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

  1. sumedh said on 27th October 2010, 16:01

    I think Charlie delayed the start and ran it behind the safety car although the rain wasn’t that hard because the track was brand new and an unknown quantity. Allowing the race to start on even moderately bad conditions on a fresh unused track was too much of a risk. If same amount of rain fell on next year’s Korean GP or at Brazil in 2 weeks time, I am sure Charlie won’t advocate so many laps under the safety car.

  2. kowalsky said on 27th October 2010, 16:06

    very important result. Quite possibly the decisive moment of the 2010 season. Driving in very dificult conditions, and finishing almost in the dark. So far so good. We need to see how the racing develops in the next years, but i’ll give the track, an 8 out of 10.

  3. Personally I think the track layout is quite good, apart from the obvious shortcomings of the pitlane entry, the surface of the pit boxes and the inadequate drainage. I however do think it was ludicrous to run a Formula 1 race on a circuit that no cars had ever raced on before and hope that that situation is never allowed to happen again.

    I’d really love to hear about the experience of Korean people who attended –

    How did they enjoy the uncovered stands?
    How about access to the circuit? were they caught in the gridlock to or from the race?
    Was their experience a positive one? Will they go back next year?
    Was it easy to find accommodation etc?

  4. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 27th October 2010, 16:30

    I’ve gone from hating it to liking it to disliking it.

    The pit straight is of barely any consequence so it’s a shame Turn 1 isn’t tighter. The main straight is nice and long and a tight exit leading onto another tight exit is the standard way to promote overtaking. But then that’s it.

    The lap really goes downhill from there. The Turn 5-6-7 section is pointless and just spreads the cars out. We did see a nice bit of overtaking into Turn 5 though.

    Finally although the last section is nice and sweeping, it’s just far too many corners that in the dry will space the cars out and prevent overtaking into Turn 1. Turns 16-17-18 are a real gem of a section though, but the pit-lane entry has to be sorted out (someone came up with the idea of having a bridge, that would be great, not least because it would minimise the penalty of a pit-stop and open up the possibility of interesting strategy differences).

    The tarmac and facilities I think will be fine next year. But the layout needs a bit of work.

  5. xabregas said on 27th October 2010, 16:51

    i Liked the track very much, hopefully next year those who were there to watch it in the stands will have much more parking, a much larger road and of course hotels in the area.
    As i said before, this track can provide real good racing, now we´ll have to wait till next year.

  6. Robert McKay said on 27th October 2010, 17:14

    I think it’s better than most Tilke efforts. It doesn’t feel quite so overdesigned like Abu Dhabi, Valencia and Singapore.

    It’s quite interesting that the three sectors challenge the cars in different ways. Having the walls in places there as opposed to acres of run off and a white line is definitely a nice change, we want to see the drivers being punished for mistakes – but it does seem a bit “if you build it they will come” by building the “street circuit” and then hoping the streets will actually become streets afterwards.

    Pit lane entry was stupid, though – really obvious the drivers weren’t going to like that.

    On a separate note I totally agree about these “Safety Car Grands Prix”. One day we’ll run a full “distance”, whether it be 50% or 75%, and crown a race winner without a green flag lap, or at best only a handful of laps. The sport would be better off running a race the next day than trying something like that – the PR would surely be as bad as the US GP farce if they just went round behind the SC long enough to call it a result.

  7. Electrolite said on 27th October 2010, 17:18

    I think we’ll truly know on a dry race day, but I think we’ve got a great track on our hands. Layout is brilliant.

  8. HounslowBusGarage said on 27th October 2010, 17:53

    I was surpised to see how bumpy the circuit appeared to be. Perhaps though, the cars seemed to being thrown about a bit more than they really were becaus eof the head-on shot on the main straight.
    There needs to be a serious re-examination of the pit entry and the pit exit.
    What is the extra hairpin at turn 5 actually for?
    Is it to limit the accelaration of the cars and to try to keep their speed down as they come to 7?
    After all, the tarmac for the ‘proper’ route from 5 straight to 7 is ready and waiting for use, as per the original layout.
    I had deep reservations about the walls and I suspect that Webber and Petrov dislike them too, interesting to read Button’s comment that the walls stop the water vapour from being disipated – just like the forest at Spa or Hockenheim.
    Moving the walls back to increase runoff when the ‘cityscape’ has been developed around the final sector may not be possible.
    But the major problem with the cityscape has yet to become apparent. Not even the Koreans can build a marina and a huge development instantly, so assuming the construction gets going on this area before next October, there will be at least two more (possibley three) races where part of the lap is affected by dust, dirt and debris from the surrounding construction.

