The Yeongam circuit, in South Korea, was new to the calendar in 2010 and it is a mix of different concepts, with a long straight and some high-speed corners early on in the lap, and then a series of tight blind bends at the end, around which the organizers hope to build a Monaco-like cityscape with a harbour. The slow sections contribute to making this one of the slowest average speed laps of any permanent circuit.
This makes it quite a tough track to set the car up for, with a debate over whether straight line speed should be prioritized or higher downforce for the lower speed corners.
This has a bearing on race strategy, as a car which qualifies with high downforce cannot afford to qualify poorly, as it will find it very hard to overtake in the race.
The Pirelli tyre choice for this race is the same as last year with the soft and supersoft tyres, which performed well in the 2011 race. It is a track where the adjustable DRS rear wing is very important in qualifying and effective to aid overtaking in the race. So teams with an effective Double DRS system, like Red Bull, will also have an advantage.
The weather has been quite cool in both years of racing here; the inaugural race was very much affected by rain, with the Safety Car forced to spend almost half the race distance on track.
Although the track surface is quite abrasive, which can lead to higher tyre wear the cooler conditions help with this generation of Pirelli tyres. So a two stop strategy looks the most likely way, starting on used supersofts with stops for new soft tyres around laps 14 and 34.
Yeongam – 5.615 kilometres. Race distance – 55 laps = 308.630 kilometres. 18 corners in total. Average speed 209 km/h. A new circuit hosting its third Grand Prix
Aerodynamic setup – High downforce. Top speed 316km/h (with Drag Reduction System active on rear wing) – 304km/h without.
Full throttle – 55% of the lap time (ave). Total fuel needed for race distance – 148.5 kilos (ave/ high). Fuel consumption – 2.75 kg per lap (ave)
Time spent braking: 20% of lap (low). Number of brake zones – 9. Brake wear- ave/high.
Loss time for a pit stop: 21.5 secs
Total time needed for pit stop: 25 seconds
Fuel effect (cost in lap time per 10kg of fuel carried): 0.37 seconds (high)
The Korean Grand Prix is the 16th round of the 2012 FIA F1 World Championship.
Red Bull had a significant performance advantage in Japan and new parts are promised for this race. McLaren are likely to be stronger in Korea, particularly as engine performance is a factor here. Lotus has its new Coanda exhausts which should help with rear end downforce and give the team a much needed boost. All eyes will be on Ferrari to see if they can respond to losing their significant points advantage in the championship at the last race.
In terms of driver and team performance at this event, Fernando Alonso won the 2010 edition for Ferrari, while Sebastian Vettel won last year for Red Bull.
The forecast for the weekend is fairly stable with partly cloudy skies and temperatures expected to be around 21 degrees centigrade.
However the circuit’s position, close to the coast, means that it is susceptible to sudden rain showers. The 2010 race start had to be delayed and then the race was suspended due to heavy rain, while rain also blighted Friday practice in 2011.
Pirelli tyre choice for Korea: Soft (yellow markings) and super soft (red markings). This combination was seen in Monaco, Canada and Singapore
In last year’s race the supersoft tyres turned out to be far more durable than expected, which led strategists to revise their plans from three stops to two. The cool weather helped with this, as did the four laps behind the Safety Car.
The performance differential between these two compounds this year has generally been around 1 sec per lap in qualifying. In Singapore it was slightly more.
The cooler temperatures in Yeongam should help the tyres, which suffer thermal degradation in high temperatures.
This race looks like a fairly clear two stopper with the top ten cars starting on used supersofts and then running two longer stints on new soft tyres. The fastest way looks to be to stop on laps 14 and 34.
Although the tyre choice at the softer end of the Pirelli range would lead teams to want to stop more often, the pit lane is long at 387 metres and a pit visit is slow at 25 seconds, which makes stopping less attractive. The gain from new tyres does not necessarily overcome the extra time lost stopping.
Also Yeongam has a 100% Safety Car record. Last year the four laps spent behind the safety car at one third race distance helped many drivers to reach the finish on two stops.
See if you can find the fastest strategy for the race, using our Strategy Calculator tool
Chance of a Safety Car
There has been at least one Safety Car in both the races at Yeongam to date. There was a Safety Car due to the heavy rain at the start of the 2010 race and then the race was suspended. In total that race featured 26 laps, or 47% of the race distance, behind the Safety Car!
In 2011 there were four laps spent behind the Safety Car.
Starts are a critical part of the race and strategy can be badly compromised by a poor start, while good starts can make strategists change their plans in the hope of a good result. Felipe Massa’s second place in Japan was built on a start where he gained six places, for example.
As far as 2012 starts are concerned here is a table with indications of drivers who have gained or lost places at the start.
Note- This table is intended as an indicator of trends. Where drivers have had first lap incidents which dropped them to the back of the field, they are not included above, but are detailed in the notes marked * below. This affects other drivers’ gains, but the sample still shows prevailing trends of places won and lost at the start. Belgian GP start is not included as it eliminated many cars, skewing the sample.
+32 Massa ***** *******
+22 Senna* ***** ********
+19 Perez***, Vergne
+15 Raikkonen, Pic
+11 Hulkenberg, Schumacher* ******,
+8 Button, Maldonado****, De la Rosa ****
+6 Kobayashi****, Hamilton
+4 Petrov***** *******
-1 Di Resta *****
-3 Grosjean** **** ***** ********, Webber********
* Senna, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg were all involved in accidents on 1st lap in Australia
** Schumacher and Grosjean collided on Lap 1 in Malaysia, Senna and Perez pitted for wet tyres on opening lap
***Perez punctured on lap 1 in Spain and went to back of field
**** Eliminated by or involved in first lap accident in Monaco
***** Di Resta eliminated lap 1 at Silverstone, Petrov did not start
***** Massa, Senna and Grosjean involved in first lap collisions dropping them to the back
****** Schumacher forced to pit lap 1 in Hungary (lost six places)
*******Massa (puncture) and Petrov (broken nose) pitted for repairs on lap 1 in Singapore after making contact.
******** Alonso, Rosberg, Webber, Senna and Grosjean either retired or dropped to the back following first-lap accidents in Japan
Of course good strategy planning also requires good pit stop execution by the mechanics and there have been some amazing performances; we have seen tyre stops carried out in less than two and a half seconds this year.
The table below shows the fastest single stop by teams in the recent Japanese Grand Prix.
1. McLaren 2.49secs (1)
2. Red Bull 2.6secs (2)
3. Ferrari 3.2secs (3)
4. Lotus 3.4secs (4)
5. Mercedes 3.58secs (5)
6. Marussia 3.86secs (11)
7. Sauber 3.96secs (8)
8. Force India 4.21 (7)
9. Williams 4.32secs (10)
10. Caterham 4.57secs (9)
11. Toro Rosso 4.63secs (6)
12. HRT 5.69secs (12)