Monthly Archives: October 2010

Thoughts on the Korean Grand Prix

The first ever Korean GP took place last week, and saw the tipping of the championship pendulum at least twice – with the retirements of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.The rain played havoc with the newly laid track, leading to a chaotic race with a lot to comment on. So, after it all, what’s the verdict?

The track

The track itself is certainly impressive, albeit in parts only. Much of the middle sector featured high-speed corners, testing car and driver. The first sector proved easy to overtake on, and the final sector looked very difficult, with unforgiving walls and little run-off area, as Mark Webber and Lucas di Grassi found out.

However, as we all know, this was all turned on its head by the rain. Because the tarmac was freshly laid, as well as the dust and oil from construction work, the water simply sat on top of the track instead of sloping off. This meant that, with low but persistent rain, the race was postponed for nearly an hour before racing commenced. Personally, I thought that the drivers could have handled the conditions from around Lap 10 onwards, but that’s another story.

Another interesting thing to note was that changes were being made on Saturday night, after complaints about several corners. The kerb on Turn 16, for example, was actually lower than the track, and the cars were running over the kerb, spitting up dust onto the track.

The circuit could well have been better prepared for the race

The circuit could well have been better prepared for the race

With that in mind, we may have to remember what we thought before the Korean GP: That the organisers were not prepared for a sporting event of this magnitude. The pit lane entry and exit were both unsafe and didn’t contribute anything positive to the race. The pit entry sported a huge bump on turn-in, causing Lewis Hamilton to nearly lose control in qualifying, while pit exit deposited the cars in the middle of a heavy braking zone, which is not a smart move if there is a car out of control under braking.

Despite all of this however, the track stood up to the test on race day, and hopefully these problems will be sorted out by next year.

The race

When I first watched the race on Sunday morning, I feared it would be a mix of Suzuka qualifying and Malaysia 2009. The Suzuka aspect certainly came true, with the race being red-flagged for the wet track. The Malaysia aspect was the fear of the F1 grid running out of sunlight before the race ended, which I’ll talk about later.

I thought that many of the drivers were being far too cautious when they were calling for the safety car to stay out. As Lewis Hamilton said, it was approaching intermediate tyre conditions, and if a Formula 1 driver can’t control their car in those sort of conditions, there is something seriously wrong.

The race, when it finally got underway, was a great one. Immediately, there were good spots to overtake, as well as a few we didn’t expect, like Turns 6 and 7. The Mercedes drivers certainly impressed me with their driving abilities, and if it wasn’t for Mark Webber taking out Nico Rosberg, I’m sure he would have got on the podium, if not even better.

This is the lap where Sebastian Vettel described the track as "undrivable" - Looks fine to me

This is the lap where Sebastian Vettel described the track as "undrivable" - Looks fine to me

Speaking of Webber’s crash, his actions were more than slightly dangerous, when he veered his car back across the track after he crashed. There was plenty of run-off area behind where he crashed, so he should have reversed his car back, instead of the stupidly dangerous move of turning back across. If that move was done by Michael Schumacher, I’d guarantee that an almightly storm of accusations would be flying around.

The Red Bulls, meanwhile, proved our fears that they simply cannot capitalise on their advantages. A 1-2 qualification was the bare minimum of their expectations, given their pace. Not for the first time this year, rain has thrown away a Red Bull lockout (China), and this time it has resulted in the team walking away empty-handed from a race they should have dominated. Only Red Bull could suffer this sort of luck…

On the other hand, after the race ended, conditions got much worse

On the other hand, after the race ended, conditions got much worse

As the race entered the closing stages, much was made of the lack of sunlight. I’ve been watching the onboard footage from the last few laps, and to be honest, can’t really see what the problem was about. Yes, there was less sunlight than the drivers may have wanted, but nowhere near bad enough to stop the race early. As I said earlier, if the drivers cannot handle these challenges, then Formula 1 is treating drivers too softly. On the other hand, right after the race ended, visibility dropped massively within a matter of minutes, so maybe we got off incredibly lucky with the timing.

My verdict

Despite all of the media’s speculation of the race not going ahead, the Yeongam circuit has put up a great show, and presented us a race to remember. It dealt many twists and turns to the championship battle, and has set us up for an epic showdown in Interlagos. Therefore, I would call it good excuse to declare the inaugural Korean Grand Prix a success.

