Ah, Seoul…

The inclusion of a Korean Grand Prix on the F1 calendar came as a surprise to everyone, even the organisers of the last Korean GP in Yeongam! What does that tell you? Well, it could mean that the race is fictitious, will never happen, and that there is some other reason for the date to pop up.

It has been suggested that it is all about the engine rules and how a 21st race will mean that the teams can still use five engines per car, rather than four, as the rules in place dictate.

At the same time, the inclusion of a Korean event may help Joe Chung, Bernie’s mate, in his efforts to get the government to put some money up for a public-private Grand Prix in a park in Seoul. That would be a good addition to the calendar. Bernie is probably thinking that he needs a new race in Asia because the Malaysian GP seems to be dying on its feet and that contract runs put next year. This announcement should set the alarm bells ringing in Kuala Lumpur. Having said that, Malaysia may be willing to give the race up. It was the pioneer in Asia way back when and the hoped-for Malaysian motorsport industry has not taken off. The Malaysian F1 team has been a debacle and while the Petronas money is well-spent with Mercedes, the Malaysian race has been overshadowed completely by Singapore. In strategic terms, there is no real need for the KL event these days and a proper Korean or Indian race would be much better for F1’s bigger picture. This is probably why there have been witterings of an Indian GP revival.

The Singapore private-public model of funding a Grand Prix works well and has done wonders for the city and Seoul would no doubt like to have such a deal. Korea is a big player in the automotive world but barely exists on the world stage in motorsport terms.

Could a street track be done in time? No way. There are all manner of permits and so on and the Korean bureaucracy is slow. There would need to be construction or conversion of an existing building to create pits/race control etc. That would take at least a year. To have a race in May would require the erection of grandstands, barriers, fences etc to start in February and before that much infrastructure change would be required. So it’s not do-able in 2015.

And no one wants a race in Yeongam (not even the locals) unless the race fees are slashed and, as we know, the Formula One world will not do that for the US market, so why would it happen for Korea?

I liked Seoul and felt that it is a place with a lot to offer. It is the kind of place that works for F1 and F1 will work for the city, if the concept planning is right. The key is putting the racing into a park so as to avoid unnecessary disruption, making sure there is plenty of public transport, making sure that there are decent and plentiful hotels within easy reach – for the circus and for the fans – and getting the government onboard.

It is all do-able, but not in four months. For 2016 it’s possible.

66 thoughts on “Ah, Seoul…

  1. My initial thought was that it was a way of getting more money for the Indian Grand Prix. “Here you go guys, here’s the slot, this is the price, take it or leave it”.

    1. Different strokes for different folks. Some people found it funny… some did not. Different people have different senses of humour.

      1. The title is great. I think TRS has had a sense of humour bypass. Schoolboy humour dressed up with a little subtlety, at first glance an intelligent grown up headline.

        Reminds me of how every year at the Bralian GP, DC always manages to get a comment on the air along the lines of “will it be another close shave this year”. Then tries not to smirk.

  2. I’m forever losing track these days of which Grands Prix are dying on their feet. Malaysia, Russia (aalegedly), Germany, Austin, there were some doubts about China at one time.

    To put it another way, besides Monaco and SIngapore, are any races actually *secure*?

  3. I think there’s a fantastic opportunity for Seoul here, given that S Korea is the world’s most connected country and that they’re starting to introduce conductive charging for electric cars at busy junctions. The logical tie in would be a track that could be used both for F1 and the new electric racing series and who know perhaps a round of sports car racing for electric/fuel cell hybrids?

    1. “I think there’s a fantastic opportunity for Seoul here, given that S Korea is the world’s most connected country and that they’re starting to introduce conductive charging for electric cars at busy junctions.” What does any of this have to do with racing?
      I think the soju is effecting your judgement! 😉

    2. I love that idea.

      If Formula 1 is to represent the cutting edge of technology, or the fastest cars that technology can build, then one day, it is possible that this might mean electric cars. I’m not a qualified engineer, mechanic, nor scientist, so I accept that there might not be science to support me. As a layman though, it’s seems logical that if enough resources are put into electric cars there is no reason they couldn’t become a faster racer than our current hybrids (I’m concerned I’m using an inappropriate term here).

      I understand concerns around engine noise, but provided the tech is fast enough there should be a way around other concerns. Maybe I’m being naive but I think there are a lot more things possible tomorrow than we can fully understand today. New technologies merge and create results we hadn’t expected, and other technologies branch off into areas that at first seemed unhelpful but can sometimes spark a new branch of thinking.

      40 years ago the concept of mobile phones, atm’s,iPods, tablet apps, net stream, and cloud were pretty nonexistent for most of us. If we can manage a healthy, sustainable, environment, I couldn’t begin to imagine what race tech will be 30 or 40 years from now.

