A few days on from a Japanese Grand Prix that delivered mixed fortunes for Scuderia Ferrari, the team is now ensconced at the Korean International Circuit, just outside the seaport of Mokpo. It’s a punishing schedule, but at least the two venues are in exactly the same time zone, so jetlag is one irritant that can be crossed off the list.
The hours following the Japanese GP were a time of mixed emotions for everyone in the team including its technical director Pat Fry. “Felipe drove a fantastic race, saving the tyres well and he did a great job of managing them in the first stint, to stay out longer than (Jenson) Button and (Kamui) Kobayashi in front of him and that just unlocked his race,” recalls the Englishman. “It was a close call whether to go for a two stop or a three stop, but he was able to do it on two. It was a fantastic drive that produced a great result. With Fernando (Alonso), it was the complete opposite emotion, because it’s never good to see one of your cars go out at the first corner.”
The past is always consigned to memory very quickly in Formula 1, even more so when the next race is just a few days later. Therefore, rather than lamenting what the championship classification would look like now if Alonso had not been knocked out before the crowds had even settled in their Suzuka grandstand seats, Fry prefers to consider the implications of our Suzuka performance, when looking ahead to the remaining five races, with the points table meaning the title fight virtually starts again from zero. “Our race pace was a little better than in qualifying in Japan, where we were unfortunate with Fernando and the yellow flags. We are currently closer to McLaren but there’s still a gap to Red Bull, so we need to keep working on car development. I think looking back at recent races, we have been bringing small updates to every race, even if we made a few small errors in Singapore, but we worked out what they were and sorted them out in time for Japan. When you have a constant drive for performance, you need to take some risks and there will be four small updates on the car in Korea, with more significant changes in the races after that. Overall for the last five races, we need to stay calm and ensure that everything we do counts. There’s more to come, even if we have a way to go to catch up. But we are never going to give up and we’ll be trying all the way to Brazil.”
The Korean track is unusual in that, although most of it is purpose built, for the Grand Prix it also uses some normal roads and in keeping with this street circuit element, the choice of tyres for the weekend should be a positive one for the F2012. “In Korea we will be running Pirelli’s soft and supersoft tyres, with which we have usually been successful in finding a good balance on the car,” says Fry, “so we can expect to have another good race, although how competitive we are will depend on how each team has progressed with the development of its car. One also has to factor in the way some circuits are better suited to certain cars than others. Throughout this season, no real pattern has emerged to help predict who will be quick where: recently McLaren put together a string of three very strong races, but in Suzuka, we were a match for them, while Red Bull always seem to go well in Japan.”
As to how well Ferrari will go here, one could be facetious and say that the Prancing Horse has won 50 percent of the Korean Grands Prix, but as there have only been two to date, that’s not saying much! Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that in its inaugural year, 2010, there were two red suits on the podium, that of winner Fernando Alonso and third placed Felipe Massa. Last year was less successful: after Massa had put his car on fifth place on the grid with Alonso sixth, the two men finished in the same places but in the reverse order, the Spaniard ahead of the Brazilian.