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How the F1 teams will approach the Korean Grand Prix
Posted By: James Allen  |  11 Oct 2012   |  10:07 am GMT  |  55 comments

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.

Track characteristics

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)

Form Guide

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.

Weather Forecast

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.

Likely tyre performance and other considerations

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.

Number and likely timing of pit stops

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.

Recent Start Performance

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 ***** *******
+31 Glock
+26 Kovalainen
+22 Senna* ***** ********
+21 Alonso********
+19 Perez***, Vergne
+15 Raikkonen, Pic
+13 Karthikeyan
+11 Hulkenberg, Schumacher* ******,
+8 Button, Maldonado****, De la Rosa ****
+6 Kobayashi****, Hamilton
+4 Petrov***** *******
+1 Vettel

Held position:

-1 Di Resta *****
-3 Grosjean** **** ***** ********, Webber********
-5 Rosberg********
-9 Ricciardo*

* 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

Pit stop league table

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)

The UBS Race Strategy Briefing is written by James Allen with input and data from several of the leading teams’ strategists and from Pirelli

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Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

James, just wondering. Do you update your strategy calculator with fresh data after free practice? If not, why not?


James, you forgot to close a bold tag somewhere…

Anyway, if the strategy tool is to be believed, then the used options at the start should be more than good enough ’til lap 19, swapped for a new set of primes on lap 39 for a short stint on the harder tyre.

This supposedly results in finishing 10 secs up on the “default” JA strategy, and for the most part stays ahead for the whole race, except for the very beginning of the second stint. Still, I’m sure overtaking will pose no problems, right? 🙂


Any sign of the ‘city-scape’ materialising?



Who will be the winner in case two driver cross the finnish line together upto thoushand of a second.


Rubens Barrichello.


Kimi followed by Kovalainen for the Finnish line.


Oppa Yeongam style!


Alonso, Vettel & Hamilton, each has three wins. He who wins for the 4th time shall snatch the WDC. I think Vettel will do it! By the way, old-fox, Niki Lauda is attempting to bring Adrian Newey to Mercedes. Mercedes and Newey — that could be something!


Yes, and Lauda and Rahal tried to get Newey into Jaguar




RTL (Germany)


Dr. Helmut Marko.


WOAH! Easy on the bold font!



What do the numbers in the bracket next to the fastest times in the pit stops stand for. Is it the average speed performance?


Their league positions at the last race


Is it true that only Raikkonen will have the Lotus upgrades, not Grosjean?


FP1, yes.


Looking Forward Gangnam Style dance by PSY before race start on TV..


Biggest question of the weekend is how BBC will work Gangnam Style into their coverage. I’m praying for EJ to do the dance.


Why is it that HRT are so much slower than the rest in pit stops?

I can understand on the track but in the pit stops??


I think to be fair – they were generally checking their cars for retirement damage in Japan on most pitstops and so they probably have consistently slow pit times as it hardly matters.

Even a few years back though most pit crews would have struggled to really top some of the lesser team times now. I realise we had refuelling at times which makes it hard to judge exactly, but the blistering times this year were unthinkable even a couple of years ago.


It is amazing that HRT are stopped. twice as long in the pit as McLaren


The supersofts are softer than last year’s supersofts though, aren’t they? So, nominally the same tyres, but a step softer. Might be a problem for some teams if (can’t see that they would) they go in expecting a default 2 stop because of last year.


The supersofts are the only compound which isn’t softer than last year’s version.


The BIG question for this race should be ‘will there be a crowd there to watch it?’

Last two years the place has looked empty on TV, Maybe F1 should concentrate more on going to tracks that fans want to attend rather then which ever country pays Bernie the most money!!


I share that dream, but that’s all it is. A dream.

Mark in Australia

What is your prediction for how the weekend will play James?


Early days, but I’d expect McLaren and Ferrari to be closer to RBR this weekend.

Webber’s quali performance will be the barometer. If he’s front row again, then RBR are over the hills and far away!


Wow, how times have changed. The 2004 Jaguar was often on the front row… As was the 2003 Jaguar, to memory. I don’t think they ever were over the hills or far away though!


to be fair – pound for pound, Webber is not as good a qualifying technician as Vettel. That’s not insulting to Webber – it’s just the truth that in pure one lap time-trial ability Vettel is probably the best driver on the grid (with the occasional threat from Lewis when he’s on form).

