FIA breaking own rules to make Korean GP happen

The buildings are up but they forgot to build the track

The FIA is being forced to break its own rules to allow the Korean GP to take place – and is thus setting a precedent that other venues might take advantage of in the future.

In addition the FIA’s rules clearly state that if this year’s race is cancelled at the last minute, it won’t be allowed back on to the 2011 calendar, as a form of penalty.

Although the cars due to head out for first practice on October 22, the track surface has not been completed. Despite that Karun Chandhok is still scheduled to do a demonstration for Red Bull on September 4-5. One FIA source said this week there appeared to be “no way” that run could actually happen.

The FIA’s Appendix O to the International Sporting Code, which governs circuits, clearly states that the final inspection should have taken place 90 days beforehand. If Thursday is deemed the start of the event, that deadline was July 22.

The rules also specify a deadline of 60 days for international events, but even on that more generous measure – one that the governing body is (or was) prepared to use for a Grand Prix in this instance – this inspection should have been completed by August 21.

The relevant regulation reads as follows: “On site inspections will be performed by the Commission’s delegates as necessary, with at least one preliminary inspection and one final inspection. For permanent circuits, the final inspection should be made not later than 60 days (or 90 days for FIA Formula One World Championship events) before the first international event to be held, at which inspection all work relating to the track surface, permanent features and safety installations should be completed to the FIA’s satisfaction.”

It’s accepted that there is bound to be a job list for new circuits after a final inspection, but that usually involves details such positioning of gravel traps and barriers, pit lane arrangements, and so on. An incomplete track surface would seem to be an extreme case…

Clearly there are sound reasons why the FIA specifies these deadlines, since the governing body has a lot of experience, specifically with regard to readiness of the actual track surface.  There is obviously now a risk that the surface will be finished in such a hurry that it won’t be fit enough to receive a pounding from 24 F1 cars come October. There is also a danger that, if it is not up to scratch after being completed in a hurry, it could be damaged over its first winter.

Meanwhile one leading team told this blog at Spa that the kitchens of the team hospitality units – which they usually expect to come fully equipped, especially at a new Tilke circuit – have a pipe for cold water, and another for hot. It really is a case of bringing everything, including the kitchen sink…

Bernie Ecclestone continues to insist that all will be well. He’s understandably keen for the race to go ahead, given the commercial implications of a late cancellation, although the accepted wisdom is that in such circumstances the promoters would have to pay their sanctioning fee with or without a race (although that may or may not be affected by who makes the call). It’s hard not to imagine that Bernie is forcing the FIA’s hand here to ensure the race happens.

The rules do not specify what might happen if inspection deadlines are not met, but while vague, they put the decision process into the hands of the World Motor Sport Council, rather than Ecclestone: “It is understood that the organisation of an international event may not be allowed if the required work has not been fully carried out according to the schedule established by the inspector. The FIA (or its World Motor Sport Council) is entitled to allow any international events on a circuit or, if the directions of the Commission have not been complied with, to prohibit them.”

One presumes that Korea could be on the agenda at next week’s WMSC meeting in Italy, after Chandhok’ s scheduled run, so the success or otherwise of that could be key to the discussions.

The World Council might also like to consider the following extract from the FIA’s F1 Sporting Regulations: “An Event which is cancelled with less than three months written notice to the FIA will not be considered for inclusion in the following year’s Championship unless the FIA judges the cancellation to have been due to force majeure.”

In other words there will be no race in 2011 either. It might be hard for Korea to come up with a suitable excuse,  so there’s clearly a lot at stake here. Over to you, M Todt…

25 Comments

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25 responses to “FIA breaking own rules to make Korean GP happen

  1. Ed

    Is there even a small chance of a replacement race?

    If they wanted to stay in Asia, Fuji or Motegi could be ready to host a race at short notice, I would presume. Of course, a lot of European tracks could do the job – Magny Cours, Algarve, Jerez, Valencia etc.

    Otherwise the gap could have implications not only for the championship, but possibly even lead to TV broadcasters and sponsors asking for refunds.

    • CTP

      Nah, I doubt it – there’s no recent precedent for that, so I don’t see a last-minute switcheroo now. Look at Stefan GP at the start of last year – no room at the inn.

      I am 100% SURE that if the event doesn’t go ahead, there will be huge penalties for the Koreans, including refunds to any and all parties.

      • Leigh O'Gorman

        Not impossible – Jerez in 1997 was a mid-season substitution for Estoril, but I believe they may also have been on stand by at the time.

