|Circuit||Korean Auto Valley – Yeongam
|Distance||308,630 km / 191,815 miles|
|3||Fernando Alonso||F138||299||Scuderia Ferrari||6.|
|4||Felipe Massa||F138||298||Scuderia Ferrari||9.|
Stefano Domenicali: “After positive results in Belgium, Monza and Singapore, there’s no use denying that today’s result doesn’t make us happy. We were hoping to be able to attack the two Mercedes on the opening lap, as we knew we could deal with their race pace. Unfortunately, that was not the case and the incidents just after the start affected our race, wiping out any chance of getting close to the podium. In these conditions we didn’t manage to get the most out of our car and now the only thing we can do is keep our concentration high for the next round in Japan, where we get an immediate chance to redeem ourselves. Even if the Drivers’ title is now an almost impossible target, we still have an obligation to continue to give our all to the very end of the Championship, because we are still fighting for second place in the Constructors’ Championship”.
Fernando Alonso: “We knew this would be a difficult race and unfortunately the results confirmed the concerns we had already experienced on Friday, when we had a few problems with tyre degradation on the long run. It wasn’t a surprise to be off the pace in qualifying, as that’s been the case since the start of the season, but the fact that we didn’t have the pace in the race was one. Unfortunately, at the start, I couldn’t keep the Sauber behind me and that meant I had a particularly stressful race in terms of the tyres. What happened to Felipe at the third corner was not a problem for me: there were a lot of us there at that point and someone must have touched him. I tried to avoid him and continued without it affecting my race, because by then, I was already behind Hulkenberg. Now we must think only about Suzuka and try to get back on the podium, rediscovering the form we usually have on Sunday, that allows us to fight at the front. Vettel is a very long way off in terms of points, but above all in performance terms and we cannot expect miracles between now and the end of the championship. Second place in the Constructors’ championship is probably a more realistic target, but one thing’s certain, we are not giving up now and we will give it our best shot right to the very end”.
Felipe Massa: “Today’s race was really very complicated, because my chances of getting a good result evaporated right from the first lap, when I found myself in the middle of a group, all of us fighting and I decided to go down the inside to try and brake later. Unfortunately, some of the cars were slower and in order to avoid driving into one of the Mercedes, I was forced to move over to the right, ending up in a spin. Luckily, the car was alright, but at that point I was contemplating a race from the back of the pack. Thanks to a few nice passing moves I still managed to bring home some points, which was a good thing compared to how it looked after the start. Today, we weren’t competitive and there were at least three or four teams quicker than us, including Sauber, but I hope this was mainly track dependent and that our car will be better suited to the Suzuka track”.
Pat Fry: “Today the top places were out of reach, in what was a very tense race for both our drivers, caught in traffic behind the Saubers from start to finish. On this track, their two cars were able to make the most of better traction on the exit to the corners and their high top speed made life difficult when trying to overtake them. At the start, Fernando managed to close on Rosberg at the first corner, but had to back off so as not to go off the track, which helped Hulkenberg get past on the straight. Once he was behind, he had to deal with tyre wear and it was a real shame, because our pace was not lower than that of the Mercedes. As for Felipe however, the spin going into Turn 3 dropped him to the back. On lap 15, after a climb up the order that took him to fourteenth place, he found himself behind Gutierrez. Both Fernando and Felipe did their utmost and fought hard all weekend against tyre degradation and graining, which was particularly high, because of the characteristics of this track. For Suzuka, we will try and improve and get back to aiming for a podium finish, because we certainly don’t want to be fighting for sixth and ninth”.
Yeongam, 6 October – Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa finished the fourteenth round of the World Championship in sixth and ninth places respectively. Only two teams were represented on the podium, with Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel on the top step flanked by the Lotus duo of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean. The result means that Fernando is still second in the Drivers’ championship, but he trails Vettel by 77 points with a further 125 points on offer from the remaining five races. Felipe is seventh, while Scuderia Ferrari remains second in the Constructors’ although the Mercedes team has closed to within one point. While Fernando didn’t bring home as many points as he would have wanted to, the Spaniard was one of the main protagonists of what was a thrilling, incident packed race, as he tried for much of the race to find a way past the Ferrari-powered Sauber of Hulkenberg, who eventually finished fourth.
