Like Neil Armstrong taking man’s first steps on to the moon or Mr Benn’s first trip in to the cupboard that transported him to alternate worlds the 24 Formula One drivers today completed their first tentative laps of the new Korean International Circuit. It was, to coin a phrase, one small step for man, one more giant market ready to be tapped by Bernie Ecclestone.
The morning session was topped by Lewis Hamilton, as the drivers got their first taste of the all-new facility. The 2008 champ recorded a 1m40.887s to beat Renault’s potential title-battle-gatecrasher Robert Kubica by just eight-hundredths, with Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg third.
Hamilton’s fellow title contenders Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button were fourth and fifth respectively, with Webber seventh. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso meanwhile was very tentative in the morning run, ending up 15th fastest.
Mark Webber set the afternoon pace, delivering the best time of 1m37.942s.
Times tumbled in the second run, with Alonso now among the pacesetters. He was bested by Vettel and Webber, the Aussie then remaining on top for the majority of the session. He was briefly beaten by Hamilton but quickly returned to p.1.
Alonso eventually popped up in p.2, a shade under two-tenths adrift of Webber. Hamilton finished the session third quickest with Kubica fourth (he’s going to gatecrash this party, we can feel it) and Button fifth. Jenson lost time to an overheating rear end, which is a sentence that sounds funnier and funnier the more times you read it back.Vettel was sixth fastest, 1.3s off Webber, and the slowest of the title protagonists.
Another bad day for Hispania meanwhile saw Yamamoto in the wall and Bruno Senna getting next to no running with suspension problems. You know when you just can’t wait for a bad day at work to end? Imagine that drgagging out across an entire F1 season.
So Webber’s set the pace, but we can’t help feeling this brand new circuit has more surprises to throw up over the next 48-hours. Sebastian Vettel found a nail on-track yesterday – no, he really did – and there’s a good chance a few more pitfalls lie in wait for the five pretenders to the F1 crown.
- Don’t forget to catch the final practice session on Saturday morning and then qualifying at 6am and the race itself at 7am on Sunday (all times UK GMT time) – Full TV times here
- Need to learn the track? Have a look at Badger’s Track Guide for Korea (video) featuring Vitaly Petrov*
- Are you playing FantasyGP? Make sure your predictions are in before qualifying begins!