  2. Steve Lyons

    While it is said that Karun is to do a demo for Red Bull, it sounds like it may be the Red Bull rally car he’ll drive, not the F1 car!

  3. Please let it be Magny-Cours!

  4. Perhaps a silly question but the rule reads “For permanent circuits…” Is there a different rule for street circuits? And if so could Korea argue that they fall under that rule? Seems like they could argue they’re a hybrid but either way they’re obviously pushing it! Just curious if there’s a street circuit rule really.

    • There is a reference to temporary tracks – but there is no leeway on the actual track surface, that has to be on schedule

      • Nick

        Ah, makes sense!!

        I suppose if anything you’d want a temporary circuit’s surface done even more in advance to look for problems like the one you spotted in Monaco!

  5. Prisoner Monkeys

    It’s not actually that difficult to seal a road. Any road, that is. In fact, for a five-kilometre stretch like the Korean circuit, I daresay they could knock it over in a week or two. The biggest problem facing Korea right now is the weather. If they’ve hesitated in sealing it until now, it’s probably because they’re cautious of the weather.

    Weather is a problem because of the way you build a road. Basically once you’ve levelled the ground and then pounded it down until it’s super-smooth, you go over it it with tarmac. Tarmac iself is little more than gravel that has been coated with tar and kept hot. When the tarmac is laid, the tar sets, binding the particles of gravel together. With the right amount of pressure, you can accelerate the process slightly.

    Weather comes into play because it if rains before the tarmac is set, water can seep through the cracks and infiltrate the road base. This is very bad, because it can then erode the base that you just spent an eternity perfecting. If the road base is compromised, your lovely, smooth piece of road will become worse than Belgian cobblestones.

    The reason why we’re seeing images of the buildings and not the road is because the buildings take considerably longer to build than a road. There’s a general feeing that Tilke tends to concentrate on constructing the buildings first and the road second, but any idiot worth his salt will do exactly the same thing. Buildings take months; a capable road crew could surface the track in a fraction of the time.

    Of course, once the track itself is sealed, the organisers will then have to paint all the line markings in the appropriate place … but that won’t take long at all. And so long as a grid is there, it’s not really an issue if there aren’t any white lines around the edges.

    • bosyber

      Thanks for that explanation, and injection of real world building knowledge into our speculation – very useful.

    • How does this alter under the pressures exerted by racing cars though?

    • Interesting stuff. I understand what you are saying but race tracks have very specific requirements in terms of both smoothness and ability to withstand the forces put through by the tyres of F1 cars. And clearly the FIA knows that if a surface hasn’t been down long enough there could be issues. BTW the rules say white lines do have to be there – apart from anything else there is a question of penalties for those not complying with them!

      • Prisoner Monkeys

        I get where you’re coming from, too, but so long as the basic work has been done, it shouldn’t be too difficult to seal the circuit.

        The organisers erred in releasnig pictures of the buislings rather than the circuit proper, but you can clearly see the surface in some of those pictures. I honestly think Korea is getting so much flak because there’s a pervading belief among fans that the sport is visiting another country it has no business going to.

  6. melonfarmer

    Now the Japanese manufacturers have fled, is this falling over backward to accomodate the Koreans an open invitation to Hyundai, Samsung etc.? LG being an official partner would suggest that F1 is not going to do anything as embarrasing as pulling the race at the last minute.

    • Good point. But I heard that Korean companies are not falling over themselves to take up Paddock Club hospitality and so on. Someone even told me last weekend that LG had cancelled some of its plans…

  7. Robert McKay

    If the FIA are breaking their own rules to do late inspections, would they break the rule about dropping Korea from 2011 if it did indeed have to be cancelled for this season…?

  8. Patrickl

    Does “final inspection” actually mean that the track needs to be finished?

    Maybe they have a project plan with milestones and if they can prove that they are still on schedule during the “final inspection” they could be good to go?

    I can’t imagine all of the other new tracks being finished 2 or 3 months ahead of the race.

    • Yes if you read the rules as quoted in the story, it clearly says all work related to the track surface has to be completed. And that goes for street tracks too, although clearly they have a bit more leeway with barriers etc.

  9. Prisoner Monkeys

    Picture of progress so far:

  10. kaoru

    http://www.hankyung.com/news/app/newsview.php?aid=2010091201681

    This article (written in korean. Read with a web translateor ) reports that KoreaGP heavily slumps in ticket sales and is going to suffer huge deficit because lack of turnover and expensive holding fee paid to FOM.

    I think it is difficult for Korean GP to fulfill its 7-year contract even if the venue were completed and passed FIA course inspections before the deadline.

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