Unpredictable Korea may be McLaren’s last chance (Korean Grand Prix preview)

Posted on

| Written by

F1 heads to the brand new and hastily-completed Korean International Circuit with question marks over the state of the track and facilities.

But the situation for the McLaren drivers is clear. With three races to go Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button may have to give up on their championship chances if they fail to get a result in this weekend’s Korean Grand Prix.

The last new addition to the F1 calendar, Yas Marina, raised the bar for standards of preparation expected of new circuits very high. Coming anywhere close to that was always going to be a challenge for the Korean Grand Prix organisers.

But by the standards of any event Korea have cut things very fine indeed. The FIA’s much-delayed official inspection came just ten days before practice was due to start, and the track surface was only completed three days before that.

Korea International Circuit track data

Happily, the race is on, and that’s good news for the championship. Scrapping a round this late in the year would have had complicated repercussions for the drivers’ and teams’ title battles.

Already the talk of the race weekend is what condition the track surface will be in. Any circuit that is being used for the first time will be slippery, but a track laid just ten days ago is likely to be slick with oils from the tarmac-laying process.

As construction work continues at the track right up to the start of practice there is likely to be dust in the air which will then fall onto the track, potentially making the surface even more treacherous.

The drivers will also have to beware of the limited amount of run-off in the later stages of the lap. Unusually for a modern track not every corner is bordered by acres of tarmac – there are some unforgiving walls quite close to the track in the final sector.

So the latest twists and turns in the 2010 world championship will be played out on an unknown track with an unpredictable surface. That could be a recipe for an exciting weekend’s racing.

For the McLaren pair, failure to score here could end their world championship hopes completely. If either driver leaves Korea 50 points or more behind Mark Webber it’s game over for them.

A couple of smart gambles at Melbourne and Shanghai put Jenson Button into championship contention to begin with. He continued that habit at Monza at Suzuka and he may be minded to do the same this weekend. He seems to have realised that using a different strategy to his team mate represents his best chance of beating him.

Lewis Hamilton is crying out for a trouble-free weekend having lost fistfuls of points in the last three races.

While the MP4-25 drivers have Korea’s first sector straights to look forward to, on paper this track does not seem to offer as good opportunities for the F10. But the Ferrari has proved a solid all-rounder and Fernando Alonso is in the best form he’s seen since his championship days.

If the expectations of an unpredictable track surface and a mixed-up race are realised, Alonso is exactly the kind of driver you’d expect to stay out of trouble and bag a vital win against the run of play.

As ever, Red Bull are instant favourites. They’ve got downforce to throw away and are addressing their car’s weaknesses. A revised F-duct introduced at Suzuka may reduce their top speed deficit on Korea’s three straights.

The inter-team battle at Red Bull is fascinating. With the title in sight Webber is perhaps starting to show signs of the strain of expectation. He’s been beaten by Vettel in all of the last three races, and by Alonso in two of them.

If anyone would have welcomed the cancellation of this race it might well have been him. It’s easier to protect a 14-point lead over two races than three.

Drivers to watch

Four driver to keep an eye on this weekend. Name your top picks in the comments.

Jenson Button – His hopes of retaining his 2009 crown are fading. Will he make another gamble in a bid to stay in touch with the leaders?

Mark Webber – Needs to arrest Vettel and Alonso’s inroads into his championship lead.

Robert Kubica – In excellent form at Suzuka before the wheels (literally) fell off. Will the R30 be competitive enough to bring him into play among the championship front-runners?

Nico Hulkenberg – Rumours surround the future of Williams’ steadily improving rookie driver. A track that’s new to everyone will provide a more level playing field on which to observe his progress compared to his experienced team mate.

The Korean Grand Prix on F1 Fanatic

Join us to follow the action live throughout the Korean Grand Prix weekend including the race, qualifying and all three practice sessions.

Before the race weekend starts look out for our unofficial race programme with quick links to all the important information.

We’ll have analysis of the times during Friday practice and extensive coverage of qualifying and the race.

Remember to keep an eye out for our “rate the race” feature after every Grand Prix and don’t forget to enter our predictions competition to win great prizes including F1 tickets, DVDs, paintings and books.