      Whilst some might scoff at the thought that somewhere over the next few decades that electric racers could feature in F1, I recall a time when people laughed at teapot racers with turbo charged engines. The truth is we don’t know. Formula 1, after all, a Formula. That Formula changes, in a multitude of ways over the course of decades. It would confine Formula 1 to become a historic class if we allow it to be defined as an internal combustion only engine for all time. Indeed, I believe the engine regs of 2014 are a timely reminder that we are not going to do this.

      The Seoul a Grand Prix could become a monument to evolving racing/motoring technologies. Starting with current F1, use the facilities for WEC as well (even if nobody is watching), and secure a round of the new electric class as well.

  4. I can’t see how logistically, the teams can get all the cars, people and associated equipment from Korea to Spain in less than a week.

    This must be for the purposes of allowing 5 engines per car rather than 4 if more than 20 races are scheduled, even if fewer than 20 actually take place.

  5. Having attended the very first Korean Grand Prix, And also having spent an awful lot of time in Seoul (Korean Wife) I holeheartedly agree that

    A: Yeongam was absolutely terrible
    B: a Seoul GP would be bloody fantastic.

    Seoul is an amazing city, South Korea as a whole is an amazing place, but just like the UK if you get out into the sticks it’s pretty backward, Yeongam was past the sticks.

    I felt bad for the country during that event. Here we were sat in the rain, with no food portable toilets and literally nothing around for miles. In a country that is an economic miracle and the nearest town is a down at heel seaside resort.

    We stayed in a love hotel too!

    And It was a bitch to get to (even with a Korean Speaker)

    The entire thing was a Local Council cock up with an aim to win votes in that part of the country, its a long story.

    There are several venues that could host this, I am presuming that it would probably be in Incheon City, most of which is brand new and has the requisite skyscrapers for the WOW factor.

    The streets are also very wide, it would be perfect. The International airport would be a 15 mins train ride and Seoul City center only an extra 45.

    Incheon hosted a fairly successful Asian games so there would be some will.

    Having said that, the Asian games went over budget so the local Incheon council might not be sooo keen, but if the money was coming from central government, rather than local it would be perfect. And I would attend.

    Roll on 2016

    1. It’s good to see another expat here! A Seoul GP would be fantastic IF it were done correctly. That’s a big “if”…

      1. Incheon is the logical venue, brand new city wide open street, I might even sketch a track. Korean can do things right, when they put their minds to it. If the National government put their muscle behind it (not just preening local councilors) it could be a fantastic race!

        1. Incheon would be ok, but only in an area such as Songdo. I don’t think the Incheon government has the stomach to lose another umpteen million on hosting a race, though.
          I fear that a race in Seoul would be a fuster cluck because there already is a significant shortage of hotel rooms.
          Let’s pray that a race here never happens. This place has enough black eyes (and holes where money has gone down) already.

          1. Agree below Songdo would be the only place this could happen, I am not sure of the link between Songdo, Incheon and the Government, If Songdo is a Government initiative then the money would be there. If Songdo is a local government thing then less so. I think Songdo looks perfect.

    2. Been to Seoul many times and it is a disappoint a purpose built track can’t be accomplished there. You could use the elevation changes that are everywhere, like Austin, and have an incredible track with a mountains as a backdrop. Do Koreans really care about motorsport and F1 in particular? Has it been noted if Japanese fans go to the Chinese GP. There is a lot of Japanese tourism to South Korea and a race being close to Seoul might sway Japanese F1 fans to attend.

      1. “…it is a disappoint(sic) a purpose built track can’t be accomplished there.”
        Look up Inje Speedium. Be sure to read about how hosting its first event went. It’ll help you understand why there hasn’t been one built. LOL.

  6. Might this be a negotiating ploy on Bernie’s part? If Bernie wants the teams to agree to something, he now has a possibly-fictitious race that he can knock off the calendar to bring it back to the teams’ preferred race count.

  7. the Malaysian race is held on a good circuit in daylight hours*. such a pity the same can’t be said about Singapore. *the occasional tropical downpour just adds to the atmosphere (no pun intended).

  8. Given your write up of the situation it looks like a classic Bernie move to pressure the Malaysians into stumping up a bit more cash. Is the Malaysian GP really a lame duck? It always seems to produce decent races.

  9. With 27 days remaining in the “Worst Headline Pun of the Year Competition”, Joe Saward is in a dominant position.

  10. I think the wording of the regs says it all …if there are more than 20 races AS ORIGINALLY SCHEDULED
    good move in my view , I don’t think they are yet ready to drop to 4 of these engines for the season

  11. “The key is putting the racing into a park so as to avoid unnecessary disruption, making sure there is plenty of public transport, making sure that there are decent and plentiful hotels within easy reach…”
    How did I miss this? Three dream scenarios all in one sentence!
    Now I know this is a ruse on BE’s part to get five engines.

