Brought to you by TheJudge13 ‘Track Profile Specialist’ Alistair Hunter
Formula One heads into the second race of its autumnal Asian tour by visiting one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world – South Korea. It marks the fourth edition of the race since it was first added to the F1 calendar for 2010.
The circuit itself was designed to be a semi-permanent circuit that would be the catalyst for development of the Yeongam and Jeollanam-do regions of the country; at the moment, the city planned there has not been built, making the circuit the sole focal point for visitors to the nearby area.
Bernie had originally attempted to hold races in Kunsan City in the country, but ultimately the track was never built and subsequent legal action ensured that the F1 supremo would not lose an eleven million dollar payment made to the organisers before the race was set to go ahead in 1998.
This time, the venture was financed by a partnership between the local government – the third biggest province in South Korea – and the M-Bridge Holdings company, – based in nearby Mokpo and created in 2005 – the deal saw a $264 million investment between the two companies named and Bernie Ecclestone for a seven year stint on the Formula One calendar, although its status next year and in general has been discussed at length by TJ13 as well as many other places in both traditional and social media.
It has also been seen as the catalyst for the Korea Super Prix Formula 3 event to return, a race that previously complimented Macau’s famous Grand Prix, but as yet there has been no revival of the race which had its last edition in 2003 at the Changwon Street Circuit. The event was set to come back in 2010 but it was cancelled.
Korea – Korean International Circuit Characteristics © FIA
The lap starts with a straight followed by a tight first corner, in which it is possible to cause a major issue with traffic leaving the pit lane coming out straight ahead. Following that, the longest straight on the circuit sees drivers go at up to around 320 kilometres per hour, before braking hard into Turn Two, as noted in the Brembo section below. Another wide, long straight follows before the drivers see the track narrow as it reaches a tight, twisty second sector in what is the permanent racetrack.
Finally, the third sector gets very tight, before drivers negotiate Turn 17, a fast corner with a blind entry into the pit lane, which could become an issue at some point over the weekend.
The drivers are on full throttle for around 61% of the lap, while a high downforce setup is required. The lap record set around the track was by Sebastian Vettel in 2011 was a 1:39.605, although drivers have completed it much faster in better conditions.
A lap with Mark Webber (his pole lap of 2012)
Sebastian Vettel is undoubtedly the man to beat. He won here last year on his way to a four race winning streak, and he is the only person to have won the Korean Grand Prix more than once. He has won three races in a row so far, so he might just achieve that again, who knows?
Aside from Vettel, four drivers have won races this year: Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton; it looks unlikely that that will change this time. Still, we can always hope, and if you are optimistic then you can get either Romain Grosjean or Mark Webber to join those five this weekend at 40-1.
Pirelli and Korean International Circuit
Just like the previous race under the lights of Singapore, the P Zero White medium and P Zero Red supersoft compounds have been nominated for the Korean Grand Prix: but this is a circuit that is very different in character. Yeongam, close to Mokpo, to the south of the country, contains a bit of everything: from fast corners to slower and more technical sections. Having made its grand prix debut in 2010, the 5.615-kilometre track is run anti-clockwise which is no problem for the tyres, but is sometimes a source of strain the drivers’ neck muscles.
The Korea International Circuit is rarely used outside of the grand prix, so there is usually a high degree of track evolution over the course of the weekend. The combination of medium and supersoft, used for the fourth time this year, is designed to maximize speed in qualifying yet at the same time guarantee a high level of durability for the race, which offers plenty of opportunity for strategy.
Pirelli Motorsport Director Paul Hembery: “This year’s nomination represents a change from last season where we brought the soft and supersoft, as it best complements the characteristics of the 2013 range of compounds. We would expect there to be a significant difference in lap time between the two compounds we have selected, as was the case in Singapore, and that should help the teams to put together some interesting strategies.
Korea is an interesting mix: you get some fast corners as well as some slower ones but actually it has the highest lateral energy demand of all the circuits where the supersoft is used, so tyre management is going to be important once more. In particular, the work done in free practice when it comes to assessing the wear and degradation levels on each compound with different fuel loads is going to be especially important, as that will hold the key to the correct strategy.
We saw the difference that having the right strategy could make in Singapore, and although there is a lower probability of a safety car in Korea, this is still something that the teams will be paying a lot of attention to in the build-up to the grand prix, as the championship enters its final phase.”
