The inaugural Korean Grand Prix started behind the safety car after a 10-minute delay on Sunday due to rain making conditions treacherous on the slippery new surface.
The decision, understandable in the conditions, denied an impressive crowd what had promised to be a thrilling start to a key race in the championship battle between five title contenders.
Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, who is 14 points behind championship leading team mate Mark Webber with two more races to come after Yeongam, led the field off the grid from pole position.
The decision to go behind the safety car would have been a relief for Webber, who had been in danger of losing several places at the start after qualifying on the dirty side of an already dusty track.
The final layer of asphalt at the track some 400km south-west of the capital Seoul was laid little more than two weeks ago.