• Korean Grand Prix preview

Typhoon warning

ESPN Staff
October 3, 2013
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The fat lady will have upped her training after Sebastian Vettel's dominant performance in Singapore. His 60 point lead is looking unassailable off the back of such supremacy around the Marina Bay streets, but Fernando Alonso has slipped back in to his metronomic consistency, finishing second to Vettel in each of the last three races despite never qualifying higher than fifth. It's the sort of form which took him so close to the drivers' championship last year, but he'll need to maintain it and hope a repeat of the 2010 Korean Grand Prix befalls Vettel in order to revive any hope in the championship standings. To potentially mix things up, a typhoon could hit Yeongam on Sunday. Hard.

In Form

It's impossible to looks past Sebastian Vettel after his utter dominance in Singapore. In terms of the title race and variety in winners then his victory was far from ideal, but sometimes you have to stand back and admire a driver at the top of his game, completely at one with his car and his team. Everything Vettel did that weekend seemed to come off, and his performance advantage over the rest of the field was incredible and not solely down to the impressive RB9. He's made hard work of two of his three championship successes so far, but he'll head to Korea intent on easing his path to title number four.

Out of Form

It's been a barren run for Jean-Eric Vergne, who has only finished three of the last six races and failed to score in any of them. At the crucial point of his season - when Mark Webber announced his retirement ahead of the British Grand Prix - Vergne's star appeared to be rising as he had just finished an impressive sixth in Canada and was six points clear of Daniel Ricciardo in the drivers' championship. However, since then Ricciardo has outperformed and outscored his team-mate while also being named as Webber's replacement, and Vergne will need to show that the recent results are not a product of the disappointment of missing out on the Red Bull drive.

One to watch

A good performance in Singapore ultimately ended in retirement for Romain Grosjean as he endured a weekend blighted by reliability problems. His qualifying lap was very impressive to take third on the grid and he looked on course for a podium before an air consumption problem ended his race prematurely. However, despite the car letting him down it was a continuation of some strong form for Grosjean since the German Grand Prix and it could not be better timed after Kimi Raikkonen's return to Ferrari was announced. Eric Boullier wants to see consistent performances, however, so the pressure is still on for Grosjean to deliver results in order to cement his place at Lotus for next year and potentially take on the mantle of team leader.

Talking Points

Crowd-pleasing moments
There were many opinions given on the topic of Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso's reprimands after Alonso gave Webber a lift following the Singapore Grand Prix. The key to the issue was that the drivers were penalised for the pick-up - Webber ran on to the track without permission and Alonso stopped in a dangerous place - but the FIA appears set to advise against drivers giving each other lifts in the future. Realistically, the FIA should warn drivers to ensure any similar scenarios are handled more safely, but such images are great for the fans and have been part of Formula One for many years. Trying to eradicate it would be to the detriment of the sport.

The 2014 calendar
Formula One teams may be divided over many issues, but one thing that unites everyone in the paddock is travel. A new calendar, therefore, is a major talking point and when there are 22 races and one multi-continent triple-header it's also likely to be a point of contention. Not long ago teams were saying a calendar of over 20 races simply wasn't possible, but now attitudes seem to have changed. It's still likely at least one round will fall by the wayside, but 21 races plus four in-season tests is still an awful lot to ask of most of the teams.

A new Concorde Agreement
It's roughly 10 months late, but a new Concorde Agreement has been struck between Formula One Management and the FIA. All that remains is for the teams to come on board, which should just mean transferring the bi-lateral agreements each hold with Ecclestone across to the full Concorde Agreement. But these things are never as straightforward as they seem and with Marussia still out in the cold the full deal isn't completed quite yet.

The future of the Korean GP
Ever since the first Korean Grand Prix in 2010, when the finishing touches were applied to the circuit as the weekend progressed, Mokpo has not been a favourite destination for F1. With journalists accommodation consisting of love motels, the circuit has received few glowing endorsements, while the planned developments around the circuit have failed to get off the ground. The main issue has been the lack of interests from locals and the agonising distance to capital city Seoul. Contracts with Ecclestone appear to have been made on the hoof in recent years, and there are no guarantees the race will remain on the calendar in 2014.

Trivia

  • The circuit is located in Yeongam on reclaimed land between the hills outside the city of Mokpo in the south western province of Jeollanam-do
  • The circuit has been designed to be part-permanent, part F1-only. For the grand prix, the permanent track is extended to run alongside the nearby waterfront, which promoters wanted to turn into an Abu-Dhabi-style harbour before plans fell through
  • The roof of the main grandstand has been designed to resemble the eaves of a hankok (a traditional Korean house)
  • KIC is one of five Formula One circuits that run anti-clockwise on the 2012 calendar, alongside Singapore's Marina Bay, The Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Interlagos in Brazil, and the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi

Fast Facts

  • Drivers spend 62% of the lap at full throttle and keep the pedal to the metal for 14.4 seconds along the 0.75 mile straight to turn three
  • The top speed without DRS at the circuit is 198mph
  • Drivers will make 51 gear changes per lap
  • There were four safety car appearances during the 2010 race, another one at the 2011 race but none in 2012

Circuit

Three distinct sectors make up the circuit. Sector one has long straights and heavy braking zones ideal for overtaking; sector two has sweeping corners with multiple apices rewarding downforce; and sector three is a bit like a street circuit that twists between concrete walls. Overall it is one of Hermann Tilke's better efforts and the third sector defies the usual convention of large run off areas, adding extra spice to the end of a qualifying lap. There are two DRS zones this year, one on the pit straight and a second taking up over half of the straight between turns two and three.

Driver Steward

Emanuele Pirro returns as the driver steward this weekend. He is most famous for his five Le Mans 24 Hours victories but also drove during three seasons in Formula One between 1989 and 1991. His debut as an FIA Steward came at the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and he has returned regularly since.

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Weather

Forecasts earlier in the week warned that Typhoon Fitow was on a direct collision course with the circuit for Sunday, but reports on Wednesday suggested the storm is now more likely to head for mainland China than South Korea. Even if it doesn't directly hit the circuit, it could deliver some nasty weather and the chances of rain on race day are currently up at 60%. In 2010 wet weather saw the race start under a safety car due to issues with drainage on the newly-laid surface, but the hope is that it will be less severe this year if the rain hits.

Betting

After three consecutive wins it would take a brave person to bet against Sebastian Vettel making it four from four. But with odds of 4/7 for a Vettel win it also doesn't make much sense to place a bet on him. If the wet weather does hit, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton are tempting at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively, while Kimi Raikkonen is 11/1. Although he hasn't won a race all year, and has a 10-place grid penalty, Mark Webber in the sister Red Bull is also tempting at 40/1.

ESPN prediction

After weeks of backing underdogs and getting it wrong, ESPN is finally taking the sensible choice and backing Sebastian Vettel for victory. The Red Bull shouldn't be as dominant as it has been at recent rounds, but it's still tough to see anyone finishing ahead of Vettel in a straight race.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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