Korean Grand Prix: McLaren previews Yeongam

Oct.9 (McLaren) The Korean International Circuit provides the teams with a fascinating technical challenge. The first half of the 18-corner racetrack contains several high-speed corners and a 1.2km straight, while the end of the lap is tight, twisty and hemmed in by walls. Car set-up is a compromise between straight-line speed and low-speed grip.

There are several overtaking opportunities around the lap, the most obvious being into Turn Three. The cars exceed 310km/h (and will also benefit from DRS) along the preceding straight: a crest in the braking area also makes it easy to lock a wheel and make a mistake. Other passing opportunities are into Turns 4 and 10.

In the two Korean races to date, cloudy conditions have led to low track temperatures. That has made tyre warm-up difficult, particularly in qualifying, and the teams are preparing for more of the same this year. Another natural influence on car performance is the sea-level location of the circuit. The high atmospheric pressure has a positive effect on engine performance and aerodynamics.

Lewis has a strong record at the Korean Grand Prix, having finished second in both races to date. Jenson’s best result was fourth in 2011.

McLaren at the Korean Grand Prix
Wins: 0
Poles: 1 (2011)
Fastest Laps: 0

Car 3: Jenson Button:
“We had a strong race in Japan, now I hope we can take maintain that momentum through practice, qualifying and the race next weekend.”

“The Korean International Circuit is quite a demanding place – every time you feel you’re settling into a rhythm, the track changes direction quite unexpectedly. It doesn’t have a flow of some of the other new modern facilities we’ve been to in recent years, such as the Buddh International Circuit or Istanbul Park.

“The first sector is comprised of long straights: Turns One, Three and Four are all preceded by big braking zones and require good traction at their exits. The final sector is much slower – it almost feels like a street circuit – and, again, it compromises that feeling of flow that you’re looking for throughout the lap.

“I didn’t have a great race here back in 2010, but things were better last year – I finished fourth, although it was still the only circuit in the second half of the season at which I didn’t appear on the podium. Our pace in recent races has been consistently strong, so that makes me feel confident that I can secure my best-ever result there next weekend.”

Car 4: Lewis Hamilton:
“The car that I ended the race with in Japan felt great – and I’m confident that we’ll kick off the race weekend in Korea with a strong package. I put the car on pole there last year. That was a very significant moment for me – I’d been trying so hard all year to get a pole, and it took everything I had to get the best out of the car. It was a huge effort, and a bit overwhelming at the time.

“In the race, unfortunately, we just didn’t have the pace to stay with Sebastian [Vettel] in the Red Bull – he was able to dive past me and pull away. I still managed to finish second, though: it was an unbelievably tough race – I had a handling problem because the front wing was clogged up with tyre debris, so I had to try everything to keep Mark [Webber] behind me.

“I think we’ve had the potential to win both Korean Grands Prix in the past, but I’ve never had a race weekend there on which everything has gone quite right for me. We’ve got momentum on our side once again, so I head to Korea determined to fight for victory.”

Martin Whitmarsh, Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes:
“The Korean Grand Prix is still very much a new venue for Formula 1, and I hope that the third edition of the race will help further to cement our sport’s reputation in a country that clearly embraces high technology.

“In many ways the circuit is one of the most impressive facilities we visit all year. The track configuration has been supremely well designed to generate good and close racing – something we witnessed with some degree of tension last year as Lewis valiantly battled to keep himself ahead of Mark Webber. In fact, Lewis used every trick in the book – and a few more! – to finish a brilliant second.

“The result in Suzuka showed that anything can still happen in this world championship. I’m still convinced that we can fight for, and win, both titles in 2012 – and we head to Korea determined to narrow the gap to the top in both world championship points tables.”

The Korean International Circuit has staged two grands prix in its three-year history and McLaren has finished on the podium in both. Here’s how the team defined two days in the history of the race:

1. October 24 2010
The inaugural Korean Grand Prix starts behind the Safety Car and is stopped after three laps due to heavy rain. It is re-started 40 minutes later, still behind the Safety Car, and eventually goes green on lap 17. Lewis drives a tenacious race to second place, taking the chequered flag in near darkness after the race lasts a total of 2hr48mins!

2. October 23 2011
Lewis ends Red Bull Racing’s run of 16 consecutive pole positions when he qualifies 0.2s clear of the field. He has to settle for second place in the race after Sebastian Vettel passes him on the first lap and opens a gap of 12 seconds during the course of the 55-lap race. Jenson comes home fourth in the other MP4-26.

Subbed by AJN.