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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

Hanoi to host Formula One race in 2020, officials confirm

Vietnam's capital will join Singapore as the only other Southeast Asian destination on the F1 circuit

Lewis Hamilton, left, and Sebastian Vettel, right, will race in Hanoi in 2020 after the Vietnam capital was added to the Formula One calendar. AFP
Lewis Hamilton, left, and Sebastian Vettel, right, will race in Hanoi in 2020 after the Vietnam capital was added to the Formula One calendar. AFP

Vietnam capital Hanoi will host a Formula One race in April 2020, city officials said on Thursday, a first for the Southeast Asian nation where racing is still a fringe sport.

The circuit is set to be unveiled at a "gala" next week, Hanoi People's Committee said in an invite to the event.

"The city of Hanoi managed to conclude the cooperation to be entitled as the official host of a race of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship (from) April 2020," the letter read.

Authorities said earlier this year they supported the idea of hosting a race, but would not dip into government coffers to pay for the event.

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"The prime minister said if Hanoi hosts (a race), the budget should be from the private sector," Mai Tien Dung, head of the government office, said in August.

He added that advertising revenues from the event could be "huge" and potentially would cover the cost of the event.

Officials had originally considered hosting the race around Hanoi's scenic Hoan Kiem lake near the bustling Old Quarter, but decided instead to host it near the national stadium where the roads are wider than in town.

F1 race director Charlie Whiting told reporters in October month that he had visited the site in Hanoi and was confident the circuit would be ready in time for the 2020 season.

He said much of the race would be on existing roads but some sections would need to be built, according to Fox Sports.

"That shouldn't be a problem based on previous experience," he said.

Formula One races can be costly endeavours and are seen as financially risky for host cities like Hanoi where racing remains outside of the mainstream.

Though informal - and illegal - motorbike street racing, and a nascent offroad racing scene have started to gain traction in Vietnam in recent years, Formula One has yet to take hold among the mainstream of sports fans, most of which are football-mad.

Vietnam will be only the third Southeast Asian country to host a Formula One race in history after Malaysia and Singapore.

Hanoi will be the second Southeast Asian city to host a race in 2020 along with Singapore.