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Hamilton takes fight to Vettel on opening day of Korean Grand Prix
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Posted By: James Allen  |  04 Oct 2013   |  7:31 am GMT  |  52 comments

Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time, taking the fight to Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull on the opening day of the Korean Grand Prix weekend, with the top four cars from Mercedes and Red Bull separated by 0.171s.

It was the first race weekend for six events where Vettel has not been the pace setter in FP2 and offers some encouragement after Vettel’s domination of the recent Singapore Grand Prix.

Hamilton also set the pace in FP1, whose main talking point was a heavy accident for Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus. The Finn is carrying a back injury into the weekend, but he was able to walk away from the accident and take part in the afternoon session.

And the Mercedes drivers’ pace on the long runs on medium tyres was also strong, he did a 14 lap run with consistent laps in the mid 1m 45s range. Webber did a similar run.

In front of largely empty grandstands, the practice day saw work on both the Pirelli tyre compounds; supersoft and medium.

As a track that is very rarely used, it tends to improve a lot over the three days as it cleans up and rubber goes down.

The weather ahead may be uncertain, but it was fine for the first day of practice; tropical storm FITOW is in the area, but now projected to miss the circuit, however there is likely to be rain from the fringes of it.

The supersoft tyre was a step up of between 7/10ths of a second and 1 second in performance over the medium – less than in Singapore, but it’s a shorter lap with less corners.

Last year’s pole sitter Mark Webber set the benchmark at 1m 38.844, Hamilton lowered that by 0.171s, despite losing time in the first sector, which is all about straight line speed.

Rosberg was also quicker than Webber but still gave away 0.121s.

Alonso was 0.771s off the benchmark at the point where he set the time, before Vettel set his time on supersoft, the last of the big names to do so. Massa was a shade faster than his team mate, just 3/10ths slower than Webber’s Red Bull.

Vettel waited until almost an hour into the session to go out for his supersoft tyre run. He was three tenths up in the first sector, lost time in the middle sector and ended up the lap 1/10th slower than Hamilton.

“There is room for improvement but I think things will be very close this weekend with Mercedes,” said Vettel.

“You don’t know what other people were doing with fuel loads etc, but give or take 10 kilos up or down, it is still quite close and tomorrow in qualifying it will be tight, especially as Mercedes is always performing very well in qualifying.”

Raikkonen and Button were a second off the benchmark pace, with Grosjean again faster than his Lotus team mate. The Force India pair were separated by only 1/1000th of a second.

Toro Rosso were rather disappointing in 15th and 16th, the team has had double points finishes in Korea for the last two seasons.

KOREAN GRAND PRIX, Friday Practice 2
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m38.673s 31 Laps
2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m38.781s +0.108s 30
3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m38.797s +0.124s 32
4. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m38.844s +0.171s 35
5. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m39.114s +0.441s 30
6. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m39.226s +0.553s 34
7. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m39.444s +0.771s 31
8. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m39.757s +1.084s 33
9. Jenson Button McLaren 1m39.774s +1.101s 29
10. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m40.006s +1.333s 34
11. Paul di Resta Force India 1m40.007s +1.334s 34
12. Sergio Perez McLaren 1m40.152s +1.479s 31
13. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1m40.186s +1.513s 33
14. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1m40.210s +1.537s 34
15. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m40.446s +1.773s 30
16. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m40.552s +1.879s 26
17. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m41.117s +2.444s 35
18. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1m41.289s +2.616s 34
19. Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1m42.461s +3.788s 36
20. Charles Pic Caterham 1m42.798s +4.125s 35
21. Jules Bianchi Marussia 1m43.108s +4.435s 31
22. Max Chilton Marussia 1m43.441s +4.768s 29

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52 Comments
  1. Richardd says:

    It’s nice to see the field close up again, it’ll make for a thrilling qualifying session

    1. William says:

      Vettel hasn’t shown his true pace yet.He screwed up last two sectors and you know once he gets them right its going to be another dominant weekend. I juts hope we atleast get a race worth watching!

    2. Tornillo Amarillo says:

      The news is that HAMILTON is focused and that is good for fans and for next year Championship.

    3. JohnBt says:

      Vettel’s holding back for sure. On race day it’ll be different and he will slow down if he’s got 2 secs this time. The booing is gonna eat into to him more and more. Somehow I’ve lost the mood and don’t fell eager for the remaining races.

