Korean International Circuit: your verdict

Grid, Korea, 2010

Despite months of doubt over whether the race would actually go ahead, and in spite of a downpour on race day, the Korean Grand Prix did take place and produced a race to remember.

So what’s the verdict on F1’s newest circuit? Is the Korean International Circuit a worthwhile addition to the calendar?

The drivers were largely positive about the new venue, albeit with some reservations over the pit lane entrance and exit.

But we should take their views with a pinch of salt – they tend to toe the PR line of praising new tracks and many were gushing in their praise before they’d even driven it.

An interesting layout

The track’s configuration is a cut above some of the bland recent additions to the calendar – particularly Yas Marina and Valencia. Turns 7/8/9, 11/12 and 17/18 were all being tackled at impressive speeds and showed off the capabilities of the cars.

The latter part of the lap was all the more interesting for being enclosed by barriers with limited run-off – though Mark Webber would surely have wished that wasn’t the case at turn 12.

The track also boasted the standard long straights bookended by tight hairpins designed to facilitate overtaking. Due to the race conditions on Sunday the jury is still out on whether they would provide overtaking opportunities in dry weather.

Of course the biggest problem with the track was that it wasn’t entirely ready. On Friday night walls were moved and kerbs raised but the concrete wasn’t fully set on the latter come practice on Saturday morning.

On top of that the drivers had to grapple with a track surface that offered very little grip. Having been laid just days earlier, the surface was oily, and dust from the ongoing construction work made matters worse.

Half a race

Already facing a tricky new track with an unpredictable surface, the drivers really didn’t need was the addition of water.

But it arrived by the bucket load on Saturday night. This caused a long and frustrating delay to the start of the race.

As happened at Fuji three years ago, Charlie Whiting in race control decided to leave the cars circulating behind the safety car for over a quarter of the race distance at the start.

Postponing a race start because of rain is one thing, but was it really necessary to waste that much time behind the safety car? You have to wonder if it was a plan to ensure the race got to at least 75% distance, allowing full points to be awarded.

Almost half the entire race distance – 26 of the 55 laps were spent behind the safety car. If the “75% race distance” rule applied to green flag running, this would have been a half-points race.

For many of those laps it seemed the track was not as wet as it had been during other recent wet races – Shanghai in 2009 and Silverstone in 2008 spring to mind.

The drivers struggled with poor visibility, which some blamed on the walled-in sections at the beginning and end of the lap. During the safety car period Jenson Button told his team:

Because of the way the track is with the walls and the stands the water isn?t going anywhere.
Jenson Button

To those watching the race who were unaware of the organisers’ master plan to erect buildings around the ‘street track’ portions of the lap it must have seemed rather strange that this brand new circuit was ill-equipped to cope with the rain.

A lot to like

But for all the problems caused by the late completion of the circuit and the dreadful weather on Sunday, there’s a lot to like about Korea’s F1 track.

The organisers have said the track will be in better shape next year but I feel that could be a mixed blessing. Even without the rain, the low-grip surface promised to make Sunday’s race an exciting one.

Will it still be there next year? Or will the surface have matured and the circuit polished into another of the sterile affairs that blight the modern F1 calendar? I hope not.

Did you go to the Korean Grand Prix? Tell us about your experience here: Korean International Circuit ?ǣ spectators? experiences

Korea International Circuit, 2010 Korean Grand Prix

Korea International Circuit, 2010 Korean Grand Prix

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70 comments on Korean International Circuit: your verdict

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  1. I like the track, although we really need to see a race in dry conditions. The mix of straights, low speed and high speed corners, and walls at the end seems to challenge all the cars and drivers.

    This particular race was exciting and boring all in one….I fell asleep during the delay…

    • damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 27th October 2010, 16:56

      I like the track, although we really need to see a race in dry conditions.

      I think we were robbed of some fantastic first lap slipstreaming and side-by-side action on the run to turn 3. If the race hadn’t have started behind the safety car, or had have been dry, we would have been in for some treat. I hope we get that next year.

    • Feynman said on 27th October 2010, 18:52

      I liked the “floaty” bits in the second half, kinda reminded me of Zandvoort, sorta, and the hugging the wall round the last corner and then strightlining the opposite kerb were a lot of fun too.

      Slightly concerned about the straights though, it didn’t seem to be that easy to grab and hold onto the expected tow … might have been the weather of course, but a wet China saw all sorts of passes down its long back-straight in the rain.
      The concern has to be he’s actually built another Valencia. Long straights that superficially look like overtaking hotspots, but actually deceive and disappoint, and it’s yet more follow the leader in the dry. We’ll see next year I s’pose.

    • Andy W said on 27th October 2010, 21:40

      I think it was a great race for reasons that had nothing to do with the track, which is sort of a shame really because this track has oodles of charm as a racing track and I look forward to seeing what it has to show in years to come.

