YEONGAM, South Korea // Spectators disappointed the Formula One championship has been decided before the motorsport circus rolls into Abu Dhabi next month should worry not: competitive racing will continue. The sport's primary protagonists promise it.
This weekend's Korean Grand Prix is followed by the inaugural race in India, before Yas Marina Circuit takes centre stage and Brazil hosts the season-ending showpiece.
But with Sebastian Vettel having wrapped up his second successive drivers' title in Japan last week, there appears little to compete for other than the constructors' championship, which will also go to Vettel's Red Bull Racing so long as they outscore McLaren-Mercedes at the Korean International Circuit on Sunday.
Several commentators have expressed fear that the season may fizzle out, but yesterday, in front of a dwindling phalanx of international media, Fernando Alonso, Vettel and Lewis Hamilton all spoke passionately of the motivation each of them feels ahead of the final quartet of competitive races.
"We all want to win, in any race we participate," Alonso said. "Even when we do the Race of Champions in December for fun, if we finish second it's a very bad feeling and a very bad night.
"Here in Formula One, racing in four grands prix, in four different countries, for our teams, for our sponsors, for our fans, it's impossible not to be motivated to win that grand prix."
Vettel, who has already spoken of the freedom he expects to be able to race with now the championship is signed and sealed, said he would rather not race than race without eyeing the top step of the podium.
"We come here with pressure, even if people don't put as much pressure on us as usual, we put pressure on ourselves because we will not be happy leaving this track knowing we could have done better," Vettel said. "We love racing and the moment you come to a race thinking it doesn't really matter where you finish is the moment when you should probably stay at home."
The 24 year old had a weekend to forget in South Korea last year when engine problems saw his race ended with 10 laps to go.
It was the last time Vettel failed to finish a race and the German added that such painful memories inspire him to finish the job this time around.
"This was a tough venue for me last year," he said. "We were in very good shape until 10 laps to the end, so obviously there is still something to be done.
"I've never been on the podium here and, I think for the whole team, we're not lacking motivation."
Hamilton finished second at last year's event, but has only had limited moments of joy since then, with just two race wins this season and having failed to score a podium in his past five outings.
He has appeared somewhat demoralised and disillusioned of late, but with Jenson Button, his McLaren teammate, winning in Suzuka last weekend, Hamilton knows the car at his disposal is competitive.
Now he must maximise its potential.
"My approach every weekend is to have a good weekend, yet for some time now it's not been the case," he said. "But I always come back. I always give it another shot and hope for a better result. Clearly Jenson has shown we're competitive, so I think if he can do it, I can do it."
Hamilton hopes to use the final four races of the season to bounce back and finish the year strongly, starting with this weekend's race in Yeongam, 380km south of the South Korean capital, Seoul.
"No matter who you are, every challenge, every competition, every race or obstacle that you come across in life is important," said Hamilton, who will help mark McLaren's 700th world championship event when first practice begins today at 10am (5am in the UAE).
"To me, racing is the biggest part of my life apart from my family and it doesn't matter if it's a practice race or whatever, it still holds significant value to me.
"Whether or not the championship is still up for grabs, there are still some fantastic races ahead of us and there's always another chance to revive yourself."