Sebastian Vettel recorded his third straight victory a fortnight ago in Singapore and the Red Bull driver looks set to continue his march towards a fourth consecutive Formula One drivers’ championship at this weekend’s Korean Grand Prix (Race: Sunday, 07:00am BST, live on Sky Sports F1).
As our race preview had forecast, Vettel was the clear class of the field in Singapore, taking pole position and then leading every lap of a race he eventually won by over 30 seconds. He completed a clean sweep of the weekend’s honours by also recording the fastest lap of the race.
The victory extended Vettel’s championship lead over his nearest challenger, Fernando Alonso, to 60 points. With just six races remaining, it would now take a minor miracle for anyone other than the German driver to take the championship spoils.
Further back, Jenson Button recorded his fifth consecutive points finish with a decent drive to seventh for McLaren, while Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg, widely touted as the favourite to replace the Ferrari-bound Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus next season, followed his impressive drive to fifth at Monza with another points finish.
While Singapore was hot and humid, Korea looks set to be very wet if current forecasts are to be believed. A tropical storm is headed the way of the Yeognam circuit, with a 60% chance of rain on race day. We could be set for a repeat of 2010, when nearly half the race distance was run behind the safety car due to the severity of the conditions.
Whatever the weather, the Korea International Circuit is a challenging one for the engineers, with a high-speed opening to the lap giving way to a succession of slower, tighter corners towards the end. Finding a balance between these low and high downforce sections will be the key to a successful weekend.
Sebastian Vettel secured his fifth pole position of the season two weeks ago in Singapore, thus continuing the qualifying dominance of Red Bull and Mercedes, who are still the only two teams to have had a driver at the head of the grid this year. He is favourite to take pole again in Korea.
Red Bull have qualified on pole position in two of the three Korean Grand Prix to date, with Vettel himself qualifying no lower than second. He is clearly very much at home at the circuit and with his Red Bull so dominant in Singapore, is the best pick to be the fastest qualifier on Saturday.
Vettel aside, few other drivers seem particularly enamoured with the Yeognam circuit, but one who has professed his love is Hulkenberg, who qualified eighth and finished sixth for Force India at last year’s race.
Hulkenberg has been on the verge of the qualifying top 10 on numerous occasions this season and that was again the case in Singapore, where he qualified 11th, a few tenths down on teammate Esteban Gutierrez. He has, however, made the final part of qualifying on three occasions this year and at a circuit that suits him, can again do so on Saturday.
There is no getting around the fact that Vettel enjoys racing at the Korea International Circuit. He has won each of the last two races at the track and was also leading in 2010 before an engine failure allowed Alonso to take victory.
The prospect of rain and/or a tropical storm means there is perhaps not the same degree of value in backing Vettel as there would be in a dry race, but there can be no doubt that the German is more than capable of performing in wet conditions. His maiden Formula One victory came for Toro Rosso at a rain-soaked Monza in 2009.
He is currently the class of the field and regardless of track conditions, can still be fancied to further extend his championship lead with victory on Sunday.
The right set up for qualifying is not always the right set up for the race in Korea, with teams who opt for high downforce configurations often struggling to overtake in the race. Last year, Toro Rosso prioritised straight line speed and reaped the rewards, securing a double points finish from 16th and 21st on the grid.
The team also got both cars in the points at the 2011 event and in Daniel Ricciardo have an in-form driver who will be desperate to make up for his non-finish in Singapore with a strong result this weekend. The Australian, who will partner Vettel at Red Bull next year, finished in the points in each of the two preceding races and is capable of returning to the top 10 on Sunday.
Korean Grand Prix Betting Tips Verdict
- Back Sebastian Vettel to take pole position @ 4/5 with BetVictor, Stan James or William Hill.
- Bet on Nico Hulkenberg to reach qualifying session three @ 6/5 with Ladbrokes.
- Back Sebastian Vettel to win the race @ 8/11 with Ladbrokes.
- Bet on Daniel Ricciardo to finish in the points @ 10/11 with BetVictor, Stan James, Coral or SkyBet.