  2. Fer no.65 said on 27th October 2010, 15:06

    If the “75% race distance” rule applied to green flag running, this would have been a half-points race

    that’s not a bad idea!.

  3. Havergal said on 27th October 2010, 15:08

    I liked it, and although we had an eventful race, I was slightly disappointed that we didn’t get a dry race. It would have been fascinating to see if we got a repeat of Montreal, with odd tyre strategies and overtakes. But it looks good and is reasonably easy to follow on TV. One complaint I often have about some the newer tracks is that they lack distinctive features to make them intelligible to a TV audience – Sepang is particularly bad for this – so unless you’ve been round it 100 times on a computer game it’s quite difficult to tell which bit you’re looking at. This was less of a problem with Korea and, if the cityscape is forthcoming, it should get even better in this respect. I particularly liked watching the cars travel through the final concreted curve before the pit entrance, which gives a terrific impression of speed that you often don’t get with acres of run off.

    • plushpile (@plushpile) said on 28th October 2010, 0:56

      I think the reverse, Sepang is easier to get a grip on.

      Every time they showed turn 4 I thought they were just showing a replay of turn 1, I was hella confused.

      The layout of Korea looked interesting, but at the moment it’s even more souless than the average Tilkedrome and I found it almost impossible to tell one corner from the next…

  4. Steezy said on 27th October 2010, 15:11

    Turns 5/6 ruin the first sector, I don’t know why they’re in there. I like turn 11. The rest of them I feel rather indifferent too. There’s some nice camber changes and abit of elevation too.

    Turn 17 isn’t much for an F1 car, but it’s rather iconic and the turn 18 kink adds character, especially when all the cars kept kicking up dust on it during all the sessions before the race. The same with turn 16, it had its own character until they fixed it.

    There’s alot of things on this Korean circuit, that had it been built 40 years ago, things like turn 16 or the dubious pit entry would be logged down as one of those ”It’s just how the track is” historical things that added to the circuit. Nowadays everyone has an opinion and nothing is good enough.

    I wasn’t a fan of the camera angles, having shots of the cars head-on as they go down the straights doesn’t give any sense of speed at all. They need less head on shots and pan shots, FOM’s camera angles/shots are pretty awful in general though…

    • Joey-Poey said on 27th October 2010, 16:13

      I can understand where you’re coming from on the lack of sense of speed with a head-on shot. However, side shots fail to allow you to tell what the cars are doing strategically in their pass. Then it would be the same image over and over of the cars going by quickly without being able to tell quite what their doing in regards to one another. Personally, I’d much rather be able to see what the cars are doing to defend and attack, especially considering there WAS a side shot that was shown on occasion.

      • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 27th October 2010, 16:22

        I don’t think that’s entirely true. Of course, a dead-on side shot would result in one car being obscured by the other. But if the side-shot was at an angle, there wouldn’t be that problem.

      • studi06 said on 29th October 2010, 4:32

        The best shot I’ve seen this year is at Spa just before Eau Rouge where the camera pans right to left and shows the cars disappear over the hill.. Fantastic, and amazing for getting a sesne at home of the speed and grip these cars have..!!! ;-)

      • They may have not shown side shots, otherwise it’d have been pretty obvious how bland the rest of the circuit was apart from the race track.

  5. Cacarella said on 27th October 2010, 15:12

    I like the addition of S. Korea to the calendar but I think the jury must remain out on this track, until we see a dry race without dirt and water on the track.

    It’s interesting though that I’m really not truly impressed by the circuit itself, I think the new tracks that have been introduced in the recent past have set the bar so low that fans become excited about a track that is mediocre at best.

  6. Scribe (@scribe) said on 27th October 2010, 15:12

    I think the track will remain an inherantly good one, I think if the track grips up going off line won’t bring such a penalty and the tracks inherant suitibility to overtaking might come through.

    As well as that, we where deprived of the first lap, at a track like this the first lap is likley to put cars out of position so it’s a shame really.

    Also the track looked good in FP so I reckon it’s just a well designed track overall. It’ll need a good dry race though.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 28th October 2010, 20:42

      Actually I am not so sure it will grip up a lot. How many races are they going to have here in the year until the next GP?

      And with building still going on around the track, it is bound to be dirty for another 2-3 years yet.

      But i do think it has a pretty good design, and some of the things the drivers said sounded like honest respect for a solid job done

  7. ferranmclaren said on 27th October 2010, 15:13

    i like the layout very much only the beggining of the track common why put 3straights after each other???

    • CarsVsChildren said on 28th October 2010, 13:46

      My guess is to provide a conundrum when setting up your car.

      Do you go for straight line speed (and the possibility to overtake/defend down the straights) or go for high downforce to blitz the field through the twisty second and third sectors, therefore being far enough ahead that you are safe on the straights.

