Vietnam is to host Formula One races from 2020 — and more countries could follow

Asia News

The Vietnamese capital of Hanoi will host a Formula One Grand Prix for the first time in 2020.

“This is a fulfilment of one of our primary goals,” Formula One (F1) Commercial Managing Director Sean Bratches exclusively told CNBC at the announcement.

“Historically Formula One has been very reactive in terms of people coming to them. We’ve been very proactive going to markets around the world which we think align with our brand values and the opportunity to engage fans in new ways and a street circuit is one of the few ways that does that.”

It’ll fit into the existing calendar during the early part of the season in April, as Liberty Media’s shake-up of the sport continues.

Formula One Race Director Charlie Whiting told reporters last month he had visited a proposed site towards the west of the city saying at the time: “It’s in the advanced stages of design.”

Whiting also said the proposed layout mainly used existing streets, with one as-yet unbuilt section. “It’s an open site where the pit building’s going to be built,” he said. “Part of the track will be built there which doesn’t exist at the moment. But it will become a road, I understand, after that.”

F1 management has expressed a strong interest for a race in Vietnam, with Hanoi seen as the sort of “destination city” the sport is looking for.

“We’re trying to make the racing on the circuit much more compelling. We need to get the back of the grid much closer to the front of the grid and that is absolutely key. From a fan standpoint, if you don’t have a competitive grid, you’re going to turn fans away,” Bratches said.

Vietnam is a growing market for sponsors such as brewer Heineken and would be a fifth Asian race on the calendar, making up for the departure of Malaysia.

“We are trying to pivot Formula One from a motorsport company to a media and entertainment brand. We’re building not only the circuit engagement, but we’re using that as a hub to create other assets that extend the brand.” Bratches also said

The season currently stands at 21 races, with Liberty Media keen to add more, as it attempts to balance old and new during the annual, global F1 championship.

However, the future of several long-standing race venues, such as the British and German Grand Prix, have previously expressed concerns at the large hosting and operational costs. These are estimated at being close to $1 billion for each venue over a 10-year period.

“We want to preserve the heritage races, they’re very important to Formula One, they’re very important to fans. The Silverstone’s, the Spa’s, the Monza’s of the world,” said Bratches. “I think the next tranche of race circuits that we’re trying to identify are street circuits and I think this is one further step in our vision and execution on that.”

Vietnam is the first race Liberty will have added to the calendar since taking control of Formula One from Bernie Ecclestone in 2017. Hanoi officials have also stated that this race will be privately funded, rather than relying on support from the government.