x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Webber sets early pace in South Korea

The Australian is two-tenths of second faster than Alonso, but practice day marked by unease followed by optimism over largely untested track.

Mark Webber was in control in his Red Bull car across the new Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, yesterday.
Mark Webber was in control in his Red Bull car across the new Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, yesterday.

YEONGAM, SOUTH KOREA // Mark Webber, the championship leader, set the fastest time in yesterday's practice for the Korean Grand Prix.

Webber's lap of 1 min, 37.942 secs at the new Korean International Circuit was almost two-tenths of a second quicker than Fernando Alonso, who is joint second in the drivers championship. Lewis Hamilton was third fastest.

"It was a positive day and the car ran well," Webber said. "There was a lot of information to gather and we've done that pretty successfully."

Sebastian Vettel - tied with Alonso in the standings, 14 points behind Webber - was seventh on the timesheets after suffering a puncture during session two.

Jenson Button, in a McLaren-Mercedes, was fifth despite missing much of the session after his car overheated and had to be sprayed down with fire extinguishers in pit lane.

The morning session was a learning experience for drivers, who moved with caution around the freshly laid track until enough rubber was laid on the surface and they were able to push harder.

The initial few laps in the morning saw times around the 1 min, 50 sec mark, and by the end of the afternoon session, about 12 seconds had been shaved off.

The first day on the new track exposed some problems, particularly in the final sector. A pronounced dip on the apex of the penultimate corner leads into a walled section where drivers can not see if the car ahead is slowing to enter the pit lane.

"The pit entry is quite on the edge here because it's blind, and someone going into the pits will be going slower than someone who's staying out," Vettel said. "If you're trying to pass and they decide to pit, it could be quite difficult."

Despite those issues, drivers were broadly positive about the layout of the track, foreseeing good passing opportunities at the end of the three straights in sector one, and complemented by more technical and varied sections for the remainder of the lap.

"It is very demanding, challenging and tricky which provides a challenge that I like a lot," said Mercedes' Michael Schumacher.

HRT F1 team fined $5,000 for tyre warmer blunder

The cash-strapped HRT Formula One team were fined US$5,000 (Dh18,364) at the Korean Grand Prix yesterday after they managed the unusual feat of releasing a car with the tyre warmer still attached. 

Also reprimanding the team, stewards said two team personnel had breached the regulations by entering the pit exit to recover the warmer shed by Japanese driver Sakon Yamamoto's car. 

Yamamoto’s involvement in the afternoon practice session was subsequently cut short when he spun, brushed the wall and stalled. The team did not mention either incident, with Yamamoto instead highlighting that he had managed to use both tyre compounds in preparation for tomorrow’s race.