F1 Power Rankings: Korean Grand Prix

So the 2011 World Drivers’ Championship was settled this past weekend at Suzuka as Sebastian Vettel took 3rd place to clinch his second championship. Now the focus turns to who will win the final four races of the season and who will finish second in the championship chase. The first of those final four races is the second Grand Prix at the Korean International Circuit. Will it be advantage Alonso as he attempts to repeat his 2010 victory or will Button win back-to-back races to cement his hold on 2nd.

#1 Sebastian Vettel (Last Race #1)
Seb only clinched the title with four races to go. Not at all Schumacher-esque: “It’s been a great few days – but now I am fully focused on the next race in Korea. The circuit is very demanding and quite tight, especially at the pit lane entry. You actually drive almost blind along the wall and, if the car in front of you drives into the pit, you have to quickly get out of the way. The track is pretty slippery at the start and gets better by the end of practice. The track in Korea is effectively made up of three parts. The first reminds me of Turkey; the second stretch has long straights like Monza and the third has tight corners like a town track. It is as if they have taken corners from Monte Carlo or Istanbul.”

#2 Jenson Button (LR #2)
Button talks about his win in Japan and his chances at Korea: “Winning in Japan was one of the most satisfying and emotional victories of my career, and I’m really looking forward to carrying that momentum into this weekend, too. Although last year’s Korean Grand Prix wasn’t one of my greatest performances – we just couldn’t get the car hooked up properly – I think that, given the current pace of the car and the form the team has at the moment, I’m going into this year’s race feeling much more positive.”

#3 Fernando Alonso (LR #3)

#4 Mark Webber (LR #4)
Mark sounds a little lackadaisical in his pre-race quotage. Probably has something to do with his teammate kicking his arse all season long: “Korea is a track that I like driving on – the last two sectors are very busy with lots of corners and I’m also expecting the racing to be pretty exciting on the long straights too. The DRS is allowed for the second part of the long straight and should help with overtaking in the race. As always, we need to see how the tyres perform on race day, which will have a large bearing on the results. I’m looking forward to being right in the mix for the win.”

#5 Lewis Hamilton (LR #5)
Hamilton talks about the DRS zone at Yeongam: “I think the DRS zone into Turn Three should definitely make for some exciting racing: last year, the back straight didn’t really produce too much overtaking because it was so wet and there was so much spray by the time we reached that downhill braking area, that it wasn’t an easy place to pull off a pass. The weather’s supposed to be good next weekend, so I think we’ll really begin to see how this circuit works in the dry.”

#6 Michael Schumacher (LR #7)
Old seven-time became the oldest man to lead an F1 race last week. The old man still has a little fight left in him: “Visiting Korea for the first time last season was an interesting experience, and I enjoyed learning the new Yeongam track. It’s a very impressive facility, and the track has enough challenges to make it enjoyable to drive. We also had a good result there as I equalled my best result of the season, finishing the race in fourth place. We have enjoyed some encouraging race finishes since the mid-season break, having worked hard to improve our performance. I hope we can carry that trend through to Korea this weekend and then to the remaining races.”

#7 Felipe Massa (LR #6)

#8 Nico Rosberg (LR #8)
Don’t talk to Nico about last year’s race. Repressed memories and all, you know: “I’m looking forward to racing in Korea: I really enjoy the track and, for the first race last year, it was certainly a full house spectator-wise. I’m certainly aiming for a more successful weekend than last year, when I was taken out in an accident with Webber on the second lap at racing speeds after the Safety Car came in. We learned in Japan that our performance has taken a small step forward since Singapore. I hope we can make the next one this weekend.”

#9 Adrian Sutil (LR #9)
After denying the rumours for the last week or so, Vijay Mallya has officially announced that he has sold Force India to the Sahara Group. Sahara is an Indian sports promoter. They purchased 42.5% of the shares of the newly renamed Sahara Force India while Mallya retains 42.5%, down from his original 50%. It had been rumoured that Mallya was tired of spending his and his corporate empire’s cash to support FI. The plan now appears to be for Sahara to put up a large chunk of change to cover the SFI’s expenses.

#10 Paul di Resta (LR #10)

#11 Vitaly Petrov (LR #12)
Petrov on finally scoring some more points: “It was a good feeling and I am satisfied with how I drove over the course of the three days. I was pleased with my pace in the practice sessions and I managed to secure a respectable position in qualifying, which gave me a strong chance of being on the points board again. Did I capitalise on the grid position I had? Not as much as I would have liked, no. I thought I could have been in the hunt for seventh or eighth, but our strategy played out reasonably in the end. It was evidence again that our car adapts well to the faster circuits.”

#12 Kamui Kobayashi (LR #15)
Kobayashi Maru wants good weather? Well that’s boring: “The race last year was pretty difficult because the track was wet, had very low grip and very poor visibility. I like the track with its interesting layout. The high speed and medium speed corners should suit our car well. We know from last year that tyre management is crucial. I quite like the fact that Korea is so close to my home country. I hope the weather conditions will be stable this year and we will have an exciting race.”

