Formula One: Korean GP dropped from 2015 calendar; new licence scheme also introduced

A file photo taken on Oct 6, 2013 shows the start of the Formula One Korean Grand Prix in Yeongam. The Korean Grand Prix has been formally dropped from the 2015 calendar after its surprise inclusion last month for contractual reasons. -- PHOTO: AFP&n
A file photo taken on Oct 6, 2013 shows the start of the Formula One Korean Grand Prix in Yeongam. The Korean Grand Prix has been formally dropped from the 2015 calendar after its surprise inclusion last month for contractual reasons. -- PHOTO: AFP 

LONDON (REUTERS) - The Korean Formula One Grand Prix has been formally dropped from the 2015 calendar after its surprise inclusion last month for contractual reasons.

A revised 20-race calendar, starting in Australia on March 15, appeared on the governing International Automobile Federation's website (www.fia.com). An FIA spokesman confirmed the race had been removed because it was not viable.

The scrapping of the race comes as no shock, with the sport's commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone telling reporters in December that the local South Korean promoters did not want to hold the May 3 race, but he had to include it for legal reasons.

"We have a contract with Korea. We have to put it on the calendar," he said then. "If we hadn't have done they could have sued us. We let them off for a year on the understanding they would be back."

The race, first hosted at the southern Yeongam circuit in 2010, did not take place last year. The decision to axe it again from what would have been a record 21-race list leaves a three week gap between Bahrain on April 19 and Spain on May 10. The Singapore Grand Prix will take place on Sept 21.

Some Formula One teams had seen the decision to include the Korean race as simply a means of allowing teams to have five engines per car this season and avoid a planned reduction to four.

The wording of the regulations had stipulated that the teams could have five engines if the calendar "as originally scheduled" had more than 20 races. That move was subsequently rendered unnecessary by a decision to allow limited in-season development for the existing engine manufacturers, although McLaren's new partners Honda will not benefit from it.

Meanwhile, the FIA kicked up a controversy with a new super licence points system for 2016 that, if applied in the past, would have kept even Ayrton Senna waiting for a debut.

The revamped criteria, in an appendix to the international sporting code buried inside the FIA website and published quietly last month, will ensure all drivers are over 18 and experienced enough.

They must have earned at least 40 points, on a scale set by the FIA, through competing in other series over the previous three seasons.

There is currently no age limit and drivers can satisfy the experience requirement by completing 300km in a recent F1 car over a two-day test period and demonstrating "outstanding ability".

The new rules would have kept out 17-year-old Dutch racer Max Verstappen, who is due to make his debut in Australia in March as the sport's youngest ever driver, on all counts. They would have forced 2007 champion Kimi Raikkonen to wait for his 2001 debut while Brazilian Senna, the late triple champion who debuted in 1984, would also have acquired insufficient points.

"My main F3 rival and I went (British) F3 directly to F1," commented former racer Martin Brundle on Twitter. "New 2016 Super Licence rules prevent that. Ayrton Senna turned out to be quite good though..."

Drivers whose places have owed more to cash than talent may also find it harder to obtain a licence in future. The FIA said that from next year, any new applicant for a super licence must hold a valid driving licence and be at least 18 years old. Only five series will offer the chance to acquire 40 points in one year, and the one with the most on offer does not yet exist: The "future FIA F2 championship".

The others are GP2, European F3, the world endurance championship and Indy Car. The winners of the GP3 and Formula Renault 3.5 world series, both of which have served as a springboard into Formula One, will get only 30 points.