MotorSportsTalk’s predictions: Korean GP

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The Korean Grand Prix may be one of the least-liked races on the Formula One calendar, but it could still play a pivotal part in the course of this year’s championship. That said, the destination of the title appears to be unchanged from the past three seasons: Sebastian Vettel has made our predictions relatively simply of late. However, with the Ferrari/Mercedes, Force India/McLaren and Caterham/Marussia battles getting closer and closer, could the race in Yeongam be another twist in the 2013 season?

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race winner: Sebastian Vettel. Utterly peerless in the dry of late and even if the rain forecast plays a role, Vettel has starred in those conditions as well. Won Monza ’08 and China ’09 and posted a dominant performance in the wet here in 2010 before his engine blew. Impossible to pick anyone else right now.

Surprising finish: Jean-Eric Vergne. After six consecutive non-points finishes, what better place to end that streak with a match of his eighth place or better last year. Both Toro Rossos have been in points in Korea each of last two years.

Most to prove: Esteban Gutierrez. He got into Q3 at Singapore for the first time. Would love to see a similarly strong qualifying effort to match this weekend. He needs to keep improving his game with the prospect of Sirotkin entering and perhaps a more experienced second driver coming on board at Sauber in 2014.

Christopher Estrada (@estradawriting)

Race winner: Sebastian Vettel. Fun fact (or not so fun if you’re trying to chase him): The three-time defending F1 World Champion has led all but 12 laps in the history of the Korean Grand Prix.

Surprising finish: Kimi Raikkonen. Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari have been the only teams to hit the podium in this race’s history. That could change with Raikkonen, as tire management will be important on the Yeongam circuit – and this year’s Lotus has been known for being easy on their Pirellis.

Most to prove: Paul di Resta. I have to stick with di Resta in this category- five races now without a point after such a strong start to the campaign. Can he begin to close out 2013 on a high note?

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race winner: Sebastian Vettel. The form book is convincing enough, but Seb has been totally dominant in Korea over the years as Chris touched on. Barring an act of God, get set to hear the German and Austrian national anthems ringing out over Yeongam – without the booing this time!

Surprising finish: Esteban Gutierrez. Gutierrez was highly impressive in Singapore, qualifying in the top ten and appearing to have a renewed vigor for the final flyaways. The speedy Mexican could pick up his first points of the season here in Korea, and it would be well-timed given that his future is yet to be confirmed for 2014.

Most to prove: Sergio Perez. If paddock talk is to be believed, Checo’s place at McLaren is at risk. Having threatened to bother the front runners in Singapore before his tires faded, the Mexican needs to up his game in the final few races and prove to the team that he has what it takes to be a serious championship contender.

Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine)

Race winner: Max Chilton. Just so I could pick someone other than Sebastian Vettel, who is surely going to win, barring some misfortune.

Surprising finish: Daniel Ricciardo. Hasn’t done much since signing for Red Bull. But he’s a dependable qualifier, went well here last year before suffering car problems, and Toro Rosso reckon the STR8 will suit Korea’s ‘a little bit of everything’ layout.

Most to prove: Sergio Perez. Has had a competent first season for McLaren but nothing that screams ‘star of the future’. Needs to start defying expectations – particularly in qualifying, where Button was always slightly weaker than Hamilton.

Di Resta to make shock F1 return in Hungary, replacing unwell Massa

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Paul di Resta will make a shock return to Formula 1 race action this weekend in Hungary, replacing Felipe Massa at Williams after the Brazilian was taken unwell.

Massa first showed signs of illness on Friday, visiting the local hospital in Budapest as a precaution before being given the go-ahead to take part in practice on Saturday morning.

Massa completed just 12 laps before coming into the garage and stopping, with doctors then reviewing him a second time and ruling him out.

This means di Resta, who has not started an F1 race in over three years and has never driven Williams’ 2017 car, will make a surprise return in qualifying and the race.

“After feeling unwell during practice in Budapest on Friday and Saturday, Felipe Massa will not drive for the remainder of the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend,” a statement from Williams reads.

“Felipe visited the medical centre and the MH EK Honvedkorhaz hospital for precautionary tests on Friday, after feeling unwell and dizzy during FP2.