For the start all cars, except Ricciardo’s Toro Rosso were on the Supersoft tyre: even those who were outside the top ten on the grid and were free to choose, were clearly keen to dispense with the more fragile of the Pirelli compounds as soon as possible. It was a chaotic start, with Vettel leading from pole, Grosjean passing Hamilton to go from third to second. Felipe spun at Turn 3, narrowly avoiding contact with his team-mate Fernando who was sixth, behind Rosberg fourth and Hulkenberg fifth. The Brazilian continued, but way down in twenty first place. Behind the Spanish Ferrari man, Ricciardo had got a good start to move up from twelfth to seventh, but Raikkonen overtook the Australian on lap 3.
Button pitted on lap 5 to change the nose on the McLaren and by this stage Felipe had moved up to sixteenth, while Fernando was still sixth. On lap 6, Webber who had been dropped to 13th on the grid with a Singapore penalty had brought his Red Bull up to ninth place. Fernando was involved in the battle for fifth, 0.8 behind Hulkenberg and over half a second ahead of Raikkonen, as Felipe pitted on lap 7,switching to the Medium compound. On lap 9, Raikkonen managed to get his Lotus ahead of Fernando, the two men running side by side for a while, while out in front Vettel had a three second lead over the Finn’s team-mate Grosjean. Hamilton and Fernando both pitted together on lap 10, earlier than planned, to take on the Mediums, the Spaniard dropping to eleventh.
Grosjean pitted the Lotus from second on lap 11, going down to fifth, with Hamilton right behind him in the Mercedes. The leader changed tyres on lap 12, and when Raikkonen also came in, it left Webber in the lead, until the Red Bull man came in next time round. At this point, with everyone except Ricciardo having pitted, Fernando was seventh behind Hulkenberg, although he had got ahead of Raikkonen. Felipe was fifteenth between Gutierrez and Sutil. Hulkenberg in the Sauber had Fernando trying all he could to pass and behind the Ferrari was a long train led by Raikkonen in eighth place.
On lap 17, Vettel led Grosjean by 4.1, with Hamilton in the Mercedes, just over 2 seconds behind the Lotus, with the Englishman’s team-mate Rosberg fourth, 4.2 seconds ahead of the Hulkenberg-Alonso duel, although in fact, three cars were involved now, as Raikkonen was sitting on the F138’s gearbox. Felipe was having something of a lonely race in fifteenth place. Fernando was trying all he knew, but could not pass the Sauber and, behind Raikkonen, Webber had now joined the back of this train. By lap 24, Felipe had passed Gutierrez and moved up to eleventh and one lap later, Raikkonen pitted so Fernando now had Webber on his tail, with the Australian diving inside the Ferrari on lap 27, after Fernando seemed to run a fraction wide, at the same time as Hulkenberg pitted.
Lap 28 and Rosberg had to pit the Mercedes from fourth place as the nose of the car was dragging on the ground and Fernando made his second stop at this point, taking on another set of Mediums and dropping to ninth. Next time round, Hamilton came in from fourth for a normal stop and Webber did the same from third on lap 30. It was at this point that the Safety Car had to come out as Perez suffered a tyre failure on the back straight, leaving debris. Vettel and Grosjean came in immediately to change tyres, as did Webber, Ricciardo and Gutierrez. The incident and pit stops did little in the way of changing the order: Vettel, Grosjean, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Hulkenberg, Fernando in sixth ahead of Button, with Felipe in fourteenth place.
The Safety Car came in on lap 36 and immediately there was plenty of drama, including Webber’s Red Bull catching fire in spectacular fashion, after Sutil’s spinning Force India crashed into him and this incident brought out the Safety Car again. Just before then, Raikkonen charged past team-mate Grosjean to go second. Behind Vettel and the two Lotuses, Hulkenberg was fourth having passed Hamilton, with Fernando still sixth behind the Mercedes. The rest of the top ten was made up of Button, Rosberg, Maldonado and Ricciardo. While tyre wear had been severe for everyone, the two Safety Car periods meant that the majority of cars on track would be hoping to get to the flag without a further visit to the pits. Lap 40 and the Safety Car released the cars for the final 15 laps. Fernando launched an immediate attack on Hamilton and the two champions swapped places several times, but the order didn’t change, although it did for Felipe who could not stop Perez in the McLaren passing him to take twelfth place, but on lap 43, the Brazilian got back ahead of the Mexican before the McLaren driver got it wrong, driving into the back of the Ferrari, although both men continued.
