F1 2012: Hamilton looking for Korean Grand Prix victory

Lewis Hamilton on the grid ahead of the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka [Picture: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes]

Lewis Hamilton on the grid ahead of the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka [Picture: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes]

HOCH ZWEI

FORMULA 1 driver Lewis Hamilton heads to South Korea looking to win the 2012 Korean Grand Prix next weekend after finishing only fifth in Japan.

Korean Grand Prix facts

* Race distance: 55 laps (191.783 miles/308.630km)

* Start time: 5.00 (local)/07.00 BST

* Circuit length: 3.489 miles/5.615km

* 2011 winner: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing) 55 laps in 1hr 38m 01.994s

* 2011 pole: Lewis Hamilton (Vodafone McLaren Mercedes) 1m 35.820s

* Lap record: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull RB7) 1m 39.605s (202.941km/h)

The 27-year-old Vodafone McLaren Mercedes racer from Hertfordshire has a strong record at the Korean International Circuit, having finished second there in both races to date.

He’s hoping to make it third time lucky next Sunday by taking the chequered flag to revive his flickering F1 world championship hopes.

Hamilton said: “I think we’ve had the potential to win both Korean Grands Prix in the past, but I’ve never had a race weekend there on which everything has gone quite right for me.

“We’ve got momentum on our side once again, so I head to Korea determined to fight for victory.”

"We’ve got momentum on our side once again, so I head to Korea determined to fight for victory."

Lewis Hamilton

After finishing ninth in Japan today (Sunday), Hamilton said: “This just wasn’t the weekend for me. With better qualifying, we can get better results – and that’ll be our aim in South Korea next week. I’m already looking forward to it.”

Of his McLaren’s performance around the Suzuka Circuit, the Stevenage-born F1 star said: “The car that I ended the race with in Japan felt great – and I’m confident that we’ll kick off the race weekend in Korea with a strong package.”

The Korean circuit provides the teams with a fascinating technical challenge. The first half of the 18-corner racetrack contains several high-speed corners and a 1.2km straight, while the end of the lap is tight, twisty and hemmed in by walls.

Car set-up is a compromise between straight-line speed and low-speed grip. There are several overtaking opportunities around the lap, the most obvious being into Turn Three. The cars exceed 310kph – and will also benefit from DRS – along the preceding straight.

A crest in the braking area also makes it easy to lock a wheel and make a mistake. Other passing opportunities are into Turns Four and 10.

In the two Korean GPs to date, cloudy conditions have led to low track temperatures. That has made tyre warm-up difficult, particularly in qualifying, and the teams are preparing for more of the same next weekend.

Another natural influence on car performance is the sea-level location of the circuit. The high atmospheric pressure has a positive effect on engine performance and aerodynamics. Hamilton said: “I put the car on pole there last year. That was a very significant moment for me – I’d been trying so hard all year to get a pole, and it took everything I had to get the best out of the car. It was a huge effort, and a bit overwhelming at the time.

“In the race, unfortunately, we just didn’t have the pace to stay with Sebastian [Vettel] in the Red Bull – he was able to dive past me and pull away.

Lewis Hamilton F1 record

* Age: 27 (January 7, 1985)

* GPs: 105

* Wins: 20

* Poles: 24

* FLs: 11

* 2012 points: 152 (4th)

“I still managed to finish second, though: it was an unbelievably tough race – I had a handling problem because the front wing was clogged up with tyre debris, so I had to try everything to keep Mark [Webber] behind me.”

Teammate Button’s best result in Korea was fourth in 2011. He said: “We had a strong race in Japan, now I hope we can take maintain that momentum through practice, qualifying and the race next weekend.

“The Korean International Circuit is quite a demanding place – every time you feel you’re settling into a rhythm, the track changes direction quite unexpectedly.

“It doesn’t have a flow of some of the other new modern facilities we’ve been to in recent years, such as the Buddh International Circuit or Istanbul Park.”

Lewis Hamilton’s Korea record

* 2011: Q1, R2

* 2010: Q4, R2

He added: “The first sector is comprised of long straights: Turns One, Three and Four are all preceded by big braking zones and require good traction at their exits.

“The final sector is much slower – it almost feels like a street circuit – and, again, it compromises that feeling of flow that you’re looking for throughout the lap.”

Martin Whitmarsh, the team principal of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, hasn’t given up hope in this season’s two title races and expects his drivers to challenge for podium finishes in Korea.

“The result in Suzuka showed that anything can still happen in this world championship,” said Whitmarsh.

McLaren at the Korean Grand Prix

* Wins: 0

* Poles: 1 (2011)

* Fastest Laps: 0

“I’m still convinced that we can fight for, and win, both titles in 2012 – and we head to Korea determined to narrow the gap to the top in both world championship points tables.”

Speaking in Japan, he added: “When you consider that Red Bull’s drivers lined up for this afternoon’s race from P1 and P2, and our two drivers started it from P8 and P9, the fact that they extended their constructors’ championship lead over us by just five points has to be seen as a decent bit of damage limitation on our part.

“Both Jenson and Lewis drove good and combative races, scoring 22 world championship points between them; but, obviously, given our impressive points-scoring record over the past few grands prix, we’d hoped to achieve rather better than fourth and fifth when we arrived in Suzuka earlier this week.

“We didn’t optimise our performance in qualifying yesterday, and today we struggled with our tyres at various times during the race. Moreover, Jenson was unlucky to get stuck behind Daniel [Ricciardo], and lost quite a bit of time after his first pitstop as a result.

“Lewis’s second stop was excellent – a superb strategy call backed by super-slick work by our pitcrew – and as a result Lewis emerged from the pitlane more or less alongside Kimi [Raikkonen], edged ahead of him through Turn One, then skilfully held him at bay and collected 10 valuable points for fifth place as a result.”

As a result, Whitmarsh is looking to score strongly in Korea. He said: “The tussle for this season’s world championships – both drivers’ and constructors’ – will be extremely hard-fought.

“But all at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes will dig very deep over the final five grands prix in a big effort to ensure that we’re right there, in the mix, competing for ultimate honours, when the dust finally settles on what’s shaping up to be an extremely exciting battle.

“Bring it on!”

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