What makes this race different is everything that surrounds the actual event, be that the 400km journey from Seoul, the basic motels in the nearby town of Mokpo, or the local cuisine. Something unexpected is never far away.
There are three different means of travelling to Mokpo from Seoul’s Incheon International Airport. Some F1 folk fly by helicopter (yep, you guessed who!); some catch the high-speed KTX train, while others take the bus. Over land it’s a five hour journey, which, when added to the duration of the flight(s) from Europe and the hanging about in airports and train stations, means it takes less time for the teams to travel to Melbourne that it does Mokpo.
There are none of the big hotel chains in the town, so the F1 circus is forced to keep it real. The drivers stay in the best hotel, near the track and the shipbuilding yards, and everyone else has to make do with in basic motels, which have no restaurants. And there lies the next problem: ordering food.
Little English is spoken in Mokpo, so much finger pointing and gesticulating takes place in restaurants. The staff like to bring all of the courses at once and when you can’t eat or drink any more there’s the question of the bill. What’s the exchange rate again?
Everyone in F1 feels at their most comfortable when the cars are running on-track at the KIC, and none more comfortable than Sebastian Vettel. He dominated the entire weekend, taking pole position and winning the race. For the fifth time this year, Lewis Hamilton lined up alongside him on the front row of the grid and for the third time this year he was joined on the podium by both Lotus drivers.
Mathematically, it’s possible for Vettel to win his fourth world title in Japan next weekend, but he’s not planning the celebrations yet. “I’m not thinking about the championship,” he said on Sunday evening. “I’m taking each race as it comes and the points will take care of themselves. Only when it’s won can we relax.”
The best place to relax wouldn’t be Mokpo, but the town adds to the diverse fabric of the F1 World Championship. Melbourne, Monaco, Montreal and Mokpo – it’s got a nice ring to it, hasn’t it?