Kimi Räikkönen: “Korea’s a good place to race with a good car”
After returning to the podium in Singapore with a superb drive through the field, our Iceman is aiming to keep the good feeling going in Yeongam…
How’s the back?
It’s better than it was on Saturday in Singapore which is when it didn’t feel too good. The important thing was that I was able to race and we did a pretty good job with the podium finish. It’s not the first time I’ve had a problem, as there have been some issues with my back for a long time. For sure, we will have to see how it is when I get out on track on Friday in Korea.
What are your hopes for Korea?
Let’s hope we are able to maintain the strong form from Sunday in Singapore. The car felt good for the whole race and it was a nice feeling racing too. The main focus is to keep this positive feeling and benefit from it in the next races.
What do you think of the Korea International Circuit?
Last year was my first visit there and it’s quite a tricky circuit to learn quickly, but I felt comfortable with it after a few laps. When the car is right, you can go well there. Last year we saw it’s a good place to race with a good car.
How satisfying was your return to the podium in Singapore after two difficult races?
You always want to get the best finish and the most points you can, so it was certainly better than Spa or Monza. I had pretty good speed and could overtake a few people, then at the end I was following Jenson [Button] and could see that his tyres were going off so I just applied some pressure. I knew I had to get past him because obviously some other people had changed to new tyres and they were catching us quickly. I managed to pass him and pull away and luckily nobody managed to catch me in the end. So it was not too bad; especially after a weekend where we had some problems with my back and not the ideal setup. To finish third with all those things and where we were on the grid, I don’t think we could have asked much more.
Your pass on Jenson looked pretty good, around the outside at Turn 14…
Maybe it looked more tricky than it was. Obviously you have more grip when you brake on the racing line and you know more or less where you have to brake; much more than you do on the inside. It wasn’t an easy one but we managed to get past and that’s the main thing.
Once again the E21 seemed to enable better tyre performance in the race that some of its rivals; how much does this help you?
It’s pretty normal that different cars and drivers use their tyres differently. We had a plan and we knew that if the safety car came out we would have to try to run until the end. Luckily some other teams couldn’t manage it and had to pit.
What’s your objective for Korea?
The main target is to have a better weekend overall compared to what we saw in Singapore. Obviously, we didn’t have the best qualifying and it makes things easier if you start in the top ten.
Romain Grosjean: “It’s time for some better luck”
After a weekend in Singapore where he was always on the pace – even if reliability issues were conspiring against him – Romain Grosjean looks forward to the potential for a good result in Korea…
How are you feeling heading to Korea?
I’m feeling pretty positive; we had a good car in Singapore and we should have a good car in Korea. Qualifying in the top three so late in the season shows that we still have good strength in our package, so if we can show comparable pace at the next few races it’ll be a real strength for us.
What do you think of the circuit?
Last year was my first time at the Korea International Circuit and it’s quite an interesting place. It wasn’t so hard to learn, although there are three quite different parts to it with the long straight in sector one, high and medium speed corners in sector two and then the street course nature of the final sector. The trickiest parts are definitely Turns 11 & 12 which are not easy to get exactly right, but overall it’s not too bad and I think the E21 should go well there.
How are you approaching the weekend?
Like any weekend, we want to achieve the best results we can. Hopefully there won’t be a repeat of any of the issues we suffered in Singapore as they didn’t make the weekend any easier. It would be nice to have some better luck and have a straightforward Friday, another good qualifying result and then a strong finish on Sunday.
Singapore must have been one of your toughest weekends of the year?
It terms of lost potential, it was a pretty hard end to the weekend when we had to retire. Friday was difficult as we didn’t get much track time, then Saturday was fantastic to qualify in third on the grid. The race was going well before we had the problem and had to retire. I certainly wasn’t happy.
What was possible in the race if you didn’t have the problem?
I think a second or third place finish was a realistic prospect. We had a good strategy pitting under the safety car and we should have finished well, but unfortunately my engine had other ideas. We lost air pressure and the team tried to fix the problem by topping it up with an additional pit stop, but unfortunately that didn’t work so we had to retire which is never what you want to happen.
