Korea no easy ride for Red Bull
Seoul: Red Bull's Formula One championship contenders, Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel, have been warned that a journey into the unknown in South Korea this weekend could be tougher than expected.
The sport stages its first grand prix in Korea on Sunday, on a Yeongam track that has only recently been completed, and the one man to have driven a GP car around the circuit feels it could slow Webber's and Vettel's title charge despite their recent dominance.
Karun Chandhok drove the Red Bull demonstration car at Yeongam on Sept. 4, when the surface was in a comparatively rough state, but the Indian driver was still able to get a good idea of the characteristics.
"It's going to be very slippery, very low grip, I would imagine," he told reporters on Monday.
"The Red Bull is quick everywhere. But I think here, specifically though the first sector of the lap with the three long straights, they may not be as quick as some of the others. Ferrari and McLaren will be strong ..."
"Even if the Red Bulls qualify one-two, it will be interesting to see because of the long straights in sector one if they hold that advantage into turn four on the first lap."
"I do think the gap will be closer...I think the gap will be close enough that if (Ferrari's Fernando) Alonso or (McLaren's) Lewis (Hamilton) or Jenson (Button) dig deep they could sneak a win out of it."
With three races of the season remaining, Australia's Webber leads the drivers' standings on 220 points, with Alonso and Vettel in joint second place 14 points behind. Britain's Hamilton is fourth on 192 points and Button, the defending champion and Hamilton's McLaren team mate, fifth on 189.
Vettel is 2/1 favourite to win on Sunday, according to London bookmakers William Hill, with Alonso 11/4 and Webber at 10/3.
Chandhok revealed that Webber and Button are the only title contenders to have quizzed him for inside information on the track.
"You'd expect people to be calling, really," said the Hispania driver, who last raced for his cash-strapped team in July and will not be in Korea.
"I would have done that. Even driving down at the back of the grid, if for example somebody else had gone off there to Korea...I would have been grabbing at their ankles to find out as much as I can about it."
Red Bull had their engineers present at the demonstration run last month, and Chandhok faced questions from technical people with other teams -- as well as widespread concern about the local food and hotels.
"To be fair, a lot of people have very good (track) simulators and they have a lot of faith in their simulators and simulation software," Chandhok said.
"I think a lot of them tend to believe that more than anything else."
Chandhok, whose Hispania team mate Bruno Senna has pressed him for information, discussed the new Korea circuit with Webber when he and the Australian attended a charity karting event in Britain last month.
"Obviously he was very curious to see what I thought about the place and what the circuit was like," Chandhok said. "They all want to know who it is going to suit, don't they?"
Chandhok said he had spoken more recently with McLaren's Button. "We were chatting about this and that and he was quite curious about Korea," the 26-year-old said.
"I think he had been in a simulator a few days before that...and he was asking me about some of the camber changes in the road. Some of the corners, turn 11 and 12 especially, have quite a bit of on-camber through 11 and it then goes to off-camber through 12."
"I think some of that stuff is not so apparent until you get there. So he had questions about that sort of stuff."
Circuit organisers have been in a race against time to complete the circuit, laying the final layer of asphalt little more than a week ago and passing a final inspection only days later.