This weekend sees the fourth (and possibly final) race at Yeongam and although the championship appears to hurtling Sebastian Vettel’s way, there is still plenty to race for. In the first TCF Form Guide, we analyse the prospects of all 22 drivers ahead of the Korean Grand Prix.
|Sebastian Vettel - Red Bull Racing Renault - 247 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 1st, 3rd, 1st, 1st, 1st||Best In Korea: Winner (2011, 2012)|
If history tells us anything, there should be only one winner this weekend. Sebastian Vettel has won two of the three Korean Grands Prix and would have surely won the other had his engine not grenaded itself with victory in sight. Spa, Monza and Singapore all brought victory for the reigning champion and with Yeongam’s mixture of long straights and fast sweepers plus a street-style final sector likely to favour the best all-round package, Korea should bring another.
|Fernando Alonso – Ferrari – 187 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 4th, 5th, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd||Best In Korea: Winner (2010)|
Fernando Alonso has become all-too-familiar with second place recently with Sebastian Vettel proving too strong in the last three races and P2 may be the best he can hope for here too. Ferrari already have one eye on next year with the team set to test out some 2014 development parts in practice and Alonso may need a downpour of 2010 proportions to repeat his victory of three years ago.
|Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes – 151 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 5th, 1st, 3rd, 9th, 5th||Best In Korea: 2nd (2010, 2011)|
Although he doesn’t have the victory to back it up, Lewis Hamilton is very strong here, the Briton comfortably outqualifying and outracing Jenson Button on all three visits as teammates. The first sector should be Mercedes territory in qualifying and a sixth pole position of 2013 would come as no surprise whatsoever. A second win may be a little harder to come by but with Yeongam not expected to be hard on tyres, Mercedes may be able to run Red Bull closer than in recent races.
|Kimi Raikkonen - Lotus Renault – 149 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 2nd, 2nd, DNF, 11th, 3rd||Best In Korea: 5th (2012)|
With his back injury hopefully a thing of the past, Kimi Raikkonen will be keen to avoid a third consecutive exit in Q2 this weekend. While his first visit to Yeongam produced a solid fifth 12 months ago, the Finn was half a minute behind eventual winner Sebastian Vettel and will be hoping to be much closer this time. As shown in Singapore, the Lotus is capable of longer stints than most on the medium tyre which could play to his advantage on Sunday.
|Mark Webber - Red Bull Racing Renault – 130 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 7th, 4th, 5th, 3rd, 15th||Best In Korea: 2nd (2012)|
Before turning a wheel, Mark Webber heads into the Korean Grand Prix with a handicap after his ill-advised taxi ride landed him a ten-place grid penalty. With Yeongam being the venue where his 2010 title hopes suffered a critical blow, Mark could be forgiven for feeling rather pessimistic about his chances. The Australian is also likely to start mid-pack without the advantage of new tyres but with the fastest car underneath him, he will be one to watch in the race.
|Nico Rosberg – Mercedes - 116 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 9th, 19th, 4th, 6th, 4th||Best In Korea: 8th (2011)|
Bad luck seems to follow Nico Rosberg to Korea having being caught up in accidents twice in three years, most notably with Mark Webber in 2010 but this weekend presents a good chance to reverse that trend. After seeing his teammate storm to five straight poles, the German has had the edge on Lewis Hamilton in each of the last two races and should be a contender this weekend, especially if it’s wet.
|Felipe Massa – Ferrari – 87 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: DNF, 8th, 7th, 4th, 6th||Best In Korea: 3rd (2010)|
Although he outqualified Alonso in Singapore, Felipe Massa was never consistently on the Spaniard’s level all weekend athough in fairness to Felipe, his record in Singapore was never particularly sparkling. Korea is a different story though and only the intervention of the team prevented Massa from challenging Alonso’s third place a year ago. Expect the two to be much closer together than a fortnight ago.
|Romain Grosjean - Lotus Renault – 57 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 3rd, 6th, 8th, 8th, DNF||Best In Korea: 7th (2012)|
Since his eventful afternoon in Hungary, Romain Grosjean’s results have dipped but much of that owes to bad luck rather than a lack of pace on his part. The Frenchman shone all weekend in Singapore, qualifying third and he would surely have finished in the same position but for an engine compression issue, the trophy and champagne instead going to his teammate. It is surely a matter of time before his efforts are rewarded.
|Jenson Button – McLaren Mercedes - 54 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 6th, 7th, 6th, 10th, 7th||Best In Korea: 4th (2011)|
Jenson Button will be the first to admit his record at Yeongam is pretty woeful, failing to even complete the first lap last year, but the 2009 world champion is optimistic that he will improve this time. After a mid-season slump, Button has scored points in each of the last five races and as Singapore showed, he won’t be afraid to take the odd strategic gamble to secure the podium finish that has so far eluded McLaren.
|Paul Di Resta – Force India Mercedes – 36 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 11th, 18th, DNF, DNF, 20th||Best In Korea: 10th (2011)|
Five races without a point for Paul Di Resta has seen Force India lose ground to McLaren in the Constructors’ Standings. The mid-season tyre change hasn’t helped but the root of Paul’s problems seems to be qualifying, with Singapore his fourth Q1 elimination of the year. A series of uncharacteristic errors have hurt him recently and the Scotsman will first be looking for a better grid slot to ensure he stays out of trouble.
|Adrian Sutil – Force India Mercedes – 26 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 13th, DNF, 9th, 16th, 10th||Best In Korea: 11th (2011)|
Adrian Sutil has established himself as Force India’s leading light on a Saturday, outqualifying Di Resta in three of the last four races, before going on to score points in two of them. The Silverstone squad make no secret of the fact that Yeongam is not among their stronger circuits and they may be looking to Sutil to sneak a point or two on a contrary strategy as he did in Singapore.
