Formula One: Vietnam’s track abandoned as hopes fade for debut grand prix in Hanoi
- City was set to make its F1 debut in 2020 but the inaugural Vietnamese Grand Prix was cancelled because of Covid-19
- Vietnam signed a 10-year deal with F1 in 2018, betting that the glamour of the sport could reshape the captial’s staid image
The city was set to make its F1 debut in 2020 but the inaugural Vietnamese Grand Prix was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, and Hanoi has not appeared on the race calendar since.
Now, the spectator stands have been removed and most of the circuit sits empty – save a few hobby cyclists who sneak in, lured by the open space in the traffic-clogged city.
They race past yellowing grass, weeds and trash blown in by the wind, but the track itself appears like new, with ‘Vietnam’ still clearly visible where it was painted on the tarmac.
Outside the surrounding metal fence, Hanoi’s ubiquitous motorbikes have already reclaimed the roads once earmarked to form part of the 5.6-kilometre (3½-mile) track.
Vietnam signed a 10-year deal with F1 in 2018, betting that the glamour of the sport could reshape Hanoi’s staid image, and reflect the country’s economic lift-off.
Costing Vietnam US$60 million a year, the fee was to be picked up in full by the country’s largest private conglomerate, VinGroup, which had been hoping to dazzle with a night race.
But after the 2020 cancellation, the race was dropped from the 2021 global calendar when city mayor Nguyen Duc Chung, a major supporter, was arrested.
“Without Chung, the future of the race in Hanoi is gloomy,” a source close to the race told Agence France-Presse on condition of anonymity in 2020.
State media said city authorities in June last year ruled out hosting the race between 2022 and 2029.
Authorities, however, refused to confirm the news to Agence France-Presse.
Hanoi was absent again from the 2023 race schedule announced last month.
Two-and-a-half years after the first race should have been staged, there is still disappointment among the country’s small but growing F1 fan base.
“It would have been my first opportunity to see the drivers, the F1 cars, the racing teams in real life … and I wanted to feel what it was like to sit next to an F1 circuit,” said 23-year-old Bui Viet Giang.
“I am sorry that it will not happen. I do hope it can be organised again in the future.”