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Korea preview - Alonso hoping his luck turns in Yeongam 03 Oct 2013

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F2012. Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Korean Grand Prix, Practice, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Friday 12 October 2012. Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing walks the track with Tim Malyon (GBR) Red Bull Racing Performance Engineer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Korean Grand Prix, Preparations, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Thursday, 3 October 2013 Grid entertainment.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Korean Grand Prix, Race, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Sunday, 14 October 2012 Race winner Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB8 leads Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB8.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Korean Grand Prix, Race, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Sunday, 14 October 2012 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Korean Grand Prix, Race, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Sunday, 14 October 2012 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 in the Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Korean Grand Prix, Preparations, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Thursday, 3 October 2013 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F2012 at the start of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Korean Grand Prix, Race, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Sunday, 14 October 2012 PSY (KOR) Gangnam Style musician waves the chequered flag.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Korean Grand Prix, Race, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Sunday, 14 October 2012 Pirelli tyres.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Korean Grand Prix, Preparations, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Thursday, 3 October 2013 (L to R): Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus E20 and Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Force India F1 VJM05.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Korean Grand Prix, Race, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Sunday, 14 October 2012 Max Chilton (GBR) Marussia F1 Team walks the track.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Korean Grand Prix, Preparations, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Thursday, 3 October 2013

He may be 60 points behind Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel in the drivers’ standings, but heading into this weekend’s 2013 Formula 1 Korean Grand Prix in Yeongam Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso is not ready to concede defeat.

“We need a lot of luck,” the Spaniard admits. “On the other hand, we are a very uncomfortable opponent, I think, because if we get that luck, we will be there.”

Vettel’s third-in-a-row victory in Singapore was so outstanding that Red Bull went to great lengths shortly afterwards to play down just how dominant their man was.

Team principal Christian Horner has suggested that a number of factors worked in Vettel’s favour round Singapore’s Marina Bay circuit, which presented a skewed picture of the RB9’s advantages over its opposition.

"There were times last weekend when Sebastian was two seconds quicker than the rest of the field, but I think it was due to unique circumstances," he says. "It was a circuit he was completely on top of and the set-up of the car was working well. It was man and machine working at the top of their game."

While not wishing to overplay those strengths, he does concede that Red Bull will be strong until the end of the season.

"The next challenges we have in Korea and Japan are quite a bit different in characteristics. I'm hopeful that we can be strong at those venues, but we can't take anything for granted as Mercedes have been strong at different points of the year and Alonso keeps turning up. He's always there. He's had three second places to Sebastian's three wins; so arguably, we should have had a bigger lead over him than we currently have. But he keeps finishing second and he's keeping us honest."

In Singapore Alonso said of his title chances: “Obviously we have to be realistic. A few races to go already, the gap is still increasing every weekend and now it’s 60 points. So, as I said, we need to be honest with ourselves and knowing that we need a lot of luck. We don’t need luck in Korea; we need luck in Korea, in Japan, in India, in Abu Dhabi… we need luck every weekend if we are one second off the pace.”

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton is the third driver still in with a chance of the title, and vows to keep fighting even after three relatively disappointing outings since his victory in Hungary.

“Seb is a long way ahead and he’s had the perfect weekend at many, many races this year,” he concedes. “We need to dissect why that’s the case, and how Red Bull was so fast when Sebastian let it off the leash in the opening laps.

“I’m not depressed because this is nothing new, and normally when I watch his onboards I can see that he’s driving with something in reserve and isn’t on the limit. But here he needed space in case of a safety car. Yeah, the title fight is pretty much over, but I’ll always drive in the belief that I can win. Realistically, he’s well ahead of Fernando and even further ahead of me, so…

“But after the race in Singapore I had the longest, but most productive post-race debrief I’ve ever had, and I still feel we can fight. Second in the title chase has to be the realistic target. Fernando is only 36 points ahead of me. But the biggest target now is second in the constructors’ championship for Mercedes because that would be massive for us, to beat the Ferraris. It’s going to be tough, but with six races left it’s possible.”

Ferrari currently have 274 points, Mercedes’ 267. Lotus, meanwhile, are now a further 61 back on 206, with Kimi Raikkonen expected to be fit to race after his back problems in Singapore.

Though Pirelli’s tyres have seemed much more conservative since the revised rubber was introduced in Germany, tyre performance will play a key role this weekend. The Korea International Circuit is a curious mix, with the first half of the lap containing several high-speed corners and a 1.2-kilometre straight, and the rest of it being tight and twisty. Getting the right set-up is therefore a compromise between straight-line speed and low-speed grip.

The track presents several overtaking opportunities, not least after the two DRS zones. The first DRS zone is on the long straight between Turns 2 and 3 with the detection point just after Turn 2. It’s the most popular place to pass on the circuit because of the long braking zone required to slow the cars from a speed of up to 310 km/h acquired on the preceding straight. There’s a crest in the braking area that makes it easy to lock a wheel, so the drivers are on their mettle not to make a mistake or to capitalise on one made by a rival. Turns 4 and 10 also offer opportunities, as does Turn 1 which comes after the second DRS zone on the pit straight (with the detection point between Turns 15 and 16).

Pirelli are bringing the same white-marked medium and red-marked supersoft compound tyres that were used in Singapore, despite the circuits’ totally different characteristics. Korea International Circuit is rarely used outside of the Grand Prix, so there is usually a high degree of track evolution over the course of the weekend. The combination of medium and supersoft, used for the fourth time this year, is designed to maximize speed in qualifying, yet at the same time guarantee a high level of durability for the race, which offers plenty of opportunity for strategy.

“This year’s nomination represents a change from last season where we brought the soft and supersoft, as it best complements the characteristics of the 2013 range of compounds,” says Pirelli’s motorsport director, Paul Hembery. “We would expect there to be a significant difference in lap time between the two compounds we have selected, as was the case in Singapore, and that should help the teams to put together some interesting strategies.

“Korea is an interesting mix: you get some fast corners as well as some slower ones but actually it has the highest lateral energy demand of all the circuits where the supersoft is used, so tyre management is going to be important once more. In particular, the work done in free practice when it comes to assessing the wear and degradation levels on each compound with different fuel loads is going to be especially important, as that will hold the key to the correct strategy.

“We saw the difference that having the right strategy could make in Singapore, and although there is a lower probability of a safety car in Korea, this is still something that the teams will be paying a lot of attention to in the build-up to the Grand Prix, as the championship enters its final phase.”

There have been several minor track modifications since last year’s event, chief among them being a re-alignment of the pit exit so that it now runs around the run-off area at Turn 1 and rejoins the track at Turn 2. ‘Sausage’ kerbs have also been installed at the apexes of Turns 4, 5, 9, 11, 13 and 14.

The weather is expected to be cool and cloudy all weekend, with a strong chance of thunderstorms on Sunday. The race, which begins at 1500 hours local time (nine hours ahead of GMT), will be run over 55 laps or 308.630 kilometres (191.773 miles).

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