The Korea International Circuit is one of seven tracks on this year’s calendar to have been designed by German architect Hermann Tilke. It was built in 2010 and it has three distinct sections: long straights in sector one, some fast corners in the middle of the lap and a twisty section towards the end that has a street circuit feel.
After the excitement of Formula 1’s only night race in Singapore two weeks ago, the Korean Grand Prix starts at the more conventional time of 1500hrs. However, the early sunset in the southwest corner of Korea doesn’t give the race organisers much flexibility should the weather turn bad, as it did in 2010. A one-hour rain delay during the inaugural Korean Grand Prix resulted in the race ending at 1758, five minutes after the sun had set!
Car 5: Jenson Button
“If there’s one circuit on the F1 calendar that hasn’t been particularly kind to me, then it’s the track in Korea. I had a pretty tough race there in 2010, an average race there in ’11, and I didn’t even have a race there last year – someone smashed into me at Turn Three on the first lap, and my race was over.
“Of course, it would be easy for that to make your head drop, but, in fact, the opposite is true: I travel to Korea next week even more determined than normal to reverse the trend, get the absolute maximum from the car and get a good result. I think we had a solid weekend in Singapore, the engineers, the strategists and the mechanics got the best from the car, and we couldn’t have realistically expected more. That’s the aim again next weekend.
“This is the first of three pairs of back-to-back races that conclude the season. I think it’s very important for us to further consolidate our position in the championship, so getting points in both Korea and Japan will be important.
“We go into this weekend with maximum commitment.”
Car 6: Sergio Perez
“The Korea International Circuit is an interesting venue – it’s got two very distinct elements, the first half, which is basically a couple of heavy braking zones and three extremely long straights; and the final section, which is a long, undulating section with a mix of high- and medium-speed corners.
“It’s a somewhat technical course, one that rewards precision more than it does commitment, so the main challenge comes from dialing the car into the track, which is satisfying when you get it right because there’s a lot of time to be had from running a well-balanced car.
“The aim is also to have a car that works well in the principal overtaking areas – into Turns One and Three – which means making a little bit of a compromise to the set-up. That’s particularly important because it’s very difficult to overtake once you get into the twisty section, as there’s really only a single racing line.
“The Korean Grand Prix is a very tough race – it might not have that reputation, but, make no mistake, to do well here is always extremely rewarding.”
Martin Whitmarsh - Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
“This final leg of the world championship – in which we’ll race in six grands prix in just eight weeks – is an incredibly tough physical feat. After 13 races, and with the prospect of many more weeks spent on the road and thousands of miles spent away from home, it’s essential to remain fit, focused and dedicated in order to stave off the inevitable burnout that comes at the end of such a long year.
“For Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, we go into these final races with the very clear intention of consolidating our position in the constructors’ championship. While improving our position sadly looks impossible, it’s important to consistently achieve top-10 finishes with both drivers in order to strengthen our points cushion over our closest rivals behind. We achieved that in Singapore and will be looking for similar performances from now until the end of the season.
“That may not be a particularly glamorous task for a team that enjoys winning, but it nonetheless calls for constant application, focus and commitment as we count down the remaining races during this important phase of the season.”
A #mclaren50 moment
Korean Grand Prix, 23 October 2011
Lewis Hamilton takes a stunning pole position in his MP4-26, ahead of Sebastian Vettel and his Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team-mate Jenson Button. Lewis then leads away from the line at the start, but Vettel muscles his way into the lead on the opening lap and the world champion-elect is never headed.
A Safety Car on lap 17, following a crash involving Michael Schumacher and Vitaly Petrov, closes up the field. But such is the pace of the Red Bulls that Vettel quickly opens up his lead and Lewis is forced to focus on Mark Webber, whose RB7 is looming large in his mirrors. The pair pit on the same lap for their second and final pitstops and they have an epic dice during the closing laps of the race.
“It was pretty incredible that I was able to stay ahead of Mark,” says Lewis. “His car was so fast, but I drove pretty well and nailed my corner exits. He wasn’t coming past!”
Lewis crosses the line 12s behind Vettel and 0.4s ahead of Webber to take his first podium finish since winning the German Grand Prix three months earlier. Jenson completes a strong day for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes by coming home fourth, a couple of seconds adrift of Webber.
Vodafone McLaren Mercedes