Don’t miss any of our Korean Grand Prix coverage. Get the latest articles from F1 Fanatic for free via Twitter, RSS or our email subscription service. Click here for more information.

Are you going to the Korean Grand Prix?

If you’re heading to Korea for this weekend’s race, please tell us about it. You can leave a comment below, email me or get in touch using Twitter.

You can also upload pictures and video to the F1 Fanatic drop.io.

And don’t forget to join in the 2010 Korean Grand Prix discussion

2010 Korean Grand Prix

    Browse all 2010 Korean Grand Prix articles

    Image © Bridgestone/Ercole Colombo

    Author information

    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

    Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

    67 comments on “Unpredictable Korea may be McLaren’s last chance (Korean Grand Prix preview)”

    1. last paragraph:
      “If you’re heading to KoreaN for this weekend’s race”

      also 7th paragraph:
      “As construction work continues at the track right up to the start of practice there is likely to be dust in the air which will then ?? onto the track”

      sorry, don’t normally nit pick, but those stood out for me

      1. Both fixed, thanks.

        1. Mark Webber – Needs to arrest Vettel and Alonso’s inroads into his championship lead.

          And yet since Monza, he has increased his lead from 4 to 14 points. Ironic.

    2. What we need for Korea is the psychotic side of mark webber back. He pretty much drover like a lunatic when he was racing Hamilton in Australia, and while he was trying to overtake Heikki in Valencia. At both times he was under immense pressure; in Australia coz its his home GP, and in Valencia coz he dropped from 2nd to 15 or 16th on the grid. If Vettel and Fernando are a couple of positions in front of him, I think he should crack again. A mark webber DNF would definitely make the race for me!

      1. trulli dead09
        20th October 2010, 10:15

        that would destroy the race for me. :(

      2. I’d much rather see the sort of form out of Mark Webber that we saw in the British GP. I want to see him ANGRY not psychotic!! I want to see him fighting and winning. (preferably not flip his car as per Valencia) The last few GPs have seen Webber cool and collected but not a lot of passion in terms of racing. He prob needs to be calm to close out the championship but thats not why I love Webber!

      3. It would definitely make the race for me too, and will make what’s left of the season bearable. This championship must be decided at Yas Marina!

    3. If anyone is interested, @MyLotusRacing have posted some great new pictures on Twitter. The track actually looks a lot better than I was expecting, with only minor finishing touches needed by the look of things.

      1. trulli dead09
        20th October 2010, 10:19

        hmm looks half decent-a bit like suzuka but with more run off.

        1. Typical Tilke, here thoust shall overtake, here thoust shall follow, here thou shall all’st pretend it’s a street track for a pointless hike in downforce.

          Go I hope the nature of the circuit makes Redbull muggable of the start.

          1. Quote of the day… leaving satisfied.

          2. That’s probably the side notes on the corners on his sketches from new tracks he’s designing!

    4. I reckon who ever adatps quickly is going to come out on top, amongnst the WDC contenders.
      Drivers to Watch – MSC

      1. He’s not exactly adapted quickly to this year’s tyres, has he?

        1. MSC doesn’t adapt too well to new tracks. He was terrible at Valencia, and equally appalling at Singapore.

          1. Remember his first year in China? In the most dominant car of the decade.

          2. The first Bahrain Grand Prix was in 2004 and it was won by German driver Michael Schumacher for Ferrari.

            1. Exception that proves the rule ;)

              How about Malaysia?

            2. Did any other car win in 2004?

            3. @Anthony, yes. Mclaren, Williams, Renault.

          3. Michael Schumacher is going for next years title,his speed is back to normal,even if his car isn’t.
            @Todfod. Will you miss your hobby of writing MSC is retiring this year?

    5. If the McLaren’s dont get both cars on the podium, I fear their chances are over.

      1. Maybe I’m pessimistic, but I personally feel there are only three drivers that can win this championship and neither of the McLaren boys are in that list and it’s been that way for a race or two now.

        Sure they can still do it mathematically, but it’s unlikely. They have to hope the new upgrades make the McLaren the fastest car on the grid to pull this off. Red Bull are just too strong.

