F1 Power Rankings: Korean Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel’s lead is up to 60 points with only six races remaining this season. I don’t want to say it’s over but when does testing for next season start? Actually, if Fernando Alonso can catch up anywhere, it’s in Korea. With wet weather expected for qualifying and the race, maybe inclement weather can liven things up in the championship.

#1 Sebastian Vettel (Last Race #1)
First in the championship. First in generic quotes: “The track in Korea has a bit of an unusual layout. The long straights all come right at the beginning and the turns at the end. I love the curvy part because it is a lot more fun, whereas the straight lines and sharp turns can be a little boring. They are also our weakness, because we often lack in top speed there.”

#2 Fernando Alonso (LR #2)
What does Alonso need to win the championship this season? A whole lot of luck. At the next six tracks, Alonso has two wins (Korea 2010 and Suzuka 2006). Vettel has 10 wins and the only track he’s gone winless at is the one where only one GP has been held (Austin, USA). History is not on Alonso’s side. He needs these recent RBR gearbox issues to hit Vettel hard if he’s to make a comeback.

#3 Mark Webber (LR #4)
@AussieGrit gives us a bit of an inside look into this race: “The atmosphere at the track isn’t great because there aren’t many spectators, but the track’s got some challenging sections and some good corners… Something that’s unique about this race is that the drivers all stay in the same hotel. Meal times can be a bit bizarre because everyone sits by nationality and we like to have a good look at what everyone else is eating for breakfast.”

#4 Lewis Hamilton (LR #3)
The Mercedes W04 isn’t much of a car when it comes to race pace. How does Old Louise Hamilton want to solve that? By focusing on qualifying pace. I don’t think that he thought this one out: ” We’ll be hoping to improve our qualifying performance this weekend to give the best possible chance in the race and I hope we can have a strong weekend in Korea.”

f1-kimi-raikkonen-helmet-2013#5 Kimi Raikkonen (LR #5)
The Iceman talks about his back problems. I wonder if Ferrari is suddenly very worried about their new signing: “It’s better than it was on Saturday in Singapore which is when it didn’t feel too good. The important thing was that I was able to race and we did a pretty good job with the podium finish. It’s not the first time I’ve had a problem, as there have been some issues with my back for a long time. For sure, we will have to see how it is when I get out on track on Friday in Korea.”

#6 Nico Rosberg (LR #7)
Generic pre-race PR quote of the week? “I like the layout of the Korea International Circuit very much. It’s a good combination of long straights and hairpins where it is ideal to overtake. There is also a very fast flowing section with many linked corners round the back which is a big driving challenge.”

#7 Felipe Massa (LR #6)

f1-romain-grosjean-helmet-2013#8 Romain Grosjean (LR #8)
Romain talks about back-to-back race weekends from a driver’s perspective. Wonder what he thinks of the Monaco/New Jersey/Montreal back-to-back-to-back next season: “The back-to-back races can be quite tiring, but equally they work pretty well logistically as we stay on a similar time zone for a couple of weeks; certainly with Korea and Japan. It’s also quite nice to be able to see some of the countries we visit with a little bit of time between the races. It’s not so nice to be away from your family of course, but it makes for an interesting end to the season with the six races so close together.”

f1-jenson-button-helmet-2013#9 Jenson Button (LR #9)
Jenson should consider himself lucky, before the change in tyre rules, Force India was 22 points ahead of McLaren. Boy, they sure suck this season: “I travel to Korea next week even more determined than normal to reverse the trend, get the absolute maximum from the car and get a good result. I think we had a solid weekend in Singapore, the engineers, the strategists and the mechanics got the best from the car, and we couldn’t have realistically expected more. That’s the aim again next weekend.”

f1-nico-hulkenberg-helmet-2013#10 Nico Hulkenberg (LR #12)
Stop the presses! The Hulk likes a track: “Compared to many other drivers, Korea is a place I quite like. It’s a nice track and each sector is very different. The first sector has two straights and two hairpins. Sectors two and three are a bit like a street circuit and technically quite challenging. I enjoy driving there and also, historically, it has been quite a good circuit for me.”

