Should the Korean Grand Prix have started sooner?

The Korean Grand Prix got off to a late start after heavy rain – and drivers were divided over how soon the race should have got underway.

After three laps behind the safety car the race start was suspended and the cars sat on the grid for half an hour as they waited for the rain to ease.

They spent another 14 laps behind the safety car before the green flag was finally waved.

By the time the race had begun they had spent almost as long behind the safety car as they had at Fuji in 2007, where 19 laps were spent in safety car conditions.

But some drivers felt the conditions were adequate to go racing in. Not least of which Lewis Hamilton, who was on the grid at Fuji three years ago and said the conditions were no worse than what they had a previous races:

The track is fine, the visibility is good. I have three cars in front of me and I can see.
Lewis Hamilton

While Hamilton was keen to see the race start – and maximise his championship advantage – Mark Webber was urging the organisers not to start the race.

Robert Kubica, who potentially had less of a vested interested, also said the conditions were too dangerous.

It is likely that because the track was laid only recently, water was not draining very well through the tarmac. Jenson Button added another reason for the visibility problems:

Because of the way the track is with the walls and the stands the water isn’t going anywhere.
Jenson Button

Do you think the race should have started sooner? Should race control pay attention to what drivers who have a vested interest in the result have to say about the conditions? Have your say before.

Should the race have started sooner?

  • Yes, it should have started sooner (79%)
  • No, it started at the right time (19%)
  • No, it should have started later (1%)
  • No, it should have been abandoned (2%)

Total Voters: 2,286

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131 comments on Should the Korean Grand Prix have started sooner?

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  1. Daszek said on 24th October 2010, 11:03

    Of course it should have started sooner. They are F1 drivers, not amateurs :(

    • Apostolos Prodromou said on 24th October 2010, 13:01

      Yes but despite that a lot of drivers got of the track during the whole race. But i also believe it should have starter few laps earlier.

    • Pablo said on 24th October 2010, 16:08

      Like amateur i race in worst conditions!!!!!

    • TommyB (@tommyb89) said on 24th October 2010, 16:47

      As a Vettel fan. I’m going to say yes :P

      • arulworld said on 26th October 2010, 8:50

        yes,right,it should have started early.
        being vettel fan,i was upset.
        i still feel sad about the incident.

    • spectator said on 24th October 2010, 23:49

      the problem was if someone spun on the straight it was going to get colected and could have been some fatalities or it could it end up like belgium 98

    • William Wilgus said on 25th October 2010, 3:49

      Amateur or not, the issue is safety: visibility problems from the spray and aqua-planning problems from ‘standing water’. If you can’t see the tack, you can’t stay on it. Those at the back have the worst problem with spray. If the water is too deep, the cars will become ‘boats’—regardless of how good the rain tires might be. Those at the front have the worst problem with that.

      See how fast YOU want to drive the next time you get caught in heavy rain.

      • Skett said on 25th October 2010, 17:55

        To be fair during the BBC f1 forum Button said that there was no problem with aquaplaning, even when they first went out. Apparently the problem was that there was a solid film of water on the surface (partly due to the oil from the asphalt I suspect), no more than an inch thick, but covering the entirety of the track. Apparently the wet tires had no problems displacing the amount of water there was on the track.

        As for the spray it can cause problems, but once they’re at racing speeds you’d be surprised how quickly it will clear up. If they’d started sooner I have no doubt that it would have cleared up sooner

        • William Wilgus said on 25th October 2010, 19:41

          You’re right that it would have cleared up faster at racing speeds, BUT:

          Whether or not Aquaplaning occurs with any given tread pattern and depth is primarily a function a function of vehicle SPEED and tire (air) pressure. The lower the pressure, the lower the speed at which it occurs. While aquaplaning reportedly was not a problem at the safety car’s speed, it might have been at ‘racing’ speeds. Further, while higher speeds would have helped the track dry faster due to spray, the higher speeds would have also caused the spray to be heavier and rise higher—prolonging the amount of time it would have been ‘airborne’.

