F1 2013 Korean Grand Prix qualifying: Hamilton battles for pole position

PUBLISHED: 22:00 04 October 2013 | UPDATED: 22:01 04 October 2013

Lewis Hamilton racing around the 2013 Korean Grand Prix circuit [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]

Lewis Hamilton racing around the 2013 Korean Grand Prix circuit [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]

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FORMULA 1 racer Lewis Hamilton battles for pole position in qualifying for the 2013 Korean Grand Prix after going fastest in Friday’s two practice sessions.

F1 Korean Grand Prix

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

* Start time: 15:00 (local)/06:00 (GMT)

* Circuit length: @5.615km/3.489 miles

* 2012 winner: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull RB8) 55 laps in 1hr36:28.651s (191.939km/h)

* 2012 pole: Mark Webber (Red Bull RB8) 1m37.242s (207.873km/h)

* Lap record: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull RB7) 1m39.605s (202.941km/h)

The 28--year-old Mercedes driver from Hertfordshire set the pace in the first two practice sessions in Korea – beating F1 world championship leader Sebastian Vettel with his lap times.

Hamilton will be looking to repeat that result in qualifying on Saturday, to secure a front-row grid position ahead of the Red Bulls of Vettel and Mark Webber.

He claimed a stunning pole position for McLaren in Korea in 2011, ahead of Vettel and his then Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team-mate Jenson Button.

However, Vettel muscled his way into the lead on the opening lap on race day and the world champion-elect was never headed. Lewis crossed the line 12 seconds behind Vettel and 0.4s ahead of Webber.

After Friday’s 2013 practice, Hamilton said: “I was very happy with how the sessions went today and it’s the first time I can remember that second practice has really gone well for me.

“We haven’t changed anything but the day just went smoothly and all the processes with the team worked well.”

The Korean Grand Prix takes place on Sunday at the Korea International Circuit in Yeongam for the fourth time. In the three Grands Prix so far, there have been more Safety Car periods – five – than race leaders, just two – Vettel and Alonso.

Last year’s race featured just 34 overtaking manoeuvres, the second fewest of the season after Monaco.

"It’s a good racing track with places that you can attack to overtake which makes it a good challenge for the drivers."

Lewis Hamilton on the Korean GP circuit

One third of the 18 corners at Yeongam are taken at below 100kph – a higher figure than at the Hungaroring.

The long straights at the start of the lap are followed by a tight and twisty second half, which is closely pinned in by the walls.

Of the challenges presented by the Korean circuit, Hamilton said: “I love this track: it was clean from the start, it provides good racing on Sunday afternoon and it just gets harder and harder through the lap.

“You have the first sector, which is good for overtaking, then you get more and more corners coming at you and those final two sectors are all about precision.

“You need a good downforce package, too, and the car is feeling good. We can still make improvements overnight, and I have some things I want to do with the set-up, but it’s been a good start for us.”

Mercedes and Red Bull dominated the timesheets in the opening two free practice sessions around the Yeongam circuit, with Hamilton’s Silver Arrows colleague Nico Rosberg fourth and third respectively.

Rosberg said: “Generally it seems that we had a good day but Red Bull is always very hard to beat. We were quite close to them today and I hope this will continue the whole weekend.

“My only concern after the long runs was graining on the front tyres, which is something we need to work on tonight and watch out for.”

Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton on track ahead of the 2013 Korean Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton on track ahead of the 2013 Korean Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]

Mercedes F1 team principal Ross Brawn was satisfied with Silver Arrows’ running on the first day of the grand prix weekend.

Brawn said: “We ran through the planned programme, evaluated our test items and got good long runs on both types of tyre in the afternoon session to give us plenty of data to pore through this evening.

“In terms of competitiveness, all the usual Friday caveats apply: we know only what fuel loads we ran, not those of our competitors, so tomorrow [qualifying] will show us where we actually stand.

“As always, we will work hard overnight to further improve the cars and build on this good start to the weekend.”

Lewis Hamilton in Korea [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]Lewis Hamilton in Korea [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]

The Korea International Circuit is one of seven tracks on this year’s calendar to have been designed by German architect Hermann Tilke.

It was built in 2010 and it has three distinct sections: long straights in sector one, some fast corners in the middle of the lap, and a twisty section towards the end that has a street circuit feel to it.

Car set-up is a compromise between straight-line speed and slow-corner grip, which is made even more critical by the smooth track surface.

For the fourth and final time this year, Pirelli are taking their Medium and Supersoft compounds to the race. The more durable Medium compound is likely to be the better race tyre, but the Supersoft rubber will give the cars more grip over one lap in qualifying.

After the excitement of Formula 1’s only night race in Singapore two weeks ago, the Korean Grand Prix starts at the more conventional time of 3pm local time.

However, the early sunset in the southwest corner of Korea doesn’t give the race organisers much flexibility should the weather turn bad, as it did in 2010.

A one-hour rain delay during the inaugural Korean Grand Prix resulted in the race ending at 17.58pm, five minutes after the sun had set.


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