 

Korean Grand Prix stats and facts

The Korean Grand Prix was a fantastic race to watch, although the suspension of the start resulted in it being the longest Formula 1 race since 1960. Read on for more Korean GP stats and facts:

  • Fernando Alonso took his 26th Grand Prix victory this weekend, 1 more than Jim Clark and 1 less than Jackie Stewart. It was also his 18th fastest lap (and his 5th of 2010), putting him equal with David Coulthard. He took his 62nd podium, as many as Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen.
  • Amazingly, the Korean GP continues the 2010 tradition of not a single win from a driver which was leading the championship at that time. The last time the championship leader won a race was Jenson Button in Turkey in 2009.
  • Sebastian Vettel took his 14th pole position, and the 9th of the season. He now has the same amount as Rubens Barrichello, James Hunt, Ronnie Peterson and Alberto Ascari.
  • On the other hand, it is the 7th time this season he has failed to win from pole position, and the 11th in total for Red Bull (out of only 17 races). If one Red Bull driver took pole position and the other won, this figure is reduced to 8.
  • Out of the top 4 teams, Red Bull has become the first to have a double retirement this year.
  • This was Ferrari’s 810th race entry, and their 215th race win. Massa’s and Alonso’s podiums mean their podium total is 470.
  • Michael Schumacher’s 4th position was the best of the year so far, and the 201st time he has finished in the points.
  • Unbelievably, last Sunday was exactly 7,000 days since he made his F1 debut in Spa in 1991.
  • Here’s an odd one – Some of Fernando Alonso’s career statistics now perfectly match up with Kimi Raikkonen’s: 157 race appearances, 155 race starts, resulting in 62 podiums.
  • Jenson Button’s 12th place is his worst race finish since Brazil 2008.
  • With Red Bull’s double retirement, only McLaren have scored points in every race this year.
  • The first ever Korean GP was the longest Formula 1 race since the 1960 Indianapolis 500. Last Sunday’s race took 2 hours, 48 mins, 20.810 seconds. The 1960 Indy 500 took 3 hours, 36 mins, 11.36 seconds.
  • However, the Indy 500 of 1960 was not run to F1 regulations, so to find an official F1 race longer than last week’s one, you would have to go back to the 1960 Monaco GP, which took 2 hours, 53 mins, 45.5 seconds.

If you can spot any other interesting stats, let me know in the comments.

Alonso wins while Red Bull disintegrate in Korea thriller

Fernando Alonso won a chaotic Korean Grand Prix, while disaster struck the Red Bull team, with Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber retiring in separate incidents. Lewis Hamilton had a chance to win but running wide at one of the race restarts scuppered his hopes.

Before the race had even begun, there were huge worries, as heavy rain flooded down on the track, and the start was suspended for 10 minutes. Eventually, the safety car led the cars around for 3 laps, but it became quickly apparent that conditions, particularly visibility, was too poor to race in, and the race was red flagged.

The safety car leads the pack for 3 laps, before the race is red-flagged

The safety car leads the pack for 3 laps, before the race is red-flagged

The cars lined up again, as everyone waited for the rain to clear. After 40 minutes of waiting, the race restarted, again under the safety car. The next problem for Charlie Whiting was getting the race completed before darkness fell on the circuit, and with the soaked track, getting past the 75% mark to award full points.

However, 1 hour after the original start, Bernd Maylander led the cars around again, but many were still complaining of the torrid track. While Lewis Hamilton was keen to get going, drivers like Alonso and Felipe Massa wanted the safety car to stay out for longer, and so it did until Lap 17, when it finally pitted and the racing got underway.

Hamilton lost a place to Nico Rosberg at the restart, but a bigger shock was to come. Only two laps into proper racing, and Mark Webber ran wide onto the grass  at Turn 14, and hit the barriers. He was unable to stop his car moving back across the track, and Nico Rosberg, despite taking to the grass, was unable to avoid slamming into the Red Bull, taking out both cars and prompting another safety car.

By Lap 23, the debris was cleared, and the championship situation had been turned on his head, with the title leader now out. Sebastian Vettel still led, with Fernando Alonso up to second, ahead of Hamilton. Further back, Jarno Trulli and Bruno Senna collided, smashing off Trulli’s front wing, and he retired with suspected suspension damage.

