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A South Korean Grand Prix Dream


Typhoons and Tropical Storms

One of the least popular F1 calendar events in recent years was the Korean Grand Prix at the Yeongam circuit. The inaugural race in 2010 was meant to drive a major redevelopment in an otherwise remote region. They had "grand plans for skyscrapers, hotels and casinos being built around the track"[1]

However, when the race arrived - the track, "located in a remote corner of the country, on reclaimed marshland hundreds of kilometers south of the capital, Seoul. [was ...] so remote that the nearest port town of Mokpo [lacked any] Western–style hotels, which means that most Formula One personnel, other than VIPs, [had been] obliged to stay in 'love motels'. The inaugural Korean Grand Prix in 2010 [was spoiled by heavy rain with the race] starting behind a safety car before being red flagged for 45 minutes. It eventually finished in near darkness." [2]


While types of tropical storms or 'severe weather warnings are common with Typhoons gathering strength as they sweep through the East China Sea. "The Japanese Grand Prix [for example] has twice been affected by severe weather in the last decade, Typhoon Ma–on causing the cancellation of track activity on the Saturday of 2004, and heavy rain causing qualifying to be postponed in 2010, while Malaysia's race was cut short by a tropical storm in 2009."[3]

However, the underlying issue with the Korean International racing circuit is not simply in its location but in its effectiveness and design as a racing track. It was the worst rated in "variable-specific directional distance function along safety, fuel and speed dimensions" [4]

The Car, The Team, and The Race

The Marussia Formula One team was a young team in the world of F1 - having been established in 2010. The team was founded by Russian entrepreneur Nikolay Fomenko, its debut in the 2012 season. The team was named after the Russian sports car manufacturer Marussia Motors who owned a significant stake in the team.


The 2013 Marussia was the MR02. The Marussia MR02 was the second car developed. The car featured a distinctive "duck-billed" nose designed to comply with new regulations introduced for the 2013 season. Rodolfo Gonzalez during first practice in the Marussia Cosworth trailed behind the pace by 7 seconds with the fastest of his 10 laps being a 1:46.810. Teammate Max Chilton was putting up a 1:44.100 with his 14 laps out with Bianchi taking over the number 22 car in the second practice.[5]


During that second practice Jules Bianchi had outpaced Chiton, with a still slow, 1:43.108, by the end of the practice sessions Sebastian Vettel with Red Bull Racing Renault had set the pace of 1:37.88. Improving over the qualifying session Vettel held his position with Mercedes opponent Lewis Hamilton and Lotus Renault's driver Romain Grosjean taking second and third, respectively.

The Marussia Cosworth team took the back row on the starting grid and with 5 DNF's the team climbed up to 16 and 17th with Jules Bianchi finishing 67 seconds after first place Sebastian Vettel. Jules Bianchi set the fastest qualifying time for Marussia Cosworth with a 1:41.169 and carried a race pace of 1:44.991.[6]


Formula One Digital Testing

I over time have now found the South Korean circuit to be quite enjoyable, especially during the twisting middle section. When learning the track, we ran a higher downforce car, and the middle section became an area we gained considerable time. This setup made for a stable ride but was becoming an issue on the longer straights where I was constantly slower than the competition.

Throughout the second practice session various changes were made to the car. Each change caused the team to re-evaluate the driving line, turn-in and breaking points relative to the new aero configuration. This is typically a discouraging process at first, while some changes bring instantaneous improvements others do not. Inevitably each driver takes a different amount of time to adjust to a new setup.


A basic analysis of the driving line post aero adjustments showed how the car was missing some key apexes and had been slow on the corner exits. The car felt lighter but was not as firmly planted during turns. The goal of increasing the straight speeds was successful however this caused smaller issues to form in turns 4, 7, 9, 10.


The final 2 rounds of adjustments came from the front spring rate and caster. With each step-in development, we had whittled our way closer and closer to that official qualifying time using some basic setup improvements. This not only allowed me to reach my goals quickly but find enjoyment out on the track as soon as possible.


One Drivers Opinion

While the Korean Grand Prix may not have been the commercial success once envisioned, it is nonetheless a fun and challenging track. From its conception for Formula One to the upcoming Porsche event, the legacy of the Korean International Circuit will live on. Personally, I will never think of the Korean Grand Prix the same, it is a track I have underestimated and for that I apologize. During the years it ran on the calendar I had not heard remarkable things or thought highly of the track layout, but it is truly a rewarding and unique challenge. Although to be honest I do still prefer the shorter national layout especially with a GT4 class Supra.


If you enjoyed this article and would like to see related topics, please leave a like! If you have ideas for tracks or cars, you would like to learn more about hop onto our discord or follow along with us on YouTube. Most importantly whether it is on the track or in the simulator, reaching out to a driving coach or a trained data analyst is a fantastic way to cut your learning curve and have fun on the track.


B-Squared's staff is composed of university-trained experts who are available for independent consultations; our highly trained team can empower race teams and their drivers in the simulator or on the track - book your appointment today!


Citations

  1. Cary, Tom. 2013. “Typhoon Warning Puts Korean Grand Prix Under Threat; Organisers Fearful as Race’s Future Hangs in Balance; Unloved Venue Could Be Cut from Packed 2014 Schedule.” Daily Telegraph (London, England), 2013.

  2. Cary, Tom. 2013.

  3. Cary, Tom. 2013.

  4. Gutiérrez, E., Lozano, S. Benchmarking Formula One auto racing circuits: a two stage DEA approach. Oper Res Int J 20, 2059–2083 (2020). p18. Oper Res Int J 20, 2059–2083 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12351-018-0416-z

  5. Formula 1. (2013, October). Standings. Formula 1 - The Official F1 Website. Retrieved April 25, 2023, from https://www.formula1.com/en/results.html/2013/races/892/south-korea/qualifying.html

  6. Formula 1. (2013, October). Standings. Formula 1 - The Official F1 Website. Retrieved April 25, 2023, from https://www.formula1.com/en/results.html/2013/races/892/south-korea/qualifying.html


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