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Formula One Is Seriously Considering Putting a Race in Hanoi

Key insiders are reporting that a deal to bring a Formula 1 race to the streets of Hanoi by 2020 could soon be in place.

“I think you’re going to get a race in Vietnam,” said Bernie Ecclestone, the former head of F1, who stepped into a multi-million dollar salaried "emeritus" role last month when US-based Liberty Media took over, according to Reuters. He added, “They haven’t made a contract yet as far as I know. But if they have, it’s at least two years away isn’t it?”

The potential for a race in Vietnam has been discussed for some time. When Ecclestone was in charge, he reportedly had the opportunity to secure a race contract with the country at a price tag of US$391.2 million over ten years. Forbes reported that he turned down the offer because it was not the right fit for Formula One.

He said Vietnam “hasn’t got any racing history at all, so I didn’t want to put another race in the same sort of area where we already have very good promoters. And I was criticised for putting the races in Baku and in Russia because they hadn’t got that much racing history.”

Ecclestone took heat for awarding events to those high bidders who were eager for international attention and global television audiences. The moves brought in some new fans and generated much-needed revenue, but did so at the expense of traditional supporters.

At a conference last year, Liberty’s chief executive, Greg Maffei, said: “The origin of F1 is in France and England, so we’re big believers in making sure places like Silverstone and the French track and the German are on the race calendars.” He contended that races in countries like Azerbaijan do little to build the brand long-term. In Asia, races already take place in China and Singapore, while Malaysia hosted one until 2017. Discussions around a race in Thailand have collapsed.

Beyond its limited value for growing the sport, a race in Vietnam raises other concerns. While races bring in more money for the organization, events held far from other venues increase travel expenses for European racing teams that are more eager to ensure the success of their home country races. Moreover, some contend that if the sport is looking to add races outside of Western Europe, America is a much more attractive market because it already hosts several races and has a proven fan base.

Prospects have looked good for racing in Vietnam before. In 2010, a track was scheduled to be built in Saigon, but for numerous reasons, including rules against locals being allowed to bet, construction was halted. The track in Long An, 30 miles from Saigon, finally opened in 2016, preceding a relaxing of gambling laws for Vietnamese citizens. It does not, however, come close to meeting the standards required for F1 specification. A foreign company is looking to carry out a feasibility study for one in Hanoi.

[Photo via VnExpress]

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