Prior to Liberty Media’s buy-out of F1 early last year, talks had been held with a view to Vietnam joining the schedule.
However, (then) F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone rejected the idea claiming that it would be a step too far for the sport.
Declining a meeting with the Vietnam president, and rejecting a 10-year deal worth $391.2m, Ecclestone gave the proposal the red flag.
“I was approached about having a race in Vietnam. I was offered the opportunity to meet the president about doing a deal for a Grand Prix. I could have done the deal and signed it in August. Everything was arranged for this to happen.”
Now, following this week’s meeting with Formula One Promoters Association at the Sofitel London St James hotel, a source has confirmed to Forbes that under the sport’s new ownership Vietnam has been given the green light.
“Vietnam street race is what they are going to announce,” said the source, and it looks like the plan is to hold it on the streets (groan) of Hanoi.
Plans for a race in Ho Chi Minh City were first mooted in 2010 but the plan was dropped due to the country’s strict rules which prevented locals from betting on sports events. The law was recently relaxed to allow anyone with a monthly income exceeding £360 and shortly after the country’s first race track was opened in order to take full advantage.
Though the HappyLand Circuit (pictured), 30 kilometres from Ho Chi Minh City, is far below F1 spec – not least the name – a feasibility study was carried out in 2016 as a foreign consortium sought to build an F1-spec track in Hanoi.
However, even though he was infamous for taking the money from the highest bidder, taking the sport into new markets, many of which had no connection to the sport and subsequently fell from the schedule, and all while taking F1 out of its European heartland, Ecclestone drew the line at Vietnam.
“It hasn’t got any racing history at all,” he said. “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.”
Not so Liberty, which will salivate at the thought of all that new money going into the sport’s coffers.
Which is odd, considering that only last year Liberty chief executive Greg Maffei questioned Azerbaijan’s presence on the calendar.
Insisting that Liberty is not motivated in the same way as Ecclestone, he told the BBC that the former F1 supremo was driven by asking “How much can I extract? How much upfront?
“So we end up with races in places like Baku in Azerbaijan where they paid us a big race fee but it does nothing to build the long-term brand and health of the business,” he added.
With Liberty seeking to recoup its vast investment in the sport and the teams already facing a drop in income, not least due to Liberty’s spending, it is understandable that more races are needed. However, at a time a number of prestigious races are under threat, most notably Silverstone, shouldn’t the sport’s owners be sorting out existing events before looking for new ones?
Indeed, with that worrying asterisk beside the United States’ spot on the 2018 calendar, shouldn’t Liberty be giving this priority? And what of those other events scheduled for the sport’s owners homeland, Las Vegas, New York…
Previously Chase Carey had talked of the creation of races in “destination cities” across the US, while the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index cites Vietnam lower than Ethiopia, Algeria and Egypt. One would have thought it isn’t the kind of place that Liberty would want to associate its supposedly new brand of F1 with. So if the race does indeed get the green light it may leave fans wondering whether the sport’s new owners really are any different to their predecessors despite what they say.

Tags

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

5 − 2 =