  2. Wayne says:

    I honestly believe that RBR do not WANT to run 2 seconds per lap faster than anyone else in normal circumstances. They know full well it ruins the show, turns people against them and their driver, damages the long term viability of the sport and costs sponsors money when viewers turn off because there is no point watching as the result is obvious.

    Even if they CAN lap 2 seconds faster than anyone else I do not believe they will, I reckon they will open their mandatory gap at the start and just manage the race using 0.5 to 1 second per lap advantage and keeping the rest of their pace hidden.

    1. stoic says:

      Maybe they turned off their secret traction control system for this race? :D jk

      1. Dale says:

        Bet there’ll be loads of microphones listening to Vettel’s engine as it qualifies for any tell tail signs of engine mapping traction control!

      2. Mickey78 says:

        I just listen to the clip for the first time where you can hear the sound of Vettels engine after the safety car came in during the Singapore race.

        If that is the sound that everybody (including me) was talking about, then i have news for you.
        This sound was already there during pre-season testing in Barcelona beginning this year. I was present during 4 testing days, the same as I have been for the past 5 years. All Renault engines sounded this way! I remember telling my brother, who was with me at that time, that the cars sounded almost the same as the year before and wondered how that could be now engine mapping (blown diffuser) was forbidden. Small note, also the Mercs car had a different pitch of sound when manoeuvring corners.

      3. All revved-up says:

        +10! Hopefully some of those recordings will find its way to this site!

        Another fascinating area of technical development for us to learn about.

      4. Quade says:

        I recall there were some curios traction control like rubber tracks Webbers Red Bull left in one of the early races.
        These days, it seems like Vettel alone has it.

    2. Morten says:

      I’d like to counter that. The people in this sport are such competitive animals, they’ll gladly finish a handful of laps in front of everyone else if they can. If the engineers in the back tells a driver the car’s dandy they won’t be cruising until the last few laps, rest assured. I don’t think that’s in their DNA.

      1. KRB says:

        Not true. Red Bull only turned it on in Singapore b/c of the safety car. If there was no safety car, then Vettel would’ve just maintained the gap at 9-10 seconds.

        If a team is in control of a race, they won’t do anything that could possibly jeopardize that, including running the engine higher than is necessary.

      2. I’ll rephrase my statement to better reflect my view,

        i.e. if any team could run 2 seconds faster than any other team they would gladly run 1.9 seconds faster, and thus ensure taking care of the car. I do not believe they would run significantly(!) slower than befits their performance on account of maketh not good tv.

    3. F1Observer says:

      We will see tomorrow in qualifying when everybody gives it all they have if your theory is right. Looking Forward to it.

    4. Richard says:

      That’s really naive! Red Bull like any other team want to win, and don’t really care by how much, but I suspect the bigger the margin the better. I think a combination of things have happened here is that Mercedes have improved on a track that better suits their car, but I would not be surprised to see Red Bull pull something out of the bag for qualifying. As a spectator I much prefer a closer race with some good overtaking.

      1. Wayne says:

        What is naive is to think that teams such as RBR do not care about the overall show, i.e. the big picture. They are only in F1 for the publicity and marketing of their core product, if you can win while still putting on a good show overall why wouldn’t you?

        People will turn off if RBR win every race by 30 seconds and that benefits RBR not in the slightest. If they win by 10 seconds people will watch on in hope that someone can catch them. Especially as the WDC and WCC are effectively done.

        It’s wining that matters to RBR not the margin of the win.

      2. Richard says:

        What they care about is winning and gaining maximum points so that they have as much of the prize money they can. It’s true that they are backed by a drinks company, but what you suggest simply adds risk that they can do without as F1 is too fickle a business to mess around. Anyway it comes within Ecclestones remit to worry about the overall show which is why they introduced these ridiculous tyres in the first place. He’s already pissed off most of the drivers with them as they reward for the wrong reasons. If you’re winning then it becomes acceptable, but if not then not being able to push to the maximum is a definate turn off.

    5. John S says:

      I don’t think Red Bull really care about the “show”, it ran two seconds faster last race because they had to in order to build a gap. It was also a track that flattered their car.

      If that was my team I don’t care whether you had a good time watching my team crushing the field, I just want to win.

