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Paddock Life

Behind the scenes at Yeongam
Psy's Gangnam Style was - apart from Sebastian Vettel - what dominated the Korean Grand Prix. AUTOSPORT's group F1 editor Jonathan Noble brings more tales from the paddock after the Yeongam weekend

  By Jonathan Noble

The Korean Grand Prix is one that's always struggled to win over the doubters. After a first year marred by bad weather and a second event that took place amid doubts about its future, this season's race at Yeongam was supposed to be third time lucky – the breakthrough opportunity for the organisers.

In a year when Korean culture has become so huge, with every music-radio station and TV channel pumping out the delights of K-Pop, there were plenty of reasons to feel it could ride on the wave of popularity surrounding local music hero Psy.

Yet somehow the race failed to hit the spot, with a paddock tired-out after two weeks on the road left counting down the days until they could head home rather than getting excited about the grand prix.

Its location doesn't help, being a four-hour trek from Seoul, while the circuit remains surrounded by open fields and sea, rather than the city and marina that was part of the original plans.

And the lack of accommodation for the travelling circus, which means the continued use of 'love hotels' for the weekend, doesn't help matters either.

Yet it's not all bad in Korea. Mokpo has improved considerably since the first race in 2010, with more decent restaurants and bars, plus the attraction of baseball and golf simulators. And the locals are as friendly as you could hope for.

Perhaps it will just take time for Korea to establish its identity, and the race to become an attraction to the locals. If the grandstands are full and the spectator banks packed, then the atmosphere is transformed – which gets reflected in the paddock.

Then there would be a real chance for the race to become a success.

No matter what changes in your life, it's been said that a song has the power to take you back instantly to a specific time or place.

For the F1 paddock, whenever the global hit Gangnam Style gets played it'll forever take us back to the 2012 Korean Grand Prix.

Having achieved worldwide fame with his K-pop hit and music video – which is the most liked in YouTube history – it was a no-brainer for race organisers to try to cash in on Korean rapper Psy's popularity.

Korea's star Psy
Korea's star Psy © LAT

He was duly appointed as race ambassador and made an appearance in the paddock, showing off to Red Bull duo Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel the famous 'horsey dance' that's become his trademark.

"This is incredible," he said as he tried to teach the pair how to time their moves. Vettel had something more pressing to ask, in reference to a line in the song. "So, where are the sexy ladies?" laughed the German.

At the start of the weekend, there had been much enthusiasm for the song – and the dancing. Sky TV's Natalie Pinkham had got half the paddock bopping along, and a very enthusiastic Ted Kravitz joined in to help recreate a bus scene from the video.

But you can have too much of a good thing. And just as Psy's waving of the chequered flag was not done with the same enthusiasm that he has on stage, so too F1 was getting a bit tired of the song by the end of the weekend.

For F1, it will be Oppan Gangnam Style no more…

Mark Webber is one of the paddock's biggest 'sports' fans, with a love of anything that pits man against man in competition.

He organises his charity Tasmania Challenge each year, he was bowled over by the experience of spectating at the Olympics this summer, and he's known to follow as much competitive action on TV as he can.

Ahead of the Korean GP, Webber got to see the highs and lows of sport in two contrasting moments.

Mark Webber, Red Bull Racing
Mark Webber © LAT

On the downside, he was deeply disappointed by the latest revelations surrounding the Lance Armstrong doping scandal that has rocked cycling, and he delivered an interesting comment during the Thursday press conference.

"I was a keen cycling fan through the early 2000s. But slowly, slowly, slowly, over time lost a little bit of passion for the sport," he explained.

"It has been quite obvious, in the last few years, that this was probably going to come, from people on the inside, but the dam wall has now broken and I think that obviously he was the last tree in the forest they wanted to drop down, and a big tree at that.

"It's good that they're trying to clean the sport up, and even retrospectively it sends a message to lots of different sports that irrespective of what you've achieved and how you've done it at the time, we'll come and get you."

