Skip navigation
Formula 1 12

Does Korea work as an F1 venue?

Twenty-eight hours door to door seems about the average when it comes to travelling to Mokpo, Korea from Europe and it is with a heavy heart and heavier eyes that you arrive in the south of the country. It is not the most thrilling venue on the calendar but this year, the place was as good as it has ever looked.  But the question is, does the Korean Grand Prix actually work as an event?

f1  Does Korea work as an F1 venue?

It certainly threw up an exciting Grand Prix if you look beyond FP3, qualifying and the race result. We had tyres, fires and frustration for many of the 22 drivers. We had a few big smiles and celebrations for Sebastian Vettel and Nico Hülkenberg.

As an event, there is no doubt that it is getting better and year on year and Mokpo improves as a town, as a place where you have to spend a week. I did wonder if we were just getting conditioned to it but it has improved. We still stay in very strange motels that are normally booked by the hour and not certainly not where you would choose to stay for four nights. There is still a shortage of restaurants and there were fewer print journalists and TV crews at this Grand Prix than any other on the calendar with many choosing to sit it out. Paddock clubs, for sponsors and most teams, are non-existent.

Away from the town, the track has not changed at all. The paddock is still a bumpy, uneven area that teams struggle to push tyre trollies and other equipment along before they hit a bump and all the equipment tumbles off, rolling around on the floor, which is an unusual and ungainly sight in the world of F1!

Friday started with a display by the South Korean Air Force. We have air displays at most Grands Prix but before qualifying and the race, but not for free practice.  There is no doubt that they are trying to make an event and a sense of occasion but it takes fans to create an atmosphere – not even excitement in the skies or on track can do that.

f1  Does Korea work as an F1 venue?

An official press release claimed that on Thursday, when the cars don’t run, there was a crowd of 20,000. That would be an impressive Korean crowd on race day! On Friday, the 135,000 capacity grand stands did have people in them but we are talking about a handful of F1 fans and some school children. I am slightly jealous; how many of us ever went on a school trip to a Formula 1 race? It certainly makes the Butterfly Kingdom in Glasgow seem slightly less exciting. To educate people about F1 in new venues, of course it is a good idea to start them young, but you cannot help but think it was more about making the place look busy as opposed to bringing in the fans of tomorrow.

Holding a Grand Prix five hours south of the capital city Seoul is the problem. It is a multi-cultural city and one of the most advanced places in the world when it comes to cutting edge technology. Seoul is home to over 10 million people and there is no doubt that businesses, sponsors and fans would be much greater had the race been held nearer there.

When I covered A1GP, we raced at a wonderful hidden gem in Indonesia. The Sentul circuit is an hour outside of Jakarta and the track itself was a good layout and provided some decent racing. It seemed such a waste to have these old, majestic, decaying facilities not being used but sadly I think this is the fate which awaits a few of our current Formula 1 venues.  I think someone could be writing a pretty similar column in a few years time saying they visited India and Korea, which ‘once held F1 races’.

At the Yeongam track there was a sign from the local Governor which read: “Thank you Mr Ecclestone for the 2013 Grand Prix”, which brought a wry smile to many people’s faces. While they paid a reduced rate this season, figures of $20 million were being bandied about.

f1  Does Korea work as an F1 venue?

It’s not expected that we will come back to Korea in 2014 but most people have said adieu to Mokpo for the last three years and we’ve always returned. So it is more of a cautious farewell and good luck that I bid to the Yeongam circuit as I leave here. If F1 has used the area and found it wanting then surely letting young racers develop their skills and create a decent, competitive racing series would be the way to begin a motor sport legacy and in turn attract more fans.

Priorities have changed over the years though and now the TV audience is king, but I still think and hope that atmosphere carries from the race track into your living rooms. Maybe we should persevere with Korea on the calendar for a little bit longer. You never know, maybe it will become the Suzuka of the future. I love going to Japan, for both atmosphere and a classic circuit.  Bring on next weekend. It’s a venue which ticks all the boxes.

Click here to read more on Formula 1

Click here to read more from Lee McKenzie

f1  Does Korea work as an F1 venue?

Add your comments

12 comments on Does Korea work as an F1 venue?

  1. Jackal, 7 October 2013 13:32

    Short answer …. no it does not. No atmosphere, no soul and no fans. It makes you wonder why Korea wants an F1 race at all. Actually the same can be said for China.

