Vietnam says it will host first F1 race in April 2020

Sauber's Swedish Marcus Ericsson races his car during the second free practice session of the Mexican Grand Prix at the Hermanos Rodriguez circuit in Mexico City.
Sauber's Swedish Marcus Ericsson races his car during the second free practice session of the Mexican Grand Prix at the Hermanos Rodriguez circuit in Mexico City.PHOTO: AFP

HANOI • Hanoi will host a Formula One race in April 2020, city officials said yesterday, a first for Vietnam where racing is still a fringe sport.

The circuit in the capital city is set to be unveiled next week, Hanoi People's Committee said in an invitation to the event, although there is no official confirmation from F1's governing body, the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA).

Vietnam will be the third South-east Asian country to host an F1 grand prix after Malaysia (1999 to 2017) and Singapore (from 2008).

"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 invitation read.

The authorities said earlier this year that they supported the idea 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 would potentially cover the cost of the event.

 
 
 

Officials had originally considered the scenic Hoan Kiem lake near the bustling Old Quarter, but decided instead to hold it near the national stadium where the roads are wider than in town.

F1 race director Charlie Whiting told reporters last month that he had visited the site and was confident that 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.

F1 races can be costly endeavours and are seen as financially risky for hosts 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, F1 has yet to take hold among mainstream sports fans, most of whom are football-mad.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2018, with the headline 'Vietnam says it will host first F1 race in April 2020'. Print Edition | Subscribe