F1 bosses hail new frontier, pit lane entry a worry

Korea : Team bosses and drivers heaped praise on South Korea`s new and hastily-completed Formula One circuit on Friday, while expressing concern about the safety of the pit lane entrance.

World champion Jenson Button said after the first day of practice that the entrance, with pitting cars having to slow down abruptly to leave the track off a very high speed corner, was "a little bit scary".

"I haven`t been behind a car yet when it has pitted, but it`s a corner where you`re at full speed (250kph) and if somebody goes into the pits they will have to lift pretty heavily," the title contender added.

That`s a bit of a worry and I don`t really know how we`re going to get round that issue. We`ll discuss it and hopefully find a way around the issue."

Red Bull`s championship leader Mark Webber echoed his thoughts.

"The pit entry and exit is a little bit marginal to get on and off the track but, apart from that, they`ve done a remarkable job and I`m clutching at straws to criticise anything," the Australian said after setting the fastest lap of the day.

German team mate Sebastian Vettel, third overall and 14 points behind Webber, described the entry as "quite on the edge".

"Someone going into the pits will be going slower than someone who is staying out. If you`re trying to pass and they decide to pit, it could be quite difficult," he added.

Conditions on Friday were slippery, with the newly-laid asphalt yet to be raced on, and dusty, with drivers kicking up dirt as they probed the racing line and grip levels changing during the day.

"It was the dirtiest circuit I have ever been on," said McLaren`s Lewis Hamilton, another contender in fourth place overall but fastest in the day`s opening practice. "It was so dusty it was incredible."

That aside, the layout met general approval and team principals used a post-practice news conference to congratulate the host nation for the $220 million facility some 400km south of the capital Seoul.

"The facilities are obviously very impressive," McLaren`s Martin Whitmarsh said. "It`s a great commitment and I think everyone is happy to be here.

"I think a lot of fear and concern was spread in the months before we arrived here but I think it`s generally a pleasant surprise.

"Inevitably, you can go out there and find some things that aren`t quite finished but everyone`s been working hard," he continued.

"Korea is a new adventure for Formula One, certainly not just at the circuit but also for some of the boys in their hotels."

While drivers and senior team members are staying near the circuit at the most luxurious hotel the port city of Mokpo has to offer, mechanics and the media have had to find rooms in the many motels that usually cater for a clientele of amorous locals.

Stories of outlandish bedroom fittings and vending machines full of sex toys have been the talk of the paddock.

Some more sensitive, and forewarned, members of the travelling circus have even brought their own bed linen, towels and pillows with them.

Bureau Report