The remote location of the Korean International Circuit has its advantages. Without a bustling metropolis nearby in which to pass away the evenings, the F1 paddock hangs out at the track and partakes in some group exercise.
Michael Schumacher has spent much of this week lapping the circuit on his bike (see yesterday’s Paddock Cat), and on Saturday evening it was the turn of the paddock runners. Williams’ third driver Valtteri Bottas set the record, with a stunning lap of 19m53s – only 12 times slower than Mark Webber’s pole position lap on Saturday – and Jenson Button set the record for consistency when he completed two laps within four seconds of each other.
Such a high level of endurance from JB comes as no surprise because he’s a very talented triathlete and he’s currently training for a marathon in Hawaii at the end of the season. That being the case, we can expect to see the 2009 world champion complete three laps of the Buddh International Circuit in two weeks time as he extends his training programme!
Unfortunately for Jenson, he didn’t need much stamina in Sunday’s Korean Grand Prix because he was taken out by Kamui Kobayashi at Turn 4 on the opening lap. “To finish first, first you have to finish,” is an old motor racing adage, and never has a truer word been spoken about this wonderful sport.
Red Bull Racing dominated the race from the front, which meant drivers Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber got reacquainted with chequered flag waver Psy, the singer with whom they’d embarked on some Gangnam style dancing prior to the off. (For the record, Webber was a better dancer than Vettel!).
Next up in the finishing order at the Korean International Circuit were the Ferrari drivers in third (Fernando Alonso) and fourth (Felipe Massa). It was the team’s biggest points haul since the Italian Grand Prix at Monza and it saw them overtake McLaren for second place in the constructors’ championship. It was a good day’s work for the Scuderia and even more smiles were added to the faces in the team after the race, when the catering team served up some delicious pasta to refuel the mechanics.
Gone are the days when the Ferrari staff all sat down with a glass of wine at a racetrack, but the food at the team remains second-to-none. An army marches on its stomach and Scuderia Ferrari marches long and it marches fast!
For those not involved in the paddock pack-up, Sunday evening became a race back to Incheon Airport in Seoul, and then on back to Europe. With the Indian Grand Prix in just two weeks time, every night at home during these long haul races is a bonus. Such is the non-stop nature of F1.
Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher has announced his retirement from Formula One at the end of the season. You probably already know that (unless you’ve been living in a box), and you probably already know that it will mark the end of a brilliant career.
With the end in sight, you’d forgive Michael if he took his foot off the gas at these last races. Relaxed. Enjoyed the banter in the F1 paddock. Left a bit of margin on the racetrack. But if you thought that, you’d be very wrong indeed. Michael Schumacher wants to win as much as ever, as proven by his 10th place on the grid here in Korea. His laps in qualifying were as committed as ever.
But it doesn’t end there: every evening Michael has been spotted cycling the track with his trainer. Okay, there’s nothing else to do in Mokpo, but the word relaxation clearly doesn’t sit comfortably with Schumacher (which doesn’t bode well for his impending retirement!)
Michael ended the day 0.1s slower than his Mercedes AMG Petronas team-mate Nico Rosberg, who has hit the headlines for different reasons this week.
“I came straight to Seoul after the Japanese Grand Prix,” says Nico, “and while I was there I met Gangnam himself. I couldn’t understand a word he was saying, but it was clear that he’s a born entertainer. It’s not a surprise to hear that his video is the most watched on You Tube ever. Tell you what, if I win on Sunday I’ll pull a few Gangnam moves on the podium.”
We’ll hold you to that, Nico.
However, you’ll have to beat pole-sitter Mark Webber to the top step of the podium. The Aussie took his first pole position since the Monaco Grand Prix today, and he’s confident that he’s starting far enough ahead of Romain Grosjean, with whom he had a clash Turn 1 crash last weekend.
“I think I’m far enough away from him,” says Mark. “Anyway, he knows I’ve got a good right hook…”
Both men strut their stuff on-track, and they’re both very fast. But that’s where the similarities end between Red Bull Racing star Mark Webber and the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt.
These two sporting giants were brought together for the first time at the beginning of the week, where Bolt – a PUMA ambassador – was presented with a gold Nissan GTR at Nissan’s headquarters in Yokohama, near Tokyo. The car was then auctioned off for charity, after which Webber and Usain went for a drive for 90 minutes.
“It was great to meet Usain,” says Mark. “He was a pretty cool guy, despite having just got off a 13-hour flight. We talked about a lot of different stuff; I enjoyed it. He knows his cars too.”
Webber wasn’t the only F1 in Tokyo after last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix. Half of the grid seemed to descend on Japan’s capital city, from double world champions Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel to Bruno Senna, Charles Pic and Pedro de la Rosa. Most of them headed to the hip Roppongi district and they kept bumping into each other in the numerous gadget stores.
Life hasn’t been so exciting or glamorous for the mechanics or engineers since Suzuka. After working all night on Sunday, they took a charter flight from Nagoya to Gwangju on Monday and then went straight into work at the Korean International Circuit on Tuesday morning. Since then they’ve been flat-out preparing for this weekend’s race.
However, there was one driver representative involved in the preparations. Williams’ third driver Valtteri Bottas donned a high-viz jacket and some steel-toed shoes, and he pulled his weight on Tuesday afternoon. He told reporters at the start of the year that he wanted to learn as much about F1 as possible this year, and he’s true to his word!
By Thursday, with preparations for the weekend complete, the paddock’s sense of humour returned and there were several lighter moments. One of them was seeing various team members dancing Gangnam style. Yep, members of Red Bull, McLaren, Williams and Force India have been dancing to the Korean beat for the cameras as various TV companies from around the world focus on the Gangnam craze for their opening segments to Sunday’s race.
Listen to your trusty cat when he says ‘don’t give up the day job, boys’…