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Webber fastest as F1 warms to Korean Grand Prix
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Webber fastest as F1 warms to Korean Grand Prix
Posted By: James Allen  |  22 Oct 2010   |  7:32 am GMT  |  31 comments

Championship leader Mark Webber set the fastest time on the first day of running at the new Korean International Circuit, ahead of title rivals Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton. Robert Kubica and Felipe Massa were both in the top six. Neither are title contenders, but they could take important points off the five drivers who are, this weekend.

A lot of laps were covered today, with most drivers doing a race distance or close to it, across the two practice sessions.

The first impressions of the new circuit in Korea are pretty positive, despite the negativity in the build up to the event. It’s still being finished off here and there, but the main parts of the circuit are quite impressive, the track layout, the pit buildings and team offices.

Everything seems to function pretty well, despite them not having a dry run race meeting before this weekend. They’ve cut it fine, but it seems okay. And for a Friday the crowd wasn’t bad at all today.


Throughout the day the refrain from everyone in the paddock has been, “This is a lot better than I expected.”

Korea is quite a significant addition to the World Championship. F1’s commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone had been trying to get a Grand Prix in Korea for some time and signed a deal in 1996 with a group which was ultimately unable to deliver. This new venue is in the South Cholla province of south west Korea, 320 kilometres south of the capital, Seoul.

The concept for this venue is quite different from anything seen before.

The circuit has been designed as the hub of a new city, with business and residential development to be constructed around the circuit.

The second phase of construction is due to start next year, evolving the city of Jeollanam-do. The plans show hotels, a residential area with 10,000 homes, a public park in the city’s green zone, an automobile industry research facility and a business park located near the southern part of the circuit.

But it goes deeper than that, with the features of the city, due to be closely integrated into the circuit itself, so that eventually the circuit will have a street circuit feel to it in parts. The final part of the lap, currently lined with walls, will find itself winding through city streets.


It is the opposite of venues like Monaco, Melbourne and Singapore, where existing streets have been transformed into a racetrack for one weekend of the year.

It’s a good concept if the money and political will are there to get it done and stay the course. I can imagine this place in a few years time being quite different from the way it seems today. But it will require the Koreans to engage with the sport and to do that they’ll probably need Hyundai, the leading car maker to engage and they’ll need to invest in grass roots motorsport. The world changes quickly, new venues demand consideration, so it’s up to Korea now to make the most of the opportunity it’s been given.

There were two objectives to launching this project; an opportunity to once again showcase South Korea on the international sporting stage, after the successful 1988 Olympics and the 2002 FIFA World Cup; and a way to develop the country’s motorsport culture from the top down.

It is appropriate that this should be happening now as Korea is the world’s fifth largest car manufacturer and its automobile industry has weathered the Global Financial Crisis better than most of its rivals. It makes sense for this to be the catalyst for Korean motorsport.

The fit with F1 runs deeper than that; Korea is also the world’s most wired society with the greatest degree of broadband internet penetration. It is country that styles itself on innovation, as does the sport of Formula 1.

As for the racing, it looks like the first half of the lap doesn’t require downforce, it’s all straights and braking zones. The middle section has some sweeping corners, which play to Red Bull’s strength, but they were 12km/h slower down the straights than the McLarens this morning and it’s clear that all teams have an important decision to make on what downforce level to use. They’ll be fine tuning that all the way up to qualifying.

Ferrari tried running with no F Duct on Massa’s car, but by mid way through the second practice they had put it on and will run it all weekend.

McLaren has the updated rear wing it didn’t feel confident about racing in Japan. It worked better here and will stay on the car for the weekend.

KOREAN GRAND PRIX, Free Practice 2

1. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:37.942 23
2. Alonso Ferrari 1:38.132 + 0.190 30
3. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:38.279 + 0.337 29
4. Kubica Renault 1:38.718 + 0.776 29
5. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:38.726 + 0.784 19
6. Massa Ferrari 1:38.820 + 0.878 32
7. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:39.204 + 1.262 22
8. Petrov Renault 1:39.267 + 1.325 28
9. Rosberg Mercedes 1:39.268 + 1.326 29
10. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:39.564 + 1.622 26
11. Heidfeld Sauber-Ferrari 1:39.588 + 1.646 25
12. Schumacher Mercedes 1:39.598 + 1.656 26
13. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:39.812 + 1.870 35
14. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:39.881 + 1.939 27
15. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:39.971 + 2.029 22
16. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:40.478 + 2.536 30
17. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:40.578 + 2.636 29
18. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:40.896 + 2.954 32
19. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1:42.773 + 4.831 29
20. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:42.801 + 4.859 19
21. Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:43.115 + 5.173 26
22. di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1:44.039 + 6.097 29
23. Yamamoto HRT-Cosworth 1:45.166 + 7.224 19
24. Senna HRT-Cosworth 1:46.649 + 8.707 3

