 1:35.820
Fastest lap: Sebastian Vettel / Red Bull – 1:39.605
- The circuit is partly permanent and partly temporary, with the harbourside section using public roads.
- The DRS zone has been extended by 80 metres for the 2012 race.
- The circuit was only approved by the FIA 11 days before the first practice session in 2010.
No rain is expected during the Grand Prix weekend, and temperatures should be fairly stable in the mid-20s centigrade.