Formula One chief Jean Todt on Wednesday (Mar 20) hailed next year’s inaugural Vietnamese Grand Prix in Hanoi as a great opportunity to open doors for people with “a passion” for motorsport in south-east Asia.
The communist Vietnamese capital will get its first taste of the high-octane glitz and glamour of Formula One when it hosts its first grand prix from April 2020 next year as the sport bids to tap into new markets in Southeast Asia.
Todt said he hoped Vietnamese fans seeing the likes of five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel battling wheel-to-wheel on the streets of Hanoi would lead to an explosion of in interest in racing of all kinds in football-mad Vietnam.
“It’s … fantastic for the development of the motorsport in Vietnam and in the region,” Todt, who president of motorsport’s world governing body the FIA, told reporters Wednesday at a groundbreaking ceremony for the new street circuit in Hanoi.
“I really hope that soon here will also be facilities to host cart racing, drifting racing,” he added.
Todt hopes the event will breed a new generation of Vietnamese drivers.
“You have young people, talented with a passion of motorsports, that’s why I think it’s very important to involve very quickly a new category of motorsport,” he said.
The 5.6km street track will incorporate existing and yet-to-be-built roads in the My Dinh area of Hanoi near the national sports stadium, about 13km from the city centre.
Organisers said they decided against holding the race in Hanoi’s historical Old Quarter because of logistical challenges and steep costs.
Hanoi has bet big on the event’s popularity, signing a 10-year multi-million-dollar deal with Formula One last year reported in state media to be costing Vietnam US$60 million per year.
Vietnam said it will not dip into government coffers to pay for the event but instead has secured full financial backing from the country’s largest private conglomerate VinGroup.
“F1 is always considered the king of all races … we have designed a challenging street circuit imprinted with Vietnamese identity and architecture,” VinGroup deputy chairman Nguyen Viet Quang said at the ceremony.
He added that the track will bring “racers the opportunity to show off their speed as on professional routes together with their super skills in difficult turns of the street circuit”.
Vietnam is hoping to emulate the popularity of Singapore’s glittering street track night race and fill the void in the region left after Malaysia pulled the plug on its long-standing race in 2017 for cost reasons.
Hanoi will also hope avoid the problems that dogged Formula One’s ventures into South Korea in 2010 and India in 2011 that saw the races in both countries axed after four and three editions respectively.