By James Pearson and Khanh Vu
HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam will host a Formula One grand prix for the first time in 2020 with a street race in the capital Hanoi, organisers said on Wednesday.
The Vietnamese Grand Prix is the first entirely new addition to the calendar since U.S.-based Liberty Media took over as commercial rights holders last year and replaced former dealmaker and supremo Bernie Ecclestone.
“We are delighted to announce that Hanoi will host a Formula One Grand Prix,” the sport’s chairman Chase Carey said in a statement.
“Since we became involved in this sport in 2017, we have talked about developing new destination cities to broaden the appeal of Formula One and the Vietnamese Grand Prix is a realisation of that ambition.
“We are thrilled to be here in Hanoi, one of the most exciting cities in the world right now with such a rich history and an incredible future ahead of it.”
The South-East Asian country is a growing market for sponsors such as brewer Heineken and will give the region four races on the calendar again after the departure of Malaysia last year.
The others are China, Singapore and Japan.
Ecclestone told Reuters last year that he had talks with the Vietnamese about a race while he was in charge but had decided, despite the money on offer, against it because he felt there were enough in that part of the world already.
Wednesday’s announcement was marked with a launch party held inside the centuries-old walls of central Hanoi’s Thang Long citadel and featuring electronic music and traditional dance and drumming.
Retired British F1 driver David Coulthard also attended with a Red Bull demonstration car.
Vietnamese prime minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc had met Carey earlier.
“This is an important event not only in the field of sport but also in culture and society, contributing to the development of Vietnam,” Phuc said in a government statement.
Vietnam’s largest conglomerate, Vingroup JSC, has signed a “multi-year deal” to host the event, the Formula One press release said, without elaborating.
VinFast, a unit of Vingroup, is set to become Vietnam’s first fully-fledged domestic car manufacturer when its first production models built under its own badge hit the streets next August.
The Hanoi race will be run on a 5.565-km layout in the west of the city, adding another street race to the existing ones in Monaco, Singapore, Azerbaijan and Melbourne’s Albert Park in Australia.
Chairman of the Hanoi People’s Committee Nguyen Duc Chung said the race would reflect Vietnam’s ability to hold global events.
“It provides an opportunity for inward investment to Vietnam and importantly to bring the exciting wheel-to-wheel racing of Formula One to the people of Vietnam,” he said.
While the country does not have much of a tradition of motorsports, sporting events or competitions in which the national team does even marginally well are widely watched and passionately celebrated.
There will again be 21 races on the 2019 calendar, with the same races as this year retaining their places.
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru and James Pearson in Hanoi; Editing by Nick Mulvenney/Pritha Sarkar/Alan Baldwin)