Felipe then made up two places at once, to get into the points, when he managed to deal with the scrapping Gutierrez and Maldonado in a single bold move. Further up the order, Hamilton was doing his utmost to pass fourth placed Hulkenberg, with Fernando ready to make the most of any slip ups as he watched the duel ahead of him. On lap 48, the Mercedes briefly got ahead of the Sauber but Hamilton couldn’t make it stick as Hulkenberg applied the DRS. All this meant that Fernando was right on the back of the Mercedes, but he also had his mirrors full of Button’s McLaren. That’s how it ended, with Vettel extending his lead over Fernando, as the German took another comfortable win. This isn’t the time to start looking at the championship situation as all eleven teams work long into the Korean night to pack up and head across the Sea of Japan for next Sunday’s race in Suzuka.
7 the points Fernando Alonso still needs to score to join Michael Schumacher at the top of the leaderboard for all-time most points scored. With the eight he picked up in Yeongam, Fernando is now on 1559, to Michael’s1566.
12 the number of consecutive points finishes for Fernando Alonso this season. The Spaniard lays claim to the longest run: his one and only no-score this year dates back to the second race of the championship, the Malaysian Grand Prix.
24 the number of points finishes for Alonso (13) and Massa (11) in the 14 Grands Prix held so far in 2013. The Scuderia has the same number of finishes as Red Bull and Mercedes: curiously all three teams have one driver with just one zero in the classification (Alonso, Vettel, Hamilton) and the other with three (Massa, Webber, Rosberg.)
100 the percentage of points finishes for Ferrari in the Korean Grand Prix. Alonso and Massa have always crossed the line in the top ten in the four editions of this race, even if today’s tally of just 10 points is the lowest for the Scuderia in this race’s short history.
Yeongam, 6 October – Scuderia Ferrari ended the Korean Grand Prix in sixth place with Fernando Alonso and ninth with Felipe Massa. The result means the Spaniard maintains second place in the Drivers’ classification, the same position as the Scuderia in the Constructors’, where they lead Mercedes by a single point, 284 to 283.
Alonso got off the line well, but there was nowhere for him to go and on the first lap, braking for Turn 3, Massa had a spin with Fernando narrowly avoiding making contact with his team-mate, crossing the line in sixth at the end of the opening lap, while Felipe had to begin a long climb up the order from the back of the field.
Massa made his first pit stop on lap 6, going from Supersofts to Mediums, with Alonso doing the same four laps later, rejoining behind Hulkenberg, with whom he had an exciting duel for fifth place throughout much of the race. However, Fernando was never able to get past. He made his second stop on lap 28, followed by Massa two laps later and the Brazilian went back on track during a safety car period when Mark Webber’s car caught fire. Alonso was still sixth, with Felipe moving up to twelfth. When the race was on again on lap 41, Hulkenberg, Hamilton and Alonso were locked together in a fantastic tussle which went all the way to the flag. Massa’s fightback was rewarded with the two points that come with ninth place. The race was won by Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull.
Fernando Alonso: “I am not surprised at the outcome of this qualifying session, because in terms of pure performance, Saturday is always difficult for us and will continue to be so until the end of the season. Usually, on Sunday, things go better and our aim is always to get to the podium, as has happened in recent races. This weekend seems harder than usual, because while up until now we have always had a good race pace, both yesterday and today we suffered on the long runs and that means we must absolutely improve for tomorrow. We have a few problems with the tyres which we are unable to manage as well as the others: there’s a lot of graining and if you push very hard in the first sector you almost risk being unable to finish the lap. We will have to find the right compromise to get them to survive the number of laps proposed by our engineers, because the ideal strategy is still a two stop. Given how we look in the dry, the rain could mix things up and in fact we have nothing to lose and even if there will be little time to adapt to it, we must be ready for this eventuality”.
Felipe Massa: “I can’t be happy with the result of qualifying, as I expected to be closer to our rivals than in Singapore. But that wasn’t the case, because here too, both Red Bull and Mercedes had a much faster pace and we didn’t manage to get everything out of our car. Tomorrow I hope to be more competitive, even if it won’t be an easy race. The degradation on the Supersofts on our car is rather high, while other cars are suffering less, and based on how the first stint goes, we will decide if we should switch to the Mediums, which at the moment seems like the best choice. Apart from Red Bull, Mercedes and one Lotus ahead of us, we will have to be very careful about other cars that are also very close and it will be important to get a very good start, trying to push to the maximum to bring home a reasonable points haul. It would definitely require a lot of luck to make it to the podium.”
