2012 Korean Grand Prix Preview 2012 Korean Grand Prix Preview 2012 Korean Grand Prix Preview

Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso have one Korean Grand Prix win apiece, and the two of them are now leading sensational battle for outright championship honours.

And unless someone else emerges in the next five races as a championship contender, either Alonso or Vettel will join the ranks of the three-time Formula 1 World Champions.

There is no denying how critical a race this weekend’s Korean Grand Prix will be, so without further ado, take a look at the RichardsF1.com Korean Grand Prix Preview…

The Circuit

Date: 12-14 October 2012
Venue: Korean International Circuit, Yeongyam, Korea
Lap Length: 5.615km
Race Lap Record: 1:39.605, Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing Renault RB7) – 2011
Event Schedule: Free Practice Session 1 Fri 10:00-11:30
Free Practice Session 2 Fri 14:00-15:30
Free Practice Session 3 Sat 11:00-12:00
Qualifying Sat 14:00-15:00
Race (53 laps, 307.471km) Sun 15:00-17:00
Past Winners: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing Renault RB7) 2011
Fernando Alonso (Ferrari F10) 2010

The inaugural Korean Grand Prix almost suffered the indignity of being the sport’s first last-minute cancellation for many years, with poor organisation and construction delays meaning that the F1 circus arrived at a venue that was still being built.

Enough patch-work was performed that ensured the track was at least race-ready, but many of the circuit’s features were partly-built, if they were built at all…

Located miles for Korea’s capital, Seoul, the circuit is several hours’ drive from the nearest airport and much of its surrounding infrastructure didn’t yet exist. Many team members were forced to stay at seedy motels frequented by the local ladies of the night, and it had a thoroughly third-world feel about it…

Being the Far East’s latest venture into Formula 1, the new track is designed by F1’s ubiquitous circuit designer, Hermann Tilke, with many of the German signature features on display.

The opening section of the lap features a decent overtaking opportunity into Turn 3 at the end of the long back straight, with another overtaking chance also evident at the end of the following straight.

But the remainder of the lap – while being a challenge, given the close proximity of the barriers – is rather ‘follow my leader’ before the end of the lap feeds onto the start-finish straight and a blind pit entry.

Let’s take a look at our Korean International Circuit Guide:

The History Bit

This year’s running of the Korean Grand Prix will be the country’s third time playing host to the Formula 1 circus, and the previous two races held here could not have been more different.

The inaugural event was under a massive cloud in its lead-up, with grave fears that the event would be scrapped on account of massive construction delays.

imageDespite the concerns, the event went ahead – even though many of the track’s facilities had still not been finished – and Fernando Alonso managed to tip-toe through torrential conditions to put his championship tilt back on track, while Red Bull clocked up a rare double-DNF when Mark Webber crashed out and Sebastian Vettel retired with a blown engine.

The 2011 race saw Vettel claim his tenth win in his record-breaking championship defence, with Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber completing the podium. The race was marred by a heavy crash between Vitaly Petrov and Michael Schumacher, for which the Russian was given a five-place grid at the next championship round.

Yeongyam Talking Points

So what do the RichardsF1.com readers and contributors think will happen this weekend?

Geoff Burke, RichardsF1.com Journalist

“It’s been a rough seven days for Lewis Hamilton, almost all of it being of his own making. He came into Suzuka on a high (and no doubt with a fatter wallet to look forward to) after the announcement that he is switching to Mercedes, but his antics over the weekend would certainly beg the question of Mercedes’ wisdom in signing him.

“Never one known for his ability to set up his car, Lewis took the wrong set-up at Suzuka, paying the price with a distant fifth-placed finish when Alonso crashed out. Not exactly the way of taking advantage of a bit of good luck when it comes your way.

“He then followed it up with that ill-timed series of Twitter messages criticising his team-mate, and those kind of antics hardly speak of a driver who has his full focus geared towards championship glory.”

  Josh Kruse
Josh Kruse, RichardsF1.com Writer

“There have been calls for Romain Grosjean to take another holiday after another first lap incident involving Mark Webber. It does seem like he hasn’t learnt his lesson from the pile up in Belgium, with the most recent being his eighth accident at the start of a race. Lotus Team Principal Eric Boullier has been trying to improve Grosjean’s racing style because he believes he has the talent to become a success, as do I. Grosjean has put in some great races and overtaking manoeuvres, but they are often overlooked by his juvenile first lap accidents, which is a shame. He is quite strong in qualifying, and if he can be more attentive and thoughtful on the first lap, he has the potential to be a race winner. If Pastor Maldonado can do it, so can Grosjean.”

