Despite being tipped to exit from the F1 world championship after just three years, the Korean Grand Prix appears to have earned a stay of execution after inking an extension to its contract with FOM.
news agency reports that not only has the race, which has yet to attract sizeable crowds, agreed terms to remain on the schedule in the face of opposition from other countries eager to join the fray, but has also negotiated a more favourable rate with F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone
"We had to renegotiate with Mr Ecclestone and brought a few ideas and persuaded him that Korea cannot continue the event with such a big financial loss," promoter Park Won-Hwa, hired in 2011 to save the event, confirmed after inking an extension through to 2016, "It took a long time but, in the end, Mr Ecclestone agreed to make another contract."
The Korean race, seen as another frontier conquered for F1 back in 2010, has appeared to court controversy at every turn, starting from the Korean International Circuit nearly not being ready to host the inaugural race to the lack of ongoing development and the persistently low turn-out that leave grandstands empty. The event reportedly made a loss of $50 million in its first year, and has since been hit by the departure of two major backers. Organisers chose to give away free tickets to ensure that the stands were filled at the first running of the race, but have opted to merely reduce prices this season, a tactic that did not appear to have brought the desired results on Friday.
Despite all that, Park claims that Ecclestone wanted to continue bringing F1 to Korea, even though he has other countries clamouring either to join or return to the calendar. The Turkish Grand Prix was axed ahead of the 2012 season for having similar failings to Korea, which hosts its race in Mokpo, far removed from the capital Seoul.
"Mr. Ecclestone thinks that it is important to have F1 in Korea as the country is a fast-growing country and benefits from a booming economy and fast-growing economy," Park explained, "It would be a huge strategic mistake to withdraw from this part of the world.
"Seoul is a centre of activity, but Korea needed to highlight this rural and industrial area. We live in peace here, with clean air, no pollution and a good environment, but we are trying to boost the area and build its image at the same time. This is the idea of the government behind the race."