#11 Adrian Sutil (LR #11)
Sutil warns us about tyre degradation in the high-speed corners. Why has no one else mentioned this? “The circuit has a nice layout and a nice flow in the second part of the lap with some high-speed corners. Let’s see how the supersoft performs because the corners are very hard on the tyres. That could open up some interesting strategies.”

#12 Daniel Ricciardo (LR #10)

f1-sergio-perez-helmet-2013#13 Sergio Perez (LR #13)
Checo is going to game the system by having a car that isn’t necessarily fast but good at overtaking: “The aim is also to have a car that works well in the principal overtaking areas – into Turns One and Three – which means making a little bit of a compromise to the set-up. That’s particularly important because it’s very difficult to overtake once you get into the twisty section, as there’s really only a single racing line.”

#14 Jean-Eric Vergne (LR #14)

#15 Paul di Resta (LR #15)
Dario’s cousin says that the track is unusual because each of the sectors is different. I would have said its unusual because it’s supposed to be part racing facility and part street course in a commercial complex that hasn’t been built on a swamp in the middle of nowhere: ” It’s an unusual track, but definitely a place that I enjoy driving. The three sectors are all very different with long straights linked by hairpins, some high-speed corners and a slower technical part of the lap.”

#16 Pastor Maldonado (LR #17)
The reason the track is green, Pastor, is because Bernie is just about the only one crazy enough to want to hold a race on deserted swamp land: ” As the track is still quite new it can be quite green at the beginning of the week with low grip, but it then tends to rubber in and evolve a lot as the weekend progresses so we will be trying to make sure that the car can adapt to the changing grip levels.”

f1-esteban-gutierrez-helmet-2013#17 Esteban Gutierrez (LR #16)
Steve talks about his prep for a new track for him: ” In terms of preparation, I have mostly learnt from and analysed data and notes from previous years. I also watch a lot of on board videos and, of course, walk the track once we get there. With the two weeks between Singapore and Korea, I had plenty of time to study the track and make sure I am as best prepared as possible.”

#18 Valtteri Bottas (LR #18)
I find it very interesting that Williams is still bringing updates at this late point in the season. I thought they’d have a post-Europe update and call it a season so they could devote 100% of the R&D budget to 2014: “We struggled with the pace of the car in Singapore but we are bringing some upgrades to this race and hopefully these new parts will result in improved performance for us this weekend.”

#19 Giedo van der Garde (LR #20)
Gary hopes the weather is poor so he can capitalize. He’s done very well in changing conditions this season: “If it rains this year then it’ll definitely be very interesting – our car likes the wet and two of my highlights this year have been on tracks where it’s been going from wet to dry, so it would be good if we could have some more unpredictable weather (even though the boys doing the pack up on Sunday probably wouldn’t agree with me on that!)”

#20 Charles Pic (LR #19)
Is it just me or has Gary outperformed Chuckie in the second half of the season? “Last year was my first race in Korea and I quite enjoyed it. This year it’s obviously a different package and as it’s quite a technical circuit it’ll be important to make the most of all three practice sessions to give us the best shot at quali and the race.”

#21 Jules Bianchi (LR #21)
It sounds like Jules is worried about 10th in the WCC slipping away: “It was fantastic to experience the Singapore Grand Prix and my first night race last time out, although I have to say it was not the best track for me this year. I am hoping that Korea will suit the car better and I have been working hard in the simulator and with the engineers to prepare for this and the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, which is a track I have been looking forward to.”

f1-max-chilton-helmet-2013#22 Max Chiton (LR #22)
Wait, wasn’t Max talking about momentum last time out? Does he know other words? “I took a lot of positives away from my first night race in Singapore. Although Korea is a very different circuit, I feel there is a real momentum building now which I am obviously keen to maintain, so between the sim sessions, engineering meetings and my training, I’m feeling very focused.”

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