      Quite clever if you ask me.

  8. Mark Hitchcock (@mark-hitchcock) said on 27th October 2010, 15:15

    Wasn’t impressed before the weekend, but I really enjoyed the fast changes of direction, off-camber bends, close barriers etc.
    Even ignoring the race (which was more a demonstration of what a slippery surface does for a race than how good the track is) it’s definitely one of the better new tracks in recent years.

  9. It looks to have two or three overtaking spots, so hopefully we can exicting races regardless of whether it is wet or dry.

  10. Alexi (@alexi) said on 27th October 2010, 15:22

    One of Tilke’s best in my opinion.

    • agree. becuase it rains. just like china. but is it going to be interesting when its dry? too hard to say @ the moment

      • Playing the track on the new F1 game (hardley conclusive i know) it seems to have a really nice flow to it and there are spots for action.

        You have to be able to deal with a lot of different situations in lap which I like.

        Whether it works for F1 cars proper or not remains to be seen. But it seems like a good track on paper / simulation.

  11. I, for the most part, enjoyed the circuit. But the first half of the lap is straight – hairpin – straight – hairpin – straight – hairpin – hairpin – hairpin.

    Is it possible to have two straights connected with anything other than a hairpin? The three hair pins at Turns 4/5/6 were ridiculous – I’d change that into a sweeping 180.

    Also, is it possible to have a straight that isn’t as straight as a ruler? That long back straight would be just as fast and twice as interesting with a kink or two in it.

    However, I thought the last corner and entry onto the start finish straight was a work of pure (sadistic, evil) genius.

    • Maciek said on 27th October 2010, 19:33

      Pretty much agree on all counts. Cool avatar, by the by.

    • Disagree… straights with kinks with them and you’re almost certainly ending up with Valencia V2. You can’t attack if you’re going to have to duck and dive in between walls down a straight.

  12. Agree is one of the better new tracks. The lack of grip was looking good for an exciting race. One thing to be addresed is the pit lane entrance and exit. Most of the drivers complained about it.

  13. Chris said on 27th October 2010, 15:46

    As I said to my father after the race, I think the rain deprived us of an interesting race. The circuit has potential, but we’ve no idea how it’ll do under normal racing conditions, which is a shame. It looks like it could be one of the better new additions to the calender. If it comes down to choosing between it and one of the older circuits facing the axe, though, I’d pick to keep Spa any day of the week.

  14. baracca said on 27th October 2010, 15:58

    though Mark Webber would surely have wished that wasn’t the case at turn 12.

    Yuppers, and especially Nico Rosberg!!

  15. James said on 27th October 2010, 15:59

    I’ll hold my verdict until there is a dry race at the track. It seems alright although the relatively small crowd leaves questions as to whether this race will actually be profitable (especially considering the fees Bernie is probably charging).

    Furthermore, the scenary around the track was appalling. I know the spectacle is on the track, but the place looked bland. Again, I’m sure in future years when the proposed marina around the sweeping final corner, as well as it’s adjoining city for sector 3 are finally built, the track may have a bit more character.

    Let’s wait until 2011 before signing this track off, but overall I would say we should congratulate Tilke on this one, especially compared with his recent creations.

    • CarsVsChildren said on 28th October 2010, 13:56

      Wasn’t it 80-90,000 on race day?

      For a race that was nearly cancelled, being held in the middle of nowhere, in the pouring rain, in a country with little to no motorsport history, on an unfinished circut, that’s pretty damn impressive to me.

      Expect a lot fans more next year. The sound of an f1 car is more addictive than crack cocaine wrapped in chocolate flavoured coffee.

      • Chris Yu Rhee said on 28th October 2010, 16:15

        If you live here (I do) long enough you learn to severely discount anything you hear about a government’s achievements.

        Did you see the article in the Korean English newspapers that said that students were given tickets and employees were told to sell them?

        Korea’s 1st F1 hits lots of speed bumps
        “Another problem with tickets was that the local government gave thousands of free passes to university students to make sure the stands were filled. The local government also required its officials to sell tickets to their family and friends. ”
        http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2927568

        And did you see the bumper-to-bumper traffic still trying to get to the race from the helicopter shots around lap 15 of the race?

        I don’t think they’ll have the same “numbers” next year. And I sincerely doubt that they’ll have many foreigners (if any), either.

        • BasCB (@bascb) said on 28th October 2010, 20:47

          Sounds pretty much like the stunts in China to get full grandstands.

          On the other hand I would hope that next year people would actually dare order tickets and travel-packages in advance, as well as some of the people who visited this year turning up again.

          But the traffic and housing sound like they will need quite a lot of work in the year up to next race to make it work.

          I really like reading your knowledgable comments on the situation in Korea and the circuit here, so thanks for those updates in the last weeks Chris Yu Rhee

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