  12. Interesting to hear about the Korea situation. However, losing the Malaysian race to make way for it would be sad. Sepang is a very racy track with multiple passing zones. It also frequently rains, adding to the strategic challenge. And the heat sometimes plays a role, depending on driver fitness. The only negative is that it’s a middle-of-the-night race here in the U.S., but then Korea was/is as well.

    Thanks Joe.

  13. “To have a race in May would require the erection of grandstands”

    This made me chuckle, as it took me back to a photo in (I believe) the Japan edition of GP+

    “erection in progress”

    1. It is their company. Theu make decisions when they want to. I don’t see why that is deemed to be a failure because some fans want to know what’s happening. I am sure they have a good reason not to decide (or not to announce)

      1. Dear Joe, all
        I do so love f1- the season is over, the championships are won…. And then….. THINGS GET REEEEAAAAALLLYYY INTERESTING!!
        And, yes, clever title…..especially because I missed it the first 3 times I scrolled past it.
        Cheers
        Mark R

    2. I presume both current McLaren drivers are contracted and thus paid to the end of this year, otherwise they would not be making sponsor appearances.

      The “pressure” to announce next year’s drivers is totally driven by the mainstream British press who are ill informed and need to sell newspapers.

  14. Agree that the bureaucratic wheels in S. Korea can turn slow but I have to say, if they want to build something quick, they certainly can.
    I’ve seen Koreans fix highways/road overnight that usually takes months in the US.
    I would even contend they are the fastest builders/constructors in the world, even China. However, the quality is another matter.

    1. “…the bureaucratic wheels in S. Korea can turn slow…”
      Believe it or not, usually it’s slow because they are arguing about who is going to get credit. Seriously.
      In one town, it took seven years to build a community swimming pool because of this. Then it took another year and a half to open it because, you guessed it, they were arguing. This time about who was going to manage it. Sounds a lot like the fiasco at Inje, doesn’t it?
      말사음하지마! (Don’t argue!) is a mandatory Korean phrase. LOL

  15. I assumed plucking this phantom race out of thin air was simply Bernies way of saying to Hulkenberg (and any other current F1 driver…) – you may want to use the WEC race at Spa as a warm up/mileage for Le Mans, but i’m going to throw you this curve ball as a disincentive to making my series seem not the be all and end all.

  16. I remember when Jenson first got his F1 drive in 2000 he only found out just before it was announced at the Williams launch! How ironic if his career ends in the same way.

  17. Hey Joe, wasn’t there suppose to be another Malaysian GP by 2016. India will return in 2016 with Baku joining as well in the same year and the highest Grand Prix soon will be a circuit that will host both motogp and Formula 1 in the same year (2017) with a reported $70m annual fee

  18. I think this Korean Grand Prix will go ahead on the Yeongam circuit with a Korean street night race in 2016. There has been discussions between the organisers and Bernie to get a race back into Korea. it seems the national government wants Formula 1 back in Korea.

      1. “I think this Korean Grand Prix will go ahead on the Yeongam circuit…” Obviously too much soju for this chap!

        1. Please not Yeongam, a classic example of regional, factional, dysfunctional local government. Plus you think the money spent on the track was a waste! Did anyone fly into the local Airport? Brand new, and replaced a perfectly functional airport mere miles away.

          My Money is on a Night race in “SONGDO-DONG”, perfect location. Wide streets and still being developed (check google maps) so plenty of space to create Pits and Grandstands. PLUS they are trying to sell the area as a NEW business district with incentives to move there from crowded downtown Seoul. It will be there 2016.

          1. Check this out:

            Unlike other boondoggle Cities in the Middle east and Asia there is a real need for more space, Seoul is crammed to capacity. The Koreans realise this and Songdo is an answer to this.

            Unlike the Gulf, people will actually live and work here!

            A track would be a fantastic addition and could easily be a mixture of fixed assets and movable assets like Singapore.

            1. That Songdo video is just another example of the type of “pretty pictures” that they used to sell Yeongam…
              Remember, they are no ‘truth in advertising’ laws here. 😉
              I wonder if there is a Korean word for “pipe dream”?

          2. Songdo in 2016? Been drinking Andong soju, have we? LOL
            The word from inside the Incheon govt. is that they don’t have money for anything right now, so don’t hold your breath.

  19. In my view it would be a shame to lose Malaysia, it’s a great circuit. Every year when Singapore rolls around we get dazzled by the lights, but the race is long (sometimes the 2 hour limit ends the race due to safety cars) and often boring with the overtaking done mainly in the pits. There’s lot’s more overtaking on track at Malaysia and rain to spice things up.

    If we do get a Seoul street race hopefully it wouldn’t be full of 90 degree corners like ‘Snoreapore’

    …just waiting for the haters now…..

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