Lewis Hamilton hopes to finally outpace Sebastian Vettel
Briton quicker than world champion in practice sessions ahead of Korean Grand Prix
Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany waits in his car during the first practice session for the Korean Grand Prix at the Korean International Circuit in Yeongam, South Korea. Photograph: Mark Baker
Lewis Hamilton is hoping he has discovered the foundation on which to build and bring an end to Sebastian Vettel’s winning streak.
For the first time this season Hamilton finished top of the timesheet at the end of the two 90-minute Friday practice sessions ahead of the Korean Grand Prix on Sunday.
For once, and after a run of five successive grand prix Fridays out in front, Vettel found himself relegated to the rare position of being only second best. The reigning three-times world champion noted after the session his need for improvements which he felt would arrive “once the traction control is switched on”.
That was a cheeky joke to the references made recently that his Red Bull was somehow being assisted by some form of mechanical aid given his crushing dominance during the race in Singapore last month as he won his third consecutive race.
In front of empty grandstands around the Korea International Circuit, Hamilton clocked a lap of one minute 38.673secs, finishing 0.108secs ahead of Vettel who has won the last three races.
Trailing the 26-year-old German by 91 points and with his title hopes all but over, Hamilton has made it his mission to win his second race for Mercedes after triumphing in Hungary in July.
Hamilton and Vettel’s team-mates in Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber, who faces a 10-place grid penalty for collecting a third reprimand after the race in Singapore, were third and fourth.
As for Vettel’s main championship rival in Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who is 60 points adrift, the Spaniard was seventh fastest.
Vettel, who has admitted “it will be close with Mercedes”, was one of those to bemoan the lack of fans.
The race faces an uncertain future as the organisers are hoping to re-negotiate their current deal with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.
Looking at the thousands of empty seats which ensures they run at a significant loss each year, they must be wondering ‘Why bother?’
A three-and-a-half-hour train journey from the capital Seoul, trying to attract fans has always been an issue. Despite hopes that building the circuit would regenerate the area, those plans have fallen flat and now there is the prospect of the track becoming a white elephant should they fail to confirm their place on next year’s calendar.
Jenson Button, ninth on the timesheet in his McLaren, believes such a venue that at least serves the needs of the teams and drivers in the paddock and on track respectively, deserves better.
“It’s sad there aren’t many fans here, but next weekend (in Japan) there will be. It’s going to be a full house (at Suzuka), so that’s quite exciting.”