Formula One: Hanoi to host race in 2020, says official, with private sector covering costs

HANOI (AFP) - Hanoi will host a Formula One race in 2020, city officials said on Thursday (Nov 1), a first for the South-east Asian nation where motor racing is still a fringe sport.

The race will be hosted in Vietnam's capital city, with the circuit set to be unveiled at a "gala" next week, the Hanoi People's Committee said 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.

It will join other Grands Prix in Asia in Bahrain, China, Singapore, Japan and Abu Dhabi.

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

"The prime minister said if Hanoi hosts (a race), the budget should be from the private sector," Mai Tien Dung, head of the government office, said in August. He added that advertising revenues from the event could be "huge" and potentially would cover the cost of the event.

Officials had originally considered hosting the race around Hanoi's scenic Hoan Kiem lake near the bustling Old Quarter, but decided instead to host it near the national stadium where the roads are wider than in town.

F1 race director Charlie Whiting told reporters in October 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.

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.

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

Vietnam will be only the third South-east Asian country to host a Formula One race in history after Malaysia (whose spell ended in 2017) and Singapore. Hanoi will be the second South-east Asian city to host a race in 2020 along with Singapore.