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.