Even though the Korean Internal Circuit isn't the most loved amongst teams, it will play host again for the Korean Grand Prix, making an interesting challenge for the engineers to setup the cars for the long straight and sweeping turns.
The Korean circuit was once added to the F1 calendar amidst an impressive project that would see a harbour and skyscrapers being developed around the track. Financial problems however have made this track to be nowhere near anything, and the circuit itself is on a flat, empty piece of land. It is however a fairly unique challenge due to its 2 very long straights, followed by the close succession of medium speed corners.
Only two drivers have been victorious here, with Fernando Alonso winning the rain hit first race, followed by two victories by Sebastian Vettel. Last year it was a decisive win for the German to reduce his points deficit to Alonso, while this year it is expected further Vettel domination will see the trilple championship extend his championship lead even further.
Still, to make it at least a little bit different, a number of changes have been implemented on the circuit. The pit exit for instance has been re-aligned. It now runs through the middle of the run-off area at Turn 1. This puts it further away from the racetrack, making it less of a risk of drivers overshooting turn 1 to run into a car coming out of the pitlane. The kerbs at the apexes of the pit exit are now double-sided, 2x500mm wide and four metres in overall length with a maximum height of 25mm.
Further changes are all targeted at hardening run off areas following big chunks of artificial grass ending up on the circuit during the 2012 event. As such, the artificial grass on the exit of Turns 1, 3, 10, 13 and 15 has been replaced by a more hard-wearing product, ’Sausage’ kerbs have been installed at the apex of Turns 4, 5, 9, 11, 13 and 14.
The verge behind the kerb at the apex of Turn 8 has been laid with concrete. The entire verge between the track and the asphalt run-off area around the outside of Turn 11 has been laid with asphalt and the verge at the exit of Turn 13 has been extended with asphalt.
As has become normal this season, there will again be two DRS zones. The detection point of the first is 70m after Turn 2, with activation 360m after Turn 2. The second detection point is 60m before Turn 16 with activation 95m after Turn 18.
Track highlightsTurn 1 High braking demands in the latter part of Turn 1 can potentially make life difficult for the drivers at the start of the race, when the cars are at their heaviest and tyres at their coolest.
Approaching Turn 3 There are three straights on the Korean track, although the longest is not the pit straight. That honour instead goes to the straight between turns two and three, which is 1,150m. Over this stretch the engine will be working at full throttle for approximately 15s. With such an emphasis placed on top speed and acceleration, getting correct gear ratio selection is a labour of love, particularly for seventh gear. Get it wrong and you will either be at the limiter for too long and compromise acceleration, or potentially a sitting duck as the other cars sail past. The choice of ratios is complicated by the changeable weather conditions caused by the circuit’s proximity to the sea and low altitude, with wind direction often varying from day to day. Allied to the start-finish line at approximately 700m, over 80% of sector one is thus taken at full throttle.
Turns 4 – 6 More heavy braking demands here after a significant straight leading into the slowest section of the track, where good low speed change of direction and mechanical grip are required.
Turns 7 – 13 A sequence of long, sweeping corners requiring good downforce and balance from the car. Turn 8 is the fastest point – taken at almost 300kph – before heading to the slower Turns 9 / 10. Overall quite a satisfying section of race track for the drivers.
Turns 14 –18 Good change of direction is again required from the car through this sequence – which bears a striking resemblance to Valencia – with the walls being close enough to punish any mistake. Turn 17 is particularly important, with good exit speed required heading on to the start / finish straight.
Turn 17 A surprisingly high speed curve heading on to the first straight.
Car setupFront Wing A reasonable amount of front wing is needed to balance the car through the medium and high speed corners; slightly more than at a lower speed circuit, but not as much as at Silverstone or Suzuka.
Rear Wing Downforce levels here are similar to those of Suzuka and although Korea does have very long straight, the corners are sufficient to justify carrying a touch more wing rather than focusing purely on speed when pointing in one direction. It’s closer to a Spa or Canada type of layout than a Monaco or Hungary set-up.
Suspension A compromise must be found here between reasonably good change of direction at high speed – necessitating a stiffer setup – and the opposing demands of slower speed corners like Turns 1, 4, 6 which need a softer setup. One of the features of this track is that it is incredibly smooth and there are no significant kerbs. This means the car can run very low and close to the ground; especially as there are no notable bumps in the surface.
Brakes This is not a circuit with extreme braking demands, however there are three significant areas of speed retardation – Turns 1 / 3 / 4 – which are all at the end of long straights.
Tyres Pirelli’s medium and supersoft compound are allocated; a change from last year’s soft and supersoft allocation.
The aerodynamic set-up adopted for Korea by the teams is quite similar to Japan, with medium to high levels of downforce. However, the traction demands are much higher than in Japan, so the teams use different engine maps to help put the power down out of the slow corners. The front-right tyre is worked hardest at the Korean track.
Graining can be an issue in Korea, particularly in the low-grip conditions at the start of the weekend. Graining is caused when the cars slide sideways too much, creating an uneven wave-like pattern of wear on the surface of the tread that affects performance.
Engine Korea sits in the middle of the power-driveability ratio, with engine demands similar to those of Australia. A mix of good driveability through the medium to low speed corners, responsiveness out of the slower chicanes / hairpins and good top end power for the three long straights is required. Good traction is essential for the lower speed corners such as Turns 1 / 4 / 6 meaning smooth power delivery from the engine is an advantage here. Fuel consumption is very high over one lap due to the stop-start nature of the final sector.
Quick factsLength of lap: 5.615km
Lap record: 1:39.605 (Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing, 2011)
Start/finish line offset: 0.195km
Total number of race laps: 55
Total race distance: 308.630km
Pit-lane length under speed-limit control: 399 m
Pit-lane time at 80 km/h: 18s
Pitlane speed limits: 80km/h throughout the entire event weekend
Number of corners: 18 (11 left, 7 right)
Maximum speed (no DRS): 320 km/h
Minimum speed: 75 km/h
FIA corners below 100 km/h: 6
FIA corners above 250 km/h: 3
Average lap speed (qualifying): 203 km/h
Distance from pole to apex of T1: 250 m
Braking events: 11 (3 heavy)
Full throttle per lap (% lap distance): 62%
Full throttle per lap (% lap time): 50%
Longest period at full throttle: 14.4s
Average gear changes per race lap: 54 (2970/race)
Braking energy: medium