Race Review - Korean Grand Prix
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An overall impression of the Korean Grand Prix showed what an impressive season we have all been following. The race had a few dramatic moments and some good scraps, particularly in the midfield, but yet it was not a stand out Grand Prix like those we have seen in the likes of Valencia or Canada. It can not compete with those examples, which emphasises the strength we have had this season. I mainly think its down to the track. The first sector is brilliant for overtaking, but as much as I love the other two they create a single file race. The final part of the lap is full of twisty, technical turns and as cool as it looks, the cars being thrown around, the narrow track creates a single file line before the cars are released on to the pit straight. The atmosphere during the race was also poor. What a contrast to a week ago, when we had chants of “Kamui” and enthusiastic cheers from the packed grandstands. Korea provided us with empty seats, unenthusiastic crowds and a complete lack of love for the sport. It does not help that the circuit has been dropped onto a marsh in the middle of nowhere.
Moving on to the racing itself, the first thing that caught my eye was Vettel sneakily sliding up the inside of Webber as they tackled turn 1. Webber’s initial get away was strong, and matched Vettel’s, but it was the second phrase that caused Vettel to move ahead. Behind, Button was rammed by Perez as he locked up and knocked into Hulkenberg, a poor and badly timed move from the Mexican who was just going in to the tight turn too fast. The cars headed on to the long, long back straight and as they braked for turn 3, Button was speared by another Sauber. Kobayshi was squeezed by Rosberg, who was alongside Button. This caused the Japanese driver to hit Button not once, but twice. The second impact was caused after ricocheting off Nico Rosberg, putting Button out of the race. Rosberg did not last much longer, with an engine problem. It was a huge shame for Jenson as his long run pace was strong in practice, but he paid the price for his lowly grid position. Kamui was gifted with a drive through penalty, far too soft in my opinion. Not that the stewards knew at the time, but he retired shortly after. It was plain bad driving, from hero to zero after his podium in Japan, and personally I think he should have been given a fine or a grid penalty for the next round.
The other McLaren of Hamilton also struggled massively with tyre degradation, no thanks to an eventual rear suspension failure which was discovered after the race. He was one of the only people to move to the 3 stop strategy. It was a shock to be honest. He looked fast in Qualifying, but the only way was backwards for him. Sadly, he probably has no chance of winning the title now. I believe he also suffered the same problem with the rear suspension in Japan too so McLaren really need to sort that out, they do not want to part ways with Hamilton on bad terms.
Throughout the race, there were several strong battles. There were a few that stood out, particularly the one between Nico Hulkenberg and Romain Grosjean. This lasted for the first half of the race, and ended with a spectacular move by Hulkenberg to get past both Grosjean and the slow Hamilton in 1 corner. Romain and Lewis ran side by side on the run to turn 4, but Nico took the opportunity to out brake the cautious two and weep around the outside. Impressive or what? Bet Ferrari wish they had signed him now. Another nice battle was between the two Toro Rosso drivers, who strongly raced to a double points finish. They stayed together for a fair bit of the race and both disposed of drivers in the early stages, including the feisty Maldonado.
On the subject of feisty, Romain Grosjean’s driving looked significantly less so. After being told to tone down his erratic style and go for the cautious approach, he cleared the first lap without hitting a thing, apart from the obvious few kerbs. Eric Boullier said it was exactly what the Frenchman needed, so that is what he gave them. A good haul of points for Romain, he has certainly learnt a lot over the past few races. It was sad to see him being so cautious, when he is not crashing he makes me sit on the edge of my seat with anticipation, but if it helped him secure his drive and points then it is worth it as I’m a big fan of him and his driving, despite the incidents.
Vettel was unchallenged throughout the race, and the team even had to trick him into slowing down by saying his tyres were not going to last the distance. He said in an interview Webber “always on my toes” but was he really? Sebastian duly took his third victory in a row, and with it the championship lead. This puts him in a brilliant position for the closing few rounds.
Webber did well to hold off Alonso to make it a Red Bull 1-2, back to the 2011 ways, but it was Massa in 4th who really impressed me. Since Japan he has been on a high, and now (finally) has got to grips with his Ferrari machinery. I’m glad Felipe has now secured his seat at Ferrari for 2013 as I think he deserves it and has the talent. Raikkonen finished 5th, but it was a quiet race really and on a number of occasion’s I forgot about him. This was probably due to the hot midfield battles which caught the attention of FOM, but more decent points for his driver standing position.
Both Toro Rosso drivers were in the points, and Hamilton could only manage 10th. Michael Schumacher and Paul Di Resta had a good mid-race battle but neither could scrape into the points.
Overall an OK Grand Prix, a tiring one more than anything. 2 back to back, early races in a row have left me tired but I can not miss them. We now have a 2 week break before they are back racing in India, after its successful inaugural Grand Prix last year.
Some other F1 news to tell you. Nico Hulkenberg looks set to move from Force India to Sauber in 2013, with Ferrari retaining Felipe. I’m not sure if Sauber will be as strong as the rest next year. They have smaller budgets in comparison to Mercedes and Lotus, so they may fall back in the development race because the rules for next season have not changes drastically. Hulkenberg is a driver that I really like watching, he is smooth but aggressive when he needs to be. He also rarely makes a mistake and has a level head which is good.
Author: Rick McCabe
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