LONDON // India's Karun Chandhok declared South Korea's new, and as yet unfinished, grand prix circuit to be in good shape after becoming the first person to drive a Formula One car around it today. "Undoubtedly they still have a lot more work to do but now it looks like we're just in the touch-up stages," he told Reuters from the circuit after completing 15 laps in a V10-engined Red Bull demonstration car and a further 10 in a road car.
"The asphalt and kerbs need a bit more work but it all looks under control," added the driver, who competed in the first nine races of the season before making way for Japan's Sakon Yamamoto at Hispania (HRT). Formula One's newest circuit is due to make its debut on October 24 as the 17th round of the world championship. There has been considerable speculation in Formula One circles about progress at the circuit, and whether it will be ready in time for the race. Local promoters said this week it was 90 per cent complete.
Formula One race director Charlie Whiting is due to inspect the Yeongam facility, on the coast some four-and-a-half-hours' drive from Seoul, on his way to the Singapore Grand Prix at the end of this month. Chandhok, watched by 4,000 guests including a large media contingent, sponsors and the country's sports minister, did not doubt that the circuit would be ready even though the final layer of asphalt had yet to be laid completely.
"It has a good mix of corners," he said after the "Circuit Run 2010" event. "The first part of the lap has long straights followed by slow corners which should allow plenty of passing opportunities. "From turn seven onwards the circuit opens up and there are four high-speed corners with some elevation changes which will be interesting for the drivers. "Turns eight-nine and 11-12 are going to be really interesting for the drivers with high-speed changes of direction and camber changes.
"It's got a bit of a street circuit feel to it with the walls being quite close and you can't really look through the apex of a lot of corners," added the driver. Chandhok, a former Red Bull junior team driver, said the kerbs could be finished off only once the final layer of asphalt had gone down next week but the other facilities were impressive. "The pit buildings for the teams are enormous," he added, joking that the teams would need to bring more furniture than usual to fill them.
"I had a chance to look around the paddock and the grandstands as well which all looks pretty good." * Reuters