Vettel should expect no favours from Webber

2012 Korean Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Mark Webber pipped Sebastian Vettel to pole position in Korea.

And he’s already given short shrift to suggestions he might drive to help his team mate improve his position in the championship.

“I need to win, so that’s my goal,” said Webber when asked the inevitable question about team orders during Thursday’s press conference. “I’ve come here to push.”

Last year saw the first dry-weather start in Korea and it was a dramatic affair with much swapping of positions which set the shape of the race. Who will come out on top this time?

The start

The Korea International Circuit offers little grip at all – whether a driver starts on the racing line or off it. So starting off-line is not necessarily a disaster for the likes of Vettel and Fernando Alonso, particularly as the run to the first corner is so short.

“I don’t think it’s a big disadvantage,” said second-placed Vettel in today’s press conference. “Surely I think I would rather be on pole but qualifying is over so we start from second and I don’t think it’s a big problem.

“Last year we made a good launch and I think here that you never know what happens. You might as well start third, fourth, fifth and you could end up first by turn four, so you don’t know. There’s a long straight after the second corner.”

The 1.05km straight leading to turn three is followed by another long stretch before turn four. These offer huge potential for first-lap jousting where judicious use of KERS (for those that have it) is vital.

Last year none of the top six cars at the end of the first lap were in the same positions they’d occupied at the exit of turn one. So even if pole sitter Webber comes out of turn one in the lead he’ll need to keep an eye on his mirrors.

Some drivers can’t afford to be as aggressive as others, notably the top title contenders. Alonso has had enough first-lap disasters already this year and he acknowledged his potential vulnerability at the start: “Maybe I might lose a few places immediately after the start, as I’m on the dirty side of the track, but we have shown we have a good pace over a long run and so we should be able to stay with the lead group.”

Romain Grosjean would do well to borrow Alonso’s philosophy. The Lotus driver faced fresh criticism of his driving following his collision with Webber at Suzuka. He needs to keep out of trouble at all costs, even if it means surrendering places at the start.


Red Bull may have locked out the front row but Friday’s practice times indicated they might not have things all their own way during the race. In the high fuel laps Ferrari, McLaren and Lotus all improved their times at a faster rate than Red Bull.

The top ten drivers will all start on super-soft tyres. Jenson Button is the first driver with a free choice of tyres, and that could prove particularly valuable here.

Two-stop strategies are expected to be commonplace, but drivers may be able to get away with one. Button could be well-placed to make that strategy work. This is a tactic Sauber have used to great effect as well, and the two C31s are lined up behind Button on the grid.

“With around 0.2 to 0.6 seconds lap time difference between the two compounds, we would expect to see two pit stops during the race, but some teams could even try one stop, as the smooth surface means that wear is low,” explained Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery. “So we could see longer stints than expected, with the front tyre being the limiting factor here.”

Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Mark WebberRed Bull1’38.3971’38.220 (-0.177)1’37.242 (-0.978)
2Sebastian VettelRed Bull1’38.2081’37.767 (-0.441)1’37.316 (-0.451)
3Lewis HamiltonMcLaren1’39.1801’38.000 (-1.180)1’37.469 (-0.531)
4Fernando AlonsoFerrari1’39.1441’37.987 (-1.157)1’37.534 (-0.453)
5Kimi RaikkonenLotus1’38.8871’38.227 (-0.660)1’37.625 (-0.602)
6Felipe MassaFerrari1’38.9371’38.253 (-0.684)1’37.884 (-0.369)
7Romain GrosjeanLotus1’38.8631’38.275 (-0.588)1’37.934 (-0.341)
8Nico HulkenbergForce India1’38.9811’38.428 (-0.553)1’38.266 (-0.162)
9Nico RosbergMercedes1’38.9991’38.417 (-0.582)1’38.361 (-0.056)
10Michael SchumacherMercedes1’38.8081’38.436 (-0.372)1’38.513 (+0.077)
11Jenson ButtonMcLaren1’38.6151’38.441 (-0.174)
12Sergio PerezSauber1’38.6301’38.460 (-0.170)
13Kamui KobayashiSauber1’38.7191’38.594 (-0.125)
14Paul di RestaForce India1’38.9421’38.643 (-0.299)
15Pastor MaldonadoWilliams1’39.0241’38.725 (-0.299)
16Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso1’38.7841’39.084 (+0.300)
17Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso1’38.7441’39.340 (+0.596)
18Bruno SennaWilliams1’39.443
19Vitaly PetrovCaterham1’40.207
20Heikki KovalainenCaterham1’40.333
21Timo GlockMarussia1’41.371
22Pedro de la RosaHRT1’42.881
23Narain KarthikeyanHRT
24Charles PicMarussia1’41.317

