Yeongam circuit does OK given circumstances
YEONGAM, SOUTH KOREA // To call the Korea International Circuit "ready" would be mildly inaccurate - but less of an exaggeration than some of the wild rumours that preceded the venue's maiden appearance on the Formula One world championship schedule.
The infrastructure lacks a few finishing touches - the Korean Army was still building the grandstands when teams arrived earlier in the week, parts of the run-off area are simply sand that has been sprayed green and a small snake found its way onto the track on Thursday - but teams have praised most aspects of the circuit. The pit lane design has come in for criticism, however. Drivers feel the entry poses a particular safety risk, because it is preceded by a blind corner taken at 250kph.
There were concerns about a pit-bound driver slowing suddenly and being hit by a much faster rival, but the entry has since been eased to reduce the risk of exaggerated speed differentials. "It's not a perfect solution," said Nico Rosberg, the Mercedes driver, "but in the circumstances I don't see what else they could have done."
Some kerbs and tyre walls have been realigned, too, to improve the flow of the circuit and increase safety margins.
Such teething problems were almost inevitable, given that the circuit was licensed for use just nine days before its first race, rather than the customary 90 - or 60 in the case of street circuits, as this will eventually become. The land either side of the 1.15km straight presently lies barren, but it is dotted with drainage hatches as the foundations are laid for a new community that will eventually be built. Right now, though, it is a city-centre track without a city.
Most drivers have spoken out in favour of the circuit's challenging nature and the contrasting elements within. The first sector comprises straights and heavy braking zones, the second is all fast, sweeping curves and the third is tight and twisty, like Monaco.
The low-grip asphalt makes the cars spectacular to watch, too, although one detail - a steeply raked kerb at Turn 16 - has been removed. Cars sent up showers of sparks as they leapt over it on Friday, but teams felt their suspension systems were being unduly punished and the surface was levelled overnight. It is still, however, one of the most spectacular corners anywhere on the calendar.
"If I found anything to criticise," Mark Webber, the championship leader, said. "I'd be clutching at straws."
Although rain might yet play a part in conditioning the circuit, teams are bracing themselves for an afternoon of astute tyre management. As in Canada, the dusty surface means drivers are unlikely to be able to complete the 55-lap distance with only a single pit stop.
Published: October 24, 2010 04:00 AM