          • William Wilgus said on 25th October 2010, 20:05

            You can find more information on Wikipedia:


            Note that it states that: 1) the wider the tire, the lower the speed at which it occurs, and 2) the lower the tire pressure, the lower the speed at which it occurs. I believe racing tires are run at quite low temperatures. (There’s a formula for the latter in the ‘aircraft’ section of the entry.)

          • Skett said on 25th October 2010, 22:01

            Erm, you’re seriously not helping your case here. The faster they go the higher the pressure will be in the tire, so as they travel at higher speeds it won’t be a problem. And you seriously think racing tires run cold? The reason they have so much grip is because they’re sticky ie. on the verge of melting. Granted they melt at lower temperatures to road tyres, but they’re still a pretty high temperature.

            But that makes no difference since the water depth was LESS than the tyre tread depth (“Hydroplaning occurs when a tire encounters more water than it can dissipate” – taken from your wiki article).

            As for the spray, you’re right it would be higher, but thats not an issue. In fact its a good thing as more of the water will leave the confines of the track. You do know the drivers don’t care about visibility above them right?

          • William Wilgus said on 26th October 2010, 2:06

            Reply to SKETT’s reply to me below:

            No, racing car tire pressure doesn’t increase with speed / heat because the use an ‘inert’ gas, often Nitrogen or a Nitrogen-based mixture that doesn’t expand with temperature; therefore, tire pressure remains the same. As you noted, what they’re heating up is the tire ‘rubber’ itself. The reason for doing so is that a tire’s adhesion (or traction, if you prefer) is maximum at specific higher than ambient temperature temperatures. (That’s why drag racers do a ‘burn-out. By the way, the so-called ‘wrinkle wall’ slicks used by the top drag racing classes are only inflated to 3–4 P.S.I. I’ve a friend that races dirt tracks. He pressurizes his tires to about 7 P.S.I. with Nitrogen.)

            Yes, “Hydroplaning occurs when a tire encounters more water than it can dissipate”. But water is NOT COMPRESSIBLE. At high enough speeds hitting the water is just like hitting cured concrete and there’s insufficient time for the tread to channel the water away. (I saw the video of a water skier who fell just after setting the speed record for water skiing at 122 M.P.H. He bounced off of the water 4 or 5 times before he slowed down enough to displace the water and sink in.)

            The issue of higher spray is that it will remain in the air longer.

          • Skett said on 27th October 2010, 16:14

            Whats drag racers got to do with it? Of course they run drag racers with low tyre pressures because it’ll increase the grip and drag racers have so much power that the increased drag is negligable.

            Also nitrogen does expand with temperature, just less so that air. Nitrogen is used because it is dry and therefore has a much smaller expansion range than air, as well as it being consistent (as the water content of air is not always the same).

            And yes, I know water is not compressible, again a moot point since the water doesn’t need to compress if it has somewhere to go (ie. the tread is deep enough). The incompressibility of water is what causes the aquaplaning in the first place. But as I already stated, they were not having problems with it because the tyres were capable of dissipating the water!

          • William Wilgus said on 27th October 2010, 18:14

            If Nitrogen is only used because it is ‘dry’, then why not used Oxygen? The amount of expansion / compression exhibited by Nitrogen is so small that it is considered to be non-existent. Oxygen—which is dry—certainly is compressible and expands and contracts with temperature variations. Regarding the other part of your reply, it certainly looks to me like you hoist yourself with your own petard regarding the compressibility of water and failure to acknowledge that speed is a direct contributing factor to aquaplaning. The tread has to be able to move the water out of the way fast enough to be effective. Since water is not compressible, speed is a factor in aquaplaning. If aquaplaning was not a problem at the speeds driven behind the safety car, it could well have been a huge problem at higher speeds.

        • An inch of water? That’s 25.4mm. It seems unlikely to me. Normal road cars can aqua plane when there is a 6mm (1/4 inch) film depth of water. Therefore I’d be surprised if F1 cars could handle a film depth of 25.4mm, given that the depth of tread on a road tyres appears to be much more than the depth of tread on a Formula 1 wet weather tyre. If they can Bridgestone are making some awesome tyres.

