Hanoi — Vietnam will join the Formula One calendar in 2020 with a street race in the country’s capital of Hanoi, say the organisers.
The Vietnamese Grand Prix, which will be staged for the first time in April 2020, is the first new race announced since Liberty Media bought the commercial rights to the series.
"We are delighted to announce that Hanoi will host a Formula One Grand Prix," the sport’s chairman, Chase Carey, said on Wednesday.
"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."
Vietnam’s largest conglomerate, Vingroup, has signed a "multiyear deal" to host the event, the release read.
VinFast, a unit of Vingroup, is set to become Vietnam’s first domestic car manufacturer when its first production models built under its own badge hit the streets in August 2019.
The Hanoi round, run on a circuit in the west of Hanoi, will be the fourth street race on the calendar with Monaco, Singapore and Azerbaijan.
Hanoi People’s Committee chairman 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.
Vietnam is a growing market for sponsors such as brewer Heineken and the event will give East Asia four races on the calendar again after the departure of Malaysia.
While the country does not have much of a motorsports tradition, sporting events or competitions in which the national team does even marginally well are widely watched and passionately celebrated.
Organisers are hoping to tap into the mushrooming middle class in Vietnam, one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies, and win hearts among the wealthier sports fans, who traditionally make up F1’s fan base.
Formula One races are costly affairs requiring deep pockets from host countries. Malaysia pulled out of the unprofitable race in 2017 after hosting it for nearly two decades, while India and South Korea both dropped off the circuit during 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.
There will again be 21 races on the 2019 calendar, with the same races as 2018 retaining their places.