Pat Fry: “Today’s result reflects more or less what we had expected from before, even if we can’t claim to be happy about being unable to fight for the front rows. We are aware of what is our potential but again today, we tried to extract the maximum from the package we have available, trying to adapt the car to the track characteristics and as a function of the performance of the two types of tyre. In the first sector, we have always been competitive, but from halfway through the second one to the end of the third we have suffered, especially on the Supersoft. It wasn’t easy finding the right balance which would allow us to push to the maximum without accentuating the tyre wear, which is inevitable when you don’t have a high level of aerodynamic downforce. For tomorrow, we will have to try and manage the tyre degradation as well as possible over a long distance, especially in the first stint. Reliability and the uncertainty over the weather will be two key factors”.
Yeongam, 5 October – Speaking after the end of this afternoon’s qualifying session, the Ferrari drivers and their technical director all spoke of the need to find something extra for tomorrow, to look at strategy, to give it their best shot. Even if Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa will start tomorrow’s Korean Grand Prix from fifth and sixth places on the grid, with concerns about a drop in the F138’s usually strong race pace, there was no suggestion that anyone from the Maranello squad is getting downhearted or giving up. Their fighting talk shows everyone at Ferrari is still bent on chasing the flying Sebastian Vettel over the final six races.
And indeed it was the German who took pole position for Red Bull, lapping just over two tenths quicker than Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes. In the other Red Bull, Mark Webber set the third quickest time, but of course he gets a ten place grid penalty here, which he picked up in Singapore after hitching a lift on Fernando’s F138 “taxi version.” That means everyone from fourth down to thirteenth place on this afternoon’s time sheet, shuffles up one place. Romain Grosjean in the Lotus and Nico Rosberg in the other Mercedes therefore now share row 2, with Fernando and Felipe promoted to fifth and sixth respectively, making an all-red third row.
Usually at this point, we look at the possibility of a great start and a strong long run pace allowing the Ferrari duo to gain an immediate advantage over the opening lap and beyond. Tomorrow, it seems that only the first of those two assets could come into play. Since Friday, the F138 has not been quite as potent as usual over long runs. But unlike Singapore for example, overtaking, with the help of the two DRS zones, does seem possible. Tyre degradation looks high, mainly on the Supersoft Option tyre, the Spanish Ferrari man lamenting his inability to push on it for an entire lap. When you lack pace, you often hope for rain and tomorrow, that might just turn out to be the ingredient that could level the playing field, as heavy downpours are forecast. However, if one assumes that the main advantage possessed of the championship leaders is excellent levels of downforce, then that still remains an asset in the wet. Therefore, a rain affected race is not guaranteed to improve Fernando’s and Felipe’s chances.
Yeongam, 5 October – The starting grid for the Korean Grand Prix was decided in the final moments of the session. Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were sixth and seventh fastest respectively, but they will both start from the third row, because of the grid penalty that Webber, third fastest, picked up in Singapore.
In Q1, the two Ferrari men made a first run on the Medium tyres, Alonso doing five laps and Felipe four. With three minutes remaining, the F138s went out again on Supersofts for a final lap, Fernando securing fourth place in 1.38.520 and Felipe tenth in 1.38.884.
In Q2, both men started on the same set of tyres with which they had finished Q1, before going out with a fresh set of Supersofts: Fernando was sixth in 1.37.978, while Felipe was eighth in 1.38.295.
For Massa and Alonso, qualifying at the Yeongam track ended with a single run in Q3 on the last fresh set of Supersofts. Fernando’s time was a 1.38.038, while Felipe did a 1.38.223. Pole position went tol Sebastian Vettel who did a 1.37.202 in the Red Bull.
Yeongam, 5 October – Fernando Alonso (1.38.486) and Felipe Massa (1.38.816) took their Ferraris to fifth and seventh places respectively in the final free practice session for the Korean Grand Prix, which starts tomorrow at 15h00 at the Yeongam circuit. The track conditions were slightly better today as Sebastian Vettel went quickest in 1.37.881, ahead of his Red Bull team-mate, Mark Webber (1.38.018) and Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes (1.38.318.) Both Ferrari men did two runs, starting with the Medium tyre and then trying the Supersofts, as they worked on a qualifying set-up, while paying close attention to tyre degradation, which is particularly high here, especially on the fronts.
