THIS STORY APPEARS IN THE OCTOBER 9 ISSUE OF MOTORSPORT ILLUSTRATED NEWS
There’s the glitz and glamour of Formula One, then then there’s the Korean Grand Prix. The venue, 250 miles from Seoul and built in an area planned for a city that never eventuated, is unloved by most of the F1 travelling pack and, it seems, much of the local community, given the number of people masquerading as empty chairs at the Korean International Circuit last weekend. But for Sebastian Vettel, there are 25 points on offer for a win in Korea just as there are at Monaco, Monza or Spa, and the points for his eighth victory of the season last Sunday were as gladly received as any others he’s managed in what’s becoming a year befitting the dominant driver of his generation.
For its brief history as a stop on the F1 map, Korea has often given the impression that it’s all too hard. At the first Korean GP in 2010, the circuit was still being built on the Friday of the race weekend; 12 months later, the teams returned to discover trash from that maiden visit still in bins in the hospitality areas and the corks from the post-race champagne celebrations still on the podium. All of the sport’s biggest hitters stay together in the one trackside hotel that’s suitable, as the remainder of the nearby accommodation is primarily made up of ‘love hotels’ where rooms are let on an hourly rate. The drivers are seemingly in a bigger rush to leave on private planes on Sunday evening after the race than they are on track at any other stage of the weekend …
Korea is proposed to be the fifth round of next year’s F1 season, slotting into the Asian leg that follows the season-opener in Australia, but has an asterisk next to it on the proposed calendar for 2014 that was circulated last week. If last Sunday’s Grand Prix was the last at the venue, you sense few would shed a tear, but Vettel would be one of those who might lament its passing. Sunday was the Red Bull driver’s third win in four Korean Grands Prix, the only time he hasn’t held the winners’ trophy aloft coming in 2010, when his engine blew within 10 laps of the flag while he was leading the race.
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