What were the conclusions you could make after Singapore?
You’re never very happy after a retirement and especially when you are going for a podium. That said we have a strong car, a good team and we will keep doing our best as we have been doing for the last few races to try to get back on top as quickly as possible. I’m looking forward to hopefully some better luck in Korea.
Korea is the first of three back-to-back race combinations; how does this affect you?
The back-to-back races can be quite tiring, but equally they work pretty well logistically as we stay on a similar time zone for a couple of weeks; certainly with Korea and Japan. It’s also quite nice to be able to see some of the countries we visit with a little bit of time between the races. It’s not so nice to be away from your family of course, but it makes for an interesting end to the season with the six races so close together.
Eric Boullier: “We intend to end the season strongly”
A return to form for the team in Singapore saw a top three qualifying position and a podium finish harvested at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, leaving Team Principal Eric Boullier feeling confident heading into the final six races of the season
After a couple of difficult races in terms of results, Singapore was a good upturn in form; can the team maintain this for the remaining races this season?
Singapore was a good illustration of what is possible for the team in final third of the year. Once more Kimi drove an exceptionally strong race – even without considering his back pain – to come from P13 to the podium, whilst the team did an amazing job with the strategy for both drivers. Were it not for Romain’s engine problems we should have had both cars home in third and fourth. It’s unfortunate that Romain had the problem with the pneumatic system of his engine as he showed strong pace in the race after putting in superb performances on both Friday and Saturday. The level of downforce used in Singapore will remain for the majority of the six races left on the calendar this season and it certainly seems to suits our car, so we will fight for podiums for the rest of the year I’m sure.
When can we expect an announcement about Kimi’s replacement?
When it comes to drivers, we are not simply looking for a short-term replacement for Kimi. We are looking at where we are going to be in the next five years. We can afford to be patient – to ask the candidates to wait as we formulate our strategy for the coming years – and I hope not to have to take into account commercial considerations when making decisions on drivers because we have worked hard to build our financial strength without having to rely on sponsorship from a driver. We want the strongest line-up possible to continue the progress made in recent seasons; that is the priority.
How do you feel about Romain’s performance of late?
With Kimi leaving Enstone at the end of the year, Romain knows he has the possibility to build the team up more around himself. If you look at the last five races, he has done a great job. Since Germany, everybody has noticed that he has clearly ‘switched on’ and you can see the highs in every race. Whether we’ve been fighting for the podium or struggling a little bit Romain has clearly been matching Kimi’s performances, which is no small achievement when you consider the World Championship winning calibre of his team-mate. The Romain of the last two months is the one we all believed he would become, and I hope he keeps improving. If he continues in this way, it means he is ‘on it’ and delivering the results we all know he is capable of, which is very positive for his prospects in 2014.
What’s the team’s approach to the final six races?
It’s a tough end to the season for everyone; not only with so many races in such a short timescale, but also with the development back at the factory which has now switched to an exciting but challenging year ahead in 2014. We want to score as many points as possible with both drivers between now and Brazil, and knowing the strengths of the E21 we think that strong results should be possible from every track we visit. We are in a comfortable fourth position in the Constructors’ Championship, but that does not stop us from striving for better. The battle with Ferrari and Mercedes will continue to be a close one, but they remain a realistic target and we will be pushing as hard as we can right to the very last lap at Interlagos.
Alan Permane: “The remaining circuits this season should suit us well”
After a mixed weekend on the business side of the pit wall in Singapore, Trackside Operations Director Alan Permane is keen to build on the positives and eliminate the negatives through the remaining six races of the year; starting with the Korean Grand Prix in Yeongam…
What are the characteristics of the Korea International Circuit?
There’s a nice long straight benefitting the DRS effect, meaning there’s a good chance to see overtaking in the race. The layout has a mix of different sections but they flow together well. We see some decent straights in the first section followed by a few interesting corners – some high speed – in the second section, before moving into an almost street-circuit feel through the final part of the track with its stop-start nature and close proximity walls. Although there are good long straights, the number of high and medium speed corners mean you have to run with a reasonable level of downforce which should certainly be beneficial for us.