Yeongam, 4 October – The provisional calendar for next year features an asterisk next to the Korean Grand Prix date, implying it has an uncertain future. But the Mokpo weather gods are definitely trying their hardest to convince everyone here it’s worth coming back. In the past, rain has been a major player here, but at the moment the weather is positively summery, with clear blue skies hanging over the very picturesque background of lakes and mountains. However, there is uncertainty hanging over the race, as rain is still expected on Sunday. And within the Scuderia Ferrari garage, uncertainty too as to how Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa will fair in tomorrow’s qualifying and Sunday’s race.
The main reason is that this track gets very little use and the surface is very dirty and “green” on the first day of practice. When that is the case, one has to be careful not to accept that the data seen in terms of tyre behaviour, car balance and other parameters during today’s three hours of track time is set in stone, because everything can change as the track improves with every passing lap. If the Scuderia Ferrari driver pairing are unsure of where they really are in the Korean pecking order, today’s time sheet at least gives a relatively positive outlook, with Felipe ending the day fifth fastest and Fernando in seventh. Both F138s ran reliably throughout the three hours, although Felipe lost time in the morning with a puncture. It might seem strange that a team taking part in the very pinnacle of motor sport had to wait a long time before the Brazilian could go out again, when they can change a whole set of wheels in under 3 seconds in the race! However, what needs to be understood is that, with tyre use limited over every race weekend, a puncture does not simply mean changing to a new set of tyres, so there was a pause while the replacement tyre was brought up to temperature. However, overall it did not affect the team’s ability to get through the planned programme on both cars.
Fastest in both sessions was the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, while Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull was second in both the morning and afternoon. Their respective team-mates, Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber are on Friday’s “second row”, with Felipe fifth. Romain Grosjean is the highest place Lotus in sixth, while his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen in eighth had an encounter with the crash barriers in FP1. Fernando splits the Frenchman and the Finn in seventh spot.
Yeongam, 4 October – Scuderia Ferrari announces that it has extended the term of its technical collaboration with the Sauber F1 Team. The multi-year agreement provides for the Swiss team to use the complete power unit, as defined in the 2014 regulations. Stefano Domenicali had this to say on the subject: “Reaching this agreement consolidates our efforts with regards to Sauber, a team with which Scuderia Ferrari has collaborated off and on for many years.”
Fernando Alonso: “The impressions are the usual Friday ones and to say more, we will have to wait until tomorrow and see how qualifying goes. On this track too it’s aerodynamics that make the difference and for that reason, I am not expecting too many surprises when compared to the last few Grands Prix. The time sheet follows the order that continues to be more or less the same seen in previous weekends and there is every probability that, again here, we can expect to struggle in the race. The difference between the two compounds is not as evident as in Singapore, but the Supersoft definitely has a very high degradation and we will have to see how much the track surface improvement will affect its behaviour. It won’t be easy for us in performance terms, but we know that apart from that, we can do well on Sunday. Now, we must try and get the most out of what we have available and put everything together tomorrow and in the race”.
Felipe Massa: “Today didn’t go too badly, everything worked as it should have done and I had a good feeling in the car. In the morning, I was unable to do much running because of a puncture on the front left tyre, then in the afternoon, we made up for lost time, managing to test everything on the programme. The car handled well on both the compounds that Pirelli has brought here, even if on the Supersoft we encountered particularly high degradation. On a first lap on new tyres you gain a lot at the beginning, but then you lose a lot and over the long run maybe there is more graining than with the Mediums. It’s only Friday and we still need to understand where we are compared to our rivals. Even if we saw that Mercedes and Red Bull are very strong, I hope to have a more competitive car than in recent races, which will allow me to fight”.
Pat Fry: “Despite the difficulties encountered in the first session and the dusty track, this day ended in a positive manner. I am sure that this evening, along with the opinions of the drivers, the data gathered during the two sessions will supply us with all the tools we need to optimise the package we will bring to the track tomorrow and in the race. The hierarchy down the pit lane does not seem that different to what it was in Singapore, but equally we are counting on seeing smaller gaps to our rivals. In the morning, we had a puncture on Felipe’s front left tyre during his out lap: that meant we had to call him back into the pits and delay the start of his first run. We lost time getting the new tyre up to temperature and once we were ready, we made the most of the final twenty minutes of the session, hoping an improvement in track condition would produce a more representative picture. In the first session with Fernando, we worked on car set-up, particularly on a comparison of two front wings, while in the second we concentrated on the usual comparison between the two tyre compounds, Medium and Supersoft. From what we could see this afternoon, we should take into account that their performance will be influenced by the evolution of the track surface over the weekend. Furthermore, the weather forecast is very uncertain and this is another factor that should not be underestimated when it comes to selecting the best set-up”.