“He was cleared to take part in Saturday’s practice session by the FIA medical delegate, but he felt unwell again during FP3 and has made the decision to withdraw from the weekend.

“Williams supports Felipe’s decision and the team will work with him to ensure he makes a full recovery, with a view to return to the race track for the Belgian Grand Prix.

“Following this decision, the team’s Reserve Driver Paul di Resta will drive alongside Lance Stroll for the remainder of the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend.”

More to follow.

Vasseur: ‘Good choice’ for Sauber to extend Ferrari F1 partnership

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Sauber Formula 1 chief Frederic Vasseur has explained the decision to cancel a planned technical partnership with Honda for 2018 and extend its long-running agreement with Ferrari.

Sauber has enjoyed an engine supply from Ferrari since 2010, but announced in April that it would be linking up with Honda for 2018 as part of an extensive technical partnership.

The deal hit the rocks following the departure of long-standing CEO and team boss Monisha Kaltenborn, with Sauber’s owners uneasy about teaming up with Honda given its public F1 struggles.

Ex-Renault F1 chief Vasseur was brought in to replace Kaltenborn, and moved to cancel the deal with Honda and secure a new agreement with Ferrari, as announced on Friday.

“Sauber and Honda signed a memorandum of understanding a couple of weeks ago but things move forward quite fast in our world,” Vasseur said.

“I think that the situation was a bit unclear also regarding the collaboration between McLaren and Honda and on our side the engine supplier had to find a solution for the gearbox. We had a deal with McLaren and the situation was a bit more complicated.

“On the other end, the collaboration with Ferrari is based on a long-term relationship and we had the opportunity to discuss with Ferrari to get the new-spec engine and I think it was a good choice and we found a mutual agreement with Honda to stop the collaboration.”

Vasseur believes the decision will help Sauber’s long-term growth, with the team currently lagging behind at the rear of the field following a period of uncertainty.

“The short term, that will be difficult to achieve something. It’s a long-term project for sure,” Vasseur said.

“But I think the basics are there. The facility is impressive compared to the other teams. I think we are in a good move. The wind tunnel is a good one and the team, I think that Sauber is still in F1 an iconic name and there is a real team spirit, quite comparable to the team spirit I had last year at Enstone.

“Everybody is really dedicated, pushy, and now that the financial structure is stabilized I think we can have some hope for the future.”

Vettel quickest as Ferrari pulls clear in final Hungary F1 practice

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Sebastian Vettel headed up a Ferrari one-two in final Formula 1 practice for the Hungarian Grand Prix on Saturday morning, the Italian marque pulling clear of rivals Red Bull and Mercedes at the Hungaroring.

After seeing Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo lead both of Friday’s practice sessions, Vettel was able to vault to the front of the pack with an unofficial lap record, laying down an ominous pace heading into qualifying.

Vettel posted a fastest lap time of 1:17.017 to finish almost half a second clear of the pack, leading home Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen at the head of the timesheets.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton tried in vain to try and match Ferrari’s headline pace, lagging to third and fifth respectively.

While Bottas was able to finish nine-tenths of a second off Vettel’s time, Hamilton was 1.4 seconds back, the pair being split by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

Friday pace-setter Ricciardo had a session to forget as he suffered a gearbox issue, forcing him to park up at the side of the track with just seven laps on the board, his time nevertheless good enough for P8.

Stoffel Vandoorne continued McLaren’s good weekend by finishing sixth-fastest, with teammate Fernando Alonso ninth overall. Renault also got both of its cars into the top 10 as Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer finished seventh and 10th respectively.

Felipe Massa was forced to halt his running halfway through the session after being taken unwell again, putting his participation in the remainder of the race weekend in doubt.

Williams has Paul di Resta on standby as its reserve driver should Massa be declared unfit.

Massa cleared for Hungary FP3 despite Friday hospital visit

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Felipe Massa received late clearance to take part in Saturday’s final Formula 1 practice session for the Hungarian Grand Prix after a visit to hospital on Friday.

Massa was taken to the local hospital in Budapest following second practice at the Hungaroring after feeling unwell, putting his participation in the rest of the weekend for Williams in doubt.

The Brazilian was ultimately cleared by the FIA medical delegate, allowing him to take part in FP3 on Saturday morning, but he will be subject to another check-up ahead of qualifying.