Unoriginal it may be but it is impossible to make a case for any Formula One driver except Sebastian Vettel winning this year’s 14th championship race, the Korean Grand Prix.
Vettel has won each of the three Formula One races since the mid-season break, steering his Red Bull across the finishing line first in Belgium, Italy and Singapore, including doing the hat-trick of pole position, fastest lap and race winner in the latter. It is becoming increasingly clear that Red Bull has made technological advances during the second half of the championship, modifications that are complex but, basically, make its cars produce more downforce and speed.
Put the best driver in the best car and the result is what one has seen in Belgium, Italy and Singapore. Mercedes has slipped off the pace in recent weeks – the team behind Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg appears to have sacrificed its qualifying speed without making sufficient speed gains in races – leaving Vettel to dominate since the resumption.
With back-to-back pole positions and three consecutive race victories under his belt, Vettel is the obvious Korean Grand Prix favourite. And that is without factoring in how Vettel has performed since the Korean Grand Prix joined the Formula One program in 2010, which has been absolutely brilliant.
Do not be fooled by the absence of Vettel’s name from the 2010 Korean Grand Prix honour roll. Vettel qualified fastest for the inaugural Korean Grand Prix, with his fellow Red Bull driver Mark Webber completing the front row. Vettel was leading the race on the 46th of 55 laps when the engine of his car blew up, allowing Fernando Alonso to steal the win.
Vettel made amends for his 2010 Korean Grand Prix misfortune 12 months later, qualifying second fastest behind Hamilton and passing the Briton on lap four en route to a facile victory, taking the chequered flag more than 12 second before Hamilton and Webber filled the minor places.
And Vettel was the major player in Red Bull’s dominance of the 2012 Korean Grand Prix. Webber and Vettel qualified for the race in that order, recording the fastest times in each of the three sessions. Vettel overtook Webber at the first corner and, even though the Red Bull team was screaming at the German to slow down and save his car’s tyres towards the end of the race, he still finished more than eight seconds in front of Webber, with Alonso well off the pace in third.
One will not find any Formula One driver who thinks that the Korea International Circuit is the best on the schedule – in fact, it would be nearer the bottom of a popularity list than the top – but it is a challenging track that features three distinct sections. The Korea International Circuit’s complexity means that it is not easy for engineers to get the best out of their cars and, therefore, the fundamentally good cars tend to be the ones that have the most joy. And that is why Red Bull and Vettel have thrived in Yeongam.
Vettel is available at odds of 1.80 with Youwin to win the Korean Grand Prix and that appears to be the only sensible course of action, at least in betting on the race winner.
Some punters may snap up odds of 6.00 with Paddy Power that Vettel completes the Korean Grand Prix hat-trick of pole position, fastest lap and race winner but, if one wants to have an odds-against play, backing Webber at odds of 8.00 with Youwin to finish on the podium makes greater appeal.
Webber’s heart may not be in Formula One these days – it is common knowledge that he will not be exchanging Christmas cards with Vettel and some of his other Red Bull colleagues once he finishes up at the end of the season – but his Korean Grand Prix form figures, both in qualifying and races, are sufficiently good to suggest an investment.
Had Webber not spun off the Korea International Circuit on the 18th lap of the rain-affected 2010 Korean Grand Prix when he was running second, the straight-talking Australian would probably have three podium finishes from three starts in the event. Webber was third in 2011 and second in 2012, while he has qualified in first, second and fourth spots.
Webber has been on the podium four times in this year’s 13 races, which equates to odds of around 3.25. If Red Bull dominates the fourth edition of the Korea Grand Prix, as seems highly likely, those odds of 8.00 about the driver bound for Porsche making the top three will look big.