This weekend we head into new territory with the first-ever Korean Grand Prix. And not only will it be new to us, the fans, to watch, it will also be a venture into the unknown for the five drivers in the battle for the world championship, as they all take to the circuit for the first time.
Up until a few weeks ago, uncertainty hung over whether there would even be a Korean Grand Prix, as the organisers have cut it fine getting the track ready in time. But now that it is (almost) ready to go, and the FIA have given it the go ahead, what can we expect from this weekend?
The 55-lap, 3.4 mile (5.6km) Korean International Circuit in Yeongam, 200 miles south-west of the capital, Seoul, is a step into the unknown, at probably the most crucial point in the championship. With no previous track time, this could be a very tense weekend for the top five drivers in the standings.
The lap consists of a long straight, some mid-length straights, and some high- and mid-speed corners. From the start/finish straight down to turn four, the straights are long, with the straight between turns two and three the longest.
The stop-start nature of the first part of the lap, with the long runs down to the slower corners, could play into McLaren’s hands, while the final part of the lap, which has higher downforce, could play into Red Bull’s hands.
Turn three looks to be quite tight, and possibly the best place to overtake, but with no previous track running it is hard to tell whether this circuit is going to be an overtaking track. Turns four through to 12 look fairly fast, while the final sector looks to be slower, requiring more downforce.
Despite the fact it’s a purpose-built circuit, turns 15 to 18 have a street-circuit feel to them, with tight walls, and turn 17 is a long right-hander which opens out onto the quick left-hand turn that heads down onto the start/finish straight.
The biggest challenge the circuit holds is the fact that it is yet to hold any type of race, and on Friday when the drivers take to the circuit for the first time, it is likely to lack grip.
Once the track rubbers in, it is expected to be grippy, and the maximum and average speeds are likely to be 310km/h and 205km/h respectively. That means the track will equal Catalunya and Istanbul, and be close to Sepang in terms of speed, and this data, which has been gathered from simulation data, means that Bridgestone will be bringing the hard and soft compound tyres to the circuit from the hard, medium, soft and super-soft compounds.
The track is expected to evolve over the course of the weekend, meaning choosing the right strategy for the race ahead of qualifying won’t be easy to predict, as between the start of qualifying and the start of the race, the track is expected to evolve dramatically as the track rubbers in even more.
With any new track, it is difficult for the teams and drivers to know how things will pan out, and with an ever-evolving track, the teams will be working ferociously hard gathering data to ensure they are on the ball throughout the weekend. For the three teams still in the hunt, getting it right when it matters will be crucial.
The weather is set to be hot and sunny over the weekend, with temperatures getting up to 23 degrees on race day.
So that’s it for the F101 Korean Preview. Short and sweet, I know, but until there has been a Korean Grand Prix, it’s hard to preview a race where you’ve got nothing to refer back to!
It’s now time to take that step into the unknown, and I must admit, I’m looking forward to this—I just hope there is plenty of overtaking, and plenty to get excited about…