Championship leader Webber beats rivals to top the timesheets in Korean Grand Prix Practice Mark Webber, who currently leads in the fight for the Formula One Drivers' title, finished today's practice for the inaugural Korean Grand Prix, ahead of...
Championship leader Webber beats rivals to top the timesheets in Korean Grand Prix Practice
Mark Webber, who currently leads in the fight for the Formula One Drivers' title, finished today's practice for the inaugural Korean Grand Prix, ahead of the other top five contenders. For the first time in the sport, the drivers took to the Yeongam circuit, but it was the Australian who impressed in second practice, and set a final lap time of 1:37.942s, with Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso following behind in second, and Lewis Hamilton completed the session third in his McLaren.
Webber seemed to be quite satisfied with his first performance, round the new race track on the Formula One calendar. "The track changed a lot today, obviously it's a new venue and it was slippery in P1. It started to get more sensible as the day went on, but it's the same for everyone and we just have to keep chipping away, doing what we can with our programme and working with the car. It was a positive day and the car ran well; there was a lot of information to gather and we've done that pretty successfully. We're optimistic with today's performance and now we're focusing on getting ready for tomorrow."
Despite the Ferrari drivers having a fairly quiet first session, Alonso was the best of the two to impress in second practice, leaving his Brazilian team mate, Felipe Massa, trailing in sixth position.
Alonso commented on the new track: "This track is nice to drive, very interesting with three sectors each different to the other. In the first one, you need a very good top speed, in the second there are fast corners, with the third one featuring slow turns: it will therefore be interesting to see what set-up choices the various teams will make for qualifying and the race."
Hamilton's team mate, Jenson Button, did not quite experience the same fate and especially earlier on in the day. The defending World Champion was forced to retreat to the pits, after suffering with overheating problems, at the rear of the sister McLaren. Once the mechanics worked their magic on the car after having to use fire extinguishers, Button was free to complete second practice on a clean slate. He ended the day in fifth place, just behind the Renault of Robert Kubica.
"I lost a little bit of time in the afternoon session, which was disappointing because I didn't get to run with high fuel," said Button. "The car just overheated -- so I jumped out in the pitlane because it started smoking -- and we lost a bit of time tidying it up. Apart from that, it's been a pretty good day."
Although Button had a positive result in the afternoon session, practice 2 did feature a troublesome incident, which affected the whole of the field. Sakon Yamamoto spun in his Hispania car at Turn sixteen, which meant it had to be red flagged for a short while. The Japanese driver and his Brazilian team mate, Bruno Senna, continued the day in a disappointing fashion, as they failed to improve their positions on the track. Senna already had a few difficulties during first practice; when he stopped at Turn nine, as his left rear suspension was out of shape. The situation worsened when he spun, and he had not even got to the barriers. Both cars finished second practice lining up at the very back, with Yamamoto in 23rd position, and Senna just behind in 24th place.
Massa did manage to get in front of the other Red Bull driver, Sebastian Vettel. The German unfortunately lost out on a higher position, after getting a puncture, and he ended the day in seventh place.
The second Renault driver, Vitaly Petrov made it to an eighth place finish, with the Mercedes driver, Nico Rosberg in ninth, and Kamui Kobayashi taking the final top ten spot for Sauber. His German team mate, Nick Heidfeld, lined up next in 11th position, and was faster than the other Mercedes driver, seven-time World Champion, Michael Schumacher.
Schumacher had familiar company, with former Ferrari team mate, Rubens Barrichello, ending practice in 13th place for Williams. His German team mate, Nico Hulkenberg, was in a Force India sandwich as he finished in 16th with Vitantonio Liuzzi just pipping team mate, Adrian Sutil to 14th position.
Towards the back of the field, the Toro Rosso drivers completed the session ahead of the new teams in Formula One. Jaime Alguersuari beat his team mate to 17th place, and this left Sebastian Buemi in 18th position.
As it looks to be confirmed that Lotus will end their first season in Formula One in tenth place for the Constructors' title, both drivers seem to have started the weekend, at an unfamiliar track in good form. Heikki Kovalainen landed himself 19th place, with his Italian team mate, Jarno Trulli, securing 20th position.
As a result of the Hispania cars having a bad day on the track, Virgin Racing lined up next to Lotus, as Timo Glock was 21st, and Lucas Di Grassi finished in 22nd position.
Throughout the second session at times the front-runners were level pegging in terms of position. The lead was frequently changing between those, fighting at the top of the Drivers' Championship. Even though Webber managed to grab the top spot before qualifying tomorrow, his team mate, Vettel, was the first driver to set a time in the 1:40s.
With all of the drivers in the field on new territory at the circuit in South Korea, today's first taster has even proved to be a challenge, for the most experienced ones on the grid. However, Red Bull's Webber, appears to be the one to beat in qualifying, after he certainly made his mark in practice today.
No doubt the debriefing by the drivers will be long as each car's engineering staff and crew members will try to sort out what is best for their car and driver before practice 3 tomorrow. The 5.621 km, 18 turn track that on a map looks likes snakes curving from nose-to-tail in a variety of shapes to form the layout of the Yeongam circuit. Perhaps that is why photographers were taking photos of snakes on and off track during the first practice. Tomorrow they will be greeted by a change to pit entry to ease the complaints by the drivers.
The most notable comment of the day came from Nick Craw, FIA senate president who was asked if other new tracks could delay their final inspection just days before their event. Craw's reply was a clear "No"!
"That probably protects everybody's interest a little better than running right up against the event and saying, 'Golly gee, we've got it wrong'," Craw explained. It appears the 90-day new track rule will be enforced in the future and Craw's comments came after his meeting with the American Grand Prix organizers in Austin, Texas.