Jenson Button had just been overtaken by Michael Schumacher, as his extreme wet tyres were wearing quickly on the track, which was still quite wet. He made the choice to pit for intermediates, a decision which had previously won him the Australian Grand Prix, but the same would not happen here. This is because on Lap 31, only two laps after he pitted, the safety car came out again, this time for a collision between Sebastien Buemi and Timo Glock, who had been running well in 11th place. Buemi tried to out-brake the Virgin, but hit the side of the car, ripping off his own wheel, and dealing terminal damage to Timo.

With this next safety car, all the frontrunners dived into the pits for inters, Schumacher, Massa and Hamilton on Lap 32, then Vettel and Alonso on Lap 33. These two got away with this stop because they had not been caught behind the safety car, but the same couldn’t be said for Button, who was now stranded in 12th.

Hamilton got ahead of Alonso, thanks to his stop a lap earlier. But, when the safety car peeled away a few laps later, Lewis ran wide at Turn 1, handing 2nd place on a plate to the Ferrari. Vettel begins to move away yet again at the front, Alonso decides to conserve his tyres, Hamilton tried to keep stuck behind the Ferrari, while Massa moves away from Schumacher in 5th.

Adrian Sutil was having a Grand Prix that could maybe be described as adventurous to say the least. He battled hard with Button, shoving the McLaren wide, but both cars lost positions. Soon, he tried a move on Kamui Kobayashi, but ran straight on at Turn 4, losing even more time. Later on, he made another dive, and ended up breaking his own suspension on the Sauber, then crashed into the barriers, though Kobayashi continued without considerable damage.

Vitaly Petrov has a huge crash at the final corner

Vitaly Petrov has a huge crash at the final corner

By Lap 41, there were fears of another safety car, as Vitaly Petrov had a huge crash at the final corner, dropping the car and goes backwards into the tyre barriers. Despite the debris, the racing continued, though Vitaly had thrown away a great chance of a handful of points.

Fernando Alonso, after several laps of tyre conservation, began to apply pressure on Vettel’s lead, bringing the gap down to 1.3 seconds by Lap 42. At this specific lap, the race had passed the 75% mark (meaning full points would be guaranteed if the race was stopped), and suddenly, with some vigour, Vettel began complaining about track visibility, saying that there wasn’t enough light to continue. Charlie Whiting didn’t blink, and signalled that the race would be able to complete all 55 laps in less than the 2 hour limit.

But, in the cruellest twist, Vettel would never get to race those final few laps, as his engine let go! He pulled over on the back straight with smoke pouring out of his now on-fire car. Alonso inherited the lead, while Hamilton took 2nd, and Massa was in the final podium position.

With this latest shock, the championship predictions were thrown out of the window yet again. As it stood, Vettel was going to lose out massively, while Alonso would now take control at the top. The only chance that could now occur was if Hamilton could make a move on Alonso, but he simply didn’t have the pace, dropping 10 seconds behind by the time the chequered flag fell.

Crushed hopes for Vettel as he retires with engine failure

Crushed hopes for Vettel as he retires with engine failure

Robert Kubica stole 5th place off Rubens Barrichello in the dying few laps, while Nico Hulkenberg pitted after a puncture, but managed to fight his way back up to 10th place. Michael Schumacher and Vitantonio Liuzzi were very impressive in 4th and 6th respectively. Kamui Kobayashi and Nick Heidfeld were 8th and 9th.

Despite Vettel’s fantastic performance, to finish first, first you have to finish. Fernando Alonso took the win, in rapidly decreasing sunlight, at the Yeongam track, to take the lead of the drivers’ championship.  He is now 11 points ahead of Mark Webber, who is 10 ahead of Lewis Hamilton, with Sebastian Vettel another 4 points back. While Jenson Button is still in contention, he is now trailing Alonso by 42 points with 2 races to go, and has since given up his championship aspirations. The full standings are available here.

After a 3 hour race, filled to the brim with drama, crashes and incidents, heartbreak and tears of joy (and a little dash of rain), I would declare the first ever Korean Grand Prix to be an outstanding success. With this race has come a series of twists to the 2010 saga, which sets us up for an epic race at Interlagos in 2 weeks time.

