If you ask those who work at every Grand Prix to list the race locations in their order of preference, you’d be hard pressed to find the Korean Grand Prix venue anywhere near the top, or even on the reserves list, if we can call it that. There are many reasons for this, starting with the fact that, at over 300 kilometres, Mokpo is a long way from the capital city, Seoul. Also, the circuit was meant to be a city one with concrete walls very near the track, but in the three years it has featured on the calendar, there has been no trace of the buildings originally planned as homes, according to the publicity and the truth is, the one aspect of the Korean Grand Prix that makes life easy is that the job is very straightforward for team personnel who look after passes for the guests, as they are few and far between.
However, come Sunday and there’s actually quite a large crowd watching from the grandstands, a sign that interest in Formula 1 and indeed motorsport in general is still significant in South Korea, the fourth largest economy in Asia. It’s not by chance that two months ago, at the new Inje circuit, there was a round of the Asia Pacific series of the Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli and the same card also featured the first round of the Asian Le Mans Series.
From a purely racing point of view, the Korean Grand Prix has witnessed two Ferraris always make it into the top six of the three editions held to date, both in qualifying and the race. The best result came in the debut year, 2010: Fernando Alonso qualified third and went on to take a fantastic win in a rain-affected race, while Felipe Massa joined him on the podium in third place. The win in Yeongam propelled Fernando into the championship lead, partly thanks to retirements from both Webber and Vettel, which rounded off a comeback that had seemed impossible in the summer. Unfortunately, the ending, on that black night in Abu Dhabi, did not turn out well for the Spaniard and the Scuderia.
The following year was the worst: the 150° Italia was not particularly competitive in either qualifying or the race: the Spaniard’s fifth place and the Brazilian’s sixth were hardly good enough. Last year went better, when Fernando was back on the podium and Felipe crossed the line behind him. As had been the case two years earlier, Yeongam was the scene of another passing move at the top of the Drivers’ classification, this one going against Fernando. The Spaniard’s third place was not enough to prevent Vettel, who took his third consecutive win, from getting back into the lead of the championship.
Unfortunately, this year the maths doesn’t allow for a similar overtaking move: all Ferrari enthusiasts must hope that the race is an exact repeat of the one in 2010, which is the only possible scenario that might result in a reversal of fortune in the near future.