How difficult is it to get the right setup here?
The mixed nature of the track means that compromises are made, and the fact that the circuit isn’t used very much aside from for the Grand Prix weekend means that we should see a reasonable amount of track evolution. The weather can also be quite a challenge, with reasonably extreme temperature variations possible. These factors give the engineers plenty of different considerations as they seek the best setup, but in terms of what’s needed from the car, it’s not a circuit which places a particular premium on one aspect. You need a good all-round package with strong straight line speed and stability, decent traction and change of direction, but also good low speed performance tempered with that.
Tyre management proved to be a virtue of the E21 once again at the Marina Bay Street Circuit; will the impact be similar in Korea?
The two circuits are reasonably distinct from one another in terms of the challenges they present, but one of the constants between the two is the allocation of the supersoft and medium compound tyres. This will almost certainly mean we see teams qualifying on the supersoft, but in terms of the race it will be a case of ensuring we do our homework during Friday practice to establish which will be the preferred option on Sunday, and how long each will last at a competitive pace. This tactic benefitted us hugely in Singapore, as the work carried out on Friday gave us confidence in the decision to pit under the safety car and run a very long final stint on the mediums. The allocation for Korea should suit the circuit, so this should hopefully work to our advantage once again.
Romain had a few problems with his car over the weekend in Singapore; any causes for concern looking forwards?
On Friday we had a problem with the steering which was an isolated setup issue, but there was then a brake and a hydraulic problem on top of that. These types of issue can be a pretty normal experience on a Friday and were all isolated in nature. With regards to his engine failure in the race, Renault Sport are looking closely at what happened and we wouldn’t expect a repeat of this either.
Kimi, Romain and the E21 performed admirably last time out; how much can we take from this heading into the final six races?
Both drivers did us proud in Singapore. Romain delivered fantastically well in both qualifying and the race despite his limited track time, whilst Kimi overcame his back pain to score an impressive podium finish. Like us, most teams will have now switched their development focus to 2014 so we wouldn’t expect a dramatic change to the relative performance of each outfit between now and the end of the season. That leaves us in a tight scrap with both Ferrari and Mercedes, and with both our guys performing at this level – coupled with the potential from the car at the coming tracks – we should have a good end to the season in prospect.
Kings of Korea – An Engineer’s Guide to the Korea International Circuit
Turn 1: High braking demands in the latter part of Turn 1 can potentially make life difficult for the drivers at the start of the race, when the cars are at their heaviest and tyres at their coolest.
Approaching Turn 3: Over 300kph is reached on the approach to Turn 3 before heavy braking into this tight right-hander. Higher speeds could be attained on this long straight, however wing levels required for the remainder of the lap mean that maximum velocity is constrained by drag and gearing.
Turns 4 – 6: More heavy braking demands here after a significant straight leading into the slowest section of the track, where good low speed change of direction and mechanical grip are required.
Turns 7 – 13: A sequence of long, sweeping corners requiring good downforce and balance from the car. Turn 8 is the fastest point – taken at almost 300kph – before heading to the slower Turns 9 / 10. Overall quite a satisfying section of race track for the drivers.
Turns 14 –18: Good change of direction is again required from the car through this sequence – which bears a striking resemblance to Valencia – with the walls being close enough to punish any mistake. Turn 17 is particularly important, with good exit speed required heading on to the start / finish straight.
Turn 17: A surprisingly high speed curve heading on to the first straight.
Front Wing: A reasonable amount of front wing is needed to balance the car through the medium and high speed corners; slightly more than at a lower speed circuit, but not as much as at Silverstone or Suzuka.
Rear Wing: Downforce levels here are similar to those of Suzuka and although Korea does have very long straight, the corners are sufficient to justify carrying a touch more wing rather than focusing purely on speed when pointing in one direction. It’s closer to a Spa or Canada type of layout than a Monaco or Hungary set-up.
