Questions, questions: Korean GP preview
The Sky Sports F1 Online team ponder the major talking points that are set to be answered as the season moves onto the second part of its crucial Far East double header...
By Pete Gill, James Galloway and Mike Wise. Last Updated: 11/10/12 9:22am
Can Ferrari regain the momentum?
With a rallying cry from their president and a defiant insistence that the title is still in their hands, Ferrari are putting on a brave face on their predicament as well as a positive spin, but there's no disguising the reality that they've been emphatically out-developed by Red Bull since the summer. Alonso has yo-yoed between front-wings since Singapore, with the team seemingly still unsure whether the new parts introduced after Monza have brought any benefits, while Red Bull have stolen a march with the secret introduction of their Double DRS device.
The news that the team intend to close their ageing Maranello wind-tunnel doesn't bode well, and may be the ultimate reason why Ferrari have failed to keep up with Red Bull's recent rapid rate of progress, but with five races remaining and the title slipping out of their grasp, they've no choice now but to throw the kitchen sink at the situation. Forget about the brave words and defiant press briefings, if there aren't any new parts bolted onto Alonso's F2012 on Friday morning then they might as well wave a white flag. PG
Will Grosjean wake up from his reoccurring nightmare?
As public metaphorical floggings go, Romain Grosjean took a fair old beating from all corners of the paddock after last Sunday evening in Japan. It surely couldn't have done his surely already fragile confidence much good to see his name twinned with words such as "crazy" and "nutcase" over the following 24 hours and his ashen-faced interview with Sky Sports F1 certainly suggested that the fall-out from his latest first-lap misjudgement had already firmly dawned on him.
That's seventh first-lap collisions in his 14 races for the Frenchman since his return to F1, and given some observers are already all-but giving up on his chances of reforming, an eighth such incident in Korea would be the last thing an otherwise-burgeoning second coming at motorsport's top level requires. The ironic thing is had he not delivered some eye-catching qualifying performances this year then any first-lap misjudgments while mired deep in the midfield pack might have gone unnoticed. In a way, his undoubted pace has created a rod for his own back. But as his own team boss had asserted, the onus is firmly on Grosjean himself to change his ways. JG
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F1 is currently in the process of re-assembling itself for a race that has had, throughout its history, a life expectancy similar to that of Keith Richards circa the mid-1970s. Rumours of Korean GP's imminent demise have persisted almost since it first appeared on the calendar in 2010 - with plenty of people thinking that the race wouldn't happen even before then. Yet it staggers on, having recently (and surprisingly, it has to be said) been confirmed for 2013 as well.
Located on marshland at the south-western tip of the peninsula, the Korean International Circuit was constructed as part of a wide-ranging attempt to bring investment and tourism to the Jeollanam-do province. Infrastructure such as a marina was promised, yet nothing has materialised and the track already stands as something of a white elephant. The local population are, at best, mildly curious while incoming fans are put off by its remote location (Seoul is approximately a four-hour drive). There is an upside - a good track that the drivers enjoy and which has produced some very good racing - yet one can't help but wonder about the race's long-term viability. MW
Is Sebastian Vettel about to reclaim the land that was once his?
As title defences go it's hardly been the most emphatic, or at times convincing, but for the first time since May's Spanish GP the reigning World Champion is poised to return to the points summit in Korea. Certainly both his and Red Bull's form at Suzuka would suggest that prospect is a formality come Sunday afternoon, even if the long-windily-named Korean International Circuit isn't exactly a carbon copy of Suzuka.
But where there is a similarly is with Vettel's penchant for both circuits given he won convincingly at Yeongam this time last year and would also have picked up the 25 points in 2010's inaugural event but for the cruel late intervention of an engine blow-up. With Red Bull, aided by their own double DRS system, rediscovering their traditional qualifying prowess, Vettel looks to have his best chance yet of taking the title race firmly by the scruff of the neck. JG
Too late for Kobayashi and Massa?
Is the notion that a driver can save his seat - save his career, perhaps - by virtue of a fantastic performance right when it's needed most one that is too romantic? Too naïve? One senses that's the case in a world where rumours of deals already done swirl constantly, yet the thought that it might actually happen is one that gladdens the heart. Kamui Kobayashi's podium finish at Suzuka was nothing if not life-affirming: stories of sporting underdogs having their day always are - especially if thousands of people are chanting their name. Yet it's the fact that Kobayashi is viewed as an underdog that counts against him. After all, does an underdog have the potential to win races and challenge for the World Championship?
Felipe Massa has had an awful season, yet he's fulfilled both of those criteria in years past. That second place in Japan shows he's still got it; now all he needs to do is find it more regularly. Surely if he can then Ferrari would have the perfect team-mate for Fernando Alonso. But do they think he can? MW
Will Jenson start following Lewis on Twitter?
And will the earth keep spinning if he doesn't? PG
Pete Gill, James Galloway and Mike Wise