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31 Comments
  1. sender says:

    Well, it has all gone better than most expected.
    But in reality you wouldn’t expect a lot of drivers going off or track surface breaking up. It was said that it could happen but in reality Korea has done a good job and I am happy for them.
    As for the Grand Prix itself and the competiton – it is possible that Mclaren will be good not only on the straights but also in the fast corners (maybe not so good as Red Bull but they have potential).
    Ferrari is the unknown factor. They should definitely be competitive. In theory over the whole lap they could be as fast or faster than Red Bull.
    If it will rain, all of this doesn’t matter as everyone will start from zero.
    Alonso should be aggressive because there are only a couple of Grand Prix left and he needs to catch up.

    It will be interesting to see what will be Webbers strategy and philosophy for the weekend.

    1. BreezyRacer says:

      Webber’s strategy .. ATTACK!

      He’s going full on this weekend and spending his last free engine to help ensure that he’ll have everything his way here. I believe he regards this as HIS championship winning race. He was fastest on both Primes and Softs today too. He ran a lot of laps today as well. I think he’s positioning himself well for the weekend.

  2. Jo Torrent says:

    James,

    Given how late everything was put together, are there going to be spectators on the track ? Are tickets being sold a long time ago and are there any figures of how many have been sold ?

    Finally, are koreans into F1 ? are they interested ?

    1. The Korean Super Prix attracted very good crowds while it was running so the Koreans seem to be quite keen on their racing. That was in Changwon though, which is a large city and much easier to get to than Mokpo, and it has places to stay that aren’t bordellos!

      I would expect a strong turnout as it’s the first event, which they should be able to sustain in future years as the new city grows up around the track.

  3. Jo Torrent says:

    I don’t see how Hyundai could benefit from F1 the same way I don’t see how RENAULT does. These companies never produce luxury cars (German like) or sports cars. There’s never been anything bigger than a V6 in a french car be it peugeot, citroen or renault. So, I really don’t get why they are in F1. The same way I don’t see any benefits for Hyundai

    Am I getting it wrong ?

    1. TM says:

      Hi Jo

      My view is this…

      It’s not all about performance (and surely not level of luxury… a Renault Megane is far more luxurious than a Ferrari F1 car!). It’s also about an image of innovation, general exposure, and value for money (in the road car) for that innovation.

      I still think Mosley was right (many may switch off there!) that manufacturers and sponsors will soon drop out because F1 conflicts with their environmental marketing. On the other hand, if F1 can encourage efficient technology adaptable to road cars or other real world situations (e.g. iteratively improving and refining KERS, or more efficient but still high performing engines), then it could maintain its relevance …whether for selling the cheapest or most expensive road cars.

      Although most F1 fans don’t seem to care that F1 influences the outside world (dare I say it even seem to view F1 as a world separate to everything else), it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. There was a very interesting exhibition in the London Science Museum until recently about how technology from F1 is adapted to other applications.

      Apart from innovation and the image that goes with it, it’s also the sheer number of people that watch F1 that makes it attractive. After all, Red Bull don’t make any type of road car, luxurious, fast, or otherwise, and they seem to find it beneficial to build F1 cars!

      1. Galapago555 says:

        “Red Bull don’t make any type of road car, luxurious, fast, or otherwise, and they seem to find it beneficial to build F1 cars!”

        Fully agree. I was about to say something similar with other very old examples: Parmalat, Benetton, JPS…

        That’s precisely what this business is all about. Promoting a brand worldwide. 19 times a year (next year will be 20), one of the events with the highest TV audience. Need any thing else?

      2. Jo Torrent says:

        RedBull is an energy drink which builds its image on hardcore sporting competitions. Any sport with an element of danger. It is completely different to a car manufacturer who have to build some relationship between his F1 cars and his road cars because both are simply cars.

      3. TM says:

        Absolutely agree.
        I can’t remember the exact amount, but Branson put some huge figure on the value of exposure to the Virgin brand they got by sponsoring Brawn last year. It was way more than they’d spent.

      4. Jo Torrent says:

        do you really know renault megane ? It is not what I call a luxury car. Have you been in an entry level Mercedes.

        Don’t compare Renault’s comfort to a hardcore sports car. An F40 or a McLaren F1 are as unconfortable as that might be but they’re about speed not comfort.

    2. With Renault I think it’s less about the technology and more about racing being a part of their brand image. They sell a lot of sporty Clios, Meganes and even Twingos, so it plays into that and they normally have campaigns and special editions that tie directly into the F1 team.