    • Chris Yu Rhee said on 28th October 2010, 15:49

      HBS, I think you’ve seen my comments on the development of the area in other threads, but this is one of the remotest parts of Korea.

      “We have successfully held the F1 event by building one of the finest circuits in the world in South Jeolla, which is one of the most underdeveloped areas in Korea,” he (Governor Park Joon-yung) said.” (bold added)

      Successfully? 거지말쟁이! (liar) Apologies for the Korean if it’s not right, it’s not my first language.

      As to the walls, they should be taken down before next year, if not sooner. They won’t be needed anytime soon.
      NO ONE in their right mind would build that “city” they show in all of the pretty pictures the architect drew up, especially right now. I live here, and have for a LONG time. The real estate market, both residential and commercial, is flat in the major cities, so who in the heck would invest in something that is over 400km from Seoul?
      Just pretty pictures…

  9. Dafizzner said on 27th October 2010, 17:58

    I think it’s a great circuit. A modern track with elements of some classic venues.

  10. SoerenKaae (@soerenkaae) said on 27th October 2010, 18:11

    Overall it is a good track I think. It gave us one of the best qualifying session this year. Maybe that was because it was a new track, but I do not think so. It is all about courage and trusting your car in the last sector, and Vettel drove his car right to the edges, which is very hard.

    The race was destroyed by rain though and the spray was making visibility poor. I think though that this was because of the lack of wind. Buildings around the track wont help.

    My proposal with the bridge still stands. It would really be spectacular!

  11. The Limit said on 27th October 2010, 20:20

    For me the race was seen through jaded, sleep deprived eyes due to getting up so early. I will reserve my opinion until Korea 2011 and when it is not a wet grands prix. All I have to say is that is appears alot better than Valencia, but then running the cars down aisle 2 of your local Sainsbury’s would be more interesting than that!

  12. Agostini Diego said on 27th October 2010, 20:54

    I really like this circuit.

  13. SF Bay Area F1 Fan said on 27th October 2010, 21:09

    It is really unacceptable that a brand new track had such poor drainage. I admit that the terrain is flat, but then so are most freeways and motorways. The design feature employed by civil engineers is a 1.5% – 2% cross slope on straights to help the storm water to “run off” the pavement. Who feel asleep while designing the roadway profile? What a shame!

    • Chris Yu Rhee said on 28th October 2010, 16:04

      No one fell asleep. The construction/paving company probably didn’t think about it, or didn’t follow the specifications Tilke wrote.

      If Samsung, LG, or Daewoo had built the track, there wouldn’t have been any problems.

      Remember, this is the land of “almost right.”

      Singapore spectacle vs. Korean debacle.

      Going to Incheon airport there are several speed camera sites on the freeway, except there are either: 1. only two cameras for a four-lane road, or 2. the cameras are all grouped over one or two of the four lanes.

      The entire track was unacceptable. They can’t blame the rain because it rains about the same time every year, and it is possible to do construction in the rain. (duh)

      It’s just a shame all-around.

      BTW-My dad’s from San Mateo. I love S.F.! Is Ghiradelli’s still there? It’s been a long time since I’ve been stateside.

  14. US_Peter (@us_peter) said on 27th October 2010, 21:21

    Like others have said, I’ll hold my verdict until we get a dry race.

  15. David B said on 27th October 2010, 22:11

    It was good. I expected some parts to be less flowing. Instead also some curves of the middle part are quite fast and demanding.
    What I don’t like is the infamous curve 10 (too short and slow, to me) and the slow 5 and 6, that didn’t inspire that much.
    Overall it is thumb up, absolutely.
    I think that this lay out can work to a exciting race evel if whether is dry.

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