Vietnam’s first Formula One Grand Prix, which was due to take place in 2021 after being postponed this year because of the pandemic, has been removed from the motor-racing series’ calendar.
The date of the Vietnam race (April 25) was left blank as a 22-race schedule was announced today (Tuesday).
The BBC reported that the removal comes in the wake of the arrest in August of Hanoi People’s Committee chairman Nguyen Duc Chung on corruption charges. The charges are unrelated to the Grand Prix, but Chung had been an important figure in the plan to bring Formula One to Vietnam. The BBC said his absence had left ‘a vacuum’ as regards the organisation of the race and that Vietnamese authorities had told Formula One the country had other priorities to focus on, including controlling the Covid-19 pandemic and recovery from a recent severe floods.
The race promoter in Hanoi is local conglomerate Vingroup, Vietnam’s largest listed company. Vingroup has a 10-year race promoter deal with Formula One, which industry monitor Formula Money estimates costs $35m (€29.5m) a year. Vingroup set up a new company, Vietnam Grand Prix Corporation, to run the operation.
At a signing ceremony in Vietnam last October, Chase Carey, chairman and chief executive of Formula One, said: “For us, the Formula One VinFast Vietnam Grand Prix 2020 is one of the cornerstones of our long term vision for the future of the sport, because since we became involved in this sport in 2017, we have talked about developing new destination cities to broaden the appeal of Formula 1 and at the same time, consolidating our presence in Europe, the traditional home of the sport.”
The 2020 Vietnam Grand Prix was cancelled last month. It was originally scheduled for April but had been postponed because of the pandemic. The cancellation meant Asia will not host a round of the Formula One World Championship in 2020.
On the 2021 schedule, Carey said today: “We are pleased to announce the 2021 Formula 1 provisional calendar after extensive conversations with our promoters, the teams and the FIA. We are planning for 2021 events with fans that provide an experience close to normal and expect our agreements to be honoured.
“We have proven that we can safely travel and operate our races and our promoters increasingly recognise the need to move forward and manage the virus. In fact, many hosts actually want to use our event as a platform to show the world they are moving forward. We are delighted to see Saudi Arabia become part of the schedule and are equally excited to return to the venues we hoped to race at in 2020. We want to thank all our promoters and partners for their ongoing enthusiasm and collaboration and look forward to giving our fans an exciting season on the track.”