Thoughts on the Korean Grand Prix

The first ever Korean GP took place last week, and saw the tipping of the championship pendulum at least twice – with the retirements of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.The rain played havoc with the newly laid track, leading to a chaotic race with a lot to comment on. So, after it all, what’s the verdict?

The track

The track itself is certainly impressive, albeit in parts only. Much of the middle sector featured high-speed corners, testing car and driver. The first sector proved easy to overtake on, and the final sector looked very difficult, with unforgiving walls and little run-off area, as Mark Webber and Lucas di Grassi found out.

However, as we all know, this was all turned on its head by the rain. Because the tarmac was freshly laid, as well as the dust and oil from construction work, the water simply sat on top of the track instead of sloping off. This meant that, with low but persistent rain, the race was postponed for nearly an hour before racing commenced. Personally, I thought that the drivers could have handled the conditions from around Lap 10 onwards, but that’s another story.

Another interesting thing to note was that changes were being made on Saturday night, after complaints about several corners. The kerb on Turn 16, for example, was actually lower than the track, and the cars were running over the kerb, spitting up dust onto the track.

The circuit could well have been better prepared for the race

The circuit could well have been better prepared for the race

With that in mind, we may have to remember what we thought before the Korean GP: That the organisers were not prepared for a sporting event of this magnitude. The pit lane entry and exit were both unsafe and didn’t contribute anything positive to the race. The pit entry sported a huge bump on turn-in, causing Lewis Hamilton to nearly lose control in qualifying, while pit exit deposited the cars in the middle of a heavy braking zone, which is not a smart move if there is a car out of control under braking.

Despite all of this however, the track stood up to the test on race day, and hopefully these problems will be sorted out by next year.

The race

When I first watched the race on Sunday morning, I feared it would be a mix of Suzuka qualifying and Malaysia 2009. The Suzuka aspect certainly came true, with the race being red-flagged for the wet track. The Malaysia aspect was the fear of the F1 grid running out of sunlight before the race ended, which I’ll talk about later.

I thought that many of the drivers were being far too cautious when they were calling for the safety car to stay out. As Lewis Hamilton said, it was approaching intermediate tyre conditions, and if a Formula 1 driver can’t control their car in those sort of conditions, there is something seriously wrong.

The race, when it finally got underway, was a great one. Immediately, there were good spots to overtake, as well as a few we didn’t expect, like Turns 6 and 7. The Mercedes drivers certainly impressed me with their driving abilities, and if it wasn’t for Mark Webber taking out Nico Rosberg, I’m sure he would have got on the podium, if not even better.

This is the lap where Sebastian Vettel described the track as "undrivable" - Looks fine to me

This is the lap where Sebastian Vettel described the track as "undrivable" - Looks fine to me

Speaking of Webber’s crash, his actions were more than slightly dangerous, when he veered his car back across the track after he crashed. There was plenty of run-off area behind where he crashed, so he should have reversed his car back, instead of the stupidly dangerous move of turning back across. If that move was done by Michael Schumacher, I’d guarantee that an almightly storm of accusations would be flying around.

The Red Bulls, meanwhile, proved our fears that they simply cannot capitalise on their advantages. A 1-2 qualification was the bare minimum of their expectations, given their pace. Not for the first time this year, rain has thrown away a Red Bull lockout (China), and this time it has resulted in the team walking away empty-handed from a race they should have dominated. Only Red Bull could suffer this sort of luck…

On the other hand, after the race ended, conditions got much worse

On the other hand, after the race ended, conditions got much worse

As the race entered the closing stages, much was made of the lack of sunlight. I’ve been watching the onboard footage from the last few laps, and to be honest, can’t really see what the problem was about. Yes, there was less sunlight than the drivers may have wanted, but nowhere near bad enough to stop the race early. As I said earlier, if the drivers cannot handle these challenges, then Formula 1 is treating drivers too softly. On the other hand, right after the race ended, visibility dropped massively within a matter of minutes, so maybe we got off incredibly lucky with the timing.

My verdict

Despite all of the media’s speculation of the race not going ahead, the Yeongam circuit has put up a great show, and presented us a race to remember. It dealt many twists and turns to the championship battle, and has set us up for an epic showdown in Interlagos. Therefore, I would call it good excuse to declare the inaugural Korean Grand Prix a success.


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