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@Formula 1 Korean Grand Prix Preview & live Coverage

~With five races remaining in the Formula 1 season, the Korean Grand Prix is the most important event in the championship points race so far, with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso leading Sebastien Vettel of Red Bull by only four points – 194 to 190, respectively.

After two first-lap exits and only one victory in the last six races, Alonso’s lead has dwindled from 44 points while Vettel has claimed victory in the last two events in Singapore and Japan.

As the only back-to-back winner this season, Vettel is looking to defend his two championship titles at a Yeongam circuit where he was victorious last season. As of the second practice going into the weekend, The German native posted the fastest time at 1:38.832, compared to Lewis Hamilton’s 1:39.148 in the first session.

Adrian Newey, Red Bull technical director, sees the Korea International Circuit as an interesting challenge heading into the race.

“It’s a tale of two tracks here in as much as the first is very long straights. Engine power is important,” he told during a press conference Friday. “And then you’ve got the rest of the lap, which is quite twiddly, so you can get quite big swings between the various sectors.”

A number of teams cited simulator difficulties for drivers going into the weekend, as proper track models were not available due to the quality of laser scans. While some teams discussed their driver’s struggles to translate simulator times onto the track, teams employing more experienced drivers, including Red Bull and Lotus, did not seem as concerned. Of note, Sauber does not have a simulator.

Marussia’s Charles Pic was given a 10-place grid penalty for an engine change. While teams are allowed to use eight engines during the season, this is the ninth Cosworth V8 that has been installed in his car. The French driver finished 21st after the second practice session.

Championship leader Alonso expressed minor concerns after finishing third in the second practice.

“It’s hard to say where we are compared to the others because today we focused mainly on ourselves, working this morning on a comparison of various ideas relating to car configuration and in the afternoon on the tires,” he told “Let’s hope the situation improves for tomorrow because it’s always more fun driving when the track offers at least some grip.”

The Spanish veteran finished with a best lap of 1:39.160.

Lotus driver Kimi Räikkönen sits third in the championship hunt with 154 points and is experiencing Yeongam for the first time with tepid feelings, while the team is hoping their new version of the Coanda exhaust will lead them to their first victory of the season.

“The circuit is okay,” he told “It’s surprisingly bumpy in some parts but it’s quite different from other places we race.”

“We’ll try to improve the car for tomorrow as it wasn’t very easy to drive and get a good lap today. Let’s see if we can get it completely right and maybe we can be in the top five in qualifying.”

As one of F1's newest tracks (opening in 2010), the 5.615 km Yeongam circuit is set to provide an excellent stage in the driver’s championship. Contenders Alonso and Vettel are the only two drivers to claim victory at the circuit, which combines a long, straight first sector with a technical and corner-filled second and third sector.

Practice 3 begins Friday at 10 p.m. (EST), with qualifying beginning at 1:00 a.m. (EST) Saturday. The race starts Sunday at 2:00 a.m. (EST).

Although several drivers are mathematically alive in the race for the Formula One championship, realistically, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel will battle for the title with just five races left.
Vettel trails Alonso by just four points after winning last week's Japanese Grand Prix in impressive fashion. Vettel started on the pole and put on a dominating performance, leading from start to finish for his 24th career F1 victory.
After being shutout in Italy, Vettel has responded with back-to-back wins to narrow the gap with Alonso. For the second time this season, Alonso was held pointless, as he placed 23rd in Japan.
Vettel might have the upper hand this week, as he enters the race as the defending champion. Last year, he cruised to a 12.019- second victory to become just the second driver in Formula One history to win double-digit races in a single season. Vettel joined the great Michael Schumacher, who holds the record with 13 wins in 2004.
Formula One made its inaugural visit to South Korea in 2010, as Fernando Alonso captured the Korean Grand Prix.
Alonso, starting from the 8th position, defeated Lewis Hamilton by a whopping 14.999 seconds for his 26th career Formula One title. Alonso survived monsoon- like conditions in the early going and then benefited from Red Bull Racing drivers Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel failing to finish the 55-lap event at the newly-built 3.49-mile (5.621 km) Yeongam circuit. The win was one of five in 2010, as he finished second to Sebastian Vettel on the points list.
Hamilton has placed second in each of the last two Korean Grand Prix races. This year, Hamilton has three wins and 11 top-10s in 15 starts, but trails Alonso by 42 points.
The track, designed by world-renowned designer Hermann Tilke, can accommodate 135,000 spectators.
The 2012 Formula Season continues with October 28 Indian Grand Prix at Buddh International Circuit in New Delhi. Sebastian Vettel won last year's inaugural race there.

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