Round 16 of the 2012 Formula One championship sees the teams make a relatively short journey from Suzuka across to the South Korean port city of Mokpo and the nearby Korean International Circuit.
The circuit, completed just in time for the inaugural race here in 2010, presents some stern challenges for the teams, mostly centred around how to maintain the integrity of the tyres around its 5.615km distance. With the facility being used very infrequently, the Yeongam circuit is always dirty during the weekend’s opening sessions and is low on grip. To cope with this Pirelli has brought its softest compounds. However, the circuit also has a relatively abrasive surface and a mix of mostly medium and high-speed corners, so lateral loads are high and wear rates can be debilitating. The tyres take a beating as a consequence. Good management or rubber could be the deciding factor here in Korea.
Drivers’ Championship leader Fernando Alonso suffered a shock first-lap exit in Suzuka and the incident leaves the chase for the 2012 title finely balanced. Sebastian Vettel’s win in Japan has put the Red Bull Racing driver within touching distance of the Ferrari man’s increasingly fragile lead in the standings and Alonso has thus called the final five races of the season a “mini-championship”. If that’s the case then, with just four points separating him from Vettel, the Spaniard needs a big result in round one in Korea to keep his title hopes alive.
Vettel, meanwhile, became the first driver to score consecutive wins this season with victory in Suzuka and the momentum now seems firmly with the defending champion. But the KIC has been both cruel and kind to the German, with a DNF in the inaugural race being followed by victory last year. He’ll be hoping for a repeat of 2011 but if the teams and drivers have learned one thing this season it is to expect the unexpected and this race should be no exception. A fascinating weekend awaits.
KOREAN INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT
Length of lap:
5.615km Lap record:
1:39.605 (Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing, 2011) Start line/finish line offset:
0.195km Total number of race laps:
55 Total race distance:
308.630km Pitlane speed limits:
60km/h during practice and qualifying,
100km/h during the race
Changes to the circuit since 2011
► A number of verges have been laid with asphalt and painted with green non-slip paint and drainage has been improved in the pit entry.
► The artificial grass on the exit of turn 13 has been extended as far as the end of the asphalt run-off.
► The “sausage” kerb on the apex of turn 18 has been lowered by approximately 30mm and the leading 1.5m chamfered linearly to zero.
► Higher debris fences have been installed on the right between turns 7 and 9.
► The DRS zone on the main straight has been extended by 80m.