Vietnam to host F1 race in 2020: official

By AFP   November 1, 2018 | 05:36 am PT
Vietnam to host F1 race in 2020: official
Vietnam will be only the third Southeast Asian country to host a Formula One race, after Malaysia and Singapore. Photo by AFP/Saeed Khan
Vietnam will host a Formula One race in April 2020, Hanoi officials said Thursday.

The decision will make Vietnam the third Southeast Asian nation to welcome top-flight racing as the franchise seeks to move into new markets.

The race will be hosted in the capital Hanoi, with the circuit set to be unveiled at a gala next week, the Hanoi People's Committee said Thursday in an invite to the event.

"The city of Hanoi managed to conclude the cooperation to be entitled as the official host of a race of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship (from) April 2020," the letter read.

Authorities said earlier this year they supported the idea of hosting a race, but would not dip into government coffers to pay for the event.

Mai Tien Dung, head of the government office, said in August that he hoped costs could instead be covered by potentially "huge" advertising revenues.

Officials had originally considered hosting the race around Hanoi's scenic Hoan Kiem Lake near the bustling Old Quarter, but decided instead on a route near the national stadium, where the roads are wider.

Formula One's governing body, the International Automobile Federation (FIA), did not immediately reply to AFP's request for comment on Thursday.

F1 race director Charlie Whiting told reporters earlier this month that he had visited the site in Hanoi and was confident the circuit would be ready in time for the 2020 season.

He said much of the race would be on existing roads but some sections would need to be built, according to Fox Sports.

"That shouldn't be a problem based on previous experience," he said.

Blessing or curse?

Formula One races can be costly endeavours and are seen as financially risky for host cities like Hanoi where racing remains outside of the mainstream.

In 2017, Malaysia said it would cancel the Formula One races that it has hosted since 1999, saying the loss-making event had been hard hit by competition from neighboring Singapore.

Though informal -- and illegal -- motorbike street racing, and a nascent offroad racing scene have started to gain traction in Vietnam, Formula One has yet to take hold among the mainstream of sports fans, most of whom are football-mad.

Vietnam will be only the third Southeast Asian country to host a Formula One race, after Malaysia and Singapore.

Organizers are pinning hopes that a mushrooming middle class in Southeast Asia, home to some of Asia's fastest growing economies, will embrace sports like racing that have taken off in richer nations.

Formula One was taken over by U.S. firm Liberty Media last year for $8 billion, and the new owners have said they are keen on exploring new regions.

In the right markets, the sport has been highly profitable and raked in billions from advertisers and broadcasting rights.

Formula One-branded merchandise also brings in riches, but some F1 teams are plagued by financial problems and the sport has limited activity in the social and digital media platforms crucial to courting the next generation of fans.

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