Suspension: A compromise must be found here between reasonably good change of direction at high speed – necessitating a stiffer setup – and the opposing demands of slower speed corners like Turns 1, 4, 6 which need a softer setup. One of the features of this track is that it is incredibly smooth and there are no significant kerbs. This means the car can run very low and close to the ground; especially as there are no notable bumps in the surface.
Brakes: This is not a circuit with extreme braking demands, however there are three significant areas of speed retardation – Turns 1 / 3 / 4 – which are all at the end of long straights.
Tyres: Pirelli’s medium and supersoft compound are allocated; a change from last year’s soft and supersoft allocation. The fast corners give Korea the highest lateral energy loading of any circuit where the supersoft tyre is used.
Engine: Korea sits in the middle of the power-driveability ratio, with engine demands similar to those of Australia. A mix of good driveability through the medium to low speed corners, responsiveness out of the slower chicanes / hairpins and good top end power for the three long straights is required. Good traction is essential for the lower speed corners such as Turns 1 / 4 / 6 meaning smooth power delivery from the engine is an advantage here. Fuel consumption is very high over one lap due to the stop-start nature of the final sector.
Partner Perspective: Renault
The E21 gets a Korean-style makeover
Eagle-eyed fans will notice that the E21 will be sporting a very prominent new logo during the Korean Grand Prix weekend. It may seem unfamiliar to European audiences, but the logo and oval of Renault Samsung Motors will be immediately recognizable to Korean viewers.
The RSM logos will be emblazoned on the E21’s engine cover and nosecone; replacing the customary Renault name and Losange diamond. RSM will also sit proudly on the drivers’ overalls and garage backdrops; substituting the distinctive Renault branding for the entire weekend.
Apologies to the conspiracy theorists, but this is far from a change in engine power; or a radical change in Renault’s corporate strategy. It is rather a way for RSM – a Renault subsidiary developing and retailing vehicles in the fast-growing South Korean automobile market – to promote its brand within a notoriously competitive domestic market using one of the country’s most high-profile sporting events.
Olivier Gillet, Renault Sport F1 head of marketing, explains: “Formula 1 is a global sport, but it is also a perfect opportunity for markets to engage with their local media and clients. Renault Samsung Motors is a strong domestic brand with a large market share in South Korea, however this opportunity allows it to reach more eyeballs over a weekend and to associate itself with a fast-paced, competitive, high performing sport. The Korean Grand Prix is undoubtedly one of the premium events in the country over the sporting season, receiving hourly hits across TV, print and social media channels; in every sense, an advertisers’ dream.
“This rebrand is part of an extensive 360° marketing campaign within Korea. Local press, dealers and clients will visit the Korean Grand Prix over the weekend. It is unprecedented for us to change our branding, but Korea is also a very unique market. It goes to show how Formula 1 is now fully incorporated into the entire brand’s marketing strategy. The change in branding will be for the Korean Grand Prix only and the Renault logos – in their full glory – will return for the Japanese Grand Prix one week later. At that point, we hope that RSM will have received justifiable coverage on the side of the E21; even more so if Romain or Kimi finish on the podium again!”
Renault Samsung Motors was created in 2000 when Renault purchased a majority stake in Samsung Motors. Rapid development has seen it become one of the most significant markets within the group, with 5% of the Renault group’s workforce now employed by RSM. The dealer network is one of the largest in the country, with close to 200 dealerships across the Korean peninsula.
In addition to selling Renault vehicles rebranded in the local vernacular, the company has built ultra-modern production and design facilities across the region. A huge facility in Busan – to the south of the country – is responsible for producing parts for cars including the Fluence and Latitude. It has a production capacity of 300,000 units a year, with facilities including highly-automated powertrain and bodywork shops and production processes.
Additionally, the Kihueng Renault Samsung Technical Center (RSTC) near Seoul brings together Korean, Japanese and French engineers and technicians. It includes a prototype center and specialized test facilities [chassis, powertrain, emission control, electronics, safety, and so on]. Furthermore, the RSM Design centre is a part of the Renault Design network, and the design bridgehead for the Renault group in Asia. It is also a window on the latest Asian trends – hugely important in the fast-paced Asian market. Renault Samsung Motors also sells cars in Chile.