Fernando Alonso celebrates in parc ferme

Fernando Alonso celebrates in parc ferme

White line rule dropped for Korea

Following complaints from the drivers about the safety at pit lane entry and exit, the stewards and officials have decided to drop the white line rule for the Korean Grand Prix.

The pit lane entry for the Yeongam circuit is just after a very fast right hander, and cars pitting are currently forced to slow in the middle of that corner in order to pit, creating a very dangerous situation if there is a car behind.

As well as this, the pit lane exit deposits the cars in the middle of Turn 2, a fast left-hander for the cars. Therefore, if a car runs wide or goes too fast over Turn 2, they could possible create a nasty accident with any car leaving the pits.

Because of this, the white line rule has been ditched for this weekend. The white line rule states that a car cannot cross the white lines while entering or exiting the pit lane. Generally this is to create a safe passage in and out of the pits, but the poor design around the pit lane has forced this decision.

Lewis Hamilton stated how the situation was for the drivers on Friday and Saturday:

"As you come out, the cars that have come around the corner 
out of turn one, they are in your blind spot, you don't even 
know if they are there."

"Every time you come out you are trying to see if there's 
anyone there, plus you have to get straight on to the racing 
line...I think in the race it will be interesting to see how 
everyone deals with it."

"You just have to go for it really and hope for the best, 
I would say."

While this doesn’t make too much change to pit lane exit, as you couldn’t exactly drive onto the grass to avoid an accident there, this will make pitting in much safer. During qualifying, we saw what can happen if a driver goes full throttle into pit lane entry with heavy steering, with Hamilton losing control, running over the grass and getting far too close with the barriers.

For the race, we should expect to see drivers go full throttle as usual, but they will run slightly wide into the pit lane, and then slow down, rather than brake on the racing line. It is clearly a good move by the stewards, but it surely could have been avoided by better circuit planning, in my opinion.

Vettel heads Red Bull 1-2 in Korean qualifying

Sebastian Vettel took pole position for the Korean Grand Prix, a few hundreths of a second ahead of team-mate Mark Webber, for the 8th time this season. They both stormed ahead of Fernando Alonso in the closing minutes of Q3 in qualifying.

Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso after qualifying

Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso after qualifying

Q1

At the top,  Alonso, Vettel and Webber were all separated by a few hundreths of a second. For most of the session, Fernando stayed on top, while the Red Bulls were yet to show their true pace.

Further back, several cars were involved in the battle to progress to Q2. Nick Heidfeld, Sebastien Buemi, Jaime Alguersuari and Vitantonio Liuzzi all held 18th position at certain points, until the Force India driver was unable to improve on his lap time, and was knocked out of Q1.

Jarno Trulli was the fastest of the new teams, followed by Timo Glock, who was on the pace all weekend, before a spin damaged his momentum. Heikki Kovalainen was 21st, Lucas di Grassi 22nd, Sakon Yamamoto 23rd and Bruno Senna 8 tenths slower in last place.

Drivers knocked out in Q1:

18) Vitantonio Liuzzi

19) Jarno Trulli

20) Timo Glock

21) Heikki Kovalainen

22) Lucas di Grassi

23) Sakon Yamamoto

24) Bruno Senna

Q2

Within minutes of Q2 beginning, it was apparent how much pace Red Bull were hiding, as Vettel and Webber easily took the top of the timesheets. This time around, Webber was 4 hundreths faster than Sebastian. Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton were within 1 tenth behind.

Vitaly Petrov spun, and only got 15th, and with his penalty after Suzuka, will start 20th. Both Kamui Kobayashi and Nick Heidfeld went out for only 1 run at the end, but neither got through to Q3.

Both Toro Rossos struggled for pace, while Nico Hulkenberg was 11th, only 1 tenth slower than his team-mate Rubens Barrichello.

Drivers knocked out in Q2:

11) Nico Hulkenberg

12) Kamui Kobayashi

13) Nick Heidfeld

14) Adrian Sutil

15) Vitaly Petrov

16) Jaime Alguersuari

17) Sebastien Buemi

Q3

Fernando Alonso was the first to get the ball rolling, and with a record time in sector 1, was well on course for provisional pole. He improved again on his second run, but the Red Bulls soon put a stop to that. Within the dying few minutes, Vettel went 1st, and then Webber got within 7 hundreths of that time to lock out the front row.

