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Pre-Korea analysis - title contenders go back to the future 22 Oct 2010

The five championship contenders line up for a photo. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren, Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari, Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing, Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren and Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Korean Grand Prix, Preparations, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Thursday, 21 October 2010 The 1986 World Championship contenders: (L to R) Ayrton Senna (BRA), Lotus; Alain Prost (FRA) McLaren; Nigel Mansell (GBR) Williams; Nelson Piquet (BRA) Williams. Formula One World Championship, Portuguese Grand Prix, Estoril, 21 September 1986. Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren with the media.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Korean Grand Prix, Preparations, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Thursday, 21 October 2010 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Korean Grand Prix, Preparations, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Thursday, 21 October 2010 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Korean Grand Prix, Preparations, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Thursday, 21 October 2010

The Korean Grand Prix is all about breaking new ground figuratively and literally, so it as fitting that they took an historic photograph here yesterday of the world championship contenders.

Twenty four years ago an equally iconic image was captured in Estoril, of Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell, Ayrton Senna and Nelson Piquet sat on the pit wall. But this time there are five of them, and yesterday each of them outlined what they expect from the race here in Mokpo that could, just, set a seal on what happens to them in the remaining two.

“For me it’s been a very interesting season,” Jenson Button said. “Arriving at a new team and working with a new team-mate and finding my feet pretty early on I felt. I have enjoyed the season. For all of us it has been quite up and down. We have all had some pretty poor events and some good events. It has made the championship very exciting. It is good to still be involved in the championship hunt with three races to go. Obviously it’s most difficult for me as I am 31 points behind. But there is always a possibility. We are still very hopeful and I am looking forward to the next three races. I am sure it is going to be pretty mixed up as we go through these next three races. If you look at the last two races the Ferraris and Red Bulls sort of had the legs on us a little bit but these next three hopefully we will be a bit closer. That will make an exciting fight for the end of the season.”

McLaren team mate Lewis Hamilton echoed his sentiments.

“It’s good to be here. It’s a new circuit which is quite exciting for all us drivers. Quite dusty out there, but as Jenson said, hopefully we will have a little bit more of a fighting chance against the Red Bulls and Ferraris and hopefully we will be a little bit more fortunate as well.”

At Red Bull, Sebastian Vettel was all smiles. “I think it has been looking worse this year for me, so I think we are in a good position. The car is really good. The last couple of races were very strong. As the others said, this race is a bit unknown yet. I think all of us could be very strong potentially here, so we need to see how it goes. Sector one doesn’t look like our home ground, but I think sector two and sector three should give us a possibility to catch up. We will see. Interesting venue this one, so looking forward.”

Mark Webber, the points leader with 220 to Vettel and Alonso’s 206, Hamilton’s 192 and Button’s 189, has perhaps the strongest sense of history of them all, and was really pleased about the photograph.

“Going back all those years, some of our heroes obviously were in those photos. It’s been a very interesting season up to this point, lots of different winners, and we are all in a position now. It’s not by accident we are in these positions. We have all had the seasons we’ve had up until this point. We have three races to go and they all offer the same points as the first three races of the year and the ones in the middle, so nothing has really changed too much. Just got to go out there and do your best. It’s a clean slate here for everybody. It looks like a good little venue to have a race on, so I’m looking forward to getting in the car and getting on with it.”

“Well, I think not much to add,” Fernando Alonso said. “Similar comments, up and down in the season. But for me personally a great 2010 championship, driving for a new team, great integration with Ferrari from day one. Felt very comfortable. It has probably been the best year of my career so far with great experience, very happy. Now the last three races try to do our best to arrive in a position to fight for the championship in Abu Dhabi. We came back. We made some good steps forward in the last five, six grands prix, so the last three races should be exciting with some better circuits, some worse circuits for all of us, and hopefully making the most every weekend.”

The Red Bull drivers in particular had kind things to say about the fantastic effort that’s gone into getting the venue ready in a race against time and weather. Only two weeks ago, there were still suggestions that the race might not go ahead because the track surface had been laid so late.

“Walking the circuit this morning it looks very interesting, lots of grandstands,” Vettel said, “so hopefully we will have lots of people coming this weekend. The circuit itself, I think the main things have been covered. We will see how grippy it will be, but given the fact there was a lot of concern and we were even talking about not racing here, lately they did a very good job. I think most of the things are finished, so should be alright for us to go out.”

“They‘ve tried incredibly hard to get everything ready against a bit of a deadline,” Webber acknowledged. “I think we are all ready to go. It looks like it will be ready, properly ready, in a few years’ time if you know what I mean, in terms of around here and in terms of the city and some rural surroundings, if you like. It’s a bit remote, but that’s fine. I hope the people in the future can embrace the sport and have a good look at what Formula One is about as clearly at the moment it is new to them and a new experience, but the enthusiasm looks good, which is the most important thing.”

David Tremayne

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