          As for oil and asphalt. Asphalt is a concrete made from bitumen, and aggregate (small rocks). Bitumen is made from crude oil and is a liquid, just a very thick one (so to the normal eye it appears to be a solid). Sometimes different modifiers can be added to the asphalt to change the properties, to make it suit different purposes. Anyway, the point is that all asphalt surfaces have oil on them because they are essentially made from oil. The other point is that regardless of the age of the asphalt it shouldn’t affect the depth of the water film on it by much. If anything the depth of a water film on a new pavement should probably be a little bit less (maybe by like 0.5mm) than an older pavement, because the newer pavement is smoother. The final point is that the purpose of the wearing surface of the pavement, which is the part that vehicles drive on and is usually asphalt, is to water proof the structural part of the pavement under the wearing course, or the part that gives the pavement it’s strength. So water on the pavement should never penetrate the wearing course, unless the pavement is failing, that’s why the circuits have a cross slope on them to allow the water to run off onto the verge, or into drainage pits.

          • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 25th October 2010, 22:20

            Interesting stuff, Pinball. But surely the amount of downforce an F1 car generates compared to a road car plays beneficial role?

          • Skett said on 25th October 2010, 22:41

            Fair enough, I was talking from memory of what Button said, can’t say I’m an expert on asphault (though I did think it seemed like a lot when he said it but maybe he was exagerating). Lets face it Button’s hardly an expert either, nor was he in a position to really give an accurate amount. But both he and Hamilton said that there had been absolutely no problems with aquaplaning so I guess there was less water.

            Thanks for the info

          • I agree that I don’t think aqua planning would have been a problem. Just from watching on TV it didn’t appear that generally there was that much water on the circuit, except for a few isolated areas where was some localised ponding. I think low visibility from spray was the main problem, which I think maybe the FIA needs to look at solving, somehow. I think the spray issue is a solvable issue.

  2. Alexi (@) said on 24th October 2010, 11:03

    I’m going to say yes but it is a question of a few laps earlier for me.

  3. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 24th October 2010, 11:06

    Brundle took back his comments on the F1 Forum but I still think had they been let loose the standing water would have been cleared after a few laps. I know there’s a safety aspect but they could have gone a few laps earlier.

  4. I voted yes, but I think because they got the equation between rain/daylight wrong. They should have started it a bit sooner to avoid the lack of daylight, because that did look really dark in the last few laps.

  5. Red Andy (@red-andy) said on 24th October 2010, 11:07

    My view is that races should never be started behind the safety car. If it’s too dangerous to race, it’s too dangerous to race. So delay the start until it’s considered safe.

    I’d sooner have an abandoned race where no-one gets points than one where points are awarded on the basis of qualifying, which is essentially what we’d get if the whole race was run behind the safety car.

    But on this specific question, they could have pulled in the safety car a lap after the restart and it would have made little difference. Cars running at full speed would have dried out the track relatively quickly.

    • Steph said on 24th October 2010, 11:12

      I agree I don’t like starts behind the SC. I think they’re more dangerous for spray. I do think a few laps behind the SC can be good to suss out the conditions but not to run a race behind.

      • damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 24th October 2010, 11:22

        If it is spray they are concerned with, the safety car only amplifies the situation! With a standing start the cars would have not been going too fast by the time they had reached turn 1, hence there would be far less spray. And it wouldn’t have made any difference to the visibility from turn 2 to turn 3 whether it was a rolling start or not! But I do understand we had exceptional conditions today with the oily surface, but the argument about spray being the reason for an SC start is complete nonsense in my honest opinion.

        • LewisC said on 25th October 2010, 10:27

          If you have a “racing” start, then spray or no spray the drivers will be hurling it up the inside trying to get an advantage.

          As it was, the wet tyres and aerodynamics of the cars suck the water off the track and blow it into the air – usually this helps clear it quickly, but as Jenson said the walls kept it in here more than other locations.

          FWIW I think the start was about right. As soon as it stops raining and the problem isn’t getting worse, then it’s time to get the cars going.

          NASCAR doesn’t race in the wet – it would have been a disaster (albeit comedy gold) if the track had been finished, the race had been put on, and then it got cancelled because it rained :D

    • I completely agree. Either start the race properly or delay the start completely. What on earth is the point of starting behind a safety car when it is still raining?

