#855 2011 Korean Grand Prix

2023-01-10 23:00

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#2011, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Siria Famulari,

#855 2011 Korean Grand Prix

Fernando Alonso dreams of high notes in Korea: the Spaniard is optimistic. "The podium should be possible, if all goes well we can try to achieve succ


Fernando Alonso dreams of high notes in Korea: the Spaniard is optimistic.


"The podium should be possible, if all goes well we can try to achieve success. We know that Red Bull are still the favorites and that McLaren are very strong at this stage of the season, but we will have to try to enjoy our race. My position in the championship is not very important because it doesn't make much difference to finish second or third if you can't become champion".


In recent days there has been little talk of racing and much of the transfer market, with the suggestion of Vettel which has catalysed the attention in the Ferrari house.


"I'm very happy together with my teammate, and we often discuss how to ride and how to face a race weekend. I've learned a lot from Massa in these two years, I don't know who will be with me throughout my contract but whoever it is, we will work together to help Ferrari win".


The Spaniard shows that he cares above all about the constructors' championship:


"It's more important than the title for the drivers, McLaren is ahead of us but we will do our best to finish second, even if it will be difficult. I hope we have as much fun here as we did in Suzuka, where we were able to be aggressive and put our strategy into practice. We are drivers and we want to win every race we take part in. If, for fun, I entered a kart race in December and finished second, it would give me an uncomfortable feeling. Now we have four races in four countries and we have to race for the team, the sponsors, the fans and ourselves, so it's impossible not to be motivated".


Less calm but still projected at the Korean Grand Prix is Felipe Massa, who returns to the double contact with Hamilton in the Singapore and Japanese grands prix.


"I'm no longer interested in any of this and I continue to do my job, as always. Nothing that happened in the last two races is the result of my work, so the only interesting thing would be to see a certain consistency in the penalties imposed for driving errors. But now I'm only looking ahead, thinking about the next race".


In view of Korea, Massa tries to point to potential sticking points.


"We will see high levels of tire degradation. There is less grip compared to other circuits, the cars slide more. We will race on the Soft and Supersoft tyres, it will be a difficult race not only for us but for everyone. I expect a better Ferrari compared to Singapore, Spa and Monza: we're not sure of our competitiveness in qualifying but race strategy will count a lot, everything could change very quickly. We have the chances of getting an important result in this race".




"If I finish second in a kart race, I struggle to sleep at night".


So let's imagine what it means for Alonso not to win a Formula 1 race, even if the world title has already been awarded, Vettel took it away, if in Korea you race for glory and the highest goal for the Ferrari driver can be a second place in the championship standings:


"A goal that frankly interests me less than zero".


He doesn't like places of honor, he runs to finish first.


"And that's what I want to do here, where I already won last year and where Ferrari should be very competitive, on a par with Red Bull. There is no shortage of stimuli, we need to finish the season well, in the last four races we need to achieve at least one success".


Not to mention that new wing, already part of the 2012 development, which Ferrari is presenting in Korea and which Alonso can't wait to test to see if it can be a useful weapon in the redemption season. However, Hamilton is also motivated, McLaren celebrates the 700th Grand Prix here, and Vettel is no joke either:


"The title already in the pocket does not change our approach. We are angry about third place in Japan, Red Bull were born to win. And he wants to start over immediately in Korea".


Friday 14 October 2011 the first day of free practice is characterized by rain. In the first session for almost an hour no valid times are scored. The first is Lewis Hamilton, who is overtaken in the standings by Sébastien Buemi shortly after. Subsequently, the best time was set by Paul di Resta on Force India. In the final stages, the time limit was lowered first by Sebastian Vettel and then by Michael Schumacher. The two Ferrari drivers, the two Renault drivers, Heikki Kovalainen and Jenson Button did not set valid times. In the second session of the day, the riders took to the track almost immediately, although it was still damp but in the absence of heavy rain. Sebastian Vettel sets the fastest time, followed by teammate, Mark Webber. After about half an hour, however, Lewis Hamilton set the best time, ahead of Jenson Button. The track, gradually drier, allows the riders to use intermediate tyres. In the final part of the session, no driver from other teams managed to get close to the time of the two McLaren-Mercedes drivers; Sebastian Vettel remains over 1.8 seconds behind. Nico Rosberg and Jaime Alguersuari make contact after the German driver makes a mistake. The Mercedes driver missed the braking points at the first corner, ending up hitting the car of the Spanish driver, who was just entering the track with his STR-Ferrari. For this reason, the German recommends modifying the design of the lane returning to the track from the pits, judged too dangerous compared to the shape of the first corner of the track. The FIA decides to install luminous indications at the point of the track to facilitate the safety of the drivers. However, Nico Rosberg was fined €10.000 for the delay with which he presented himself to the stewards at the end of practice to explain the incident with Alguersuari. Subsequently, the stewards, considering Nico Rosberg's correctness in his career, reduced the fine to €5.000. During the second session, several drivers went off the track, including Hamilton and Alonso. In the final minutes, Sébastien Buemi tries to change to dry tires but spins. Mark Webber also makes the same attempt, but without improving his time. The rain was therefore the great protagonist and neither Fernando Alonso nor Felipe Massa had the opportunity to try everything they wanted:


