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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton questions F1 expansion to new countries

Following announcement of Hanoi Grand Prix in 2020, Mercedes-GP world champion, who arrives in the UAE next week for season finale, says F1 owners should target more stops in countries with a genuine racing tradition

Mercedes-GP driver Lewis Hamilton is all smiles after winning the Brazilian Grand Prix to clinch a fifth world title. EPA
Mercedes-GP driver Lewis Hamilton is all smiles after winning the Brazilian Grand Prix to clinch a fifth world title. EPA

Lewis Hamilton has questioned the policy of Formula One owners organising races in new countries after this month's announcement of the Vietnam Grand Prix.

In an interview with the BBC, the newly crowned world champion said his personal preference was to see more stops in countries with a genuine racing tradition, rather than expanding to new markets.

"On the racing side, I don't know how important it is to go to new countries as such," said Hamilton who sealed the 2018 world title last week in Brazil.

"If you had the Silverstone Grand Prix and a London Grand Prix, it would be pretty cool."

The Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, will hold a Formula One street race from 2020 after signing a 10-year deal.

Formula One has steadily expanded beyond its traditional heartlands, adding races in China, India, South Korea, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Russia, Azerbaijan and Turkey.

At the same time, historic European races in England, Germany and Italy have come under threat, while France dropped off the circuit for 10 years before returning this season.

"We've got a lot of real racing history in England, Germany, Italy and now in the States it is starting to grow," said Hamilton, who arrives in the UAE next week ahead of the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as a five-time world champion.

"But you only have one event per year in those places. If it was my business, I'd be trying to do more events in those countries."

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Read more:

Liberty Media: Hanoi F1 Grand Prix to begin in 2020

Formula One 2018 lowdown: What is still to be decided in Brazil and Abu Dhabi?

Comment: Lewis Hamilton enjoys his best ever season and his dominance is set to continue

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Everything you need to know about tickets and the 2018 race weekend

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Last week, Liberty Media, F1's new owners, confirmed plans to expand motorsport's premier championship in Asia with the announcement of the Hanoi Grand Prix.

Chase Carey, the group's chief executive, said the decision to host the race in Vietnam was part of F1's strategy to move into markets where it hopes to groom a new generation of fans - and boost revenues.

Mercedes-GP driver Hamilton said that past attempts to broaden F1's reach had met with mixed results.

"I've been to Vietnam before and it is beautiful. I've been to India before to a race which was strange because India was such a poor place yet we had this massive, beautiful grand prix track made in the middle of nowhere. I felt very conflicted when I went to that grand prix," Hamilton said.

"We had a grand prix in Turkey and hardly anyone came. Cool track, cool weekend but poor audience."

Formula One has thrived in Singapore, but it didn't last long in India and South Korea. Vietnam also has scant racing tradition.

Hamilton said: "If you have the German Grand Prix and you've got a Grand Prix in Berlin, I think connecting to cities where a lot of people are is probably a good thing, not necessarily going to countries where they don't know so much about Formula One."