      • Hazel J said on 24th October 2010, 12:51

        Obviously no one really likes seeing a race started behind the safety car but I think when the conditions were as bad as they were today it was the right thing to do, Keeping it out for 14 laps was a bit too far but running for say.. 5 or 6 laps max behind it would be good to just clear some of the water off the track so that its safe enough for them to go full speed and properly dry it out. But i completely agree that spending half the race behind the safety car and then getting points awarded on that basis would have been absolutely ridiculous!

      • starting behind safetycar is the most boring and pointless start an f1 race can ever made. at some point there were a few cleaning trucks there which could have wiped the tract pretty well and we all could have a proper start in let’s say 30 minutes time, anyways after the cars entered in race like speed the track quickly become usable, so very poor decision were maid for this start, at least in my opinion

    • Daniel said on 24th October 2010, 22:55

      I agree. When the provisions for only awarding any points after 2 laps, and only full points after 75% of the laps were written, it was done so on the basis that they would be racing laps. The writers of those regulations never intended anyone to get points for running behind a SC.

      The clear intention was that points only be awarded for racing, not qualifying, and running around in qualifying order behind a pace car is NOT racing.

      • Daniel said on 24th October 2010, 22:59

        In fact, if I were given the job of tidying up the regulations so that the outcome matched the intention, the 2 lap and 75% lap limits would apply only to green-flag laps. So, in a race like this, where more than a quarter of it was run under SC, they would only have got half points.

    • Starting a race behind the safety car allows the cars to help dry the track in a controlled fashion. Just sitting and waiting will take longer to dry the track, and simply starting the race is too dangerous. I’m not willing to see one of my favourite drivers die just so I can watch the race start on time.

      • Daniel said on 25th October 2010, 7:56

        F1 cars are not street sweepers. If they need to clear water off then they need to find a better way of doing it.

        • Yes, they could do that. The IMS uses track vehicles, for instance, but they don’t have cars sitting on the actual track. To do something similar F1 would need to change how pre-race works. By using the cars the drivers get a feel for the conditions as well as helping to dry the track, or at least reduce standing water. I think it works well.

  6. S.J.M said on 24th October 2010, 11:10

    Maybe start it a little sooner (or restart it) but defo shouldnt have been behind the saftey car as long.

  7. hamilton asked a question. Does anyone say that it is still to much rain?

    It is a rain GP they dont know that?

    Pepole in the back have worse visibility? It’s normal in a rain GP

  8. Ryan F said on 24th October 2010, 11:10

    The simple fact wet tyres are taken to the gp means they can be used in the event if it is wet. Why pussy foot behind the safety car?

    As for redbull, perhaps they knew Vettel’s engine was about to go so told him to complain and stop the race, taking full points.

  9. Steph said on 24th October 2010, 11:11

    Maybe one or two laps sooner ber gut generally no.

    The track didn’t look water logged like Malaysia but it was an oily track and there was a layer of water. The track wasn’t great to begin with and when Charlie makes the call he’s to an extent taking resposibility for the driver’s safety. There’s always spray and light issues but I agreed with Brundle that the track surface anyway was probably the issue.

    The problem was the politics I feel. The drivers were ridiculously. I actually got quite sick of RBR, Mclaren and Ferrari. Lewis was saying he just wanted to race but he had absolutely no choice because of where he was in the title. The RBR’s and Ferrari were saying th exact opposite because of their position. I would have done the same but Charlie’s got them all breathing down his neck with some saying it’s safe, some saying it’s the most atrocious conditions ever. I just didn’t believe that they were genuine so how could Charlie make a decision?

    They maybe missed a trick. If they’d have started sooner before the rain came instead of that ten minute race then maybe the drivers would have just focussed on the race, we could see if their was a really big risk and then make a decision whereas this was fear of the unknown but I’m 90% happy I think. The laps under the SC maybe went on too long. It was a farce in some ways but I don’t see what else could have happened.

    • damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 24th October 2010, 11:18

      That was annoying me too. I kind of thought it was justice that Vettel retired after trying to stop the race via his radio. Although all the drivers were doing it. Alonso was catching him and it could have been a great battle for first place, so we were robbed by Vettel’s bad luck. Anyway, I think they should reconsider whether Charlie Whiting and the race directors are allowed to hear the radio. If there is a problem so significant they should have a representative from the team argue the point with the directors rather than the nonsense we heard today. I did laugh however, when Vettel said he couldn’t see, then 2 minutes later Lewis was told to comment on the visibility, to which he replied “The visibility is fine.”

      • Steph said on 24th October 2010, 11:43

        The drivers should have an input because they’re out in potentially dangerous conditions and they’re the best at assessing the conditions. The problem is perhaps they have too big an influence and it’s so late in the season that the teams and drivers were kicking, screaming and throwing their toys out of their pram for Charlie to do what was in their championship interests or at least that’s how it felt.

        The drivers (or the GDPA) worked well together in Malaysia 09 but this was just as Ned said jokingly on the live blog, like a pantomine.

        • I agree, the drivers should have a say, they are the only ones who are completely aware of the conditions, but they shouldn’t be able to have direct communication with Charlie. There should be one rep from each team that has direct comms with Charlie and thats it. Any messages from the drivers can then be relayed through. That should cut out most of the nonsense on the radio throughout the race. Although, seconds thoughts, it was a pretty good comedy!

      • That last remark from Hamilton was McLarens way of poking Red Bull and calling their bluff, Good fun :)

      • Journeyer (@journeyer) said on 24th October 2010, 14:09

        Even if there’s no radio, drivers can wave their arms to try and stop a race. Prost did it successfully in Monaco 84 (gave him the win, cost him the title). Senna tried it unsuccessfully in Japan 88 (but he won anyway).

        • Steph said on 24th October 2010, 15:25

          That’s true but if they feel it’s so bad they can always get out like Prost 89 so it’s easy to see through. The stewards have enough sense these days to stop the race abfake the decision but that type of game esp as it went on so long was annoying to listen too even if it is understandable
          Ps good knowledge for remembering those examples

          • Pablo said on 24th October 2010, 16:24

            Anyone remember that race at Australia (89, 90?) with lot of more rain that Korea and the drivers start and race like everybody expect that they do? (Afeter 14 laps the races was suspended with Ayrton first waving his arms while before crashing with another driver. The race should be started normally (Maybe after 2 or 3 previous laps after safety car), that was no sense to spend too many laps behind SC.

  10. No, it should have been delayed until 2011. The track might have been up to the standard required for dry racing, but was nowhere near ready for a wet race.

    Which is a shame, because today’s race was artificially ‘exciting’. People will now look forward to this race next year, and when it’s as dull and boring as every other Tilke track it will still receive favour over better venues like Valencia.

    • Keamo said on 24th October 2010, 11:17

      LOL. You are funnny.

      I agree, the race should have started sooner. These guys have raced in worse conditions in the past.

    • Seriously, what’s with the negativity? You’ve just seen one the most dramatic races in recent memory, and all you can think about is how boring you think it would have been if it was dry.

    • Ted Kravitz reported that Bridgestone’s Yamashima said the newly laid track did not affect rain drainage at all, it was the concrete walls so close to the track the didn’t allow the rain to dissipate.

    • Pablo said on 24th October 2010, 16:28

      I remember Buenos Aires race at 95. First visit to the track, lot of rain on Friday, Saturday and Sunday…. minimun $$$ invested compared with Korea but the track was excellent to race…. and the FIA didn´t do any favour like the do with Korea. If simply, the track wasn´t ready to race until 2011…. and it´s one more of that broing tilke´s circuits.

  11. Julian (@julian) said on 24th October 2010, 11:12

    Who are we to say? Have any of us ever driven a F1 car in a soaked track with next to no grip. Did any of us know what the grip conditions were like? Are we responsible for the safety of the drivers, the fans and the marshalls etc?

    The answer to all of these is no. which is why its left up to the FIA and Charlie Whiting to decide.