      Renault are no longer stakeholders in the F1 team though. Their name remains because it was written into the terms of the sale to Genii by Bernie that the team would be called Renault until (I think) 2012. At the moment, it may well be that they seek to buy back in, or at least pay to keep the team name, but Gerard Lopez will want a pretty penny for that!

  4. chris says:

    Are you there James?

  5. Clay from Australia says:

    James, reading this I’m reminded a bit of Magny Cours. It was built in the middle of nowhere with the hope that a regional centre would be built around the circuit, but it never really eventuated. Maybe the same will happen here.

    I’m just glad that the circuit and the pits are finished. Could give a toss about what the rest looks like like scenery etc

    1. Toby Bushby says:

      “Could give a toss about what the rest looks like like scenery etc”

      I agree completely. It’s the racing that matters. In fact, the coverage will probably get worse, the more infrastucture the circuit gets. FOM directors will have the camera’s giving sweeping views of this “fantastic cityscape” and miss the battle for the lead of the race, accidents etc…

  6. Jon says:

    Webber was the quickest out there today. No I am not talking about fastest lap, but overall pace.

    His time on the harder tyre was impressive. Made a big spin on first lap of the softer tyre but on the next lap still went 2 tenths faster. The first lap of the race will be the main concern. Impossible to judge Vettel’s pace because he had a puncture and disrupted program, using the soft tyres very early and also blocked on fast lap going off onto the dust.

    Looks close between Hamilton/McLaren and Alonso/Ferrari.

  7. Jon says:

    It’s rare to see Webber spin though, he is definately in “attack mode” this weekend, after Vettel’s win and narrowing of the gap in Suzuka.

  8. Frenchie says:

    With the Red Bull being that slow in the straights, they’d better lock the front row and have a good start (Webbo inclusive :-)).

    Saying that, I’d love to see a McLaren 1-2 for the championship’s sake. Webber, Alonso and Hamilton looked quite close in their fastest timings.

    James – Robert Kubica was again at the top end of the timesheets. Do you think he could qualify as well as he did in Suzuka and maybe be a significant factor for the race (providing he keeps all four wheels)?

    1. Jo Torrent says:

      Ferrari isn’t fast either on straights

    2. dren says:

      Webber better hope that Vettel doesn’t qualify on the same row as him. Webber most likely will have a slow start once again. I expect Alonso or Hamilton to be in the lead at the end of the first lap. Maybe even Kubica or dare I say it, Schumacher, may jump up there.

      1. Will N says:

        Schumacher at the front be the end of the 1st lap, keep dreaming mate!

  9. Victor says:

    Hi James,
    I’m positively surprised (as everyone, I guess) that the Korean circuit is better than expected. Also surprised by the lap times – Renault was saying that from their simulations they expected times around 1’44″, and the frontrunners were doing 1’37″ as early as FP2. Even with race fuel, they may do under 1’40″ on Sunday.

  10. Andy C says:

    Great to see they made it and the drivers are generally ok with the track.

    Here’s hoping jenson and Lewis go on full attack mode. They have nothing to lose now.

    This title challenge is going to go down to the wire :-) brilliant

    1. James says:

      I can see a Lewis win this weekend. He’s due one.

  11. CHRIS DALKIN says:

    Red bull look good again lets hope the front tyres do degrade to give us some chance of them being caught as a mixed up race is the only chance

  12. mtb says:

    Things seem to be going well. This is the general impression that I have been given from other blogs as well.

    No doubt a successful event will perturb the “no events in far-flung places” brigade!

  13. Stig says:

    What are the straight line differenses among the WDC contenders? Even on the front row I would worried driving RBR considering the straights on the first sector. Think the first lap will be insane! And with a bad start it will be even worse. Concerned for Webber, considering that he seems to handle poor getaways a bit clumsy..

  14. James says:

    HRT released a car with a tyre blanket still on one wheel? Are they even paying attention anymore?

  15. Jon says:

    It’s hard to read too much into the times though because it’s a new circuit so setups and data are so new, teams could easily find more tenths then usual between Friday and Saturday.

  16. JohnBt says:

    Glad to know the track is in fine condition but agree the pit entrance is rather dangerous as Vettel mentioned.

    Should be a good race this weekend.

  17. EM says:

    It was good to see Felipe Massa complaining about the last sector having no grip and being undriveable.

    No Felipe, it was low grip and others managed to drive it. Stop the excuses, drive or move over and let Kubica have a shot.

  18. Stephen W says:

    Alonso to win…..okay maybe not…then again!

    Someone mentioned on another site Alonso,s engine was smoking,i didn,t see it myself but i wonder given the high speed straights and percentage of full throttle,Ferrari may just opt for a new power unit providing Alonso qualifies within the first two rows.

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