Slip-ups, rain, mar Korean Grand Prix
|Fernando Alonso, right, celebrates his victory at the 2010 Korean Grand Prix by popping champagne at Yeongam, South Jeolla, yesterday. Although the race itself brought excitement, the event failed to live up to organizers’ expectations. [YONHAP]|
YEONGAM, South Jeolla - Although Korea’s first ever Formula One Grand Prix sparked with electric excitement, little seemed to go right for organizers, fans or the drivers.
Public interest in Korea has also been less than spectacular.
“There were about 25,000 people in [attendance] on the first day, with about 63,000 people cheering during the preliminary race on Saturday,” said Kim Jae-ho, general manager of the Korea Auto Valley Operation’s marketing department. “For the Grand Prix, we expect about 70,000 people in the stands.”
The 70,000-person estimate is only about 58 percent of all available seats. It is nowhere near the 90 percent capacity rate that KAVO CEO Chung Yung-cho had promised.
KAVO officials put a positive spin on the numbers, though, saying they are much better than the worst case scenario they had in mind.
The race came to a rain-soaked end yesterday at the Korea International Circuit in Yeongam, South Jeolla, as drivers complained about visibility and poor track conditions.
Before the race even started, there were fears that the race would be a no-go, but on Oct. 12 Federation Internationale de l’Automobile safety delegate Charlie Whiting gave the track last-minute approval.
Concerns persisted for organizers until the last minute for one of the three largest sporting events in the world, as construction on facilities had not yet been completed.
Adding to the worries on Saturday, KAVO angered fans by abruptly announcing that stands C, D, H, I and J had to be closed for safety reasons. The number of available seats had to be cut to 102,700 from the initially planned 120,000, according to a KAVO official.
Questions have also been raised about ticket-selling practices. A report suggested that government employees were told to sell tickets, and a local taxi driver told the Korea JoongAng Daily that his daughter, who works in the area for Nonghyup, was forced to buy tickets.
Bad weather also hampered the event and caused some more concern for the Korean organizers. Rain started to fall before the race and one driver said he couldn’t even see the front of his car. The Grand Prix was delayed for more than 30 minutes and racers ran several laps behind a safety car.
Not surprisingly, the race itself was marred by a number of spin outs, including the two favorites, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and teammate Mark Webber.
In the end, Ferrari’s double world champion Fernando Alonso drank the champagne, followed by Lewis Hamilton of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and Felipe Massa, Alonso’s teammate.
It clearly wasn’t an easy race.
“It’s the worst conditions I ever drove a carin ,” said Alonso over the radio.
For the Korean Grand Prix, the weather wasn’t the only factor that delayed and disappointed, as many accommodations had serious problems.
Scores of reporters, team members and spectators were assigned to sleep in so-called love motels - which are usually used by people for quick sexual encounters - since these places usually charge by the hour.
BBC Sports’ Jake Humphrey posted a photo on his Twitter account that showed the love motel he was assigned to sleep in, which embarrassed some Koreans.
Also, an Italian reporter who was also assigned to sleep at a love motel was shocked to find a bundle of used condoms under his bed. Another reporter said that his room had been used by others during the day. A French reporter even said he would never come back to the Mokpo area again.
“It is easy to be very critical in this situation. I think that the essentials are an admiration for all the work which has been done for motorsports, for Formula One and for Korea,” said Jean Todt, FIA president, in an exclusive interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily. “I feel that problems will definitely be solved in the future. You know, if they made this great circuit here, I think it would be easy to find few rooms for hotels.”
Not everyone was as optimistic.
“I was disappointed with the race, because I didn’t pay all that money and travel all the way to Yeongam to see most of the race run behind the safety car and the rest of the race seeing cars slip and crash into each other,” said a spectator from Seoul. “Everything from hotels to getting to the circuit, and volunteers’ low F1 knowledge angered me. And I see too many changes and improvements that must be made.”
By Jung Seung-hyun [firstname.lastname@example.org]