Yeongam, 4 October – The forecast for Sunday is for rain, but for now the Yeongam circuit is bathed in sunshine and the temperature is 23 degrees. Felipe Massa ended the second session in fifth place with a time of 1.39.114, while Fernando Alonso was seventh in 1.39.444.
Felipe got going immediately to make up for the time lost this morning when he had a puncture. Both F138s ran the Medium tyre to begin with: 7 laps for Massa (1.40.319) and 8 for Alonso (1.40.096.) After thirty minutes the programme switched to qualifying runs on the Supersoft tyres, with Felipe knocking over a second off his time, while Fernando ran into traffic and improved by 0.652 thousandths.
In the second half of the session the programme moved on to race simulations and practice starts, with Alonso doing many laps on the Supersoft, only fitting the Mediums for the final three minutes, while Massa did his long runs on the Medium. The results were promising, but it could be for nothing if the rain does indeed arrive on Sunday. Massa and Alonso completed 30 and 31 laps respectively. Fastest this afternoon was Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes with a time of 1.38.673.
Yeongam, 4 October – Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes was fastest in the first free practice session for the Korean Grand Prix in a time of 1.39.630. The Englishman outpaced the Red Bull duo of Sebastian Vettel (1.39.667) and Mark Webber (1.39.816.) Fernando Alonso was sixth for Ferrari in 1.40.374, in a session during which he ran a comparison of two front wings, as well as working on set-up on the dusty Korean track. However, in the other F138, Felipe Massa’s running time was reduced, as he had to pit on his first run with a puncture to the left front tyre, currently being assessed by the Pirelli engineers. The Brazilian did 13 laps, the best in 1.40.880, which puts him tenth on the time sheet.
Yeongam, 3 October – Fernando Alonso met the media in a very sunny paddock here on the outskirts of Mokpo this afternoon and admitted that, rain or shine, this was going to be a tough weekend for Scuderia Ferrari. “Fifteen days ago we were fourth fastest behind Red Bull, Lotus and Mercedes and there are very few new things on the car this weekend,” said the Spaniard. “However, if we have a good Saturday, then usually in the race we can recover a bit, with a good start and strategy, so we will be hoping to maximise our points haul.”
There is talk of rain for Saturday and Sunday and although the collective wisdom is that rain reduces performance gaps between cars, the Ferrari man doesn’t see a wet track as necessarily providing a route to the podium. “You never know who will be the lucky one in that situation,” reckoned Fernando. “It’s hard to predict, but even in the wet, Red Bull should be maximum favourites because of the high downforce levels their cars have.”
What was needed to beat Vettel and Red Bull? “We have to be realistic that we don’t have the pace to beat them in normal conditions and if we do get any luck, you can be sure we will take it!,” said Fernando. “We will not give up the fight until it’s mathematically impossible to take the title.” Alonso has fought for the title down to the wire on several occasions, sometimes winning sometimes not, so he is well qualified to assess what this final rush of six races will be like. In one word, “stressful. It will not be easy to handle all the travelling and different time zones, but our motivation will be high. We must concentrate on preparing really well in the weeks in between each grand prix so that we tackle them in 100% condition both physically and mentally.”
Earlier this week, it was reported that Alonso met with Ferrari President, Luca di Montezemolo. “We have quite a few update meetings during the year,” explained Fernando. “He asks me about areas where I think we need to improve and I ask him about plans for the future. Obviously, one of the main topics at the moment is our wind tunnel which we will now be able to use again after all the work done on it.” Even if the revised wind tunnel will be of more use for next year and beyond, Fernando made it clear that neither he nor Montezemolo have given up on this year. “The President and me think anything can happen. Like the Americas Cup, we saw the American team was 1-8 down and they won 9-8. We know it would be difficult, but if you have two lucky races, things can change very quickly. But we need a lot of luck; we know that.”
