Sebastian Vettel has conceded that there is room for improvement after finishing second in both practice sessions ahead of the Korean Grand Prix this weekend.
Vettel has dominated the past three grands prix, winning the last race in Singapore by over half a minute. Therefore, finishing second to Lewis Hamilton in both FP1 and FP2 came as something of a surprise, and the German driver admitted that there was still some time to be found.
“There is some room for improvement,” Vettel said. “It will be close with Mercedes; of course we’re not sure what others were doing with their fuel loads today, but it seems close ahead of tomorrow’s qualifying.”
Red Bull and Mercedes locked out the top four positions in both sessions on Friday as Ferrari and Lotus struggled to put up any sort of challenge. In the second practice session, less than two-tenths covered Hamilton, Vettel, Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber. For Webber, his challenge will be even greater thanks to a ten-place grid penalty he received in Singapore for picking up three reprimands for the stewards.
“We need to work on the balance,” Webber said. “It’s more about understanding the tires again and getting those working as well as possible. We need to work on both the short and long run balance, as obviously I’m going to be out of position after qualifying.”
However, Jones weathered all storms to finish an impressive seventh, his fifth finish inside the top 10 this year, and his best finish since his third place at the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade MotorOil.
“It was a really tough race,” Jones said of the effort. “We had a loose car yesterday. It was loose, but fast, for qualifying, and today again the car was really loose. I was hanging on the whole race, but the team had some good pit stops and we were able to move up.
“Obviously, the strategy was pretty similar to everyone else. Everyone was aggressive out there. It was hard racing but we came out with a seventh place and we moved up a little bit in the points.”
The seventh-place run sees Jones maintain his position in the top ten in the championship. He currently sits tenth in the standings, three points ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Max Chilton.
AF Corse has confirmed that Toni Vilander will race the No. 71 Ferrari 488 GTE in next month’s FIA World Endurance Championship round at the Nürburgring in place of Sam Bird, who is tied up with Formula E commitments in New York.
Vilander currently races full-time in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with Risi Competizione, and appeared at the 24 Hours of Le Mans two weeks ago.
Vilander is relishing the opportunity to race alongside Davide Rigon in the No. 71 Ferrari, and is eager to bounce back from an early retirement at Le Mans.
“I’m happy to be able to return to the FIA WEC with the 488 GTE of AF Corse team. This is my chance to cancel the disappointment of the 24 Hours of Le Mans as soon as possible,” Vilander said.
“Car number 71 is in the top places of the championship standings, and I will give all I have to achieve the best possible result at Nürburgring, to help Ferrari in the manufacturers’ championship and Davide Rigon in the drivers’ ranking.”
All four of the Andretti Autosport drivers encountered significant problems during the Kohler Grand Prix, and none of them were able to salvage finishes inside the top ten as a result.
Most notably, Takuma Sato endured the most difficult weekend of the four-car armada after suffering a pinched nerve in his neck on Saturday, which forced him to miss the morning warmup.
And things didn’t get any better during the race, as a lap 28 spin exiting the Kink saw him lose a lap and forced him to play catchup even more than he already was. Although Sato managed to finish the race, hardly insignificant given his neck injury, he did so in 19th after starting 20th in what proved to be his worst race since winning the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.
“It was a tough weekend and tough race,” lamented Sato. “I injured my neck during practice Saturday morning. We started in the back row, tried to make a push up, but I caught an accident. The engine was stalled and I wasn’t sure if we could continue, but the safety crew came and fired up the engine, so I came back to the pit, buckled again and I was able to keep going. In the end we made the finish, but we need a better weekend.”
His teammates did not fair much better. Alexander Rossi, who qualified a disappointing 15th, ran a four-stop pit strategy, and while he cycled into the top five at one point, an issue with the front wing saw him fall to 13th at the finish.
“I think we started with a good strategy, going for a four-stop race after starting 15th, but it all caught up to us on that first yellow,” Rossi explained. “Luckily, we had already gained track position and speed running on open track. We had an issue with our front wing, which ironically or not, is the same issue we finished the race with here last year, so we definitely need to figure out exactly what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay, too, had strong pace, even leading the Sunday morning warmup and running inside the top ten late in the race. But, contact with Charlie Kimball while battling for sixth broke the front wing on the No. 28 DHL Honda, and Hunter-Reay languished in 14th at the checkered flag.
“Charlie (Kimball) made a late block and took off my front wing. I had a good race going until Charlie moved out late like that, it’s just really unfortunate,” Hunter-Reay said of the incident.
Meanwhile, Marco Andretti battled a litany of problems, ranging from throttle issues to a broken pit speed limiter, which resulted in a drive-penalty for speeding during a round of pit stops. Andretti was a lowly 18th at the finish.
“We started eighth, but ran into throttle problems. We went off track on the first stint because the throttle stuck wide open. We came into the pits to try to fix it and got hit with a pit lane speed violation because my pit lane limiter wasn’t working. We still weren’t getting full throttle – I was barely hitting sixth gear,” he lamented afterward.
Sato remains in the top five in the championship, now sitting fourth, 56 points behind leader Scott Dixon. Rossi sits ninth, with Andretti and Hunter-Reay 13th and 15th respectively.