"The weather conditions made it virtually impossible to draw any useful conclusions for the rest of the weekend. The goal is always to do the maximum and, in this case, to try to understand as much as possible about the car's behavior on this track. We'll have to improvise a bit, both in qualifying and in the race".


On the same line the analysis of the Brazilian who adds:


"Exiting the pit lane is difficult, as highlighted by the contact between Rosberg and Alguersuari: I think we should try to improve it for the future".


For Massa, Sunday will be a special Grand Prix:


"One hundred and fifty races in Formula 1 is quite an achievement". 


For more than a month, nothing else has been talked about, Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari sooner rather than later, a ghost hovering over the head of Felipe Massa, one more year of his contract with the Maranello team, but never discussed as now, after an endless series of disappointing results that the Brazilian in Korea, at the 150th Grand Prix of his career, hopes to drastically interrupt. Yet according to Alonso this ghost shouldn't exist:


"Massa and I are the strongest couple in the World Championship. I've learned a lot from him over the years, we're very close, I don't see why the team should decide to change".


Waiting to understand if these messages are substance and not a simple facade, Massa also had his say yesterday:


"In fact, I think ours is a winning combination. The problem is that this year we haven't had the car to prove it. We are disappointed, but we have been working for some time to make 2012 different".


A diversity was already seen yesterday with the wing mounted on Alonso's car in the second free practice session. The Spaniard's next comment was strangely nervous. To an innocuous and obvious question, he replies caustically:


"It worked well. Would you like to know more? The engineers room is upstairs".


Maybe a few more wins could help his morale. But so far it has only been full joy at Silverstone. Saturday 15 October 2011, the last free practice session takes place in dry track conditions. This session was also characterized by the dominance of the two McLarens who always maintain the lead in the timesheets. Jenson Button is forced to change the chassis, replaced during the night. First Button takes the lead, then overtaken by Hamilton, finally Button again sets the best time. Bruno Senna of Renault, who turns 28, spun at turn 13; his car hits the wall, so as to damage the front wing. At turn 14 Jarno Trulli is the protagonist of an off-track exit. Daniel Ricciardo's practice of HRT is slowed down by a technical problem. Qualifying also takes place in dry conditions. In Q1 Daniel Ricciardo does not score valid times. In addition to him, the two Lotus-Renaults, the two Virgin-Cosworths, his teammate, Vitantonio Liuzzi, and Rubens Barrichello, who was overtaken by his teammate, Pastor Maldonado just in the last moments of the session, were eliminated. In Q2 the two Force India-Mercedes managed to enter the top ten only at the last attempt, thus relegating Michael Schumacher to twelfth position. Together with the German, the two STR-Ferraris, the two Sauber-Ferraris and Bruno Senna are eliminated. In Q3 Lewis Hamilton, who had already set the best times in both Q1 and Q2, immediately takes the lead in the timesheets, followed by Sebastian Vettel, just 0.03 seconds behind. On the return lap Vettel cuts a chicane, but the marshals decide not to penalize him. At the second attempt the Englishman is able to improve further; neither Jenson Button nor Sebastian Vettel are capable of beating his time. Hamilton takes pole position number 19 in F1, number 147 for McLaren, in what represents the 700th Grand Prix in Formula 1, valid for the World Championship, by the British team. In this way the streak of sixteen consecutive poles of the RBR, which began in the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, ends.