|Sergio Perez – McLaren Mercedes – 22 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 8th, 9th, 11th, 12th, 8th||Best In Korea: 11th (2012)|
With his future at McLaren not totally secure, Sergio Perez is a man under pressure. While he has far from disgraced himself, the Mexican hasn’t finished ahead of teammate Jenson Button since Canada and given Jenson’s modest record around Yeongam, this weekend is surely his best opportunity to end that run. The first step to achieving that will be to reach Q3, something he’s only done five times all season.
|Nico Hulkenberg – Sauber Ferrari - 19 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 10th, 11th, 13th, 5th, 9th||Best In Korea: 6th (2012)|
Nico Hulkenberg’s performance was one of the stand-out displays of last year’s Korean Grand Prix, overtaking Lewis Hamilton and Romain Grosjean in one move on his way to sixth place. The German’s recent form, allied to improvements in Sauber’s performance, mean it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that he could repeat that result on Sunday, especially if the forecast rain rolls into Yeongam.
|Daniel Ricciardo - STR Ferrari – 18 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 12th, 13th, 10th, 7th, DNF||Best In Korea: 9th (2012)|
In each of the last two seasons, Toro Rosso have punched above their weight in Korea, getting both cars into the points. The STR8 regularly figures at the top of the speed trap charts which bodes well for the first sector in Yeongam and Q3 will surely be the minimum target for Daniel Ricciardo on Saturday while points will be the goal on Sunday, so long as the Australian avoids a repeat of the error which ended his Singapore GP early.
|Jean-Eric Vergne - STR Ferrari – 13 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: DNF, 12th, 12th, DNF, 14th||Best In Korea: 8th (2012)|
Sixth place in Canada is unquestionably the highlight of Jean-Eric Vergne’s season so far but the Frenchman hasn’t scored a single point since. Vergne produced arguably the best performance of his rookie season here last year and a repeat this time around would be timely for the Frenchman, and Toro Rosso who are nervously looking over their shoulder as Sauber close in on them in the Constructors Championship.
|Pastor Maldonado – Williams Renault - 1 Pt|
|Last 5 Races: 15th, 10th, 17th, 14th, 11th||Best In Korea: 14th (2012)|
In a season where they often featured towards the front of the grid, Korea was one of Williams’ least profitable venues in 2012 with Pastor Maldonado finishing a lowly fourteenth. 2013 hasn’t been much better but the Venezuelan only just fell short of a points finish in Singapore and with Williams bringing upgrades to Yeongam, Pastor is in with a chance of adding to his solitary point so far.
|Esteban Gutierrez – Sauber Ferrari - 0 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 14th, DNF, 14th, 13th, 12th||Best In Korea: Debut|
Heading into the final six races, 2013 has yet to bring a world championship point for any of the rookies but Esteban Gutierrez is surely the most likely to do so. The Sauber has improved as the season has gone on and the same can be said for Esteban whose Q2 lap in Singapore impressed many. This weekend will prove whether that was a breakthrough for the young Mexican or a flash in the pan.
|Valtteri Bottas – Williams Renault – 0 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 16th, DNF, 15th, 15th, 13th||Best In Korea: Debut|
By his own admission, Singapore was one of Valtteri Bottas’ tougher races in his short Grand Prix career thanks to a clutch problem at the start and debris in his front wing later on, preventing him from showing his true potential. The Finn has 23 laps of Yeongam under his belt after running in FP1 last year and will be expected to hit the ground running before turning his attention to qualifying, and the task of reaching Q2.
|Jules Bianchi - Marussia Cosworth – 0 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: DNF, 16th, 18th, 19th, 18th||Best In Korea: Debut|
With his 2014 Marussia seat now secured, Jules Bianchi will have one less issue on his mind in Korea this weekend. The Frenchman had a difficult race in Singapore with an unscheduled pitstop for a new steering wheel costing him time and leaving him behind teammate Max Chilton. Bianchi is another with practice experience here, albeit in a Force India, and will be expected to chase the Caterhams hard this weekend.
|Charles Pic - Caterham Renault – 0 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 17th, 15th, DNF, 17th, 19th||Best In Korea: 19th (2012)|
Charles Pic outqualified his more experienced teammate Timo Glock on his first visit to Yeongam last year although a grid penalty ensured he would start at the back. With Heikki Kovalainen waiting in the wings for 2014, the more pressing issue for Pic is the need to re-establish superiority over Giedo van der Garde who has had the edge on him recently.
|Giedo van der Garde - Caterham Renault – 0 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 18th, 14th, 16th, 18th, 16th||Best In Korea: Debut|
Giedo van der Garde impressed in Singapore, running ahead of Valtteri Bottas’ Williams for much of the race. The Dutchman was particularly strong on the supersoft tyre so will be pleased with Pirelli’s tyre selections, even if he will be hard pressed to repeat his Singapore heroics. Giedo has already shown his ability in the wet too and with Caterham still trailing Marussia in the championship, he could be just the man they need on Sunday.
|Max Chilton – Marussia Cosworth - 0 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 19th, 17th, 19th, 20th, 17th||Best In Korea: Debut|
The Singapore Grand Prix was something of a breakthrough for Max Chilton who finished ahead of teammate Jules Bianchi for the first time in a race where they both reached the chequered flag. Monaco aside, qualifying has been one way traffic though with the Frenchman having the advantage and Chilton will be looking to close the half-second gap that has regularly split the two.