Jean Alesi: “Korea is not a track that I have raced on myself, but I have heard many positive things about it from the drivers. This is encouraging, because when the modern generation of circuits first came in they were not universally popular but now it seems there is a different philosophy that ensures all the new tracks are real drivers’ circuits as well.
What is interesting about this race is that the tyre nomination will be the same as Singapore, which was a very good race. We could see a big gap in lap times between the two compounds and some drivers were able to use this to their advantage to build a good strategy.
The other thing that we saw was the consistency of the supersoft tyre: even though it is the softest tyre in the range it managed to complete quite long stints without any notable drop-off in performance, so I imagine that we will see the same in Korea.”
The circuit from a tyre point of view
The most critical characteristics of this track from a tyre point of view are the high-speed corners and heavy braking areas, which allow the cars to use their maximum stopping power (or to be precise, deceleration) of 5.2g. With the weight transfer involved, this equates to the front tyres being subjected to a vertical force that is the equivalent of 900 kilograms.
As well as the braking, there are big lateral forces exerted on the tyres. Turns 7 to 8 for example involve a direction change at 270kph. This puts plenty of lateral energy through the loaded tyres, which peaks at 4.4g. The rapid direction changes demand maximum rigidity from the structure, which ensures steering precision and helps the driver to hold the ideal line.
Another crucial area is the slower sequence of corners from turns 15 to 17. The kerbs that the drivers use on the inside test the structure and mean that the road-holding from the outside tyre is critical: an issue that is dealt with by the high levels of mechanical grip generated by the supersoft tyre in particular.
Technical tyre notes
The aerodynamic set-up adopted for Korea by the teams is quite similar to Japan, with medium to high levels of downforce. However, the traction demands are much higher than in Japan, so the teams use different engine maps to help put the power down out of the slow corners. The front-right tyre is worked hardest at the Korean track.
Graining can be an issue in Korea, particularly in the low-grip conditions at the start of the weekend. Graining is caused when the cars slide sideways too much, creating an uneven wave-like pattern of wear on the surface of the tread that affects performance.
The majority of drivers last year used a two-stop strategy, while only three tried a one-stop or a three-stop strategy. The top 10 qualifiers all started on the supersoft tyre, with Sebastian Vettel winning the race for Red Bull from second on the grid. Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne was the highest-placed starter on the soft tyre from 16th, finishing the race in 8th position.
Brembo and Korean International Circuit
The South Korean circuit is a medium difficulty track for the brakes with a 1200 metre straight stretch that ends in one of the most demanding and hard braking sections of the championship. The scarce use of the circuit and the progressive increase in grip throughout the weekend make braking system settings difficult to interpret.
Turn 02 is considered the most demanding for the braking system.
2010 – In the inaugural race, Sebastian Vettel led away from pole in a rain-hit race, and when it eventually got under way, championship rival Mark Webber crashed out of the race, taking Nico Rosberg out with him. Vettel’s dominance was disrupted by his engine going up in smoke beneath the South Korean sunset, and Fernando Alonso sneaked in to take victory after he had overtaken Lewis Hamilton into turn one previously.
2011 – Lewis Hamilton stopped Red Bull’s run of sixteen consecutive pole positions, and then proceeded to take his first podium position since Germany that year, as he was passed by Vettel into turn four at the start of the race, and the German driver used that as his springboard to open up a lead and win the race. Red Bull won the constructors championship at this race.
2012 – Mark Webber was overtaken by Vettel at the first turn, and Vettel went on to win despite having to slow down and save tyres. Lewis Hamilton dropped down the field after being overtaken by the two Ferrari drivers, and ended up in tenth, while Massa was told not to overtake Alonso due to the championship fight.
Hwang Jin-Woo won two Korean GT titles before competing in Japan. He ended up in A1GP at one point, scoring four points in his only points finish during the two rounds he competed in, although he was competing in the Japanese Super GT championship in the same year.
Another South Korean racing driver is Sung-Hak Mun, who competed in Formula Renault 2.0, Formula BMW Pacific and the Formula Two championship; the latter was the one he completed most recently, scoring no points in the sixteen races he competed in.
I do try and do research into what goes on during a Formula One weekend, and this is no exception. But have you tried looking for the Jeonnam Motor Racing Championship, F1’s latest companion? I have actually found nothing. Quite disappointed with that. Maybe I haven’t been looking hard enough, but I guess we’ll see. If anyone is more knowledgeable on the subject, please let me know.
|2012||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|
|2011||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|