It still represents the third longest streak of consecutive poles in the history of the world championship for a manufacturer. Dec and Lewis Hamilton, who took the final pole position at the 2010 Canadian Grand Prix:


"I'm proud and happy but already yesterday, after good practice in the last few races, we showed that we were very competitive. Of course it's nice to be the only ones so far to have beaten the Red Bulls in qualifying. Pole is one of the best things I've ever done They've been around for a while, so this gives me a great boost. Tomorrow, however, Jenson and I will have to do our best to bring more points to our team, which does so much for us".


Sebastian Vettel is satisfied with second position.


"It is clear that the McLarens are very, very competitive. They were yesterday in the wet and they confirmed it today. Despite this, we have been on him and we are really close, more than we thought".


In the race, the World Champion foresees a tough duel, starting from the first lap:


"It will be a long race, many things can happen. The tires will be crucial".


In Ferrari you come to terms with the harsh reality.


"I can't be happy to be sixth but this is the mirror of today's situation. McLaren and Red Bull are stronger and we just have to fight for fifth and sixth place between us. Saturday goes like this, then maybe tomorrow it ends like in Suzuka and we find ourselves fighting for the win".


Felipe Massa is more confident:


"I am happy with my performance. I think I had a good lap on the last attempt. My feeling is that we are also improving our performance on Saturday but we have four cars left in front and therefore the grid position remains more or less the same. I'm confident: if nothing strange happens to me, like in the last few races, then I think we can do a good job".


Nervous, with mood swings not justified by the fact that Massa beat him in qualifying for the second time in a row (the fourth in 2011). Unfriendly, as Alonso usually isn't, fierce on the track in looking for victory, but always kind in his outward manner and politically correct in his statements. Different, so it seemed during the Korean weekend, a symptom of a certain unease, the eagerness to reset (next year) the gap from Red Bull and now also McLaren, mixed however with the fear of not making it, the worry of spending another year from fifth to Saturday. On Friday Alonso replied piquedly to the question on the effects of the new wing (basis for the development of the future machine):


"Ask the engineers".


And he does not melt on Saturday on the same subject:


"I don't understand what the public might be interested in, whether or not one of our aerodynamic appendages might interest them".


Forgetting that the current Ferrari is out of the World Championship games and that curiosity inevitably can only move towards the future, while also making it clear that he hasn't been particularly impressed by this new weapon. A strange malaise, on which he perhaps plays the annoyance of a McLaren that completed (albeit late) the comeback on Red Bull Racing, while Ferrari has always remained distant. Alonso would prefer silence and they say that at McLaren he was used to working under cover, while Ferrari has all eyes on them, ready to understand that the new fund for 2012 (used at Spa and Suzuka) has already been shelved and the front wing will have to be revised. Medicine can only be one: transforming his uncertainties into certainties. To find the smile again. Sunday 16th October 2011, it doesn't rain on the circuit even if there is the danger of a light rain in the first laps. At the start of the Korean Grand Prix Lewis Hamilton maintains the first position, but already at turn 3 he is passed by Sebastian Vettel. Felipe Massa also got off to a good start, gaining third position at turn 3 at the expense of Jenson Button, who tries to repeat in the next one, ending up taking advantage of Mark Webber, who moves into third place; Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button follow. In the first laps Vettel managed to create a good margin of advantage over Hamilton, while behind Massa a small group formed by Alonso, Button and Rosberg was created. During lap 13, Button and Rosberg stopped in the pits to change tyres: the two went out paired into the pit lane, with the German passing the Briton. On the final part of the lane Rosberg goes wide, being passed by Button. In the following straight however Rosberg is able to recover the position. The following lap Button passes Rosberg again. Subsequently, the operations in the pits limited the run-up of the two Ferrari drivers, as Felipe Massa dropped to sixth place and Fernando Alonso even to ninth, behind Michael Schumacher and Vitalij Petrov. During lap 16 Vitalij Petrov hit Michael Schumacher when braking in turn 3. The two were forced to retire; due to the presence of debris on the track, the Safety car is sent to the pit. At the restart Vettel leads Hamilton, Webber, Button, Rosberg, Massa and Alonso. 


