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It seems only a matter of time before the recriminations begin about the Korean Grand Prix. For the past few months F1 has been awash with speculation that the Yeongam circuit in Korea would not be ready for the race on 24 October. With only weeks to go, everyone in F1 is looking to the sport's boss Bernie Ecclestone for reassurance that he made the right decision in choosing Korea. Unfortunately this hasn't been forthcoming.
"It's not good. It should have been inspected six weeks ago," Ecclestone told the BBC in Singapore on Sunday. He added "what we've done is quite dangerous. It's a question of do we cancel the race or not? They say everything will be OK - we have to hope they're right."
One wonders who on earth is responsible for letting it get into the situation where the circuit's most crucial inspection is taking place so close to the race. You would have thought that either the due diligence should have spotted the risk that the circuit work would not be completed on time or that the race would have been cancelled by now.
According to the FIA's own rules, the final inspection should have taken place on July 26. However, admitting that "a lot of work still remains to be completed" the FIA postponed the final inspection until September 21, just 30 days before the inaugural race. However this inspection didn't take place either because 21 September was a public holiday in Korea..
Worryingly, many companies working in F1 booked their accommodation in Korea months ago and had to pay a deposit upfront. If the race is cancelled at the eleventh hour they stand to lose this money and F1's reputation will almost certainly take a battering. With significant sums of money at stake it's no surprise that the big question on everyone's mind in F1 is just how far the circuit is from completion. An unlikely source seems to yield the answer.
Over the Singapore GP weekend the new F1 videogame was launched by its programmers Codemasters. The game is the first ever on Microsoft's Xbox 360 console and it launched simultaneously with the version for Sony's PlayStation 3. In some aspects the game is almost indistinguishable from a television broadcast: rain droplets run off the cars' chassis, individual suspension parts can be seen and crashes yield bursts of tiny carbon fibre fragments.
To show just how close its game is to real life Codemasters has released a series of videos showing two pieces of footage playing side by side of the screen. On one side there is footage from a lap of the actual circuit and on the other there is footage from the same circuit in the game.
The two streams are played at the same speed in order to compare how close the in-game version of the track is to the one in real life. The following link shows the results from Hockenheim and the recreation of the circuit in the game is indeed uncanny with literally every building appearing precisely where it does in real life. The same cannot be said of Korea.
This link however, compares footage from Karun Chandhok's lap of the Korean International Circuit on 4 September with a lap from its digital counterpart. The differences are plain to see.
At 0:10 - in the game there are two huge grandstands ahead and in real life there is a huge forest in the same place. By 0:14 the game shows another grandstand to the left but in real life there is a clearing. Skip to 0:22 and a bridge zooms by in the game but is absent in real life. Then cut to 0:29 and you will see a vast array of grandstands to the left and ahead in the game but, tellingly, all you see in real life is a crane. More grandstands are to the right at 0:58 in the game but absent in real life. Yet another is missing up ahead at 1:07. You get the picture.
Now here is the most worrying thing. The discrepancies do not seem to be due to the programmers since they use the same Computer Aided Design (CAD) blueprints to create digital versions of new circuits as are used by the builders themselves. Accordingly, the version in the game should be what the builders in real life are aiming for.
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