A capacity crowd at the Korean International Circuit in Yeongam, South Jeolla Province, watch a race in last year's Formula One Korean Grand Prix event. / Yonhap
By Baek Byung-yeul
This year's Formula One (F1) Korean Grand Prix will kick off this weekend in the southwestern city of Yeongam. All eyes will be on Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel who has been cruising on his quest for his fourth consecutive world title.
Vettel is among the 22 drivers competing in Korea, the 14th of the 19 GP events scheduled in this year's calendar.
The 26-year-old, who is considered Germany's best driver since Michael Schumacher, has topped the previous three GPs in Belgium, Italy and Singapore, and already has seven wins for the season. A win at Yeongam would all but secure his place as world champion.
Yeongam's Korean International Circuit, designed by Germany's Hermann Tike, can accommodate a crowd of 135,000. Drivers will compete through 55 laps on the 5.6-kilometer track. Vettel is familiar with the circuit, having won the Korean GPs in 2011 and 2012.
It remains to be seen whether tropical storm Fitow, forecast to arrive on the peninsula, Sunday, will affect the race in any way.
Two practice sessions will be held for drivers on Friday before qualifying laps begin on Saturday at 2 p.m. The race is at 3 p.m. Sunday.
Organizers expect to sell 200,000 tickets this year, although they sold about 160,000 in the previous three Korean GPs.
Under the F1 scoring system, drivers get 25 points for a first-place finish and 18 points for second place. Top-10 finishers will get at least a point. Juan Manuel Fangio of Argentina and Schumacher are currently the only drivers in F1 history to secure four-straight world titles.
Under its contract with F1, Yeongam hosts three more GPs after this one until 2016. It remains to be seen whether there will be an F1 event in Korea after that as the GP has been a crippling money loser for the small South Jeolla Province town. The accumulated losses from the previous three events are now measured at around 180 billion won (about $160 million).
The Korean Grand Prix will be aired by MBC Television and SBS ESPN. For more information, visit its official web page at www.koreangp.kr.