Matt Lennon, RichardsF1.com IndyCar Correspondent

“One race (well, one corner essentially) was all it took to nearly completely demolish a championship points lead that Fernando Alonso had worked all season to create and now there is no more buffer to keep him safe. With fives races to go, the number of championship contenders will gradually decline as we start to mathematically rule people out. For Jenson, I think the 2012 title is now beyond him or his car, and the next one to fall into the fire may be Mark Webber. The Aussie needs another victory to remind people he still has a chance, and it is his team-mate Sebastian Vettel moving the spotlight back firmly on to him.

“Korea is an interesting circuit. Not a bad mix of corners, but its future remains clouded unless this so-called city that was supposed to have sprung up around it actually happens. I guess it will depend on how many bums are in seats this weekend.”

Ben Waterworth, RichardsF1.com Feature Writer & ‘The Qualifying Lap’ radio show host on Edge 99.3FM

“Just like there are two certainties in life – in death and taxes – there are three certainties in the world of Formula One: Mark Webber will get a bad start, Bruno Senna will lose his front wing in the race and Romain Grosjean will cause a first lap incident.

“We got all three last weekend within the space of a few corners. What is it about all three of these things that causes them to happen? We could almost turn it into a drinking game and watch and laugh this coming weekend in Korea! But we should instead focus on the interesting championship battle that awaits us. Four points. Four magical points. Imagine if this was 10 years ago when we only had 17 rounds, the excitement would be huge! But with five races to go, I have a feeling it’s still a four-horse race between four different drivers in four different teams. Bring it on!”


The Form Guide

This weekend – coming straight after the Japanese Grand Prix – will reveal plenty about how the rest of the season should pan out.

After a dip in form in the mid-season, Red Bull Racing has returned with a bang in the last two rounds, particularly on account of the ‘Super DRS’ system that has been fitted to the RB8 since Singapore. The device has given the car a dramatic boost in the one key area where it was lacking: straight-line speed. If Vettel and Webber can show more great qualifying speed this weekend, then the pendulum will swing heavily in Vettel’s favour in his quest for a third World Championship crown.

Just a few rounds ago at the Hungarian Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso was enjoying a seemingly unstoppable 40-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship. But the last four races have yielded two first-corner retirements and two third places, while Vettel has racked up two wins and a second place to move within four points of the Spaniard.

As we saw last weekend, the Ferrari F2012 is still a frontrunner in race trim, but the Spaniard has let himself down with less-than-sparkling qualifying form. In two instances where he has qualified in the lower reaches of the top-ten, he’s been taken out on the first lap – clearly he cannot continue to put himself in additional danger when it comes to the usual opening lap antics.

McLaren again cannot be discounted, and the Yeongyam circuit could prove to be more suited to the Woking team as it seeks to claim the Constructors’ Championship for the first time since 1998. Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button are both looking like outsiders for a Drivers’ title, and they will really have to rely on a bit of bad luck to hit both Vettel and Alonso this weekend in order to get back into the hunt.

Down at Lotus, the team has seemingly ditched its ‘double DRS’ concept and instead pumped its efforts into developing its own Coandă-style exhaust configuration, which is targeted to deliver the black-and-gold cars a substantial boost in straight-line speed.

The championship winner will ultimately be the driver who makes the most of the package at his disposal and takes advantage of any bad luck that affects their rivals. With a quarter of the season still left to run, there’s still plenty of action ahead of us…

Don’t forget to enter your F1 Predictions!

The sixteenth round round of the 2012 RichardsF1.com F1 Predictions Competition is now open, and you can enter your predictions for the race right here to be in the running for some great prizes throughout the season and at the end of the year!

The cut-off to submit your predictions is no later than five minutes before qualifying starts, so make sure you’re in it to win it!

You can view the latest Predictions Competition ranking right here.

There were more changes in the points table following the Singapore Grand Prix round, and the overall winner’s title remains open to many people to claim. Again, we’ll be awarding a prize to this weekend’s highest points-scorer (before ‘double up). Will it be you?

To enter your predictions, click here.


As always, RichardsF1.com will be bringing you the best of the on- and off-track action this weekend, so make sure we’re your first port of call for your Korean Grand Prix fix!

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.