Yeongam, 3 October – In the past few years, the expression “another sunny day in Mokpo,” has been used with a sense of irony as the weather has generally been poor, not to say very wet. But today, as the Korean Grand Prix weekend got underway, it really is a beautifully hot and sunny day, with the mountains and lake behind the paddock looking picture postcard-pretty. And Felipe Massa’s disposition was as sunny as ever, when he faced the media in the official FIA Press Conference this afternoon. Inevitably, much of the questioning concerned the Brazilian’s future and what he might be doing next year. “I have talked to a few teams and there seem to be some good opportunities, but for now I am concentrating on the last races and we will say something when the time is right,” he said, before adding that he had not changed his mind about what sort of drive he would accept. “I am quite optimistic that we can find a good solution, but I want a car that gives me the possibility to fight for good results in the races, otherwise I am not interested.”
When it comes to the final six rounds of 2013, Felipe is keen to do well. “At the moment, I feel good and I’m comfortable in the car, which is why I have scored important points in the last races and qualifying is also going well,” reckoned the Ferrari man. “I hope to carry on like that, maybe getting better results and podiums for me and the team. It would be a nice way to finish a long and nice time together.” Asked about comments from Pat Fry and Nik Tombazis that the change of tyre construction during the season and not always going in the right direction in terms of car development, were the reasons for Ferrari’s drop in performance in the mid-season, the Brazilian painted a more general picture of the difficulties faced by the Scuderia. “Clearly, if you don’t have a car capable of winning then you are not doing a perfect job,” he stated. “There are so many little things that didn’t work as well as they should, so I don’t think we can single out one or two aspects, but we need to look at the car as a whole.” The two technical chiefs had also mentioned that the remaining six Friday practice sessions would also serve to evaluate a small number of components for 2014. How did Felipe feel about this, given he will not be driving a Prancing Horse car next year. “I hope they give me everything they can to test for next year,” he replied with a big grin across his face. “But to be honest, there will not be much we can test now, as next year’s cars are so different.”
Another topic aimed at Felipe and the others on the panel was next year’s calendar, currently showing 22 races. “It’s a lot and I’m not concerned just for us drivers, but also it will be hard on the team,” he maintained. “I am not against more races, but with a little bit more thought we could have a nice calendar, so that for example we don’t have a race in Japan on its own, then go back to Europe and then have to return to this part of the world for a race two weeks later.”
Seoul, 2 October – Scuderia Ferrari’s week in South Korea began this evening in Seoul with Marc Gené’s participation in an event at the Ferrari dealership in the South Korean capital, Forza Motors, which has been representing Ferrari for five years in this ever-growing market that is full of potential. The Scuderia’s test driver first met up with a group of local journalists, then he had dinner with the Prancing Horse’s best Korean clients.
“It’s always a pleasure to meet our clients, who are the lifeblood of Ferrari,” Marc told www.ferrari.com. “Speaking with them, I perceived a great passion for the company and an ever-growing interest in Formula 1. From Friday we will be on track at Yeongam: the goal is to do our best, as ever. We know that the situation in the two championships is not easy but in sport you must never give in. It’s clear that from the point of view of development, we are now concentrating ever more on the project for the 2014 car. We will also try to use these last six races of the year to collect information that could be useful for next season.”
Without, of course, forgetting about the current one!
Maranello, 1 October – A meeting to take stock of the short-term and mid-term future: Luca di Montezemolo and Fernando Alonso met today at Maranello ahead of the Spanish driver’s departure for the sequence of Asian races that begins this weekend in Yeongam in South Korea.
The 2013 season has reached its final phase and it’s clear that catching up sixty points to Sebastian Vettel is a task that is improbable but not impossible: there is nevertheless plenty of desire to do well in these last six Grands Prix. There are still important goals to reach but also plenty of opportunities to collect important information ahead of 2014, a year when the cars will see a host of technical changes. These were among the subjects that Montezemolo and Alonso discussed at their first meeting since the Saturday of qualifying at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
Maranello, 1 October – Only two names have ever appeared on the winner’s trophy for the Korean Grand Prix and this weekend at the Yeongam circuit , Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel will again be locked in combat as the 2013 championship reaches the home stretch, with Korea and Japan hosting the next two rounds within one week of each other. “After the streets of Singapore, we’re moving back to a track that has a bias towards medium and high speed corners, but you will still run towards the top end of the downforce range,” is Scuderia Ferrari Engineering Director Pat Fry’s initial assessment of the challenge that awaits, on the outskirts of the sea port of Mokpo. “However, after Turn 2 there is a very long straight which is a DRS zone so we will need good speed there.”