Further back, Lewis Hamilton was 3 tenths slower in 4th, Nico Rosberg did well for 5th, and Felipe Massa couldn’t get near his team-mate in 6th place. Jenson Button and Robert Kubica never got the best out of their cars in 7th and 8th, Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello filled the top 10.

While they may have the front row filled, there are several problems in the way of a 1-2 race finish. First of all, the row which Webber starts on will be very dusty, leading to a probable bad start. Also, their race pace has never been as good as qualifying pace, and to make matters worse, there is a chance of some rain…

Webber leads second practice in Korea

Mark Webber led the second practice session for the first ever Korean Grand Prix. He became the first driver to go under the 1.38 mark. Fernando Alonso was 2nd, followed by Lewis Hamilton.

Mark Webber led FP2 in Korea

Mark Webber led FP2 in Korea

Robert Kubica was 4th, Jenson Button 5th, and Felipe Massa 6th, who was complaining of his Ferrari being “undriveable” in the final sector of the lap. Sebastian Vettel, Vitaly Petrov, Nico Rosberg and Kamui Kobayashi finished the top 10.

Nick Heidfeld was 11th, followed by Michael Schumacher. Rubens Barrichello headed the two Force India cars, with Liuzzi leading Sutil. Nico Hulkenberg was 16th, while Toro Rosso were 17th and 18th.

The Lotus duo of Trulli and Kovalainen stamped their authority on the best new team title, with both drivers being within several hundreths of a second within each other. Timo Glock then headed Lucas di Grassi, who had been given back his car from Jerome D’Ambrosio. Sakon Yamamoto was 7.2 seconds off the pace, while Bruno Senna only managed 3 laps thanks to his car being repaired for most of the session, after his suspension failure in FP1.

This second session was much more eventful, with Sakon Yamamoto crashing at Turn 16 within a few minutes of the session starting. Several turns, especially Turn 12 in particular, caught out many drivers such as Mark Webber. Vitantonio Liuzzi stopped on track with a few minutes to go in the session, while Jenson Button experienced a fault with his exhaust.

I would post the times for this session, but my chart isn’t uploading properly. I’ll try to fix this soon.

Hamilton leads inaugural Korean GP Friday Practice 1

Lewis Hamilton topped the very first Formula 1 practice session on the new Korean Grand Prix circuit. He was closely followed behind by Robert Kubica and Nico Rosberg.

Lewis Hamilton topped the first Korean GP practice session

Lewis Hamilton topped the first Korean GP practice session

A problem with his rear wing meant he had to wait until the dying minutes to set his fast laps, but this didn’t deter Hamilton, who set a 1.40.887, despite only setting 15 laps, one of the fewest out of all the drivers. Kubica was 0.081 seconds slower.

Sebastian Vettel was 4th, while Jenson Button was an entire second off Lewis’ pace in 5th. Michael Schumacher and Mark Webber were 6th and 7th, Nick Heidfeld 8th, and the two Williams drivers filled the top 10.

Vitaly Petrov was 11th, Felipe Massa 12th, Kamui Kobayashi 13th, Adrian Sutil 14th and Fernando Alonso 15th. While the Ferraris are currently well off the pace, it is believed they were running race fuel strategies, which would mean that they have potential to be 2-3 seconds faster.

Sebastien Buemi, Vitantonio Liuzzi, and Jaime Alguersuari were 16th, 17th and 18th. Timo Glock was 19th for Virgin, a full second ahead of Jerome D’Ambrosio, who took part in another F1 test session as part of his gradual move into a race drive in the next few years.

Heikki Kovalainen was 21st, while the Hispania cars were a spectacular 9 seconds off the pace, with Sakon Yamamoto half a second faster than Bruno Senna. However, Senna only did half the amount of laps as Yamamoto, as a suspension failure left him spinning out at Turn 7 after 15 laps. Jarno Trulli was last, as he had stopped on track due to a gearbox problem.

The track, predictably, started off very dusty and lacked grip, so the times improved well over the session. The newly laid track caught many drivers out, including both Ferraris, Jenson Button, Kamui Kobayashi and Sakon Yamamoto.