Alonso chose to put on a set of super-soft tyres in Q1 to ensure safe passage to Q2. But he used them with impressive skill, taking just enough life out of them in Q1 to move up one position in the rankings, ensuring that Lewis Hamilton would have been eliminated instead of him had Bruno Senna improved his lap time.

He then used the same set of tyres in Q2 to set the 1’37.987 which got him into the top ten shoot-out. His economical use of tyres in qualifying may pay dividends in the race, and is further evidence of him wringing the absolute maximum out of a car which is still lacking in outright one-lap pace.

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Mark Webber34.272 (4)42.636 (2)20.334 (2)
Sebastian Vettel34.225 (2)42.828 (5)20.155 (1)
Lewis Hamilton34.287 (5)42.583 (1)20.546 (7)
Fernando Alonso34.226 (3)42.731 (3)20.456 (3)
Kimi Raikkonen34.350 (9)42.792 (4)20.483 (4)
Felipe Massa34.324 (8)42.987 (7)20.573 (8)
Romain Grosjean34.441 (14)42.921 (6)20.530 (6)
Nico Hulkenberg34.423 (13)43.152 (8)20.662 (10)
Nico Rosberg34.185 (1)43.183 (10)20.806 (14)
Michael Schumacher34.306 (7)43.196 (11)20.801 (13)
Jenson Button34.382 (10)43.227 (12)20.706 (11)
Sergio Perez34.512 (16)43.174 (9)20.614 (9)
Kamui Kobayashi34.400 (11)43.315 (15)20.507 (5)
Paul di Resta34.487 (15)43.290 (13)20.719 (12)
Pastor Maldonado34.540 (17)43.311 (14)20.835 (15)
Daniel Ricciardo34.420 (12)43.418 (16)20.857 (16)
Jean-Eric Vergne34.288 (6)43.599 (17)20.857 (16)
Bruno Senna34.708 (18)43.667 (18)20.935 (18)
Vitaly Petrov34.882 (20)44.162 (19)21.163 (19)
Heikki Kovalainen34.850 (19)44.210 (20)21.273 (20)
Timo Glock35.315 (21)44.684 (22)21.372 (21)
Pedro de la Rosa35.748 (23)45.455 (23)21.678 (23)
Narain Karthikeyan59.901 (24)31.840 (24)
Charles Pic35.467 (22)44.475 (21)21.375 (22)

You don’t need to look at the sector times to know Vettel let a chance of starting from pole position slip through his fingers. He was visibly unhappy after catching Massa during Q3, costing him time.

“I don’t want to blame it on Felipe,” he said afterwards. “I don’t like all these discussions; we’ve had a lot of them lately. These things happen, it’s not Felipe’s fault at all. I should have known earlier. If anything it was my mistake.”

