Pit Stop – Korea – By Lewis Brearley

A brand new, high tech new racing circuit, weaving in between hotels, restaurants and gleaming skyscrapers. That was the idea for the Korean International Circuit when it was conceived back in 2009.

However, this grand vision is not what awaits the Formula One circus when it arrives this week for the Korean Grand Prix.

Instead, they will find a barren site on the outskirts of the dull, port city of Mokpo. In fact, when the paddock arrived for the 2011 race, the second ever Korean Grand Prix, they were shocked to discover debris and litter from the race the previous year was still scattered around the circuit.

Every year, speculation is rife that the Korean Grand Prix will be no more the year after, but it is still scheduled to be held again next year, despite the much troubled situation of the circuit.

When the lights go out on Sunday morning however, it’s the circuit itself which will be the only thing on peoples’ minds. The circuit is quite unique, with all the straights being at the start of the lap, and all the technical corners in the following two sectors, and the drivers report that they actually enjoy its special challenges.

The past two races have been won by Sebastian Vettel, and the 2010 race would also have been his were it not for a late engine failure. These are daunting statistics for the rest of the field, and for the first time in memory, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton have publicly resigned themselves to seeing the Red Bull driver on the top step of the podium before a car has even taken to the track.

Such was Vettel’s pace at the last race in Singapore, as he stormed away two seconds a lap quicker than anybody else seemingly at ease, that his competitors seem to have surrendered their 2013 title hopes.

But, unfortunate it may be for those craving a close championship battle, they are probably correct to do so. Vettel is more consistent than he ever has been and the symbiotic relationship between driver and his car appears to grow stronger each race.

His level of dominance has caused some to question whether his Red Bull is using a secret traction control. However, with common ECUs regulated and checked scrupulously by the FIA, these allegations are nonsensical.

What is true though, is that Red Bull are using a highly successful engine mapping setting which no other team can seem to fathom. Regulation of engine torque at low speeds is vital to avoid wheelspin and improve traction. Somehow, Red Bull have devised a way to achieve a much better system than any other team.

Completely legal and completely demoralising for every other team. Now charging towards their fourth successive championship double, can any team step up and challenge Red Bull?

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