Pos.
Driver Car Best lap Gap Laps
1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1’40.887 15
2 Robert Kubica Renault 1’40.968 0.081 18
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’41.152 0.265 21
4 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1’41.371 0.484 18
5 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1’41.940 1.053 16
6 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’42.022 1.135 25
7 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1’42.202 1.315 23
8 Nick Heidfeld Sauber-Ferrari 1’42.293 1.406 18
9 Nico Hülkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1’42.678 1.791 21
10 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1’42.883 1.996 23
11 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1’42.896 2.009 22
12 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’43.054 2.167 25
13 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1’43.309 2.422 20
14 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1’43.602 2.715 18
15 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’43.928 3.041 21
16 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’43.940 3.053 23
17 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1’44.887 4.000 21
18 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’45.141 4.254 26
19 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1’45.588 4.701 20
20 Jerome d’Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1’46.613 5.726 17
21 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1’47.115 6.228 22
22 Sakon Yamamoto HRT-Cosworth 1’50.347 9.460 29
23 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1’50.821 9.934 15
24 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1’51.701 10.814 11

Russian Grand Prix confirmed at Sochi for 2014

It has been announced today by Bernie Ecclestone and Vladimir Putin that the Russian Grand Prix has been confirmed to take a place on the Formula 1 calendar, from 2014 onwards. The race will take part at a circuit in Sochi, which has yet to be built. This city also happens to be the host of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

The track will be designed by Herman Tilke, at a cost of $200m, and Bernie Ecclestone is charging $40m to host the race. However, it cannot be confirmed at this time if that payment will be the same each year.

Vladimir Putin confirmed the deal today to Reuters, saying: “We have reached an agreement with the principal owner of Formula One that Sochi would host the Russian Grand Prix from 2014 to 2020.”

With this, the Indian GP next year, US GP in 2013, and the Rome GP to be announced whenever the deal is signed, this could mean that the Formula 1 calendar could be extended to up to 23 races by 2014.

Russia has become heavily involved in Formula 1 this year, with most of the credit going to Vitaly Petrov. New sponsors such as Vyborg Shipyard (which just so happens to be Petrov’s home town), Flagman, and Lada have been brought on board at Renault, which owns 25% of AvtoVAZ, the parent company of Lada. This huge commercial interest sparked rumours several months ago about a race in Russia, and Bernie Ecclestone has not made it a secret that he wanted a race there.

As always, I look forward to new races, but with Herman Tilke on board you can never be sure what you end up with. I was hoping that the track would be made by Populous, the company that worked on the Silverstone redevelopments (and are working on the Sochi Winter Olympics sites very close to the proposed track), but unfortunately this has not happened.

The main concern would be about the fact that several races now must be dropped, as the F1 calendar surely couldn’t stand 23 races per year. Personally, I think Catalunya, Valencia, Hungary, Germany and Bahrain could be dropped, but we will have to wait and see over the next few years.

Korean GP given green light by FIA

FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting inspecting the Korean GP circuit

FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting inspecting the Korean GP circuit

The Korean Grand Prix has been confirmed to go ahead later this month, as a recent FIA inspection has reported the track to be up to safety standards, and more importantly, the construction is still on time. Charlie Whiting has been inspecting the track over the last 2 days, and has finally declared the race ready to go.

 

For the last few months, particularly in the recent weeks, speculation has been mounting about the circuit’s inability to prepare the track in time, particularly in the laying of the tarmac, which only happened a few days ago. However, with this seal of approval from the FIA, surely most of the media attention will focus on the actual race.

While the tarmac and kerbs are now down, certain aspects of the infrastructure are still to be completed, such as some of the smaller grandstands. Having said that, the main features of the circuit are reported to have been completed.

Race promoter Yung Cho Chung has welcomed the approval by the FIA, and has stated that he hopes to see this Grand Prix ignite more Korean interest in F1:

"We are delighted that all works are now finished to the 
complete satisfaction of the FIA, and we join the whole of 
Korea in welcoming the Formula 1 fraternity to the Korea 
International Circuit for the first time.

The KIC has been constructed to the highest standards, and 
will become the epicentre of motorsport in the country. We 
believe the 2010 Formula 1 Korean Grand Prix will be the 
catalyst to ignite enormous interest in the sport across 
the nation."

