Vietnamese F1 Grand Prix gets go ahead for 2020
Hanoi, Vietnam - The first Hanoi Grand Prix will kick off a "long-term partnership", Formula One boss Chase Carey said on Wednesday as he confirmed plans to expand motorsport's premier championship in Asia.
Vietnam announced last week that it will stage the race in its communist capital from April 2020, becoming only the third Southeast Asian nation to host the Formula One after Malaysia and Singapore.
"We're very proud to be announcing this race," Carey told reporters in Hanoi as details of the event were unveiled.
Carey said the decision to host the race in Hanoi was part of Formula One's strategy to move into markets where it hopes to groom a new generation of fans - and boost revenues.
"We plan for this to be a long-term agreement, and we intend for this to be a long-term partnership," Carey said.
"The race is also an important part of our broader strategy to grow our sport in Asia, and clearly Vietnam is a driving force for the growth in Asia," he added.
Hanoi municipal government chairman Nguyen Duc Chung said a 10-year contract for the day race had been signed with Formula One, with an opportunity to discuss extensions from year eight.
The 5.6 kilometre track will include existing roads and portions that have yet to be built, according to a press release from the Hanoi Municipal People's Committee.
The race will be held near the national stadium, after authorities initially considered staging it by Hoan Kiem lake near Hanoi's chaotic Old Quarter.
Those plans were scrapped because of high costs, officials said earlier this year.
Vietnamese media said race rights alone - to be paid to Liberty Media, Formula One's new owner - could come with a $60 million (R835m) price tag.
Organisers said VinGroup, the country's largest private company, had set up a subsidiary called Grand Prix Vietnam that will pay for the hosting fee, though they did not confirm the precise amount.
The long-anticipated announcement comes as Liberty Media, which took over the Formula One franchise last year, tries to tap into new markets - especially in fast-growing Asia.
But the company may face some bumps in the road in Vietnam, a football-mad country where motorsports don't yet have a mainstream following.
Organisers are hoping to tap into the mushrooming middle class in Vietnam, one of Asia's fastest growing economies, and win hearts among wealthier sports fans that traditionally make up F1's fan base.
Formula One races are costly affairs requiring deep pockets from host countries.
Malaysia pulled out of the loss-making race last year after hosting it for nearly two decades, while India and South Korea both dropped off the circuit in 2013, citing financial strains.
But in the right market, the glamorous sport can rake in billions from advertisers, ticket sales, broadcasting rights and branded merchandise.