Speed trap

PosDriverCarSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso325.1 (202.0)
2Nico RosbergMercedes320.5 (199.1)-4.6
3Michael SchumacherMercedes320.0 (198.8)-5.1
4Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso319.2 (198.3)-5.9
5Kamui KobayashiSauber317.6 (197.3)-7.5
6Sergio PerezSauber317.4 (197.2)-7.7
7Charles PicMarussia315.6 (196.1)-9.5
8Fernando AlonsoFerrari315.6 (196.1)-9.5
9Felipe MassaFerrari315.5 (196.0)-9.6
10Timo GlockMarussia315.4 (196.0)-9.7
11Bruno SennaWilliams314.8 (195.6)-10.3
12Romain GrosjeanLotus314.7 (195.5)-10.4
13Pastor MaldonadoWilliams314.7 (195.5)-10.4
14Jenson ButtonMcLaren313.8 (195.0)-11.3
15Nico HulkenbergForce India313.7 (194.9)-11.4
16Lewis HamiltonMcLaren313.7 (194.9)-11.4
17Pedro de la RosaHRT313.7 (194.9)-11.4
18Paul di RestaForce India313.4 (194.7)-11.7
19Mark WebberRed Bull312.0 (193.9)-13.1
20Sebastian VettelRed Bull311.9 (193.8)-13.2
21Heikki KovalainenCaterham311.7 (193.7)-13.4
22Vitaly PetrovCaterham311.7 (193.7)-13.4
23Kimi RaikkonenLotus310.2 (192.7)-14.9
24Narain KarthikeyanHRT305.2 (189.6)-19.9

Raikkonen is using Lotus’s new Coanda exhaust which should improve his car’s downforce but appears to be having a negative effect on his straight-line speed.

With Narain Karthikeyan not setting a time due to his brake failure, Raikkonen’s car was the slowest in a straight line during qualifying.

Over to you

Who will prevail in the battle of the Red Bulls? Or will one of their rivals keep them from victory?

Share your views on the Korean Grand Prix in the comments.

2012 Korean Grand Prix

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    Keith Collantine
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    43 comments on “Vettel should expect no favours from Webber”

    1. Speed trap data is interesting. Weren’t Mclarens slowest in FP? Ferrari has small amount of advantage in straight so first lap would be crucial for them since rest part of the track would be not their side than sector 1. Also I expect Mercedes’ massive maximum speed will help them. Their tyre consumption is worrying though.

      1. @eggry

        Weren’t Mclarens slowest in FP?

        Yep. They’re not hugely quicker now but they’re in the ballpark.

        1. Red Bull have dropped down the order as well, perhaps they have better straight lone speed relative to other teams with higher fuel loads on board but who knows.

    2. The sector times really show that Webber done the best job. The ultimate lap would be Rosberg/Hamilton/Vettel 1:36.923.

    3. Ferrari is arguably the best at the start but launching it up from the dirty side of the track and being more mindful of potential entanglements, they may not necessarily be the case at Korea. One possible scenario for the start could be that VET is wheel to wheel with HAM into first corner which can be either disaster for both or HAM pushed outside in turn 1.

      1. And I don’t think VET will be handed position by WEB. Most likely pit stop or something shall shift their position if VET is keeping his car at shooting distance, which I reckon Red Bull is very good at.

        1. @leotef, I am guessing Vettel will force his way past Webber in turn 1 possibly pushing Webber of track and allowing a couple of other cars through.
          If Webber refuses to yield and they crash, it will be Webbers fault.
          If Webbers yields and loses the lead, it will be Webbers fault.

          1. If Webber refuses to yield and they crash, it will be Webbers fault.If Webbers yields and loses the lead, it will be Webbers fault.

            I love this.

          2. it will be Webbers fault.

            According to who? The team? The stewards? (I’d be very surprised if you mean the press or the general public.)

            1. The team. If Vettel tried to force Webber off the circuit and Webber refused, with the end result being a collision, the stewards would likely side with Webber because Vettel’s move would be unnecessary.

          3. @HoHum, LoL. That’s quite plausible. :P

    4. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jenson starting on the softs tomorrow, rather than the super softs. The tyre might be slower straight away, but given that he’ll probably have a new set of them, and his usual tyre conserving ability, he could end up pumping in some quick times in free air, when those in front come in to pit.

      I reckon he can pull himself into the top 5-6, but he’ll need to be very good (And possibly lucky) to get on the podium, with the likes of the Ferraris, Lotuses, and Hamilton in front of him, not to mention the Red Bulls obviously (Though I’m not sure how their race pace will fare).

      1. I think that’s pretty much certain for BUT, just like Perez style. But not so sure of its effectiveness. Can soft compound keep running up to 22-24 without much loss of time?

