Well, the first question regarding the Korean Grand Prix has already been answered: it’s going ahead!
Despite reassurances from event organisers that all was going to plan, rumours surfaced mid-season that construction of the Korea International Circuit was miles behind schedule – and when Bernie Ecclestone admitted that all was not well just four weeks ago – F1 fans faced the prospect of an event cancellation for the first time since Argentina was pulled from the 1999 F1 calendar.
A last-minute surge in activity on-site has seen the circuit – or at least bits of it – near completion, and the event has secured the FIA’s sign-off to stage its maiden race this weekend.
But quite what the teams, drivers and fans will find this weekend remains to be seen. We’re set for one of the most interesting race weekends in a while, for a whole host of different reasons…
|Date:||24 October 2010||No. Laps||55|
|Lap Length:||5.621km||Race Distance:||309.155km|
|Lap Record:||Inaugural race at this circuit|
Formula 1’s latest foray into the Far East will take place on the purpose-built Korea International Circuit at Yeongyam, located about 400km from the nation’s capital, Seoul.
With the circuit design penned by Formula 1’s ubiquitous circuit architect Hermann Tilke, the layout incorporates some of the design themes showcased other other venues he has created – such as Singapore and Abu Dhabi – with the circuit partly framing the waterfront marina.
Rumours of the circuit being well behind its construction deadline were a feature during much of the 2010 season, and its cause was not helped by continual delays to the final FIA inspection – which occurred just a fortnight ago – that had threatened to derail the event entirely.
Despite getting the all-clear from the FIA’s race director, Charlie Whiting, the venue is still far from finished, although the key structural elements are in place, if looking a little shabby.
The track features little in the way of elevation change and won’t necessarily create that ‘heart in the mouth’ feeling one might get from other more undulating circuits, let’s use Spa-Francorchamps and Istanbul as examples.
Additionally – and again generally typical of Tike’s designs – there appears to be little in the way of high-speed corners, but there are the usual Tilke trademarks of long straights the end with tight bends to facilitate overtaking.
Looking at the track, it would seem that there are three principal overtaking points: the run into the left-handed Turn 1, the braking zone into Turn 3 at the end of a 1.2-kilometre-long straight, and the hairpin at Turn 4. The balance of the circuit 18 turns appear to be more ‘follow-my-leader’ stuff.
Similar to its Far East counterparts such as Sepang and Singapore, the event organisers may consider running the event in twilight or night conditions in later years to better suit the European TV audiences, although it would be better to see if they can get inaugural event running remotely ship-shape before considering such an endeavour.
What to expect?
The only man to have sampled the venue is sidelined Hispania Racing driver Karun Chandhok, who piloted a Red Bull show car on a few cursory laps of the Yeongyam venue. The Indian was full of praise for the circuit, and stated his belief that all would go to plan.
Video footage from Karun’s laps have been used by the teams to compare the simulations they have developed in their own factories – or pilfered off the F1 2010 video game – and they’ll be hoping they can set their cars up appropriately to maximise their performance this weekend. The F1 2010 interpretation of the circuit – designed using the blueprints of the circuit design – give a good representation of how the circuit should look, with one notable feature being that the grandstands actually have seats in them…
A principal concern for the drivers is that the final layer of asphalt was only laid last fortnight, and oil is still evidently seeping through its surface in certain section.
In fairness, all new circuits offer little grip on their first day of use, but the hazards could be a little more apparent here.
Another concern will be if F1 is actually a viable crowd-puller in Korea – hardly a bastion of motorsport culture – and we could land up seeing another F1 circuit being built that won’t pull big crowds.
The circuit’s layout will reward the various strengths the front-running teams’ cars possess. The long straights will better suit Ferrari and McLaren, while the twistier section will reward Red Bull’s good traction and mechanical grip.
Regardless, the event will prove pivotal for the championship battle, and a mistake here could effectively make life difficult for any of the top-five contenders, although none can secure the title this weekend either.
With the McLaren duo of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button sitting lowest of the ‘championship five’, if they finish behind Red Bull and Ferrari again this weekend, then they will need a miracle in the final two rounds to take the championship.
A McLaren 1-2 will close the championship battle up good and proper and set the scene for a thrilling final pair of races in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
However, Red Bull’s scintillating form in Japan – where it was utterly dominant – again puts it as the team to beat (as it has pretty much been all season), it might take a stroke of strategic nous or some bad luck to unseat them on the basis of their current form.
Another interesting factor within the ‘championship five’ is that Fernando Alonso is the only driver not competing against a team-mate for the title. How will McLaren and Red Bull manage to fulfil the needs of both of their respective championship contenders without being accused of favouritism?
No doubt this weekend will answer more questions for the fans, all against the backdrop of a construction site pretending to be a racing circuit, and as usual, the Richard’s F1 team will bring you all the latest news and analysis from the Korean Grand Prix weekend.
[Original image via Sutton Images]