On the more positive side, between Japan and Korea Webber turned chauffeur for someone very special: the 'fastest' man in the world, Usain Bolt.

The six-time Olympic gold medallist was in Tokyo as part of a promotional tour with Nissan, and Webber was on hand to help out, even standing at Narita Airport arrivals with a sign for the Jamaican.

The pair spent time together blasting around Tokyo and chewing the fat over their different sports. For both men it must have been amazing.

Some F1 drivers stay away from Twitter, some don't get on with it, while others have embraced the format and made it work as a way of getting closer to the fans.

In Korea, there was a lot of talk about Twitter after Lewis Hamilton's mistake in accusing Jenson Button of 'disrespecting' him after he wrongly thought he had been 'unfollowed'.

F1 drivers having dinner
F1 drivers having dinner in Korea

Hamilton apologised to Button, and admitted that perhaps he and Twitter did not 'get on'. He's not been back on it since.

Button himself was amazed that there had been so much interest in the matter and such in-depth analysis of who he was and wasn't following.

"We are all allowed to choose who we want to follow," he said. "That's the fun thing about Twitter. You don't always follow the same people, mix and match. There are millions of people on Twitter. I see Lewis every weekend.

"I followed Sergio [Perez] purposefully because I wanted to say welcome. That's the only reason I followed him, and now I can't unfollow him because I'm not allowed to do anything on Twitter these days! I'm stuck! I can't unfollow anyone any more!"

While the Button/Hamilton Twitter issue proved to be a storm in a teacup, Daniel Ricciardo showed exactly how effective the social media could be in providing a window to a world that fans never get to see.

On Thursday evening, the Grand Prix Drivers' Association held a dinner and Ricciardo tweeted a fantastic picture from it. Oh to have been a fly on the wall that night listening to those conversations!

2012 Korean Grand Prix
Vettel's true level of dominance revealed
By Michelo Merlino
Behind the scenes at Yeongam
By Jonathan Noble
How Hamilton's title dream faded away
By Adam Cooper
We rate the drivers after the Korean GP
By Edd Straw
Mark Hughes: Vettel in the driving seat now
By Mark Hughes
Korean GP review: Who stops Vettel now?
By Edd Straw, Sam Tremayne and Matt Beer
Five themes to watch for in Korea
By Edd Straw
David Coulthard on Michael Schumacher's retirement
By David Coulthard
It's going to be closer than it was in Japan
By Mark Hughes
Setting the scene for Korea
By Edd Straw
Zoom In: Korean Grand Prix
By LAT Photographic
Korean GP Preview: Red Bull on a charge?
By Edd Straw and Joseph Keen
  OTHER FEATURES FROM OCT 11, 2012 - OCT 17, 2012
Sebastien Loeb: A hero's home-coming
By David Evans
In the magazine: Red Bull revival doesn't scare McLaren
The story of GP2 2012
By Simon Arron
The fight for F1's governance
By Dieter Rencken
The top 10 GP2 drivers of 2012
By Simon Arron
Stewart's verdict on F1 past and present
By Maurice Hamilton
Grosjean: Really an accident waiting to happen?
By Tony Dodgins
Why Ford's WRC pull-out is a big mistake
By David Evans
MotoGP: How the past could help the future
By Toby Moody
Who deserves the title the most?
By Jonathan Noble
Why Massa lucked in for one more year
By Edd Straw
Bamber's Week
By Jim Bamber
Having won the prestigious Sir Williams Lyons Award for young journalists in 1991, Jonathan Noble started his career working for news agency Collings Sport.

Working across a number of sports, including motor racing, football and rugby, he was a contributor to a wide range of leading national and international publications including Reuters, the Press Association, the Daily Telegraph and The Independent.

He accepted a job at AUTOSPORT Special Projects at the start of 1999, and a year later became F1 Editor of AUTOSPORT magazine – moving across to the website at the end of 2004.
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