    6. colin grayson
      20th October 2010, 10:35

      vettel was beaten by alonso in 2 of the last three races

      so why does being beaten by alonso show that WEBBER is under pressure

      better to start from the other end of the telescope….which of the 5 drivers is NOT under pressure

      webber is doing exactly the right thing , playing it canny until he sees EXACTLY what is needed …. just like button last year

      1. I hope so. Boy do I hope so!

    7. actually im looking forward to this race, personally i think it is an excellent track.
      fast/median/slow corners an some nice long straights, also some awesome close wall racing just what the doctor ordered to sort out the brave form the cautious drivers.
      i believe Hamilton will pull out all stops on this race he has nothing to loose and everything to gain by taking risks in this event.
      bring it on, i will be watching with interest.

    8. Both McLaren drivers need a podium finish at the very least to retain an outside chance of the title, and a win to maintain a realistic one.

      I hope they have a solid weekend or else its Red Bull vs themselves vs Teflonso for the title.

      1. “Red Bull vs themselves vs Teflonso”

        Haha! Well said!

    9. Except top 5 I will focus on Felipe Massa – will he really deliver for Ferrari? Will he be capable and if capable – will he wish it?
      I doubt Renault will be again visible in front positions any more this season unless errors made by top6 (though I wish I’m wrong).
      As this is a new for everybody it will be interesting to see how everybody is doing here. it is also a good test for teams about strategy and setup.

      1. Yes definitely Massa!
        Another poor result will complicate his situation even more.

    10. I think, for McLaren, this race will go the way of the last two or three, claiming that the track will suit them then failing to deliver on race day. They would have to be extremely unlucky for either Button or Hamilton to drop out of the title race here, but a poor result could make it almost impossibly difficult for them.

      1. Yes, I have also security fears. I wonder if tarmac will keep sticking when pressed and then pulled by the tires.

        1. d-d let’s hope it crumbles, falls apart, is dirty and oily and accompanied by a gale force wind coming from 12 different compass directions at the same time before the torrential rain fall begins. :)

          1. And Kobayashi wins!

            1. trulli dead09
              21st October 2010, 9:11

              that could really spice up the championship if Button and Hamilton got a good result and the Red Bulls DNF’ed

    11. A little off-topic. I’m watching some pictures from Yeongam. Never saw such a “last moment” work!!! They are painting grid stripes and lateral white lines…now! And putting down some fake grass carpets, also. I don’t know where they will go if a car runs them.
      I may be too pessimistic, but I’ve never seen so much work done at the latest moment, really.
      Another observation: box exit is really stupid, no other words.

    12. One interesting fact, there will be no blend line at pit exit.

      1. I noticed that from some of the pictures that Lotus tweeted – I think there’s a sort of kerb line running for a while between track and pit exit, then it just stops and they merge.

      2. Really? Oh dear…that is surely a bit dangerous as it will be tempting to defend the racing line straight away.

      3. perhaps they haven’t painted it on yet…

        1. As John is on the Marshalling team this race weekend, I suppose he has that information confirmed from the organisers.

          It sounds pretty exiting to me.

      4. That sounds exiting, so we might get some pretty tight battles with cars coming out of the pits to stay in front!

    13. I always look forward to a new track. The last couple (Valencia, Abu Dhabi) have been a disappointment, so heres hoping that Korea throws up something interesting. Although maybe not literally, like tarmac or anything.

    14. I just hope Lewis doesn’t crash again. As long as he doesn’t crash he’ll be fine.

    15. I had the feeling a very races ago that Webber was very likely to take the driver’s championship. At this point, I have a strong feeling that Red Bull is going to give it all away to Alonso, because they refuse to favour one driver. I can’t believe they are taking this strategy again this year, though. Wasn’t Dietrich Mateschitz livid when they lost the driver’s championships because of a similar strategy last year (or the year before?). Sorry, my memory is terrible. And I’m no expert!

      1. RB are only puttin out that statement cos thay cant publicly favor vettle ….if vettle was leadin by just 1 point webber would be n0 2

    16. It´ll be an interesting event for sure.
      Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel will go for it, the oportunities are coming short so better put some speed in their shoes. Webber will go conservation mode, no need to worry yet. As for Button i really don´t expect him to be a big factor here unless this track will suit very well the mclarens. The same for Massa. The others, maybe Kubica can mess up a little if he gets a good spot in the line up.
      I read some where that the track will be very slippery in the out side line so overtaking can be a trouble here, also it seems the rain can apear during the weekend so it can be also a big factor cleaning the rubber.
      Just hope the 5 can go to interlagos even closer than they are right now.

