Korea Gets Off To A Wet Start
The notable difference between this and last year was the air of calm around the circuit – no last minute touches added an additional air of uncertainty to proceedings. It was still as wet as the last time F1 was on the track though. With dryer weather expected for the rest of the weekend, lap times are probably irrelevant although McLaren led the way as they look to mark their 700th race with victory – Lewis Hamilton edging out his team mate by just over a tenth of a second with a 1 minute 50.828s, 13 seconds slower than the same session last year. Sebastian Vettel was third quickest, some 1.8 seconds further back, underlying the effect of the conditions.
Tyre wear seems to be a big worry this weekend, prompting Vettel to joke that “we can do maximum five [pitstops] and that is all the tyres we have, then maybe we will have a set of inters again to cross the chequered flag.” With the track unused since last year’s race, today’s wet weather has done little to help rubber-in the surface. Pirelli have brought the softest two compounds on offer to Korea and the question is whether they will stand up to the high speed turns that have not been in play at the previous circuits to see the supersoft tyre in action. Frustratingly for the teams, they go into Saturday still not knowing the answer to that one but it could well be a qualifying session marked by significant tyre saving strategies i.e. sitting it out in the garage.
Nico Rosberg has called for the pitlane exit to be looked at. The exit comes in on the outside of Turn 1 at the end of the second longest straight and when the flying Mercedes driver judged his braking point wrong, he had no where to go except wide across the pit lane feed-in line. Unfortunately, the Toro Rosso of Jaime Alguersuari was exiting the pits at that precise moment – cue a damaged front wing for Rosberg and minor damage to the Toro Rosso. It could have been worse.
“I would be worth reconsidering if the pit-exit couldn’t be done a little bit differently,” said Rosberg who was called to the stewards over the incident. “It was not great circumstances, it just all came together. He came out at the exact wrong moment.” It’ may be hard for anything to be done in the short-term but it’s interesting to note that early designs for the track had the pit lane looping around the back of the Turn 1 run-off area and rejoining at Turn 2.
Fernando Alonso reflected the opinion of most of the grid that it is “…almost impossible to draw any useful conclusions for the rest of the weekend. When one considers that it should not rain tomorrow or on Sunday, then it becomes even clearer why this day had little if any significance to offer. The objective is still to do the best we can and in this case, to understand as much as possible about the handling of the car at this track.”
For this year’s new drivers, however, it was a first chance to have a look at the Korean International Circuit in the flesh. “Today was my first experience of the circuit so I just had to make the best of things in the wet conditions,” said Force India’s Paul di Resta. “It’s not the ideal way to learn a circuit, but the team allowed me to do as many laps as possible and I gradually built up my confidence. The track was really wet in the morning and there was a bit of aquaplaning, especially through turns seven and eight, where the car was moving around a lot. The car felt okay running on the intermediates in the afternoon and there was a dry line appearing in the last 30 minutes, but the surface still felt very greasy.”
Credit: Mercedes GP Petronas