        1. @leotef – In FP2 the super-soft appeared to be “going off” after about 16-18 laps during the race simulations on heavy fuel. With fundamentally more track grip now I think he could afford to go perhaps 25 laps or more (provided he doesn’t get stuck in the turbulent air of the cars ahead for too long) before having to pit. I’m not sure if he’d use the softs first though, if he tries a one-stop (which I presume he will given his grid position) he might be better off starting on the super-soft to gain as much time as possible in the first stint.

      2. I expect Button to be in the mix if he can avoid Grosjean at the start. The ridiculous tyre ruling makes me think he’s about net 5th or 6th on the grid at the moment.

        1. Nope, he’s definitely 11th. I think you are understating the difference each place on the grid is worth.

      3. If they want to be able to do a one stop works they need to start on the soft, on full load we have seen on other track that the harder was not much slower but hold for much longer and allowing to have less load on the softer compound reaching max distance on one stop.
        This was obvious from previous GP with medium-soft or hard-medium combinaison but I don’t know for soft-super soft … But I don’t think Button have much to lose to start on soft, and he definitly has much to gain

      4. It would be interesting to see Button start on softs and manage to do a long first stint, maybe 35 to 40 laps and then a shorter final stint of 15-20 laps. That would give him an advantage in the final part of the race and the chance of getting a podium.
        The problem is making the tyres last so long while maintaining a good pace.
        That´s also Sauber´s favourite strategy and I´m pretty sure that they´ll give it a try.

      5. Raikkonen is using Lotus’s new Coanda exhaust which should improve his car’s downforce but appears to be having a negative effect on his straight-line speed.

        Doesn’t Grosjean have Coanda exhaust?

        1. Oups, this wasn’t supposed to be a response to JamieFranklin.

        2. @hotbottoms – to answer your question anyway, no. The team thought he’d be better off focusing on not crashing than anything else.

    5. I think that Vettel is faster than Webber in all the right places to snatch victory from Webber; faster through S3 and S1, whih lead into each other, and with the DRS addition, Vettel should have no problems getting Webber if he doesn’t get him at the start.
      If he does, then I expect him to pull away at a vast rate of knots to quote Brundle.
      Either way, i can only see Vettel winning it.

      1. Especially with how Webber’s starts are.

    6. The first sector of the first lap will be crucial tomorrow. For the first corner, the battle between the Red Bulls will be interesting. I expect Webber and Vettel to be side-by-side into turn 1. There won’t be any team orders at that stage, I would think, but how hard will Webber dare to defend, and Vettel dare to attack? They can both be pretty tough racers at times.

      I can only see Hamilton making up a place before turn 1 if Vettel bogs down. There’s unlikely to be room on the inside between Vettel and Webber, nor round the outside of Webber. If Mark bogs down, though, Hamilton could be boxed in and passed by Alonso. As @vettel1 mentioned on another page, Hamilton seems to be having a terrible time in turn 1 this weekend (and if I remember the 2010 Grand Prix, he was having trouble braking into T1 then as well), so I hope we won’t see a massive lock-up and Lewis smashing into the back of Webber’s Red Bull.

      Fernando has sounded a little cautious along the lines of “maybe we will lose a few places at the start”, but I doubt this will translate into actual cautious driving. Alonso is excellent at using controlled aggression to make up places in the first few laps of a Grand Prix, and I don’t expect him to pass up an opportunity tomorrow either.

      If a Red Bull is leading tomorrow after the first lap, I think it will be difficult to beat it. Even if they have slightly weaker race pace, it will be difficult for anyone to pass them on track given their strong sector 3. Also, since this race is expected to be a comfortable two-stopper, it probably won’t matter if Red Bull have to make their first stop a few laps earlier. Unless of course Alonso can get away with a one-stopper, though I don’t expect that.

      There might be others capable of a one-stop, though. In Canada, with the same tyre allocation, we saw Grosjean and Perez have fantastic pace on a one-stop strategy, and perhaps that group can be joined by Button tomorrow.

