Would it be ready in time? FIA Safety Delegate Charlie Whiting finally gave the new circuit at Yeongam, 400 kilometres south of South Korea’s capital Seoul, the go-ahead less than a fortnight before the first World Championship race there on October 24th 2010. A huge crowd turned up to see Grand Prix racing in a country that is one of the world’s biggest car-makers but where F1 does not somehow seem a natural fit.
Designed by Hermann Tilke, the anti-clockwise circuit features some of his trademarks, notably a left-hand turn on to a straight that measures over 1.2km between Turns 2 and 3. It was planned as a combination of permanent and temporary facilities, as a city was intended to grow up with the F1 track as its centre-piece.
Although that opening race saw Red Bull Renault lock out the front row, the Sunday action was not kind to Sebastian Vettel or Mark Webber. After a delayed start and what seemed an interminable suspension of the race (in fact it was 49 minutes) after just three laps as the rain intensified, Webber eventually saw his title hopes fade dramatically as he lost control over a Turn 12 kerb after 18 laps, his Red Bull collecting Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes and ending up very much the worse for wear.
Vettel led from pole but his race also ended early when his Renault engine cried ‘Enough’ with 45 laps gone, leaving Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari to win the race. The Spaniard, Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa went out on to the podium as an historic day for South Korea ended in near-darkness.
Although Lewis Hamilton was on pole in 2011, Vettel won the race and set the fastest lap of 1:39.605 which is the existing lap record on the 5.615km layout. With Webber third, Red Bull duly retained the Constructors’ World Championship. Last year Webber took pole in a Red Bull front-row lock-out but lost the lead to Vettel on the opening lap and couldn’t get it back, Vettel’s title bid gathering momentum with his fourth win of the season.