Less than seven weeks away now from the inaugural Korean Grand Prix, F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone has conceded that there are still 'problems' with the facilities at the Yeongam County venue, whilst Karun Chandhok reflected that the circuit itself requires 'a lot of work'.

With construction work ongoing, preparations appear to be running significantly behind schedule and a construction company chief has confided to AFP that 'we are under enormous pressure and are trying really hard to complete work, but time is running short'.

There are a number of buildings remaining half-finished, many of the 130,000 grandstand seats missing, the final layer of asphalt yet to be laid down, run-off areas still not ready, an incomplete main entrance, safety catch-fences absent, insufficient parking and not even a full supply of water and electricity - prompting a wave of incredulity inside the F1 paddock and amongst international media that the race can actually take place this year.

Whilst acknowledging that the picturesque, anti-clockwise, 18-turn Korean International Circuit (KIC) - around 200 miles and four hours south of the capital of Seoul in South Korea and featuring what is boasted to be the longest straight of any track in Asia at 1.2km - remains a work in progress, Ecclestone insists the grand prix will go ahead as planned.

"There are problems," the Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive admitted, according to SPEED TV, "but we assume that the race can take place. The circuit is definitely ready, but as for all the buildings, perhaps not. We may have to put up some tents..."

A similar assessment was made by Hispania Racing (HRT) F1 2010 rookie Karun Chandhok, who was given the honour of being the first driver to take to the 5.615km track for a series of 15 demonstration laps in a 2009-spec, race-winning Red Bull Racing at the weekend during the 'Circuit Run 2010' official opening - in company with a Formula BMW single-seater, a parade of 100 sportscars and Korean touring cars, and in front of more than 3,000 spectators as well as heavy building machinery and construction workers. The Indian was left enthusiastic after his run, albeit guardedly so, later confessing on Twitter that he fears there is still 'a lot of work to be done'.

"It's a really interesting layout," remarked the 26-year-old, currently being 'rested' by his team in favour of the well-heeled Sakon Yamamoto. "The track's got a good mix of fast and slow corners and I think we'll see a lot of overtaking in the first sector - there are long straights into slow hairpins. The straight after Turn One and Turn Two is really long, so we may see some good slipstreaming there, like in Shanghai.

"From Turn Seven onwards, there's a fast section of flowing corners all the way back to the start-finish line - so I think the Red Bull Racing guys will be happy in sectors two and three! High-speed corners will be a real challenge for drivers to test their limits. I think this is a little bit like Malaysia, which has a combination of many different corners.

"Looking at the facilities, the garages and team buildings look pretty much finished and they're big - I think teams will need to bring around 30 per cent more furniture to fill them! The main grandstand is finished, although they need to put up other temporary grandstands because they don't have time to put up any more permanent ones. The track itself is not completely finished and needs a bit more work on the asphalt and the kerbs, but generally it's pretty good and the organisers think it's all within their timelines and are confident that it will be ready on time and the location is nice, overlooking the sea.

"There's certainly some enthusiasm for F1 here. There were a lot of people at the event, which wasn't heavily publicised, and a lot of media, which shows an interest. The organisers say they have sold a significant amount of tickets, so it should be a good race."

Race promoters the Korea Auto Valley Operation (KAVO) - who have a seven-year deal with Ecclestone to stage the event - have also defended the repeated delays in preparing the Korean International Circuit for competitive action, insisting that they are 'more than 90 per cent' of the way to completion now and confident of successfully passing the final FIA safety inspection due to take place in a fortnight's time.

KAVO CEO Yung-Cho Chung pointed to the example of Bahrain, whose own F1 circuit he claimed was only actually finalised three days before it first welcomed the top flight - and underlined his conviction that the venue would represent the Republic of Korea's biggest and grandest sports facility

"The track needs a bit more work on the asphalt and the curbs, but I'm sure we can have done it before the inspection," he is quoted as having said by the Korea Herald. "This track satisfies strict safety standards required by the FIA and I'm sure we can host a successful event - you will see a historic moment 50 days from now.

"Everyone has been a bit doom-and-gloom about it, but everything is under control and we can finish before the opening of the event. This (the inauguration ceremony) has been an excellent opportunity for us to fine-tune the facilities ahead of next month's grand prix, and it is exciting to see how enthusiastically the Korean International Circuit has been received by Korean residents."

One boost for KAVO is the recent agreement with British race management and insurance firm Motor Race Consultants director Barry Bland for the KIC to host an international F3 race in November. Recognising that the circuit is 'very different' from most others by dint of its design, Bland similarly recognised that there is 'a lot of work' still to be done and told AFP: "The top layer of surface still has to be done and sides of the track have to be finished, [but] I think that if there is enough manpower, it could be finished in time. I think drivers will really like it."


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