    • chemakal said on 24th October 2010, 11:34

      so in your opinion (that’s what we do posting here) FIA and Whiting are perfect in all their decissions. I hope u heve not been posting critics on the FIAs decission not to further penalise Ferrari after Hockenheim…

      • Julian (@julian) said on 24th October 2010, 17:12

        Of course not, the FIA/WMSC and have never been perfect let alone consistent in their decisions, but when it comes to safety they have a very good record. Thats something they wont go tarnishing by letting a race take place when the amount of standing water creates a spray so bad that visibility is next to nothing.

        I was impatient as the next person to see some racing today but i dont think our opinions matter that much when it comes to declaring a race safe. Its always best to leave that to the professionals.

        • chemakal said on 24th October 2010, 17:31

          if the FIA is going to far with their safety regulations, well then F1 looses all the excitement: mega-wide new circuits, getting rid ofthe old legendary tracks (hopef. not Spa), SC in weird situations and interferring with the race (Valencia).

          F1 is about brave sportsmen, about a great show to spectators… of course, of all this has to be made as safe as possible but not against the essence of this sport

          Today there has been a few crashes and wild drives (Sutil) and I honestly don’t think all this laps behind the safety havemae the race less dangerous.

          And again, we post in this blog our opinions and don’t need to have a sit on the FIA to do so

          • Steve said on 24th October 2010, 21:39

            Chemakal you seem to love talking complete nonsense.

            Excitement is not more important than safety. F1 drivers strap themselves into prototypes every other weekend and push as hard as they can knowing that every possible step has been taking to make sure it is as risk free as possible.

            While some drivers would have enjoyed placing their lives, and the lives of their fellow races at risk, there are race drivers who simply dont want to take that risk because it is not worth it. Each driver who did not want to race in those conditions would have been faced with two haunting options. Either they place a huge risk on their lives in order to please the corporate world, or they refuse to race and get fired (or lose points) in the process.

            The FIA were kind enough to make the right, safer decision for them, to avoid all that.

          • chemakal said on 25th October 2010, 11:38

            Nice chat here with Julian (“who are we to say?”) and Steve (“talking complete nonsense”).
            Steve, if you reasd carefully my post “of course, of all this has to be made as safe as possible but not against the essence of this sport” I’m talking about the essence of sport, not only excitement or show.
            Is risk part of the f1 sport??? Was F1 created on the base of being a safe sport?

            After reading carefully and thinking a bit further, what I’m saying is that in my opinion the balance between the sport’s essence and safety regulations is tending towards more and more safety in detriment of the sport. As an example, every season Qualifying is more important as overtaking is almost an impossible task, due to car development regulations.

            If what we want to see is cars on rails

            Next time refute the nonsense with some real arguments…

          • Julian said on 27th October 2010, 9:17

            Im not sure that having drivers potentially crash into barriers/eachother due to the horrendously poor visibility is in the essence of the sport. Last i heard, F1 was about racing not crashes.

            And how is ‘who are we to say’ not a real argument. WE are viewers who see the race from our tv screens. Try to recall how bright the race looked on tv then remember the drivers saying how dark it really was. We cant tell from our tvs. The same goes for lack of visibility due to the spray from the standing water. We cant tell how good or bad the visibility is. So at the sake of sounding like a broken record, who are WE to say when WE can’t tell what the conditions are like.

            How is that not a real argument?

  12. charlie whitting should not red flag the race 3 laps after they 1st start behind safety car.

    and the drivers should just shut up and race.

    next year they should start the race in Yeongam at 2PM local time.

    • S.J.M said on 24th October 2010, 11:31

      Im fairly certain that it was raining before the Grand Prix started. Not that i dont agree with you (Malaysia would benefit too), but if todays had started at 2, whats to say that it would have been the same except for the race ended in daylight. But Bernie wants the race at 3 for max TV audiences to watch, weather doesnt appear to come into the equation.

  13. Steve said on 24th October 2010, 11:13

    Its not my place to judge as I’m not expert and I was not there to see the true conditions.

  14. daykind (@) said on 24th October 2010, 11:13

    I think that Charlie could have got us going around 3 laps earlier.

  15. I think they started the race at the right time. The problem wasn’t so much the start as it was the amount of time spent behind the safety car. It should have gone in much earlier.

    I just keep thinking that if cars were allowed to run active suspension (and tweak ride height on the fly), these wet conditions would be far less of a problem.

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