 

Vettel dominates Suzuka in Red Bull 1-2

Sebastian Vettel took victory in the Japanese Grand Prix today, ahead of Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso. This leaves Vettel joint 2nd in the championship, while Webber extends his lead at the front. This is what happened:

The first corner saw instant carnage, as two separate incidents resulted in the deployment of the safety car. Vitaly Petrov turned left into Nico Hulkenberg, ruining the Renault and taking out the Williams, while Felipe Massa ran wide at Turn 1, and speared into Vitantonio Liuzzi, and threw debris all over the track.

On the third lap, while the safety car was still out, Robert Kubica, who had jumped Mark Webber at the start, pulled over to retire with a missing back right wheel, which came off during the lap. This was to prove crucial to the race, as now Webber’s slow start was cancelled out, while Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton moved up the grid.

The safety car peeled away at the start of Lap 7, and the race got properly underway. The Mercedes cars gave us the great racing action, Nico Rosberg trying a move on Sebastien Buemi on 130R but ran wide, while Michael Schumacher got past Rubens Barrichello at the final chicane to take 6th.

Up front, Vettel set fastest lap after fastest lap, while Mark Webber kept him honest in 2nd. The two Red Bulls soon showed their hands, as their lap times were a half a second faster than Fernando Alonso in 3rd. Further back, Kamui Kobayashi impressed the crowd with a brave dive down the inside of Jaime Alguersuari for 10th place. He later made the same move on Adrian Sutil on Lap 19.

Sutil soon pitted, and triggered a charge for the pit lane. Barrichello and Alguersuari soon followed, and were among the fastest on track, prompting Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher to make the change. Lewis emerged behind Kobayashi, but quickly made a move on the main straight to get himself clear track ahead.

Once the Red Bulls and Alonso pitted, Button was left in the lead, while Hamilton set a chain of fastest laps on a new set of tyres, and got closer and closer to Fernando Alonso. In 2nd and 3rd, Mark Webber was getting very close to Sebastian Vettel, who seemed to be struggling with his tyres.

Button finally pitted on Lap 39, and handed the lead back to Vettel. Kobayashi stopped also, and dropped to 11th place. Hamilton, however, was in trouble, telling his team that his gearbox had lost 3rd gear, which is surprising considering the gearbox change he had yesterday.

He began to lose up to 2 seconds per lap to team-mate Button, and Jenson soon sailed past on Lap 44. This left the McLarens 4th and 5th.

Kamui Kobayashi was down to 12th, but decided to make another banzai move on Jaime Alguersuari around the outside. However, Jaime made a silly mistake, by banging wheels with Kobayashi when he had already gotten past. The Toro Rosso sustained damage to his front wing and was forced to pit. The Sauber had damage to its sidepod and turning vane, but was able to continue.

Adrian Sutil’s engine exploded on Lap 46, spewing oil over the back wheels, and forced the Force India into a perilous spin at 130R, but was well held by Sutil, though he was still forced to retire.

Button tried to put pressure on Alonso’s 3rd place, but was just too far back to be a concern to the Ferrari team. With 5 laps to go, a huge crash occured at Turn 5, when Nico Rosberg’s back left wheel flew straight off the car, spearing the car into the barriers, although the safety car was not deployed.

In the last few laps, a fantastic battle began between team-mates Nick Heidfeld and Kamui Kobayashi was the focus of attention. As expected, a dive down the inside of the hairpin was the way to get into 7th place.

After all of this, Sebastian Vettel crossed the line first, to take a dominant win, and push himself back into the title fight. Mark Webber was 1 second behind, and Fernando Alonso 3rd. Button and Hamilton were 4th and 5th, while Schumacher Kobayashi, Heidfeld, Barrichello and Buemi took the rest of the points. Heikki Kovalainen was 12th, which almost definitely secures Lotus’ 10th place in the constructors championship.

A dominant 1-2 was the minimum expected result by Red Bull, and helped both drivers in their championship assault at the same time. Ferrari didn’t expect to match Red Bull, so 3rd position was well-appreciated by Alonso. McLaren, meanwhile, were slightly disappointed by Button’s failed strategy.

Despite all of this, Webber didn’t leave Vettel all the glory. On the very last lap, the Australian took the fastest lap, to steal the jewel in Sebastian’s crown.

The standings have been updated, you can view them here.

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