The next time Formula 1 will travel this far east will be for the start of the 2014 season in Australia and that date is already affecting the work of the Scuderia at the race track. “We’ve still got some developments coming through for the next few races and we will be running and testing them to continue to try and improve the car,” says Fry. “For 2014, because of the much larger changes to the cars on the engine side and also the aero aspect, it’s naturally much harder to test components now, but there will be some small development bits we can run during this year’s remaining free practice, looking more on the reliability front than anything else, which means we have busy Fridays planned for the next six races.”
Watching the results of the 2014 work with interest will be the Scuderia’s Chief Designer Nikolas Tombazis, although this year’s remaining races are still an important part of his workload. “Our efforts will be partly aimed at continuing to understand better the tyres and tyre management, which might see some improvement compared to our competitors,” he says. “And we are bringing small aero updates. One should not expect these to dramatically affect the final result but we feel they will bring some improvement.” The aforementioned tyres has been an area where the F138’s performance seemed to take a step backwards after it had been one of the car’s strong points earlier in the year. “That change occurred after the German GP, when the tyre belt changed from being metallic to being made of Kevlar,” reckons the Greek designer. “However, it would be somewhat superficial to blame the tyres as the only reason for our decrease in performance. We also took some development steps that were not as strong and didn’t work.” In his usual candid fashion, Tombazis goes on to reveal that the Maranello wind tunnel, about to resume service after a major updating programme, also contributed to the slower than desired pace of development on this year’s car. “Wind tunnel technology has been a weak point for us, compared to our competitors. We had some problems with our flow quality so it was not as uniform as it should be and we could not run as big a model as we would have liked. Our data and instrumentation was quite outdated so we couldn’t do that many runs and experiments per day, which was a bit of a drawback. The past months we spent updating it have addressed all these problems. Therefore I am optimistic that, on this front, when we are fully up and running we will not be in deficit to our competitors.”
The 2014 car will not only benefit from these improved tools, but it will also be the first design to come out of a new organisational structure. “For about a year and a half, we have been organised in a different way, with two deputy chief designers each looking at the projects for alternate years,” explains Tombazis. “Fabio Montechi is the guy following the 2014 project, as Deputy Chief Designer, so he and I work very closely together. On the aerodynamic side, we’ve had a team working on the 2014 car for a year or so. Now we have reinforced that team with people who previously had worked on development of this year’s car whose focus has shifted to 2014 and therefore, the numbers working on next year’s car have increased dramatically.” Part of the reorganisation sees the return of James Allison to Maranello in the role of Technical Director. “I’ve known James since 1994 and it will be our third time working together, once at Benetton and previously at Ferrari in the early 2000s,” says Tombazis. “He’s an excellent person technically and a good guy too. Together with Pat the two of them provide strong leadership: he brings a lot of knowledge, experience and capability to the team, making it stronger.”
While we have Tombazis in the chair, of course the 2014 car has to be a topic for discussion and, if much of the talk revolves around the radical changes on the engine front, the whole car will be very different to its predecessors. “The changes aerodynamically are quite significant and in some key areas this involves reviewing our design completely,” he maintains. “The front wing is designed to a different set of rules, the rear wing too and the elimination of the exhaust effect is also very significant. Furthermore, when it comes to interacting with the engine, cooling is very important and to get it right is very critical. All these factors mean the 2014 car will be very different, but we cannot claim it is starting from zero or from a clean sheet of paper, as you have to use your knowledge and experience from the past to design the car. This means there are areas where we feel we have to catch up with our competitors and others where indeed we are all starting from zero.” As to the overall look of next year’s cars, Pat Fry believes the major differences lie beneath the surface: “aerodynamically the visual changes will be relatively small, with the front wing getting narrower and the lower rear wing disappearing. I guess the body shapes will change slightly because of the exhaust positions moving and that has a significant impact on the aero performance side of the car. So in performance terms it’s quite a dramatic change, but visually, the cars will look quite similar to the current ones.” For the next few days in Korea, it’s the Scuderia’s “current one,” the F138 that will have Fry and the team’s undivided attention as they continue to fight for what’s on offer in 2013.