      It maintains the pace so it saves wear on the car and tires and also reduces the risk of a crash. Why else do you think Red Bull always tells Vettel to keep his cool when he’s leading in the last laps of a race?

      1. Wayne says:

        “I don’t think Red Bull really care about the “show” now THAT is a silly statement.

      2. John S says:

        You are absolutely right, the way I had said it, it certainly is a silly statement.

        I meant Red Bull like other teams want to win and they’ll do what it takes within the rules to do it. So far there isn’t a rule against being 2 seconds a lap over the others so Red Bull are clear. And I don’t think it cares whether people liked it or not.

    6. Mark V says:

      “I honestly believe that RBR do not WANT to run 2 seconds per lap faster than anyone else in normal circumstances. ”

      WHAT? While this is a lovely thought, I am fairly certain it is far removed from reality. Red Bull is not in Formula 1 to ensure there is a good show, and they are not there to make sponsors happy. They are there to crush the competition in order to lend credence to their slogan “Red Bull gives you wings” so they can sell more soft drinks.

      The bigger they crush their competition by, the better it makes their product look to consumers. Winning by big margins gives the team more confidence while at the same time demoralizing their opposition. After all, it’s far easier to win when you can’t hear any threatening footsteps behind you.

      1. Wayne says:

        Why not stop and THINK for a second? Why finish 30 seconds ahead of everyone else every race when you can finish a comfortable 10 seconds ahead, stress the car less and put on a good show? There is no downside. It’s win win for everyone.

        I’m amazed how many people here think that the teams do not give a hoot about the show itself, it’s their very lifeblood.

      2. Mark V says:

        You ask “Why finish 30 seconds ahead of everyone else every race when you can finish a comfortable 10 seconds ahead…” and yet we see winning margins like that on more than just the rare occasion, especially when no safety car closes the field up. Because of this I see no evidence Red Bull or any other winning team is trying to preserve the “show”. As I already explained, the only “show” Red Bull is in F1 to put on is a show of dominance.

  3. Tim says:

    Encouraging for anyone who isn’t a fan of RBR?
    I fear it may be a false dawn.
    Fingers crossed I am wrong :-)

  4. goferet says:

    Yes it looks like we may have a race on our hands this weekend with Mercedes taking the fight to Red Bull and not because Red Bull has somehow lost it’s pace but rather because it appears Vettel may have one of those weekends were things don’t go according to plan for one reason or the other e.g. The KERS failure he encountered in FP2.

    Red Bull again appear to have the best race pace as shown by the fact after 20 laps on the medium, Webber managed a 1:44.7 whilst Lewis’ last lap after 18 laps on the medium was 1:45.3.

    However, with rain predicted on race day, we’re guaranteed a great show just like the one we witnessed in Hungary 2011 for I believe Red Bull’s last (and only) wet win was in China 2009 when Brawn was their only rival.

    Another driver that didn’t look 100% comfortable was Alonso and am not sure if it was a set up issue but Alonso’s Ferrari seemed to chew up the supersofts much more compared to the competition.

    Glad Kimi managed to walk away unhurt and this proves that what Jenson said about Korea is true that due to lack of markers and different sector configurations, it takes forever for the drivers to learn the circuit whilst other venues take 2-3 laps.

    As for Torro Rosso, maybe they’re practicing on making another good performance with different strategy from Q2.

  5. mbraz says:

    James just looking at the speed trap pace and for the first time in along time I have noticed that Mark was 2nd and Vettel 19TH is this so Mark will have a better chance of overtaking.

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes, that is in our qualifying report

  6. Ciao says:

    Wasn’t that Brabham with the fan engine legal? Perhaps Bernie has forgotten?

    We want drivers driving cars, not software geeks.

    ECU schmecku, whatever! If it is programmed it is programmed. How it is programmed shouldn’t matter.

  7. cometeF1 says:

    Maybe, just maybe, we might get a fight for first place comes Sunday. Although Vettel topped the timing in the 3 sectors, so if he gets to put it together in a single lap in Q3, we might see him fly away at the front of the pack on race day.
    Lets hope it remains close. Marc

  8. John says:

    Always it sounds like Hamilton id doing it by himself and Mercedes has nothing to do with it. Even when Rosberg is right behind. And its always Vettel and RedBull.

