LONDON • The Vietnamese Grand Prix was absent from a draft 2021 calendar published by Formula One yesterday that featured a record 23 rounds, with a debut in Saudi Arabia and Brazil returning despite fears for that race's future.
Vietnam was due to host a street race in Hanoi for the first time in April, but that was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The absence of the grand prix on next year's calendar has been attributed to local political issues, although F1 did not give a reason or mention Vietnam in a statement that set out the planned season.
It said: "The plans for 2021 have involved extensive dialogue with all promoters and their local and national authorities at a time of ongoing fluidity related to the global pandemic.
"Our hosts for 2021 are reassured by our safe return to racing this season, and confident that the plans and procedures we have in place will allow us to return to a level of normality for the 2021 season.
"As we have said before, we expect fans to return for the 2021 season and for the calendar to look similar to the originally planned 2020 season."
The BBC reported that the decision not to host the race followed the arrest in August of Hanoi People's Committee chairman Nguyen Duc Chung for the alleged "appropriation of secret state documents".
Nguyen was the key figure involved in promoting the race and according to the BBC, Vietnamese authorities have told F1 that following his arrest, they have "other priorities, including their 2021 legislative election, the pandemic and recovery from Typhoon Molave and Goni" in mind.
The April 25 slot has been left vacant but various circuits are in the frame, with racing website GPFans saying the Portuguese Grand Prix may return. The Portimao race was staged last month after a 24-year absence.
F1 has never before had more than 21 races in a season, although organisers initially planned for 22 races this year until the coronavirus decimated the calendar.
All grands prix this campaign have either been held behind closed doors or in front of severely restricted numbers, but chief executive officer Chase Carey is expecting a return to the usual norm next year.
F1 2021 CALENDAR
MARCH 21 Australia (Melbourne)
MARCH 28 Bahrain (Sakhir)
APRIL 11 China (Shanghai)
APRIL 25 TBC
MAY 9 Spain (Barcelona)*
MAY 23 Monaco (Monaco)
JUNE 6 Azerbaijan (Baku)
JUNE 13 Canada (Montreal)
JUNE 27 France (Le Castellet)
JULY 4 Austria (Spielberg)
JULY 18 Britain (Silverstone)
AUG 1 Hungary (Budapest)
AUG 29 Belgium (Spa)
SEPT 5 Netherlands (Zandvoort)
SEPT 12 Italy (Monza)
SEPT 26 Russia (Sochi)
OCT 3 Singapore
OCT 10 Japan (Suzuka)
OCT 24 USA (Austin)
OCT 31 Mexico (Mexico City)
NOV 14 Brazil (Sao Paulo)*
NOV 28 Saudi Arabia (Jeddah)
DEC 5 Abu Dhabi
*subject to race contract
"We are planning for 2021 events with fans that provide an experience close to normal and expect our agreements to be honoured," he said.
"We have proven that we can safely travel and operate our races, and our promoters increasingly recognise the need to move forward and manage the virus.
"We are delighted to see Saudi Arabia become part of the schedule and are equally excited to return to the venues we hoped to race at in 2020."
Brazil's race at Sao Paulo's Interlagos circuit on Nov 14 is subject to a new contract being agreed, as is Spain's round in Barcelona on May 9.
F1 had planned to move to a new circuit in Rio de Janeiro but that has proved controversial for environmental reasons and work has yet to start.
The Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort returns for the first time since 1985 with a race on Sept 5, while Russia, Singapore - which is entering the final year of its four-year extension - and Japan will form a first long-haul triple-header on Sept 26, Oct 3 and Oct 10.
McLaren boss Zak Brown said the planned 23 races represented "extremely positive news" for the sport's teams and partners after a tough term.