Free Practice 1
It was very close, but the Korean International Circuit was just about ready as cars hit the track for first practice on Friday morning. As expected, the Yeongam circuit was covered in a shroud of dust and dirt, making it difficult for the teams and drivers to get set-up absolutely right and set representative times.
It didn’t stop McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton from registering the quickest lap of the morning, with only Robert Kubica (Renault), Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) and Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) getting remotely close.
That Hamilton set his time (1:40.887) despite missing most of the session is quite an achievement in itself; however that benchmark will undoubtedly change as the circuit rubbers in throughout the weekend.
Hamilton’s team mate, Jenson Button notched up the 5th fastest time as the British team tried a number of upgrades, one of which was a a new rear wing. It was initially used in Japan, but disregarded at that track, only to reappear slightly tweaked in Korea.The Red Bull team brought an upgraded F-duct to Korea, while Ferrari arrived with a modified floor. Webber, who set the 7th fastest time, missed part of the session, as he was sidelined with a minor brake issue; while the Ferrari pair could do no better than 12th (Felipe Massa) and 15th (Fernando Alonso).
There was also some disappointment at both Lotus and Hispania Racing – Jarno Trulli suffered a gearbox problem in his Anglo/Malaysian machine, while Bruno Senna’s Spanish charger spun its way out of practice with a broken left rear suspension. At Virgin, Jerome D’Ambrosio once again replaced Lucas di Grassi for first practice – it’ll be tough for di Grassi, as he will be on the back foot on this unknown track, just as his seat becomes more and more insecure.
There were worries about the pitlane entrance, as it slightly covets the racing line into turn 18; however the organisers may look into that following the second practice to see if it can be modified to be less disruptive.
Free Practice 2
As expected, the times came down by quite a margin in second free practice session, with Red Bull’s Mark Webber claiming the top spot after ninety minutes with a 1:37.942 lap. The Australian topped the sheets ahead of Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) and Robert Kubica (Renault). Webber “enjoyed” a big spin into dirty run off area in turn 11; his blue and red machine tearing up part of the astroturf in the process, but not doing damage to the Renault-powered car.
Jenson Button had a small issue with the exhausts of the McLaren overheating in the pitlane. It would leave the reigning Champion stuck in the garage for a short time; however he did eventually take to track, registering the 5th best time.
Further down the field, Sakon Yamamoto stopped on track midway through practice. The Hispania driver spun exiting turn 16, damaging his front wing and stalling his car in between the walled section, bringing out the red flag. Later, his team were fined $5000 and reprimanded for sending the Japanese driver out with a tyre warmer still attached to the right rear.
His team mate Bruno Senna didn’t get out on track until the final few minutes of the afternoon – the Brazilian was sidelined by a gearbox failure, following the collapse of his suspension in the morning. Both Hispania’s were the slowest of the 24 runners. Lucas di Grassi was back in his Virgin for the second session, although the Brazilian still found himself 0.9 of-a-second shy of teammate Timo Glock.
Vitantonio Liuzzi stopped out of track at the tail end of the session with another car failure. The Italian did manage to go one-tenth of-a-second faster than team mate Adrian Sutil, but that means little if the car falters.
A consistent complaint from the teams was the lack of grip in the pitlane. Mercedes were quite vociferous and even replaced their front jackman in the second session with an orange cone, due to their pit worker taking a number of knocks in the morning.
Korea, 2nd Free Practice (October 22nd)
1 WEBBER Red Bull 1m37.942s
2 ALONSO Ferrari 1m38.132s
3 HAMILTON McLaren 1m38.279s
4 KUBICA Renault 1m38.718s
5 BUTTON McLaren 1m38.726s
6 MASSA Ferrari 1m38.820s
7 VETTEL Red Bull 1m39.204s
8 PETROV Renault 1m39.267s
9 ROSBERG Mercedes 1m39.268s
10 KOBAYASHI Sauber 1m39.564s
11 HEIDFELD Sauber 1m39.588s
12 SCHUMACHER Mercedes 1m39.598s
13 BARRICHELLO Williams 1m39.812s
14 LIUZZI Force India 1m39.881s
15 SUTIL Force India 1m39.971s
16 HULKENBERG Williams 1m40.478s
17 ALGUERSUARI Toro Rosso 1m40.578s
18 BUEMI Toro Rosso 1m40.896s
19 KOVALAINEN Lotus 1m42.773s
20 TRULLI Lotus 1m42.801s
21 GLOCK Virgin 1m43.115s
22 DI GRASSI Virgin 1m44.039s
23 YAMAMOTO HRT 1m45.166s
24 SENNA HRT 1m46.649s
Korea, 1st Free Practice (October 22nd)
1 HAMILTON McLaren 1m40.887s
2 KUBICA Renault 1m40.968s
3 ROSBERG Mercedes 1m41.152s
4 VETTEL Red Bull 1m41.371s
5 BUTTON McLaren 1m41.940s
6 SCHUMACHER Mercedes 1m42.022s
7 WEBBER Red Bull 1m42.202s
8 HEIDFELD Sauber 1m42.293s
9 HULKENBERG Williams 1m42.678s
10 BARRICHELLO Williams 1m42.883s
11 PETROV Renault 1m42.896s
12 MASSA Ferrari 1m43.054s
13 KOBAYASHI Sauber 1m43.309s
14 SUTIL Force India 1m43.602s
15 ALONSO Ferrari 1m43.928s
16 BUEMI Toro Rosso 1m43.940s
17 LIUZZI Force India 1m44.887s
18 ALGUERSUARI Toro Rosso 1m45.141s
19 GLOCK Virgin 1m45.588s
20 D’AMBROSIO Virgin 1m46.613s
21 KOVALAINEN Lotus 1m47.115s
22 YAMAMOTO HRT 1m50.347s
23 SENNA HRT 1m50.821s
24 TRULLI Lotus 1m51.701s