    1. Tim says:

      That’s simply untrue. Here is an example of a recent headline on this site ‘Analysis: Vettel’s astonishing speed in Singapore – Here to stay?
      It’s human nature to focus on whatever bugs someone or, conversely, something they like. It’s the same thing that happens when you buy a new car – suddenly you see the same model everywhere :-)

    2. Rocky says:

      So what if he’s doing it all by himself? Should we take credit away from him and place elsewhere?!? If drivers were useless, why then are teams willing to pay such exhorbitant amounts of money to them?

      1. John says:

        Perhaps you should read the post once more.. I was referring to the fact that when it comes to Vettel people like to bring RedBull into the picture..

  9. Grant H says:

    Go on Lewis!

  10. K says:

    Seeing how RBR is alleged to use traction control (including insinuated by Hamilton yesterday), I guess Merc being faster today means they are using traction control too, a better version at that.

    Where are the outcries by the same people who were bashing RBR?

    1. Tim says:

      Is that a rhetorical question?

    2. Joel says:

      May be with everyone being extra vigilant, RBR just turned it off so that they won’t get caught with their pants down.

      1. K says:

        The sound was still there during practice 1 and 2 so there goes that red herring argument.

  11. Dale says:

    Fingers crossed Hamilton can pull something out of the bag otherwise it’s gonna be another boring race.

  12. Tom in adelaide says:

    Super off-topic, but do we have an idea of how the cars will look next year? The picture of the Merc up above is truly hideous….

    1. Tim says:

      I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Whilst I would agree, there have been prettier F1 cars than the current regulations produce, I think it’s a bit harsh to call them hideous.
      As for next years cars, here is a link to a website that I quite like, hope you find it useful:-)
      http://scarbsf1.com/blog1/2013/07/08/2014-rules-first-look/

  13. D Vega says:

    Hamilton could earn the pole, but even if he does he will not win. Redbull are much better at controlling the race than Mercedes, who often unravel on race day. Having said that, I hope Hamilton wins.

    Snail Massa may better Cheetah Alonso again on Saturday.

  14. Alexander Supertramp says:

    I call BS on RB’s pace!

  15. Antti says:

    You mention that Mercedes were strong in long runs, but do not mention how any of the other teams did. Would it be possible to analyse the longer runs after Friday practices with some more detail? I believe that’s what the teams concentrate more during Friday’s anyway, and the headline times can be rather misleading.

    For example, I read elsewhere that Lotus appeared to have very strong long stints, Räikkönen driving consistently in the 1.44′s. Is this so, and if so, to what extent are the time differences explainable by the amount of fuel carried?

  16. The Spanish Inquisitor says:

    A picture is worth a thousand words.

    http://www.abc.es/Media/201310/04/31403294–644×362.jpg

    Alonso is very sad……

    1. D Vega says:

      His appearance exceeds his car’s performance.

    2. JohnBt says:

      ………that he joined Ferrari? He must be really frustrated.

  17. Marcelo Leal says:

    I think RBR is putting all the cards on the straight line speed (first sector), to do what they did in SPA: if they lose pole, they will take the lead at the first lap, and build the gap as always. Remember what LH said about the straight line speed of Vettel at SPA? Even with DRS, XLT, HMCT, QZY, XYZ, (or even TC), he could not get even close… ;-)

    But as a Hamilton big fan, hope I’m wrong and he can (again), be the only one fighting Vettel for poles and can get the win.

    ps.: I’m not just talking about this year poles against Vettel, I’m talking about all these years… Hamilton, and always him, is the only one to fight for the poles with Vettel and his jet (consistently).

  18. Becken says:

    “…and offers some encouragement after Vettel’s domination of the recent Singapore Grand Prix…”

    — Allen

    We should be carefull and wait until Seb turn on the traction control :D

    Jokes apart, looks like a huge sandbagging from Red Bull on those FPs.

  19. tim says:

    Yeesh! It looked like the participants outnumbered the spectators. Depressing.

  20. Johny says:

    Kimi Raikkonen’s FP1 crash in videos – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QepaioY-wRo

  21. Andrew says:

    Any speed trap data please James?

    I must say that I am surprised by the top speeds of RBR this year and feel they have adopted a different strategy with regards to gearing and ultimate downforce.

    Perhaps another feature of this overall improvement from them is a product of their greater traction onto the high speed sections than other teams?

    Would love to know your thoughts…

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