The Korean Grand Prix is hardly one of the most popular races to begin with, but as typhoon Fitow looms, the race is under threat of being cancelled. This would be rather unfortunate, considering the typhoon is only expected on Sunday and all the Formula One teams are already in Korea. Awkward. There is apparently only a slight chance of the full force of Fitow hitting the race track, so there is a good chance the race will go on as planned. This will be the fourth running of the Korean Grand Prix and with the race only being provisionally confirmed for 2014, it may very well be the last. Expect a rainy Grand Prix, very probably another weekend of boos for Vettel and Red Bull dominance. Both drivers have been on the podium for the last two years in Korea.
Sebastian Vettel extended his lead at the top of the Championship with a win in Singapore to claim his third checkered flag in a row. A sublime drive by the World Champion left the rest of the field battling it out for second place. Ricciardo sent his Toro Rosso into a wall, resulting in a safety car that closed up the field but did nothing to prevent Vettel from streaking off into the distance again when it returned to the pits. Romain Grosjean failed to finish because of car trouble but his Lotus teammate, Raikkonen, exceeded expectations and ended up on the bottom step of the podium despite suffering back trouble and starting in thirteenth. Fernando Alonso received a second place trophy after a brilliant start which gained him a few places, as well as a scolding from the stewards after he gave Mark Webber a lift back to the pits when the Australian’s car caught fire and he was forced to abandon it on the track. To add to Webber’s bad luck in Singapore, he received a ten place grid penalty for catching a lift on the Ferrari. Nico Rosberg had an exciting start as he snuck past Vettel to take the lead for approximately five seconds, until the World Champion grabbed back his place at the front. Rosberg finished fourth, in front of his Mercedes teammate Hamilton in fifth. Paul Di Resta lost out on a points finish when he drove his car into a barrier, leaving Massa free to gain a position and eventually finish sixth. The two McLarens ended up in seventh and eighth, still unable to really challenge the faster cars and Hulkenberg and Sutil claimed the last two points positions for Sauber and Force India.
The drivers will complete 55 laps of the 5.62km Korean International Circuit, which is one of the few anti-clockwise tracks on the Formula One calendar. The circuit, which is situated in what can only be called the middle of nowhere, is a fairly challenging track, with eighteen turns and some long straights, requiring high speeds as well as high downforce. The track was made to encourage overtaking and the two DRS zones will hopefully add to the possibility of an exciting race. The circuit is rarely used, so expect performance to increase as the weekend goes on. Tyre wear is not really an issue in Korea and Pirelli have chosen the red super-soft and white medium compounds. The safety car is a common sight and with the typhoon expected to hit on Sunday, there’s a good chance it will make an appearance during the race.
To Win Outright
Sebastian Vettel 13/20
Fernando Alonso 5/1
Lewis Hamilton 5/1
Kimi Raikonnen 10/1
Nico Rosberg 12/1
Romain Grosjean 40/1
Mark Webber 40/1
Jenson Button 80/1
Felipe Massa 80/1
Sergio Perez 200/1
Mark Webber (40/1 a win, 11/2 a podium finish)
He’s been handed a ten place grid penalty for his Ferrari taxi ride in Singapore, so Webber’s hopes are not looking good. However, the Aussie has performed well in Korea in the past and if he manages a strong qualifying, a podium may not be out of reach if Raikkonen’s performance in Singapore is anything to go by. Webber qualified first and finished second in 2012, so if Red Bull come up with a good strategy and he doesn’t suffer another unfortunate car issue, he could still be on the podium this weekend.
Nico Rosberg (12/1 a win, 7/4 a podium finish)
Rosberg had fans entranced at the start of the Singapore Grand Prix as he bravely battled with Vettel for first place. Unfortunately he didn’t manage to better the World Champion but he is proving to be a rather fierce competitor. The friendly rivalry between him and his teammate adds much needed excitement to the Vettel dominated world of F1 and after just missing a podium finish at the last race, he’ll be looking to score big in Korea. Also keep an eye on his teammate Hamilton, who finished third here last year.
Kimi Raikkonen (10/1 a win, 8/10)
Raikkonen is still struggling with the back injury that bothered him in Singapore but is said to be sure that he will be fit for this weekend’s Grand Prix. Despite the trouble with his back, Kimi seems to be on form again, with a very impressive drive from thirteenth to third in the last race, so I’d keep an eye on him in Korea. The Lotus man finished fifth in Korea last year so will be looking to improve. His Championship hopes have been extinguished but the Finn will be keen to impress his new bosses at Ferrari by scoring some decent points and I think he should be up on the podium on Sunday.
POLE POSITION: Sebastian Vettel 7/10
Sebastian Vettel is a double winner in Korea and is the clear favourite, having won the race for the last two years. He will be gunning for the hat trick and as his recent form suggests, he will most probably succeed. His lead at the top of the Championship is growing larger by the race and unless he starts dramatically underperforming, it looks like he has the Championship in the bag. Putting money on Vettel these days is a rather safe bet and sadly not very profitable but it seems the German is becoming unbeatable with three wins in a row now. Korea will probably see him make that a fourth, but I’m only going to back him for pole in a hope that somebody can break the grip he has on the checkered flag.
TO WIN: Fernando Alonso 5/1
If anyone can beat Vettel on Sunday, it’s Alonso. Although the Ferraris tend to battle in qualifying, Alonso’s lightning quick starts send him flying up the field. He has been Vettel’s main rival in the Championship for years and if he has any hope of catching the German, Alonso has to win. Second place in the last race as well as strong performances all season prove that the car has the speed and the Spaniard is up for the challenge. He won here in 2010, perhaps only because Vettel suffered a car failure, but it is a win nonetheless. Some more mechanical difficulties at Red Bull would be welcomed and would definitely assist Alonso, but unfortunately these days they only seem to affect Webber’s car. At 5/1 there is some decent money to be made if Alonso manages a win this weekend.