F1 Korean Grand Prix: If a Tree Falls in a Forest…

While it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Sebastian Vettel took the pole and stormed away to the victory. However, while no one may have seen the Korean Grand Prix in person, it was still a very interesting race where all sorts of odd happenings occurred.

Off track, while there hasn’t been much movement in the driver market, we do have a new 2014 schedule, a new Concorde Agreement and a new concern over how much the drivers weigh and its affect on the driver market.

The race started with Vettel on the pole and the German getting away cleanly. Behind him, things weren’t so peaceful. The cars fanned out three and four-wide behind him down the long back straight. As cars bunched up into the Turn 3 hairpin, Felipe Massa got spun as he tried to avoid plowing into Nico Rosberg.

f1-2013-korea-jeepIt looked like that the start would be as close as anyone would get to Vettel but a safety car changed everything. Sergio Perez’s right-front tyre blew apart heading down the back straight. The tyre failure was preceded by a lock-up and Perez running wide at Turn 1 & 2.

Vettel retained the lead through pitstops under the safety and through the restart but the green flag running didn’t last long. Adrian Sutil spun into Turn 3 and collected Mark Webber. That caused another safety car period. Much to the surprise of Vettel, the safety car had transformed into a Jeep. Webber’s car suffered an oil system puncture as a result of the collision and caught fire. The Jeep was a fire marshal truck deployed from Turn 1 & 2 but came out in front of the field and became the de facto safety car.

Vettel was able to overcome the unexpected safety car substitute and his lead being erased twice to hold on to win the race. Kimi Raikkonen climbed through the field and caught some breaks with the safety cars to make his way to 2nd by the end of the race. Romain Grosjean had a great start to move up to 2nd but fell behind his teammate between the safety cars before finishing 3rd.

Nico Hulkenberg scored his best finish of the season with a 4th as he tries to find a top ride for the 2014 season. Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso were all over The Hulk but came home in 5th and 6th, respectively. Nico Rosberg had some front wing issues that put him farther back than he would have liked but managed to finish 7th. Jenson Button crossed the line in 8th. Felipe Massa recovered from his spin to finish 9th. And Sergio Perez rounded out the points in 10th.

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It’s been a while since I’ve done a TSN rant so let’s have a go at one now.

The Korean Grand Prix was on at 2:00 AM here in Canada. I haven’t been able to stay conscious to 4:00 AM since university so I was counting on a replay. The only problem is that TSN decided not to replay the race until 9:30 PM. Basically, if you’re in half of the country, TSN isn’t showing the race at a convenient time.

I can almost understand why TSN would do this. They only had 90 minutes to show it at 8:00 AM which is the usual broadcast time because they were showing an EPL game with a relegation team on one channel and had to put their panel of overrated media personalities on at 9:30.

I can live with that even if TSN has been more than willing to hack laps and laps out of their replays in the past. However, they had taped programming on TSN2 from 5:30 PM onwards. Just run the race after the NASCAR race. That way all your race fans have a place to go for the afternoon rather than coming back four hours later after the CrossFit Games.

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The schedule for the 2014 Formula One World Championship was released and the best thing I can say is that it’s quite odd. And it’s not just the fact that there are 22 races when teams want to cap the schedule at 20 races that makes this odd.

As I mentioned in my schedule rumour roundup in the Singapore Grand Prix recap, the New Jersey GP was back on the calendar but it’s been given the middle spot of a back-to-back-to-back set with Monaco and Canada. With concern that teams are going to get worked to the bone with normal back-to-back, three races in succession seems ridiculous. The only logical explanation is that Bernie expects the GP of America to get postponed yet again and nobody has to worry about a multi-continent logistical nightmare.

Speaking of multi-continent logistical nightmares, Russia has a rather odd back-to-back. The first Sunday in October will see the Russian GP in Sochi and is followed the next weekend by the Japanese Grand Prix. And that doesn’t mention that the teams have to go from Singapore two weeks prior to Russia.

At least the addition of Mexico makes sense in that the Mexican Grand Prix is being run back-to-back with the US GP in Austin. I suppose Bernie and the FIA were due to get the additions to the schedule right at some point of the calendar. It’s just too bad that the Monaco to Canada stretch makes no sense at all.

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It took a bit longer than usual but Bernie Ecclestone’s Formula One Group, the FIA and the teams have agreed to a new Concorde Agreement which starts this year and will be in effect until 2020.

While the exact terms of the agreement weren’t disclosed, the official press release from the FIA said that the new agreement provides for more money to be paid to the FIA by the Formula One Group. The amount of money that the FIA is putting into being the regulatory body of F1 was a previous point of contention between the FIA and FOG and that seems to be solved.

What we don’t know is whether the payment structure to the teams has been revised under the new agreement. Under the previous Concorde Agreement, only the top ten teams in the Constructors’ Championship standings received prize money. Given the tight budget Marussia runs under and the fact that they’re barely commercially viable without prize money, one has to wonder if there’s a new provision saying that all teams will received money regardless of their points finish.

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Heading into next season, the drivers aren’t talking about the wear and tear of all the races or the fact that there will only be five engines allowed for 22 Grands Prix but how much they weigh.

This weekend, the Grand Prix Drivers Association have been talking about the weight limit of next season’s cars and how much driver selection will be influenced by how much drivers weigh.

It seems as though Nico Hulkenberg is the driver that is driving this issue, though it’s not of his doing. This week, there was a rumour that The Hulk missed out on a drive with McLaren because of his weight. He also missed out on the Ferrari drive recently. It’s also believed that he might lose the Lotus drive because he’s much heavier than Felipe Massa.

So how much does Hulkenberg weigh? 74 kilograms. That’s only 163 pounds. I think that there’s something with Formula One when a guy can be underweight for his height (The Hulk is 6’0″) and still be too heavy for employment. Maybe they do need to raise the weight limit. We’ve certainly seen Hulkenberg prove his skill over the last few weeks.

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The next round of the 2013 Formula One World Championship is next week in Japan. It’s the fifth to last round of the championship and it takes place at the legendary Suzuka Circuit.

After four straight wins and six wins from his last seven finishes, I’m not sure that you can bet against Sebastian Vettel. He’s also won three of the last four Japanese Grands Prix at Suzuka so he’s got momentum at the track and momentum overall on his side.

Alonso needs to get a big result this week if he is going to have a hope of staying in the championship hunt. However, at three whole races behind Vettel with only five races remaining, I’m not sure that he has a hope of making up that gap. It’s not a matter of it but when Vettel wins his fourth straight World Drivers’ Championship.

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