Enthusiasm in the F1 paddock for the scheduled visit to Korea in October could be described as lukewarm at best, and ongoing speculation to the effect that the race won’t happen continues to leave people a little sceptical.
Sources suggest that even Korean companies are not in a rush to book Paddock Club hospitality, since the venue is so far removed from the focus of their activities in Seoul. Nevertheless Bernie Ecclestone insists that all is well.
“They’re getting on with it,” he told this blog. “Like all new events, until it happens, it’s a new event, and people won’t believe it. Even when I went to Abu Dhabi three months before the race I thought, ‘This isn’t going to happen.’”
Matters have not been helped by increasing tensions between North and South. Even Bernie concedes that that doesn’t help.
“That’s been going on for a long time. You mean if they started a war? It’s not good. It would probably be difficult, the spectators wouldn’t come to the race if there’s a war, which wouldn’t be good. But I shall be there…”
A Korean delegation met with Bernie at the recent German GP to update him on progress. Event boss Yung Cho Chung, the CEO and President of the Korea Auto Valley Corporation, says everything is on schedule.
“Our preparation and construction is under control, and will be completed in August,” he told me. “Pre-inspection from the FIA is already done, and Charlie Whiting is quite happy with our progress. Now he is checking a report every day, but our schedule is in place so actually we e-mail him every day on what’s happening. Very soon FOM and other people will check out our preparations. We are very comfortable.”
He says the political situation is not a worry, and the government is happy to see the race go ahead: “I don’t think it’s a problem. If something goes wrong investors from overseas will know, but it’s never impacted our markets. We are trying to get the World Cup and the inspectors were in Korea recently.”
“The sports culture minister is coming to us, and already government workers come to our organisation. We have 55 people from the government in our area. Ticket sales are on schedule, and we are confident in selling the Paddock Club. Big companies are interested.”
If Korea does drop out there will be a gaping three-weekend hole between Japan and Brazil.