    7. Now I understand why Kimi was constantly slower compare to everyone in first sector. His KERS better not fail him at start!!! :)

      1. That makes his 5th place qualifying result even better considering he had the slowest straight line speed AND HE’S NEVER DRIVEN THIS TRACK BEFORE! I hope his car fairs well against the pack tomorrow.

        1. It usually only takes drivers two or three laps to learn a circuit. And Raikkonen would have driven it in the simulator.

      2. He still only lost 2 tenths to Rosberg with that massive 10km/h top speed deficit. I hope they geared it right for him.

        That’s a question actually @Keithcollantine : are they allowed different gear ratios on the two cars?

          1. @raymondu999 Thank you.

            That leaves at least the possibility I guess that they haven’t left Raikkonen too vulnerable for the race. Still not sure how it will work out for him defending though. Here’s hoping he can pull a Vettel and pull away enough in S3 to not be in danger from DRS.

    8. Really looking forward to this one. In a way the championship is more interesting now it’s two drivers so close. There’s plenty of interesting battles coming up at the start and Korea has what is probably the best first sector in terms of race starts – as we’d seen last year with many great battles on the opening lap.

      Then there’s the battle for the win – Red Bulls up against each other, and as many as three other teams potentially being as fast as Red Bull on race pace. Add to that the chance of someone doing what Grosjean and Perez did in Montreal and we’ve got a great race coming up.

      I think as many as the top seven could have a chance of winning tomorrow, and I wouldn’t completely rule out drivers starting in 11th, 12th and 13th neither. Can’t wait!

    9. Like last year, I’m expecting a pretty epic fight from the star until the field reaches T6. It’s impossible to say who’ll come out on top, as the track is wide and there are so many variables in the game; like using KERS, is it worth trying overtaking into T3 and get a poor exit onto the following straight, do you take the outside line into T4 to get on the inside for T5 and so on.

      It’ll be interesting to see if Kimi’s poor top speed has an effect on his race pace, he isn’t that far off the Red Bulls in the speed trap, but definitely lacking some downforce compared to them. Hopefully he doesn’t get stuck behind someone slower again.

    10. As far as I can see, Alonso has the best set-up carrying 3rd in all sectors. Well done Fred! ;-)

    11. In this series of multi-million dollar race events, would it be too much to have the track promoters chase a street sweeper around the track prior to practice? After all, Korea has had around 360 days to perform that feat.
      I’m sorry, but I’m just sick and tired of everyone whining about dusty or dirty race tracks, and even NASCAR maintains their tracks better than F1.

    12. I just hope that tomorrow there are the usual “kamikaze” on Sunday and you can assistire a hardened street without risks, nor for the Ferrari nor for his rivals.

      If I can, I would to add a small note about the yellow flags: being a problem now common, especially in qualifying, why not return to the glorious rule of 60 minutes all on the floor, eliminating the elimination of the pilots? Also because, given the restrictions test individuals, small teams will have the opportunity to test more thoroughly its cars to improve and develop in the best way.

      1. “assistire” = to assist

        Sorry for bad translation :)

    13. If any drivers KERS fails, then theyre literally a sitting duck with the straight being that long
      Webber needs to sort his starts, that said my guess is Vettel will lead into turn one. Even if he doesnt, Vettel will overtake Webber down the straight, behind them i think there will be a fascinating battle between Hamilton/Alonso and Raikkonen for second,third and 4th
      I also have this bad feeling Grosjean will crash again and if he doesnt, he will get a podium

    14. The shot of Vettel before He talked to WEB an HAM was priceless, a cross between the fuhrer an stewie……victory will be mine.

    15. I expect the Lotuses to be rather vulnerable on those straights. Just looking at that data.

      Hopefully Rosberg should be able to make up some places however (for once). That’s a very quick first sector time…

      1. @electrolite It would be quite a big departure for them if they were slow on the straights as earlier this year they were really, really fast on them.

    16. They’ll just give Webber the wrong clutch settings for the start or put him on a strategy with more stops and get him caught in traffic. He’ll have no say in the matter.

    17. That photo of Seb and Mark should be the caption photo for the week… Fantastic!
      Then again maybe the one after the race will be more interesting?

    Comments are closed.