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.
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 – spectators’ experiences
2010 Korean Grand Prix
Images © KAVO