F1 Power Rankings: Korean Grand Prix

In less than 15 seconds of last week’s Japanese Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso’s championship lead was cut from 29 points to 4 over Sebastian Vettel. With Vettel having the superior car, it seems that Alonso will need more luck than skill to have a shot at the World Drivers’ Championship. Has anyone ever suggested that a championship is out of reach for a driver despite still leading the points? Anyway, it’s time for this week’s edition of the Formula One Power Rankings. And, yes, there is a driver who is interested in dancing Gangnam Style.

#1 Sebastian Vettel (Last Race #2)
Every week, I look for the most generic PR quote. Seb might win the season this week: “In principle, the track is made up of two parts: a permanent race track and the end, which is more like a street circuit although we’re not in the city. The track is located on the western edge of the province of Yeongam, which is in the far south of the country. The circuit is demanding and the last section is very tight.”

#2 Fernando Alonso (LR #1)
If the announcement that there was a calibration problem with the Ferrari wind tunnel wasn’t bad enough for Alonso, his championship lead evaporated in a collision at the start of the Japanese GP. Without wind tunnel tested developments in sight for the final five races, I don’t think Alonso can keep this big red dog of a car in the WDC hunt. I don’t like that the car will decide the title but Formula One is a team sport and the car is part of the package.

#3 Jenson Button (LR #4)
Jenson doesn’t have a flow to go with in Korea: “The Korean International Circuit is quite a demanding place – every time you feel you’re settling into a rhythm, the track changes direction quite unexpectedly. It doesn’t have a flow of some of the other new modern facilities we’ve been to in recent years, such as the Buddh International Circuit or Istanbul Park.”

#4 Lewis Hamilton (LR #3)
Old Louise Hamilton thinks he has a shot at the win this time out: “”The car that I ended the race with in Japan felt great – and I’m confident that we’ll kick off the race weekend in Korea with a strong package… I think we’ve had the potential to win both Korean Grands Prix in the past, but I’ve never had a race weekend there on which everything has gone quite right for me. We’ve got momentum on our side once again, so I head to Korea determined to fight for victory.”

#5 Kimi Raikkonen (LR #5)
The Iceman doesn’t care that it’s a new track. He knows he’ll pick it up quickly. He’s such a boss: “I’ve never been to Korea, but it doesn’t make a difference for me. Since I was very young I have always been able to pick up circuits very quickly. This has not changed. It’s always interesting to race at a new venue and I enjoy going to different places. It gives me a good feeling. It is exciting to be going there for the first time and to start work by walking around the circuit and checking all the corners.”

#6 Felipe Massa (LR #7)
Pirelli boss Paul Hembery talks about the tyre choices for this weekend’s race: “We’re bringing the same tyre nominations to Korea as we did last year, which at the time was seen as quite a bold choice because Korea has the highest lateral energy loadings of all the circuits where we use the supersoft tyre. In the end, we saw the supersoft lasting for 10 laps or more and the soft lasting for 20 laps or more, enabling a two-stop strategy for the majority of the drivers.”

#7 Mark Webber (LR #6)
@AussieGrit doesn’t like the cool Korean weather. He’d have loved the old Canadian Grands Prix which were held in October: “The Korean circuit is like a fast Budapest. It has long straights early in the lap; I had a good fight there with Lewis last year, which I enjoyed. The last two sectors are very busy with lots of corners. Generally it can be a little bit cold there, so we’ll see what that throws up to us in terms of the tyres.”

#8 Nico Rosberg (LR #10)
Keke’s kid is more interested in Gangnam Style than the race. Can’t blame him actually: “I think the recent updates on our car will be better suited to this circuit, so I hope we can make a step forward performance-wise. I enjoy the circuit a lot and I am excited to get to Korea after following the new Gangnam craze on the internet in the last few months. When I have some time away from the car and engineering meetings, I’m definitely looking forward to his performance this weekend.”

#9 Romain Grosjean (LR #8)
Romain gives us a quick geography lesson: “Seoul was very nice when I visited it last year; it’s a fascinating combination of Asian culture with some European flavour too. The circuit is quite remote and it’s a very different part of Korea from Seoul. It’s certainly a different experience from that of many other Grands Prix.”

#10 Michael Schumacher (LR #9)
Old Seven-Time thinks that the lack of fans at the Korean GP is a result of it being a new race. Perhaps it’s just that the track is in the middle of nowhere: “Korea is one of the more recent additions to the Formula One calendar and that’s still reflected in the fact that we don’t get too many fans at the race. It’s a pity, because the circuit layout makes for good racing, but I think the situation is improving each year. It’s a very challenging track and well designed, which lots of the drivers enjoy.”