The two Ferrari drivers put the German under pressure for several laps, until they passed him on lap 27. The top three are now very close to each other: a battle ensues between Hamilton and Webber for second position. The two also return to the pits at the same time during lap 33, and during lap 34 there is a spectacular exchange of positions in which the two go through several corners side by side, but in the end the Australian does not find the space to pass the English. After the second series of tire changes, Fernando Alonso, with a series of fast laps, gains a position on Felipe Massa. In the closing laps Jenson Button, taking advantage of the battle between Hamilton and Webber, approaches the two leading drivers. During lap 49 Mark Webber passed Lewis Hamilton at the first corner, the duel between the two with paired cars and various counter-overtaking continued for half a lap, until Hamilton passed Webber on the following lap using the DRS. Meanwhile, Alonso also approaches them and Button. On the last lap Jaime Alguersuari passes Nico Rosberg and climbs to seventh position. Sebastian Vettel wins the Korean Grand Prix and triumphs for the twentieth time in his career, followed by Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber. With this result, Red Bull Racing won the Constructors' World Championship for the second consecutive year. Insatiable Vettel, after conquering the drivers' world championship he also went on to win - dominating as usual - the Korean Grand Prix, thus giving the constructors' title to Red Bull Racing. For him it is the tenth victory of the season, the sign of an impressive domination that demonstrates how competitive Christian Horner's team has been this year. In fact, Red Bull now has 558 points in the standings and can no longer be reached by the opposing teams (McLaren at 418 points and Ferrari at 310 points). This time, however, despite the usual escape of the German who scrambled everyone (he passed Hamilton who started from pole immediately after the start and was never seen again) the race was very spectacular with a duel to the death for the second position, then maintained with enormous effort by Hamilton who had to resist the assaults of Webber (third) for half the race. The other McLaren of Jenson Button was fourth, followed by the two Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa. Alguersuari seventh, ahead of the Mercedes of Rosberg, Buemi ninth and di Resta tenth. But the beauty of this race, as we said, was the great result of McLaren and Ferrari who, in addition to enlivening the race with overtaking and counter-overtaking, demonstrated that Red Bull Racing is no longer on another planet. 


Sure, he always goes on to win but he doesn't do it with that overwhelming superiority at the start of the season. They seem like details but they can make the difference next year. We will see. For now, Red Bull Racing is enjoying its world title won well in advance. It is now a mantra for Sebastian Vettel who continues to thank the team:


"It's good to see the whole team keep pushing. After a difficult start yesterday I went well and today the car was perfect. After the Safety-car came in, Lewis got close, I struggled a bit with the tires but then the car normalised, I managed to take the lead and now I'm very happy for the constructors' title. I also have to thank Renault because the engine works very well, last year we had problems here while this year everything went for the best".


Triumph in Suzuka, good chances of finishing second in the World Championship, the best of the anti Vettels, the myth of Hamilton, the cumbersome teammate in McLaren, shrunk. Jenson Button, how does he hear us in the best moment of his career?


"In 2009 I have already won a world title".


Yes, but with the Brawn GP, a car that had been killing everyone since the start of the season.


"I believe instead that my victory at the time shouldn't be underestimated. How many poles has Vettel won? Thirteen. I won four that season. My car was excellent, but not so above the others. After all, I've never seen a driver take home the title with the worst car, that would be the real feat, but it's impossible. It's easier to have the most competitive, mess up and come up empty handed. Look at Schumacher. When he won in a flurry, he drove a magnificent Ferrari. Now he never ends up on the podium and his age has nothing to do with it".


Nonetheless, Jenson Button was the driver who made the biggest step forward in terms of performance this year.


"In McLaren I think I have grown a lot. I won three races, I was often on the podium, I made little or no mistakes. I've never felt so fit and that's why next year I would like to try and win the title again. The conditions are there, because at the moment we are at the level of the Red Bulls. And it is an encouraging figure in view of 2012, where we start on a par with Vettel and the Ferraris".


Which increases the regrets for this season.


"There are, needless to deny it, the team is disappointed, they wanted to win. The dream flew away already in the winter. We have wasted a lot of time with the history of revolutionary exhausts, the initial development was wrong. We were good at recovering, but it was already too late. A fact to understand: at the beginning of the championship on the fast corners we were 30 km/h slower than the Red Bulls. We're faster than them now".


If nothing else he had time to downsize Hamilton. In less than two years he has become the leader of the team.