    17. Zero rain predicted from the sources I’ve seen.

    18. mclaren need 2 cars in the podium in this race if they want keep title constructors hope.. and the same in the others 2, i think that is the most realistic at the moment.. then well see what happens with the drivers standings…

    19. But they do favour one driver ,Vettel,,that was clear after they gave him webbers wing at silverstone, also when they made webber take half the blame for vettels **** up in turkey.if their positions were reversed webber would be being made to play second fiddle this weekend

    20. driver to watch- MASSA.

      1. does he have a new hair style? there isnt much to watch about massa this year…

    21. I think webber is now starting to sweat with Korea since Vettel, Lewis, Alonso and Rosberg ((“i think”)) have that faster gift of understanding a newer track quicker then the rest regardless of the simulator.

      Webber shouldn’t be worrying 100% around Vettel, Button, Alonso and Lewis, but thinking about keeping Rosberg, Massa and Kubica behind him “if” the other 4 dash infront.

      1. lol such a biased comment. If Vettel, Lewis Alonso are faster and evenly matched than Webber will continue to push all competitors away from him in points tally equally.

        For Webber Vettel is the most important competitor, he should not lose more than 2-3 points to Vettel. He can always beat Alonso and Hamilton because his car is so good in the other races.

        1. How is that biased?

          I never said webber “can’t” “won’t” or “never will” beat the rest, just that ((((i think))))<–(not sounding negative) he is under pressure from the other 4 and ((((i think))))<–(again not trying to be negative) he will be outpaced on a newer track, and having the likes of Kubica, Massa and Rosberg behind him closing the gap, with no fear of pushing that little bit more then Webber.

          I'm sorry but i don't know how unbiased I can go to suit your view, since funny enough it's ((my)) view i'm bringing up.

    22. F10 might suit this track because according to Bruno Senna (though I dont take his suggestions seriously but he is still a driver and knows a thing or 2), the trach needs braking stability and traction which is in F10 in abundance. Fingers crossed though.

    23. I don’t believe the MP25 will be competative at any of the final races. McLaren has had a very difficult time developing this car throughout the entire season. I do not believe they are technically prepared to face off with the Red Bulls and Ferraris.
      When their drivers have to push their cars to limit to keep up with the other top teams running within the limits, there are usually some serious problems with the car.

    24. McLaren has had a very difficult time developing this car throughout the entire season.

      They did alright up until Silverstone.

      1. Yeah that’s true. They were way behind in Bahrain compared to the Red Bull’s but then seemed to catch up quite well.

        1. Sometimes I wonder if they would have been better off without that EBD. That’s when it all started going wrong, no flexi-wing didn’t help of course.

          McLaren should have really looked into making a B-spec of their car that was better at the slow-speed corners, because it cost them at Hungary, Singapore and maybe Monza too. Their design seems to have sacrificed their old strength for the sake of fast-corner stability too much at these circuits and it could hurt them again in the next races.

    25. Excellent article, Keith. My hunch says Webber won’t be in the podium here. I like Alonso, Vettel and Lewis here, not necessarily in this order.

    26. I’m expecting Lewis to take pole and win, plus both Vettel and Webber to have terrible engine problems and wind up with DNFs. Should be an exciting race.

    27. You didn’t mention Kobayashi? It’s a Red Bull circuit so far it looks like & I think they will do great, Ferrari will be their biggest challenge as we know they are great his high speed (Monza) & slow speed (Marina Bay) circuits .The biggest question is how better will be Mclaren? They didn’t showed any pace in Suzuka,for Button & Hamilton to stay in the fight they needs to build a good enough car so that they can bring some podiums finishes in this race.

    28. Polesitter will get to paint on the blendline

    29. I have a feeling Vettel will take Webber out in Korea

      1. trulli dead09
        21st October 2010, 11:30

        WHy would he-that would mean he has 14 points in 2 races to make up and chances are Alonso would jump both of them in the championship. If he really needs to adopt Schumi-esque tactics he should hit Alonso from the side to help Mark win the championship.

    Comments are closed.