#11 Paul di Resta (LR #11)
Dario’s cousin talks about the team’s World Constructors’ Championship chase of Sauber: “Mathematically it is realistic to take the fight to Sauber, but to get ahead of them we will need to be in the points at all the remaining races. Sauber were on the podium again in Japan, which makes our task even more difficult, but we are hopeful that the tracks coming up will be more suited to us – certainly compared to Suzuka. To beat them we will need to be on top of all the issues we had in Japan.”

#12 Sergio Perez (LR #12)
Checo hopes to keep up the pre-beaching momentum from Japan: “The track layout in Yeongam is quite challenging. There are some high-speed corners and in general the circuit has quite a variety of corners. Therefore it is not easy to find a good rhythm but this is crucial for a good lap time. In Suzuka our car had a very good pace and I hope we can keep the momentum for the next round in South Korea.”

#13 Kamui Kobayashi (LR #13)
I know Kobayashi Maru finished third in Japan but that doesn’t mean I think he’ll repeat that this week: “The track layout in Yeongam is quite challenging. There are some high-speed corners and in general the circuit has quite a variety of corners. Therefore it is not easy to find a good rhythm but this is crucial for a good lap time. In Suzuka our car had a very good pace and I hope we can keep the momentum for the next round in South Korea.”

#14 Daniel Ricciardo (LR #14)

#15 Nico Hulkenberg (LR #15)
Nico thinks he can back up some of his recent good performances this weekend: “I enjoy visiting Korea and the track is fun to drive. I didn’t drive there last year during free practice, but I have some good memories from 2010 with Williams when I scored a point in the very wet race. I think we can go there and get a good result because it’s a track that’s a mixture of everything: low-speed, high-speed and straights. The final sector feels just like a street circuit and it’s quite technical with some challenging corners.”

#16 Bruno Senna (LR #16)
Bruno points out that the team hasn’t put in a lot of simulator time for Korea: “The Korean Grand Prix is a different to other races. It is a high downforce circuit so should suit our car. It’s also one of the tracks we have the least amount of practice on as it is fairly new to the calendar and therefore we haven’t had any running in our simulator, so it will be interesting to see how we get on.”

#17 Pastor Maldonado (LR #18)
Naturally, Pastor doesn’t point out the fact that he finally snapped a near-five-month points-scoring drought: “The Korean International Circuit is not a typical track for us but it is one of the newest and we’re enjoying racing there. We aim to be competitive and will be working to adapt the car set-up to this low grip track. There is a good combination of corners and the last sector is a medium speed flowing sequence which is very technical.”

#18 Jean-Eric Vergne (LR #17)

#19 Heikki Kovalainen (LR #19)
Heikki gave a detailed breakdown of the track in his pre-race quotage but for the sake of space, here’s the first sector breakdown: “The start / finish straight is pretty short and then it’s into the second gear turn one. It’s very tight and you need a good exit to make sure you go onto the first long straight with as much speed as possible, using KERS to really push you out of the corner and towards T2. Braking into turn 3 is pretty straightforward – it’s another second gear corner and you want to come out of there with as much speed as possible so you’re using another big chunk of KERS and DRS to power your way out.”

#20 Timo Glock (LR #21)
Tim O’Glock finds this race and circuit quite peculiar: “Every year this is a bit of a strange race weekend because the track is not used very often outside of Formula 1. This makes it difficult on a Friday in particular as the track is always quite dirty and takes a while to come up to grip level. The weather can also be unpredictable, so the track condition can be a bit changeable also.”

#21 Vitaly Petrov (LR #20)
Raikkonen thinks it’ll be easy to learn a new track. His countryman Petrov disagrees: “The track itself was a pretty tricky one to learn when I first went out on it in 2010. There’s a few blind apexes and correct gear selection is really important to get the quickest laptimes, but now we’ve done a couple of races there we know what direction we need to take on setup so we can get on with it as soon as we arrive.”

#22 Charles Pic (LR #22)
Chuckie expects a challenge at Yeongam: “I’ve had a few days in Tokyo to do some training and prepare for another new circuit and I’m feeling good for the race ahead. From what I have seen of the track in simulation, it looks very interesting – especially sectors 1 and 3. Another anti-clockwise circuit also, which always adds an extra dimension in terms of the physical challenge.”

#23 Pedro de la Rosa (LR #23)
Pedro tries to say nice things about the Korean International Circuit but it doesn’t quite work: “I know very little of Korea because I’ve never run there, all I know of the circuit is from my work on the simulator. As it’s a track that’s barely used the surface is very slippery. So we’ve got no time to lose and will have to do as many laps as possible to get to know the track.”

#24 Narain Karthikeyan (LR #24)
This will be Narain’s first time racing in Korea. It’s amazing what sponsorship money will do for you: “From what I’ve seen the Korea International Circuit is very complete as it is a mix of various things such as very close walls, quick corners, long straights and hairpins. I’ve never raced there so I’ll have to make the most of my time on track to adapt and set the car up.”

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