Vietnam's F1 track abandoned

By AFP   October 13, 2022 | 06:13 pm PT
Vietnam's F1 track abandoned
A aerial photo shows motorists commuting on the Formula One track in Hanoi, October 11, 2022. Photo by AFP/Nhac Nguyen
Fenced off to the public and dotted with plastic waste, the circuit built for Hanoi's Formula One Grand Prix debut lies abandoned.

The city was set to make its F1 debut in 2020 but the inaugural Vietnamese Grand Prix was canceled because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and Hanoi has not appeared on the race calendar since.

Now, the spectator stands have been removed and most of the circuit sits empty - save a few hobby cyclists who sneak in, lured by the open space in the traffic-clogged city.

They race past yellowing grass, weeds and trash blown in by the wind, but the track itself appears like new, with "Vietnam" still clearly visible where it was painted on the tarmac.

Outside the surrounding metal fence, Hanoi's ubiquitous motorbikes have already reclaimed the roads once earmarked to form part of the 5.6-kilometer track.

Vietnam inked a 10-year deal with Formula One in 2018, betting that the glamour of the sport could reshape Hanoi's staid image, and reflect the country's economic lift-off.

Costing Vietnam $60 million a year, the fee was to be picked up in full by the country's largest private conglomerate, VinGroup, which had been hoping to dazzle with a night race.

But after the 2020 cancelation, the race was dropped from the 2021 global calendar.

State media said city authorities in June last year ruled out hosting the race between 2022 and 2029.

Hanoi was absent again from the 2023 race schedule announced last month.

Two-and-a-half years after the first race should have been staged, there is still disappointment among the country's small but growing F1 fanbase.

"It would have been my first opportunity to see the drivers, the F1 cars, the racing teams in real life... and I wanted to feel what it was like to sit next to an F1 circuit," said 23-year-old Bui Viet Giang.

"I am sorry that it will not happen. I do hope it can be organized again in the future."

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