Alonso downplays Korea concerns

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Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso yesterday gave South Korea's new Formula One circuit a positive review, saying he expects a "spectacular" race on Sunday.

Alonso wrote on his Ferrari blog that he expects "no big surprises" at the first South Korean Grand Prix, which offers a "very interesting circuit that should be fun to drive, especially the last sector".

Alonso is tied for second with Sebastian Vettel in the championship standings, 14 points adrift of leader Mark Webber, with three races remaining. The McLaren pair of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton remain in title contention but badly need strong results this weekend to put pressure on the leaders.

Before they can start thinking about Sunday's race, all the drivers will be preoccupied with quickly learning the intricacies of the Yeongam circuit. About 250 miles south of Seoul, Yeongam only passed an FIA inspection last week, focusing mostly on the track surface and pit facilities. However, other aspects, such as spectator facilities and associated infrastructure, will be short of completion for the inaugural event.

Of most concern is the lateness of the final layering of the track, which only took place at the end of last month. It remains to be seen if the asphalt has baked together firmly enough or whether rain could cause oil to leach to the surface.

"From a driver's perspective the most important thing is that the tarmac lasts," Sauber's Nick Heidfeld said. "If the final layer is laid a short time before, it is generally understood it can be oily which, of course, would be extremely problematic."

The course layout does not appear to suit any of the leading teams in particular. The early part of the circuit has the long straights and heavy braking that would tend to benefit McLaren, followed by medium- speed corners of the sort that the Red Bulls relish, then a twisty section similar to Singapore, where Alonso thrived.

"It'll reward commitment," Hamilton said. "As long as the track surface is nice and grippy, we're set for an enjoyable first race in Korea."