I think Webber is dismissed a lot as a driver but he tends to do better at the ‘old school’ circuits regardless.


Good perspective, regarding RBR.


That sounds a little unfair on Webber. He was the man to beat early 2010 and early 21012, but you see him now as the barometer for adequate. Granted he s too far behind to win the chanmpionship and has a had a sudden lack of form after he re-signed, but he is still a potential winner every race. Or are you saying the team is now so behind Vettel that Webber has to rise above a car not suited to him that front row would indicate massive car superiority.


Fair has nothing to do with it – It’s true.


Not at all, he is a barometer of how competitive the Red Bull is. if you look at it, when he is up the front, they dominate and that’s what I was saying in my response. Nothing more or less


Good point on Webber!


I heard the race will now be moved to Seoul.

Is that true James?


If you save a set of new options, you could stop anywhere from lap 13 tp 18 and run a middle stint of 20 laps on the softer tyre.

Would put you around 10 second up on the rest of the field at your second stop.

Used options are still faster than the prime (by around 5 secs), but the strategy window is narrower.


Running the second stint on the option (even if it’s used) looks quicker – if your calculator is right. And there seems to be a lap or two of margin in when to stop, which means it ought to be pretty easy to follow this strategy in the race.

The changes to DRS activation points might make overtaking a little easier, too.


This will be offset by the lead car being able to dictate and nurse its tyres. Vettel was just playing around last week, I think he was doing a crossword on the pit straight and I’m sure I saw him putting shelves up through turn 5.


Has nothing to do with whether you’re in the lead or not – it’s just the quickest tyre strategy.

Obviously the leader has an additional advantage in being able to preserve his tyres, but there’s enough flexibility in race strategy for those with the race pace to compete.

McLaren dropped the ball in Japan; they ought to be a bit more more competitive this weekend.


It’s not just the quickest tyre strategy at all. Track position is still important as is tyre preservation (as we both seem to agree)and being out front is probably the best way to preserve the tyres.


So Red Bull can afford to qualify with more downforce, because they have double DRS to give them speed on the straights. More downforce will give them speed in the corners, but… if they go for extra downforce, they lose even more straight line speed during the race becauase they cannot use DRS while leading the race. Tricky set-up decisions…

And if they go for more downforce, they absolutely have to start from the front row, or else…


so long as you are able to get on the front rows, then you could prob go a little lighter on downforce.

Look Alonso at Germany. He was able to run less wing than Vettel and Button and hold them off on the straights by using KERS at the right time, but mainly cos in the twisty section there is no way around.

Either way, will be a compromise in set-up and tire wear may dictate the amount of wing.


If anyone things that Vettel is going to run and dissappear in Korea, they are mistaken. I still believe McLaren are faster than the Red Bulls and in race trim the Ferraris are much faster. Vettel won in Singapore because Lewis had a problem.

Going forward, Alonso will have the entire team’s support including Massa’s. But I doubt Lewis will have the same support from his team or team mate and definetely Webber is not going to help Vettel in any way.

Is this coanda thing on Lotus legal? I thought you can’t use exhaust gas to manipulate aerodynamics anymore.


Its rumoured McLaren have a DDRS on the car this weekend.


Too bad McLaren do not share your optimism. Obviously Button needs points more than Lewis.


All the big teams already have systems for exhaust gases taking advantage of the Coanda effect and it hasn’t been deemed illegal, so why should it be illegal for Lotus?


“Is this coanda thing on Lotus legal?”

It’s a copy of the system all the other leading teams are using.


Think the fastest team will be the one on the first bus out of there at the end of the race. Been hearing terrible things on social media about no hotels, poor quality hotels.

Are you in the Adam & Eve love hotel James?


If you can’t appreciate a good love hotel, then you’ve got no sense of adventure! Some people want things to be just like home – where’s the fun in that?


Stayed in one for Monza this year. Round bed, mirrored walls and ceiling – blue and red dimming lights, called “The Dream Hotel” pic attached


That’s old news.


Yeah but the reason this remote place was chosen ahead of the original location much nearer Seoul I wasnt aware of


James, What are your predictions for the race? We had the yellow flag in Q3 of japanese grand prix so did not get a clear picture. Fernando was 3 tenths off Vettel in Japan Q2. Do you think that the hap would be more in Korea? Where do you see Ferrari starting the race from?