By Jung Min-ho
The practice rounds for the third Korean Grand Prix start today ahead of Sunday’s race with the drivers’ championship boiling down to a competition between Spain’s Fernando Alonso of Ferrari and Germany’s Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull.
Vettel claimed a second consecutive win in Japan Sunday, following victory at the Singapore Grand Prix on Sept. 23 to cut Alonso’s lead from 29 points to four at the top of the standings. The German took his first checkered flag of the Formula One season in Bahrain on April 22. The Spaniard currently occupies first place on 194 points.
“I’ve had two good races, and I come here on a high,” Vettel said in Thursday's media conference. “I will try to use momentum to have another strong result here.”
Alonso said the Yeongam competition will be fierce as always.
“We’re pushing for first, and nothing changes now. We need to keep doing things we’ve done in the past,” he said. “We've been more or less competitive in the last eight to 10 races. Maybe not the fastest, but always in position to fight for the podium, and here I think it will be no different.”
With just four more races after the one in Yeongam, South Jeolla Province, Alonso will be wary of the threat from second-placed Vettel and hope to extend his lead at the top of the standings. The result here could change the whole outlook of the drivers’ championship if the Red Bull driver, No. 1 in 2010 and 2011, finishes ahead of his Ferrari rival.
Points are awarded to the top 10 finishers. The winner receives 25 points, followed by the runner-up with 18, third place gets 15, down to just 1 point for 10th.
Finland’s Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus is chasing the top two but is lagging behind on 157 points. Vettel’s recent surge means the Yeongam race is more interesting with the title now up for grabs.
There will be two practice rounds today on the Korea International Circuit, with a third one on Saturday along with the qualifying run. The race will take place at 3 p.m. Sunday.
The Korean Grand Prix will be over 55 laps of the 5.615-kilometer circuit. Vettel triumphed last year after Alonso won the inaugural race in Korea in 2010.
“It has been fairly up and down for a lot of people, and this year, we have a lot of cars that can surprise,” Vettel said. “Things can change quickly and we need to stay focused and concentrate on what we have.”
Twelve teams, each with two drivers, also compete for the constructor’s championship. Red Bull-Renault is in front on 324 points earned by Vettel and Mark Webber, followed by McLaren-Mercedes with 283 and Ferrari is third on 263.