F1 Preview- The 2013 Korean Grand Prix

With the Asian part of the season well underway, there are only two races to go till the 3rd Indian Grand Prix. Preparations at the Buddh International Circuit are in full swing, with all sorts of extra ramp and bus arrangements being made to ensure that the Greater Noida area remains unclogged and clear for the mega weekend.

Meanwhile, it is time for the fourth Korean Grand Prix this weekend.
The arrival of Korea on the 2013 calendar is in stark contrast with its place in the 2012 season.
Fernando Alonso was Championship leader before the 16th race (of 2012) at Korea, and was leading the standings since the European Grand Prix. It was just about now that Sebastian Vettel began to wake up, making his move slowly but steadily with each race- cutting down to size the weaker Ferraris.
The tide changed only during this weekend in 2012, a race that catapulted Vettel into the lead putting him in line for his third consecutive World Championship. It was also a race that contained controversial ‘team orders’ and an alteration of the Drag Reduction System by 200 mts. Massa was recipient of team orders, having to slow down towards the end to hand an ailing Alonso 3rd place to keep him as the main championship contender for Ferrari. His 3rd place meant that Vettel jumped into the lead by 6 points, with his victory in Korea by a comfortable 8 seconds over teammate Webber- who had, in fact, begun on pole only to lose his position to Vettel at the first curve of the race.
By the end of the weekend, Vettel was on 215 points to Alonso’s 209. Things were heating up, and the Red Bulls had an edge.
Compare this to the droll 2013 season, where Vettel has won 50% of the races and holds a commanding 60 point lead over his rival heading into Korea. Not much can happen now, except for Vettel adding to his 2013 records- and he seems to dominate proceedings in every alternate season (2011 and 2013), allowing for close wins in between (2010 and 2012).
Many compare Vettel to Schumacher and the greats of yesteryear, but the difference lies in the fact that Vettel has had the advantage of beginning his career in a relatively world class car. A few seasons with the Toro Rosso came early enough for him to get used to the pace of F1, and by the time he joined Red Bull, he was already a Championship contender for the stellar British-engineered Champions. They found their mojo towards the end of the ’09 season when Brawn GP swept the initial half with Button, and carried on their dominance in ’10, and never really let up after that.
Vettel has only made the car better with time- forming a near perfect combination of man and machine remnant of Ferrari’s days with Schumacher (who was already in his late 20s and early 30s when they started dominating F1).
Vettel has time on his side, still only 26 and already triple World Champion. By his 27th Birthday, he will be 4-time Champion, with a good 8 years in his prime to go. If he stays on with Red Bull, unlike Alonso who made the grave mistake of leaving a world champion Renault team for McLaren after his first 2 Championships. Alonso never recovered from that switch, and Vettel already seems to have learned from the Spaniard- making the most of Red Bull’s dominant form.
In short, Vettel looks like he could emulate Messi and his loyalty to Barcelona- climbing levels of greatness with the same team within the same setup.
Comfort zones are not always a bad thing in sports.

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