  2. IM, 7 October 2013 13:53

    The sooner all these places – India, Russia, Korea, China, Turkey, Bahrain etc – lose interest and we can all go back to proper circuits the better. I’ve just watched “GP Legends” programme on Eddie Irvine – I was never a huge fan but now reckon he should be put in charge (not that he’d be interested of course….).

  3. Bill, 7 October 2013 14:48

    I dont think ill miss Yeongam as much as I yearn for Adelaide, the old Imola, and im not talking attendance wise.

    Next weeks the Suzuak track will tick all the boxes bar one: overtaking is really difficult at that track.

    But seeing an RB9 driven in anger, hopefuly by both drivers to P1 and 2 in whatever order on saturday and sunday, will be a treat., Watching the Lotus do its high speed balancing act, and , who knows, its a track that does not emphasise Ferraris deficits as much, and we can have an Alonso revival.

    Lastly, nothing, really nothing beats Glasgow. Best city Ive ever lived in.

  4. Ray In Toronto, Canada (Ray T (The other one)), 7 October 2013 15:37


    Have you ever been to Toronto?


    Come. I’ll take you for a spin up to Mosport ;)

  5. Dave Cubbedge, 7 October 2013 15:57

    The commentators over here (USA) said that the crowd looked larger than in previous years, but I only saw the main grandstand being full of people. I did see completely empty grandstands – much like Shanghai – but these weren’t covered in dark advertising tarps. Maybe someone in the canvas business should make a pattern that looks like people! They could make a fortune off some of these places….

    Over here the leaves are turning color which always reminds me of Watkins Glen in early October… glad I lived through and experienced those halcyon days!

  6. Mikey, 7 October 2013 16:09

    Suzuka – a proper old school track but didn’t they spoil it by taming 130R?

  7. Nick Lawton, 7 October 2013 18:17

    The shame is the track layout actually provides for a great race. More overtaking than the narrow confines of say Suzuka. Like in Turkey they just built in the wrong place. Still I think there is a bit of European snobbery here. I bet those Brazil F1 journos who lets say live in Receife or Salvador must love going to Silverstone. No direct flights, dreadful public transport links, 4 nights in the Towcester Travelodge…

  8. The Original Ray T, 7 October 2013 19:35

    So what’s wrong with European snobbery? Europe is where the fans are, Americans will not give up NASCAR for F1, they just won’t, its been 50 years…give it up, already. The same is true for Asia. This idea that you need a local GP to fuel the new emerging market fan base is baseless.
    If F1 were really interested in green racing, they would have all the races in Europe and just drive between them. I would love so see F1 back in France and Portugal, Sweden, Holland, etc. the amount of air travel in F1 is obscene and pointless, and little batteries on the cars won’t fix that.

  9. Bill, 7 October 2013 20:27

    I hear great things about Toronto, so ill take you up on that offer when im in the opportunity to visit Canada, Ray!

  10. Mario Marchetti, 8 October 2013 11:56

    It’s nowhere near as good as older circuits something the FIA need to realise. We understand the need to expand into different markets but they need to model the newer circuits on older circuits. Also, placing a circuit so far away from major cities is asking to fail. They need to get a culture of making the great circuits modern while keeping their feel and also bringing back circuits they used to use but updating them to make them safer like Imola. New circuits designed by the likes of Tilke while sometimes great are pretty much all the same. India and Turkey are similar especially Turkeys turn 8 and India’s turn 10/11 along with Yas Marina Circuit with its turns 2to4 and 15to17 mirroring the other circuits. Another problem is places like Korea don’t exactly have a motor sport culture. Take Ireland for example it would be utterly pointless having a race here I’d probably be the only one in the stand after year one; point being year one yes floods of people come to watch, year 2 not so much and year 3 it really begins to decline. 1st year in India seen 95,000 people at the circuit, second year this dropped to 65,000 spectators, I wonder how many will show up this year! As for Korea….

  11. John Read, 9 October 2013 06:17


    You poor souls have obviously never been to Sydney.

  12. 1959, 15 October 2013 16:33

    No…..would be fun to have one in North Korea though!

Similar content


A history of Ferrari’s sporting directors


With the resignation of Stefano Domenicali from Ferrari, Paul Fearnley looks back at the Scuderia’s past team bosses


Ayrton Senna: the McLaren years


Simon Arron shares Ron Dennis’s thoughts on his time working with Ayrton Senna


Red Bull loses Australian GP appeal


Mark Hughes explains why the FIA remains immovable on fuel flow regulations for the new turbo F1 engines



Lee McKenzie

Read Lee's profile and more …