October 22, 2010

F1 Thoughts: Korea 2010

P2 was much like P1, just with more rubber on the track.  Lap times fell until about 10 minutes left in the session, when all the teams shifted from car setups to doing tire runs.  Remember how I said the simulators were forecasting 1:44 lap times?  Mark Webber topped the second practice session timesheets with a 1:37.942.  Real life is more realistic than simulators. 

Anyway, tire wear is going to be huge on Sunday.  Nobody expected this, but the option tires are practically falling apart after a few laps, suffering heavy heavy graining after just a couple of laps.  It's not just limited to one or two teams, with everybody from Red Bull to HRT having the problem.  Perversely, the tire wear is occurring because the circuit is so slippery.  Think of it like this.  Let's say (and I'm making numbers up here) that a F1 car travels four feet every time the tires make one full revolution.  That's on a normal circuit, like Silverstone or Monza, in the dry of course.  At Korea though, the track is so slippery that tires need to revolve 1-1/2 times to go four feet... obviously the tires will wear faster.  That's an exaggeration, but it gives you an idea of the problem.  It also doesn't help that the tires need to work harder to get through the turns, sliding more than at other places.

Speaking of turns, if there's going to be any wrecks on Sunday, look for them to occur at Turn 16.  It's a relatively simple left-hander, normally no problem, but the inside curb at Turn 16 is actually below track level.  This is completely the opposite of any curbing on any non-banked turn on any track anywhere.  If it was designed that way, then Hermann Tilke had to have been drunk at the time.  More likely however is that the track surface has settled.

Much like Swamp Castle in Monty Python and the Holy Grail ("When I first came here, this was all swamp. Everyone said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp. So I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up."), Korea International Circuit was built on marshland, just barely over the level of the water table.  The marsh was drained, but it can't be the most stable terrain to build on.  As a result, this track is bumpy, much like the way Interlagos in Brazil is bumpy.  Not just at The Elephant, but all over the Korean layout there are rough patches (and a weird hill on the left side of one short straight.  Not all the way across, just on one side).  It appears likely that Turn 16 has sunk into the swamp, so to speak... and it's the cars that'll fall over.

Also, the drivers universally decry the pit entry at Turn 18.  It's a relatively fast turn, leading onto the front straight, but cars entering the pits have to slow waaaay down on the circuit before they get into the pit lane run-in, which is narrow and twisty.  I can easily see an accordion effect causing wrecks as someone slows up to go to the pits, the next car behind slowing to avoid him, and someone else plowing into that car.  Or someone needs to dodge a pit-bound car, and failing. 

All that being said, I find that I actually rather like this racetrack.  It has personality, unlike most Tilke layouts.  There's a lot of little elevation changes in the twisty part of the circuit, and of course there's The Elephant.  It looks like it'd be a lot of fun to drive on.  Is it going to be a good track to actually race on?  That, we won't know until Sunday... I can see it easily being a horrible F1 track.  But if you could just take a car, maybe a Lotus Evora, and go for a fun track day?  Korea International Circuit would be GREAT!

Quals at midnight, writeup'll be sometime Saturday.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 08:24 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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1 I just caught the end of Q2 and Q3, which is the first action I've managed to see at this track. I do like the flow of the track, it looks quite good in that respect. I can definitely see what you mean about it being bumpy. The pit entrance is just amazing, I can't imagine what they were thinking to build that. I will be astonished if there isn't an accident there tomorrow.

Posted by: David at October 23, 2010 12:18 AM (xcVNq)

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