Sauber celebrated their best result of the season at the last grand prix in Japan, and this weekend look forward to the challenge of a completely new circuit as South Korea hosts its first ever Formula 1 event.
“I am very excited about going to the next Grand Prix!” exclaimed Kamui Kobayashi, who had a fantastic race involving plenty of daring overtaking manoeuvres at Suzuka. He eventually finished his home race in a very respectable seventh place.
“After the race in Suzuka I am even more motivated,” he added. “I went straight to Tokyo to stay there until I have to travel to South Korea. I had a couple of promotional activities and meetings, but also time to relax and do some sports in order to prepare for the next race.
“I always enjoy nice warm weather, and also it was good for me to stay in the same time zone instead of flying back and forth to Europe. I have never been to South Korea. At some circuits this year other drivers have had an advantage in terms of knowing the track, but this time it is the same for everybody. I am very much looking forward to discovering the circuit!”
Nick Heidfeld finished just behind his teammate in Japan, and has actually driven a Formula 1 car in Korea before – not that it will give him any advantage over his rivals this weekend.
“Two years ago I went to South Korea for the first time – I was doing demo runs with our former Formula One car,” he explains. “It was the first time a F1 car had been fired up in that country. The circuit didn't exist, so I drove on a closed street in Seoul and then in Gwang-ju, a city in the province of Jeollanam-do where the circuit has been built.
“The track is a long way away from the capital, therefore the weekend will kick off with a several hour drive, which might be a little inconvenient after a long flight. At the moment hardly anyone knows exactly what to expect on site. I am very curious to see the track and the facilities!
“From a driver's perspective the most important thing is that the tarmac lasts. If the final layer is laid a short time before, it is generally understood it can be oily which, of course, would be extremely problematic. But I can only give any informed information about the quality and lay-out of the track once I have driven there.
“Generally I welcome new venues because they provide a special driving challenge, and for a World Championship it is positive to race in as many countries as possible.”
Technical director James Key explains the challenges that face the teams as they head to a new circuit. “For the new Korea circuit any preparation we are able to do will rely on the information we have on the track's lay-out,” he said. “We can, of course, undertake initial simulations and make predictions, but ultimately it is difficult to foresee everything with such a new circuit, and we will only know all this when we get there.
“We have a CAD file of the circuit from which we can derive an ideal driving line, and this can then be used to run our simulation tools. It allows us to play with different downforce and grip levels, braking severity and, to a certain extent, to look at mechanical settings and ride heights. But this is obviously very general as you don't know how bumpy the track is, how the grip levels are, how the tyres will degrade or if the drivers will take a different line and so on.
“You can not prepare for these unknown factors, but you have to make sure you are ready to deal with them and so spread predictive work out to cover various different scenarios. Only then can we consider how to react to whatever the case may be. For other new tracks on the calendar you would have data from different racing series, but this is not the case here. It is up to the teams and drivers to learn quickly and react in the best possible way to optimise the car, so it will be a good challenge.
“The track looks extremely interesting with three straights, heavy braking at the end of each and then very winding sections for the second half of the lap. It looks like a technical track, and one of those where you face the challenge to find a compromise for the downforce levels required. However, theoretically it looks like a higher downforce track with a winding section towards the end of the lap.
“It will be a very interesting weekend for all of us and we look forward to visiting Korea for the first time.“