and it’s Oppa Gangnam Style time
PSY’s global phenomenon of a music video has since last year taken the world by storm. Fortunately for the growing country of Korea, same can be said of its Formula One race, which since its inauguration in 2010, has been becoming a driver’s favorite. As the 2013 F1 circus heads to Yeongam, world championship leader Sebastian Vettel has a more than comfortable lead over arch rival Fernando Alonso. With Red Bulls’ increasingly impressive run of wonderful form, the team from Milton Keys will firmly view this race as another great opportunity to put the nail further into the chasing pack’s coffin.
Coming into this grand prix, Vettel and Red Bull have been in the news for oddly the wrong reasons. Rivals from other contending teams, especially Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, have questioned the Vettel-Red Bull combination’s pace in Singapore as being “too incredible”. Hamilton mentioned during the pre-race press conference in Korea that Vettel was so dominant that he managed to put the power down his Red Bull 20 metres earlier out of corners than any other cars on track. That was of course, a massive amount of advantage in terms of traction and permitted the German to cruise to victory, lapping almost two seconds a lap faster than any other competitor at one stage.
Red Bull Racing team principal, Christian Horner insisted that there was no illegal advantage gained in Singapore. ‘It was simply the machinery and driver both working at its best condition at the same time, and other cars on the track were on different tyre strategies.’ , explained Horner.
Needless to say, fans all around the world, admittedly myself included, are hoping for a closer race here. The following are the main features and stats of the Yeongam circuit in Korea.
Race Date: 6 October 2013
Circuit Length: 5.615km
Total Race Distance: 308.825km
Lap Record: 1:41.380 -Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing-Renault, 2013)
Qualifying was a non-dramatic affair, with Vettel once again claiming pole position over Hamilton with two -tenths to spare. Romain Grosjean in the Lotus managed a valiant effort to take third, with the Saubers of Nico Hulkenberg and Estaban Gutierrez both making into Q3, qualifying seventh and eighth respectively. This marked the first time this season that both cars from the Hinwil squad managed to make Q3 during the same grand prix weekend. Worth noting here though, was the fact that Hulkenberg’s Sauber was setting fastest purple sector times of 36.3s in Sector One throughout qualifying. Not many people thought much about this during then, but the superb first sector performance of the Sauber will come into play in the most surprising fashion come the race.
Sunday came, and as the five lights went out Vettel was again at his imperious form. The perfect start down Turn One, the German stormed away into the lead (though not in his Singapore-dominant fashion), with Grosjean overhauling Hamilton into P2. At the end of lap one, the order was as follow: Vettel (Red Bull), Grosjean (Lotus), Hamilton (Mercedes), Rosberg (Mercedes), Hulkenberg (Sauber) and Alonso (Ferrari).
As the front four pulled away from the Sauber, Alonso behind Hulkenberg struggled to find any way past the German. The main trait of the Yeongam circuit is its lack of overtaking opportunities throughout the track. Of the 18 corners, the only main overtaking areas are down into Turn One, and out of Turn Two into Turn Three, whereby slip streaming and DRS will come into play. However as mentioned earlier, this weekend the Sauber’s Sector One performance was just spectacular, its incredible traction out of Turn Two coupled with a mega straight line speed meant that no car was able to overhaul the Sauber over one lap.
Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus made a great call by coming into the pits one lap earlier than the Sauber, thus succeeding in the undercut and taking over fifth after the first round of pitstops. Hamilton however, was struggling massively with his tyres and was getting hauled in by teammate Rosberg when the latter’s front wing gave in, producing one of the most dramatic moments of this season, as sparks lighted up the track.
The first safety car of the race was triggered by McLaren’s Sergio Perez, with the Mexican suffering from another tyre dilamination, though it was less severe than his Silverstone blowout. As the field resumed racing under green flags however, Force India’s Adrian Sutil lost control of his car down Turn Three, collecting Mark Webber in the Red Bull, resulting in another dramatic moment as fire broke out from the Australian’s car.
During the first safety car resumption, Hulkenberg utilised his superior traction out of Turn Two to take P4 from Hamilton into Turn Three. The Mercedes driver will come to rue this overhaul for the final ten laps of the race, as he failed to pass the Sauber and ended up finishing fifth. Fourth place however, is Sauber’s best result for 2013, and it came at the right time for Hulkenberg. The German is currently on the radar of Lotus for next year’s drive and a brilliant race of defending as such would certainly do his CV no harm.
As the dust settled, Vettel stormed to his fourth successive victory in as many races, with the Lotus duo of Raikkonen and Grosjean completing the podium. However, the drive of the day and all the plaudits around the paddock were rightly given to Nico Hulkenberg, who definitely drove the race of his life to beat a Mercedes and Ferrari in his obviously inferior Sauber. After the race, Hulkenberg admitted that he and Sauber definitely punched above their weight in Korea, but a well deserved result nevertheless.
With this victory, Sebastian Vettel now has a monstrous 77 point lead over Fernando Alonso with only five races to go. If Vettel wins in Japan next week and Alonso fails to finish at least eighth or higher, the German will become the youngest driver to land his fourth driver’s championship crown at the tender age of 26.
One thing is for certain, the Sebastian Vettel-Red Bull Racing combination: not many will bet against them come the race in Suzuka.