#13 Sergio Perez (LR #16)
This will be Sergio’s first visit to the Yeongam track: “I have not been to Korea before, and I have heard various stories from people in the paddock about last year’s race. I always like to get to know new places, which naturally is happening quite a few times this year because it is my first Formula One season. I have actually trained on the Korean track in the simulator. It has a lot of challenging high speed corners, and it is not an easy one to learn.”

#14 Jaime Alguersuari (LR #11)

#15 Sebastien Buemi (LR #13)

#16 Bruno Senna (LR #14)
Senna the Nephew on the Korean International Circuit: “It is a difficult track, and I think there are many places where you can make mistakes. There are off-camber corners scattered through the track and for a driver that’s not really the most comfortable thing. However, it’s the same for everybody and I’m hoping that we can use Suzuka as a baseline for when we arrive in Korea then take the car out for the first time on Friday. From then we can just chip away at the time and get on target for qualifying and the race.”

#17 Pastor Maldonado (LR #17)
Pastor didn’t have much to say except that this will be his first trip to Yeongam: “Korea will be another new circuit for me so it will be a hard race. I need to understand a bit more about the circuit to get myself ready ahead of Friday practice. It will be interesting as it will be my first time in both the country and at the track.”

#18 Rubens Barrichello (LR #18)
Rubens didn’t have much to say either. Maybe that’s because he’s slower than Pastor now: “The race last year was very enjoyable. We were racing on wet tyres so we’ll have to wait and see what the forecast has in store for us for this year but I’m looking forward to enjoying what was a good Grand Prix last year.”

#19 Heikki Kovalainen (LR #19)
Heikki’s hoping for a better staged event this year: “This year I’m sure the whole event will step up another level and be even better and I’m looking forward to getting back there to see how the track has progressed, and how we’ll do now we have a car that gives us a chance to fight in the race. The circuit itself is interesting – it has the classic long straight with a tight turn at the end that gives a good chance to overtake, and Pirelli’s tyre choice of the softs and the supersofts and the high degradation levels we expect to see will make strategy even more important.”

#20 Jarno Trulli (LR #20)
Jarno seems pretty informative for a guy who won’t be running in India: “Korea is one of the few track that run anti-clockwise and while that doesn’t really affect the set-up it can have an effect in the cockpit by pushing muscles that aren’t always stressed at other races, but as I say, we just get on with it and you get used to it pretty quickly. The track is a bit stop-start – you don’t really get a chance to build up a proper rhythm, not like you do at somewhere like Suzuka, but I still enjoyed myself there last year, even though my race came to a pretty early end, so this year I want to make sure we get to the end and keep pushing towards the end of the season.”

#21 Timo Glock (LR #21)
What would Timo say if he knew I only called him Tim O’Glock?: “I’m looking forward to Korea; it’s still a young race and the track is quite good. It combines long high-speed straights and slow corners like the start of sector 2: three extremely slow zig-zag turns where you need to find a good rhythm, attack the kerbs a little as well as keeping the speed up. Then you have to accelerate hard out of Turn 6 towards a very fast sequence of turns where it’s very important to get them as clean as possible otherwise there’s a high risk of going off track. So in general there’s hardly a breather to be had in Korea, which makes it even more of a challenge.”

#22 Jerome d’Ambrosio (LR #22)
Jerome is hoping his bit of practice running from last year will help him this year: “I have spent a couple of days in Tokyo before heading to Korea, l did some training and prepared myself for the race weekend ahead. I’m looking forward to this race – the track was definitely a fun one to drive last year, even with just my brief experience of it in FP1. It’s a very different kind of race, coming from somewhere like Japan where F1 is very established and the fans are just incredible with their support, to a new territory like this and seeing how it can grow from the grass-roots level.”

#23 Daniel Ricciardo (LR #24)
Don’t look now but Danny Boy is outpacing Liuzzi: “Korea will be another new circuit for me so that is something I’m looking forward to, another new challenge. Speaking to some of the drivers who raced there last year they told me that it is quite a good circuit so I’m sure I will like the track. After the qualifying session in Suzuka, my race engineer felt that we should have done more and we did so, personally, I feel we found something in Japan that we can put into next weekend. So I am hoping for a better weekend in Korea.”

#24 Vitantonio Liuzzi (LR #23)
Tonio is delusionally hoping to repeat his good finish from 2010 which came in a Force India: “For Korea we need to strike back a bit after encountering a couple of complicated races. We have to understand all the issues we had in Suzuka and try to put up a better fight with our main rivals. We still have four races to go and we have to keep on fighting. I finished 6th last year in Korea so I’ve got good memories and I like the circuit quite a bit. Traction is a really important factor in Korea which is an area we’ve been struggling with, so hopefully we can have a trouble-free Friday and Saturday so that we can understand the set-up better.”

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