Korean Grand Prix 2011: Preview


The podium finishers at last season's Korean Grand Prix follow one another on track: (Left to right) Fernando Alonso (winner), Lewis Hamilton (2nd) and Felipe Massa - Photo Credit: Ferrari.com
The podium finishers at last season's Korean Grand Prix follow one another on track: (Left to right) Fernando Alonso (winner), Lewis Hamilton (2nd) and Felipe Massa - Photo Credit: Ferrari.com

 

After all the excitement of the Japanese Grand Prix last weekend, what with Sebastian Vettel becoming the youngest double champion in the history of the sport and only the ninth driver to win consecutive titles, plus the emotional victory for Jenson Button, it seems a bit excessive to have a another grand prix just seven days later.

Nevertheless, Formula 1 will this weekend pay its second visit to the Yeongam circuit in South Korea and, despite drivers, teams, media and fans all potentially being slightly hung-over, punch-drunk or down-right exhausted after events in Suzuka, this race could be a spectacle to behold.

Last season there was months of speculation over whether or not the race in Korea would go ahead as organisers rushed to get the circuit ready in time. The homologation process was carried out at the last minute and, as the F1 circus eventually descended on the circuit, an all-night operation was underway to get the seats installed in the grandstands.

Workers put the 'finishing touches' to the grandstands at Yeongam last season - Photo Credit: Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Workers put the 'finishing touches' to the grandstands at Yeongam last season - Photo Credit: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

 

And then, after Sebastian Vettel had taken pole position on the Saturday, race day arrived with a heavy dose of wet weather. The start of the race was delayed for ten minutes, and then it began under the safety car. After two laps, the race was suspended for nearly an hour because of the sodden track, and then it resumed again under the safety car.

Finally the race got underway, and what a race it was! In fact, it was so good that it got an honourable mention as one of the best races of last season on this very site at the end of the year. It certainly had a huge impact on the title race, with three of the five title contenders failing to pick up any points.

Even though the title race has now been decided, there are plenty of reasons to be interested about the goings-on in Korea this weekend, with plenty of stories still set to unfold before the end of the season.

Although Vettel has done enough to take the title, the ambitious German will not want to stop there. He has nine race victories to his name already this season and, with four races remaining, he could equal the record for the number of wins in a season, which is held by, of course, Michael Schumacher (set in 2004).

Another record in his sights could be the number of pole positions by a driver in a season. Nigel Mansell holds that one with fourteen in the 1992 season. Vettel is already on twelve in 2011. He could also beat Schumacher's record of seventeen podium finishes in a season – Vettel currently has fourteen.

Regardless of these records, Vettel would probably quite like to win in Korea anyway. Last season he was leading when his Renault engine decided it had had enough. That was Vettel's last retirement and Red Bull's last DNF. The double world champion will feel that he has unfinished business at Yeongam this weekend.

 

Neither Mark Webber's (left) nor Sebastian Vettel's car made it to the end of the inaugural Korean Grand Prix - Photo Credit: (Left:) Paul Gilham/Getty Images; Clive Mason/Getty Images
Neither Mark Webber's (left) nor Sebastian Vettel's car made it to the end of the inaugural Korean Grand Prix - Photo Credit: (Left:) Paul Gilham/Getty Images; Clive Mason/Getty Images

 

Mark Webber made a crucial mistake last season’s race which, in hindsight, was the moment that lost him the world champion. The wet conditions caused him to crash into both a wall and Nico Rosberg shortly after the field were released from the control of the safety car. The Australian has not won a race since Hungary 2010 and could really do with a victory before the end of 2011.

Then of course, there is McLaren duo. Jenson Button showed why the team have signed him on a multi-year deal with a great win at Suzuka, whilst Lewis Hamilton continued to look troubled. Will Button continue to out-race his team-mate or can Hamilton bounce back and take victory in Korea. The 2008 world champion came second here last season and, with McLaren showing that they now have the pace to challenge Red Bull, maybe he can reverse his downward spiral in form.

Despite Ferrari seeming to be some way behind the top two teams in the performance stakes, Fernando Alonso cannot be discounted this weekend. He out-drove the car to take second in Suzuka and, of course, won the inaugural Korean Grand Prix last season. The Spaniard seems determined to finish second in the championship standings, so expect some competitive driving over the remaining four races.

And perhaps an outside bet for a podium position, particularly if it rains, could be Michael Schumacher. The German showed how he earned his nickname 'Regenmeister' in last season's race and finished in an excellent fourth place. Singapore apart, the seven-time world champion has shown some excellent form since F1 returned from its summer break, and so perhaps he is due his 155th podium finish this weekend?

Further down the grid, with plenty of drivers unsure of a race seat for next season, there will be plenty of fierce competition. Moreover, there are battles between teams for finishing places in the constructors' standings, and for the extra prize money that comes with each higher placing.

In summary then, despite the championship being over, there are plenty of reasons to shun the weekend lie-in for the second week running. For anyone thinking that the last couple of races have been a bit dry, there is a reasonable possibility of some precipitation throughout the weekend.

  • Qualifying for the Korean Grand Prix beings at 06:00 BST on Saturday whilst the race gets underway at 07:00 BST on Sunday. Coverage for UK audiences is available on BBC One and BBC Radio 5 Live.
  • There will be reports and reactions from Korea throughout the weekend here on thecheckeredflag.co.uk