Practice Sessions, FP1:
A very good morning in Korea, perfect day for getting all the data in. But only downside as we have seen in previous years is the lack of supporters, perhaps the track being far from the main city a big reason for it. The on track action was on as per schedule but with less use of the track, it was quite green with no rubber laid on it. We saw lot of spins from the rookie drivers as well as the senior drivers. Hamilton led the pack with Vettel & Webber on his tail. Sutil got the SFI to P12 while James got another drive finishing a good P18 in his second appearance.
The weather continued to be good for teams to practice well, their new parts and work the all important long runs. It seemed that RBR have a challenge in their hands with Hamilton once again leading the pack, first time since Brazil 2012 that he has led both the Friday session. Vettel was behind him with Rosberg rounding off at P3. Both SFI were separated by just 0.001 seconds, shows the closeness between the drivers and how evenly both our matched. Sutil ended P10 while di Resta got back to the car to end P11, a decent Friday outing for the team.
A relatively quite session of running on Saturday morning with another good day, weather wise for practice. After a Mercedes dominated Friday, RBR came back to edge out the Mercedes duo as Vettel took P1 with Webber behind & Rosberg at P3. A touch average session for both the SFI as Sutil ended at P13 while di Resta finished at P16 only. It was tightly packed field in the midfield as the battle for Q3 would later on be very tricky.
FP’s gave us some indication that Mercedes could get the pole but there was no point in counting out the RBR yet, Vettel was surely aiming for another pole and a win thereafter. It was a bit difficult session for SFI as they focused more on race pace which looked rather good. The one lap pace was still a bit behind but they were right in the mix to get into Q3 and that was the aim surely.
A bright day for qualifying as sun shone on the Korean International circuit while the teams headed out in the first session to get into Q2. Lot of teams used the super soft tyres to be on the safe side apart from the RBR duo, Hamilton & Grosjean. Kimi ended P1 with Rosberg & Hulkenberg P2 & P3 respectively. Sutil got through safely towards the end of the session while it was a scare for di Resta as he was very much on the brink of getting knocked out after he was held by slow moving Bianchi on his fast lap. Thankfully the Williams duo didn’t improve allowing di Resta to go through.
A much more intense session as lot of teams eye to get into top 10 specially the midfield team. They always look for an opportunity be it on pace or due to bad luck to any big team driver. Vettel got back to grove topping the session with Hamilton & Webber behind him. This session saw the end of qualifying for both the SFI cars as Sutil qualified at P14 & di Resta just behind him at P15. Surely, the team would have hoped for more but both the drivers said that it was the maximum they could do suggesting that they had opted for a better race pace set up.
It was only the first run for Vettel but it seemed that the qualifying was done and dusted. Everyone did came out for their second run but no one could better the time of Vettel. Hamilton came close but only managed P2 in the end while Webber qualified P3 but would push down to P13 as Grosjean improved to P3 (due to Webber’s penalty). Alonso was way down at P6 as usual with Kimi only managing P10 blaming himself for a mistake on his fast lap.
Well, qualifying was straight forward in the end, Vettel took it without having to run again. Hamilton & also Grosjean could have beaten him but they fell short. Although Q3 was the aim for at least one of the SFI duo as they were close too with only 0.069s separating P10 & P14. Still the team were upbeat about scoring points as the race pace looked similar to what they had in Singapore. It was good that McLaren too were knocked out in Q2 which made the fight much more interesting.
Before the weekend, there was a big question mark over the weather. It was predicted that there could be a typhoon coming the track’s way on Sunday. But as expected the typhoon threat resided but rain was still predicted. And in the end nothing happened at all, slight rain before race only. Although the track became cooler than what the team practiced on Friday & Saturday but that didn’t change the order by much. Vettel got a great start and led the way as others tangled behind. Grosjean made a move on Hamilton and there he was at P2, behind him Alonso couldn’t make any ground this time around and neither did Kimi by much. Massa spun at the back which pushed him back, otherwise all had a start without any issues. SFI duo didn’t get a good start as Sutil was hit on his front wing as he was trying to evade Massa and he required a wing change which pushed him down while di Resta was running at P13 after the opening lap.
Vettel was up ahead once again without much of a challenge up until the first SC period when Perez’s car suffered a delamination which the Pirelli subjected it to the big lock up by Perez at T1. Things were cleared and the race was on again when another SC period was thrown in when Webber’s car caught fire after he was hit by Sutil. A bizarre situation saw a fire truck leading the race at one point before the second SC started. Between the two SC period, Kimi got ahead till P2 after a brilliant move on his team mate at the pit straight. Meanwhile, Hulkenberg moved to P4 immediately keeping Hamilton & Alonso behind. A big fight was on between the 3 drivers while Button & Rosberg had a fight of their own behind.
It was difficult start for the SFI duo and they were up fighting through the field. At front di Resta was in the points at one stage, it was tough out there for him with a big fight with the similar paced cars but he was hanging out there. After his second pit stop, he crashed out of the race with rather a strange incident which he admitted that was down to his error. Meanwhile Sutil was hanging there very close to points up until the first SC period. But as racing resumed after the first SC, he spun at T4 which pushed him further down. He was able to run still but his race was compromised big time after he was dead last for the second time in the race.
Vettel got another win his belt, not very dominating but he was always ahead of the field and especially the second placed Kimi who drove yet another superb race, coming through the field with clever driving and help of SC. Grosjean took a fine P3 with a composed drive from the French, perhaps one of his best weekend this season. Hulkenberg was the man of the moment really as he finished P4 showing his special talent in that Sauber car and keeping two world champion behind him in the end. Sutil retired from the race towards the end of the race, a very troubled race for him.
The DC is very much in the bags for Vettel with 77 points lead as is the CC for RBR. It is the P2 battle in CC which is a close one as Ferrari battle out with Mercedes while in DC Alonso stands comfortably ahead of his rivals in P2. Sauber is gaining strides in CC as they move ahead of STR with equal points. For SFI it marked a tough weekend, a double DNF is surely not the result one likes to have. McLaren scored 5 points and extend their lead to 19 points. Yes, the fight has got a lot tougher but it is not over yet. 5 races to go and lots of points to play for. It’s good to have back to back weekend, with team already focusing on Japan now. See you at the other side of Japan weekend.
Thanks for reading,