This weekend’s Korean Grand Prix marks the start of a frantic schedule of six races in just eight weeks as the 2013 Formula One season winds down to its climax.
Perhaps climax is too strong a word; racing fans becoming disillusioned by the sport’s recent predictability might instead describe the F1 season as meandering to an inevitable conclusion.
Last year’s race at Korea’s Yeongam circuit was won by - you guessed it - reigning world champion and current runaway points leader Sebastian Vettel from his Red Bull team mate Mark Webber.
Interestingly it was the only 1-2 finish of 2012 for the team that eventually won the Constructors’ title.
So far this season Red Bull has also seen its drivers only once occupy first and second on the podium - at the Malaysian Grand Prix in March where Vettel controversially ignored team orders by overtaking his Australian team mate in the closing stages.
The team’s lopsided results - Webber is fifth in the standings on 130 points compared to Vettel’s 247 – may just spur the Australian into life in the twilight of his F1 career (he’s quitting the sport at the end of the year) and perhaps inspire him to deliver a couple of Vettel-beating performances.
It may be the only opportunity to spice things up at the front of the field as the challenge from Ferrari and Mercedes seems to have all but evaporated.
After Vettel’s dominant display in Singapore two weeks ago – his seventh win of the season – Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali has effectively thrown in the towel. Ferrari will still aim to be ready to take advantage of any mishap by Vettel, but its focus has now shifted to 2014, which will see several major changes including a 1.6-litre turbo V6 in place of the current normally-aspirated 2.4-litre V8.
“It is as complicated as it is important.”
Domenicali said: “Now it’s clear that 99 percent of our energies will be concentrated on the 2014 project.
“Ahead of the summer break we were striving hard for a performance gain in Singapore, on a track with characteristics that are particularly unsuitable for our car. Instead we lost even more ground, despite the fact that the F138 has improved in certain ways.
“We still have some new parts for the car that we will bring to the coming races but, above all, we will now try to make the most out of what we already have.”
Ferrari is effectively vying with Mercedes for second in the Drivers’ and Constructors’ championships.
The red team occupies both slots for now but Mercedes, after its early-season tyre-munching woes, has produced bursts of form that have brought podium results for both Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton is third in the title chase on 151 points, behind Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso on 187 who has finished second in the past three races.
Lotus’ challenge took a dip when Kimi Raikkonen failed to score in both Belgium and Italy, but the Iceman was back on the podium in Singapore and lies just two points adrift of Hamilton. The once-mighty McLaren team, meanwhile, is in a fight with Force India for fifth in the Constructors’ standings. - Star Motoring