Vettel looks to extend dominance at Korean GP
Formula One championship leader Sebastian Vettel is cautious about the prospects of Red Bull continuing its dominance at this weekend’s Korean Grand Prix, saying the layout of the circuit does not suit the car’s strengths.
Vettel leads Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso in the drivers’ championship by 60 points with six races remaining, and while that margin could shrink with a couple of bad races, the dominant nature of the German’s victories in the past three races suggests the remainder of the season will be little more than an extended coronation.
Vettel was in a different league at the last race in Singapore, with the twisty confines of Marina Bay playing to Red Bull’s strengths.
And that came after he demonstrated that the team’s supposed vulnerabilities on the fast and flowing tracks was overstated, given his comfortable wins in Belgium and Italy.
The Yeongam circuit in South Korea combines both elements, with long straights and a technical, tight finish to the lap — and this is what has Vettel a touch concerned.
“I love the curvy part because it’s a lot more fun, whereas the straight lines and sharp turns can be a little boring,” Vettel said. “They are also our weakness, because (we) often lack in top speed there.”
Ferrari had said the Singapore race would determine its plans for the remainder of the year — the team would either keep pushing to develop the current car or accept defeat and turn its resources toward the design of the radically different 2014 model with V6 turbo engines.
Alonso’s second-place finish to Vettel left the team not quite ready to abandon its 2013 ambitions. But a win for Vettel in South Korea would all but seal a fourth straight championship for the German.
Vettel has won the past two races at the Yeongam track. He was also leading in the inaugural Korean race in 2010 until suffering a rare engine failure.
That blown engine had seemed at the time to be a fatal blow to Vettel’s maiden title ambitions, as Alonso took a strong lead in the championship, but the German won the remaining two races to pip the Ferrari driver to the title by just four points.
This may well be the last race in South Korea. It has been included in a proposed 22-race calendar for 2014 but is only listed as provisional. If the teams succeed in their effort to cut back the number of races to 20 — and New Jersey and Mexico both complete their new circuits in time — the Yeongam grand prix may be jettisoned.
The murky deal-making of F1 has been in overdrive since Singapore, with the completion of a new Concorde Agreement — which sets the framework upon which F1 teams participate in the championship and share in its commercial success — and the announcement of the proposed 2014 calendar.
The completion of a Concorde Agreement between the FIA — the sport’s governing body — the teams, and the sport’s commercial rights holder headed by F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone should provide some certainty going forward and boost the election campaign of current FIA president Jean Todt, who is running for a second term this year.
A meeting of the World Motor Sports Council also proposed the FIA would have the right to accept bids to be the sport’s monopoly tire supplier and fuels/lubricants provider.
The former raises more questions about the status of Pirelli, whose tire deal with F1 expires this year, although the company has sounded confident of securing a new long-term agreement. The latter is a new development that threatens to impinge upon team’s lucrative deals with their own fuel suppliers.