The Korea Herald


Formula One, the world’s fastest sport is back


Published : Oct. 12, 2011 - 15:53

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Slick cars screaming down a track at more than 300 kph and the ear-splitting roar of overpowered engines excite the large crowd.

Formula One, the world’s fastest sport and one of its most expensive, is back in South Korea.

The Korean Grand Prix is to be held at the Korea International Circuit from Oct. 14-16 in Yeongam, South Jeolla Province.

The three-day event will kick off with practice rounds on Friday, followed by the qualifying session on Saturday. The final race is scheduled on Sunday.

Though there are still some concerns over whether the local organizers can successfully host the mega sport event, so far it appears that this year’s race will proceed more smoothly than the problem-plagued inaugural race in 2010.

Last year, Korea Auto Valley Operation, the local organizer, managed to host the race after frantic last-minute work to complete the 5.61 km race circuit. But it came under fire after the race for its lax preparation and poor marketing.

Subsequently, KAVO went out of business and the South Jeolla government took over the local organizing committee.

South Jeolla government, which recently issued a 198 billion won ($174 million) loan to continue hosting the F1 race in Yeongam, insists that it is better prepared this year.

To help prevent heavy traffic to and from the circuit, the F1 Korea Grand Prix organizing committee said it will open a temporary detour road that connects to the West Coast Highway during the three-day event.

There will be more accommodation available -- the organizer says it has secured more than 42,000 rooms, up around 20 percent from last year.

Also improved public transportation, including a free-shuttle bus service from train and bus stations to the circuit, will be provided, according to the local organizing committee.

What to expect

In 2010, the inaugural Korean GP was a very wet race. Due to a torrential storm which had flooded the track, nearly half of the laps were run behind the safety car.

But this year, the weather forecast calls for mostly sunny skies at this weekend, which will allow fans to experience the full speed of the race.

“Last year, the back straight didn’t really produce too much overtaking because it was so wet,” McLaren’s driver Lewis Hamilton said.

Hamilton, who finished runner-up to Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso 12 months ago, said on the team’s website that he was looking forward to seeing how the circuit works in the dry.

“You can tell that this track has been designed to be a good place for racing,” he said.

His team mate Jenson Button of McLaren, who won the Japanese Grand Prix last week, said: “It’s an interesting circuit, there’s a good range of corners.”

“Turns four, five and six are where you can attack on the inside and the outside and try and fight your way past,” Hamilton added.

The Korean circuit, which was designed by Hermann Tilke, the sport’s master designer, creates an interesting and demanding track-layout for the drivers.

The anti-clockwise track features F1’s longest straight, a 1.2 km straight which allows for speeds of 320 kph. And after turns 3 to 6, the circuit features a series of twisting turns switching left and right, making it demanding on both drivers and teams.

Ones to watch

Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull has already secured this year’s series title, his second world championship title, after his third finish in Japan last week.

But the 24-year-old German driver, who has won nine out of 15 races this year, has no time for rest in order to help the team win the Constructor’s crown.

McLaren’s Button is considered the man who can stop Vettel. With four more races to go, Button is currently second in the table with 210 points, far behind Vettel, who has 324 points. And Ferrari’s Alonso, who is third in the table with 202 points, is also looking to defend his title in Korea.

Last year, the drivers and teams had to compete with minimal knowledge of the track. But this time, after 12 months’ of preparation, they have a greater understanding of the circuit, and it will be interesting to see who can win the title.

On Friday, the first practice session is scheduled at 10 a.m. followed by an afternoon session at 2 p.m. The qualifying round is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday before the final race which takes place at 3 p.m. Sunday. 

By Oh Kyu-wook