"I feel at home in McLaren, so much so that I extended my contract for many years, binding me until the end of my career. But in our team there are no leaders, but two equal riders. On the one hand, McLaren thinks about the constructors' championship and on the other it leaves the drivers free to win".


Do you like the definition gentlemen pilot?


"I'm off the track, being polite doesn't hurt. Inside I fight furiously to win".


And smart pilot? The one who wins the crazy races?


"Not only those, but I admit that I usually catch on to strategies. As for the ability in the rain, the credit goes to my father. I was eight years old, he didn't have the money for wet tyres, he told me: always manage with the dry ones. There I acquired the right sensitivity. And I built my career".


In addition to Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton is also the only one to fight and fight the dominance of Red Bull Racing:


"It went well. Mark rode very well, Sebastian was very fast and it was impossible for me to catch him. During the race we struggled with a bit of understeer but it was a good weekend and I'm happy with this result".


While Mark Webber is visibly disappointed for third place. Probably today, exploiting the potential of his Red Bull Racing, he could have won the duel with Hamilton.


"Today is the day of the team that won their second constructors' title. We had great reliability over the course of the year. I'm a bit disappointed not to have finished second. In the second stop maybe I made a mistake, I don't know if I should have stopped earlier or after. We fought from the beginning and that's how it went".


Some swear he had a lump in his throat. But what, he razed the World Championship to the ground, destroyed the competition, took it home with four races to spare, and he, in the celebrations at Suzuka, on a drunken night, confesses his regrets for not having won the Grand Prix? If it's true, Sebastian Vettel swallowed very well. Devouring opponents and kilometres, eliminating the ambitions of Lewis Hamilton, who started from pole, in less than a lap, imposing himself for the tenth time in this unforgettable season, world champion with double-digit successes, as only Michael Schumacher had managed to do in the past, in 2002 (11) and in 2004 (13). Vettel ate his fill, strolling over his rivals, and then raised his finger, jumped madly onto the podium, scattered winks left and right, happy to have led his Red Bull Racing to the arithmetical conquest of the constructors' title (also in this case party in advance, the last three races, beyond the new India to explore, will be really useless), laurel, second in a row, which makes glory and fills the wallet, given that it is worth 70.000.000 euros. Red Bull Racing rejoices and he, unstoppable cannibal, too, not at all willing to make concessions, even if behind him march a rediscovered Hamilton (second after a duel with Webber, third), the Australian teammate, Button, who had triumphant in Suzuka, and Alonso, shy in the first part and vainly furious in the final laps, good to demonstrate that the new front wing works (encouraging for 2012), but not to avoid a modest fifth place. Vettel makes a clean sweep, perhaps forgetting that he is already champion for the second time, and rejoices more than at Suzuka:


"Because ours is a car built to win, it dominated throughout the season, it can't settle for a third place".


So let's party, on the night in Seoul, perhaps waiting to carve one's name even in the unprecedented India, before finding the adored Abu Dhabi and closing in style in Brazil. Towards other records: two pole positions to equal Mansell, three successes to even the score with Michael Schumacher, while a simple triumph on Saturday is enough for Red Bull Racing to reset the historic record of Williams in 1992. Usual Vettel and from Korea usual Ferrari, wavering in the same weekend and on the same track, from hands to hair in qualifying and then on par (not only with Alonso, even in Massa's times) with Red Bull Racing and McLaren in the final part of the race, a record inconstancy, which will absolutely have to be wiped out in 2012. Not much to say about the present, Alonso's face and laconic words explain well:


"If we finish fifth, that means that's our placement. The values in the field can be seen on Saturdays, zero petrol and new tires for everyone and we've been getting 0.8 seconds there all year round".


Stop deluding yourself, better cling to the future.


"I'm not worried, my little cheer is for this season, which I wish were already over. It's just to try new things and the wing seems to give us something".


Above all, explains Stefano Domenicali:


"It offers the same data as the wind tunnel on the track and that's no small feat".


The single-seater is built around the wing, likes to say Byrne, the father of Schumacher's reds, and Domenicali clings to this good start. Without worrying about Alonso's mood swings:


"He wants to win, he too now he will fight to finish second in the World Championship, he can't do it and it's normal to be disappointed. He needs a good car. And he will smile again".


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