Vietnam Grand Prix at the receiving end?


F1 calendar 2021 without Vietnam Grand Prix Image: Vietnam Grand Prix F1

Formula 1 unveiled plans on Tuesday for a record 23-race calendar for its 2021 season, with the proposed new race in Vietnam not figuring in the slate of events and being omitted entirely with media reports stating that bribery slur on a key official associated with the Vietnam Grand Prix and his subsequent arrest being the reason behind the Asian country being left out.

Of course, the official said to be involved in corruption and his arrest has got nothing to do with the Vietnam Grand Prix but with some other case concerning the country’s security. However, the F1 authorities are wary as the concerned official is also involved with a prestigious event like Grand Prix.

The absence of the heavily-touted Vietnamese Grand Prix is the headline item on the provisional calendar, which has been submitted to the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) of the International Automobile Federation (FIA) for its nod.

Formula One (also known as Formula 1 or F1) is the highest class of international single-seater auto racing sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) and owned by Liberty Media, an American mass media company, through its wholly owned subsidiary, the Formula One Group.

The World Motor Sport Council is a major organ within the FIA governance structure. Its primary role is amending current regulations and drafting new regulations for all of international motor sport.

The Vietnam Grand Prix Corporation (VGPC) last month officially confirmed the cancellation of its maiden Formula 1 race, citing the continued climate of uncertainty caused by the deadly COVID-19. Vietnam was originally due to debut on the 2020 F1 calendar on April 3rd-5th at a new street circuit developed in Hanoi.

However, the Vietnamese Grand Prix’s initial postponement was announced in March this year as F1 grappled with the disastrous effects of COVID-19 outbreak globally, which has ultimately led to a heavily revised 17-race calendar for 2020.

The VGPC informed that it would provide a full refund for all tickets purchased for the 2020 race, but did not comment on plans to reschedule for 2021. Vietnam last year signed a 10-year race deal with Formula 1 worth a reported $60m (£45.3m/€50.8m) per season – a fee that is said to be accounted for in full by the country’s biggest private conglomerate, VinGroup (a Vietnamese conglomerate focusing on real estate development, retail, and services ranging from healthcare to hospitality).

However, as reported earlier, Vietnam’s removal from the 2021 calendar has been caused due to the arrest of a key official responsible for the race on graft charges. Hanoi People’s Committee Chairman Nguyen Duc Chung was arrested in August this year for alleged appropriation of documents containing State secrets.

Though the case is not remotely connected to his involvement in the Grand Prix, but Chung was said to be a key figure connected with the prestigious event. Moreover, Vietnamese authorities’ priorities have shifted to other issues like elections and post-COVID and typhoon recovery efforts.

The 2021 season follows an unprecedented year for Formula 1 in which the pandemic resulted in a revised 2020 calendar of 17 races as the motor-racing series became the first international sport to resume its season, greeting fans back in limited numbers to certain races.

F1 said on Tuesday that the plans for 2021 have involved extensive dialogue with all promoters and their local and national authorities at a time of “ongoing fluidity” related to the global pandemic. F1 added that its hosts for 2021 are “reassured by our safe return to racing this season” and are confident that the plans and procedures in place will allow a return to a “level of normality” for the 2021 season.

Elsewhere on the 2021 calendar, the inaugural Saudi Arabia Grand Prix has been allocated the penultimate round on November 28th. The City of Jeddah will play host to the first Saudi Arabian Grand Prix following the inking of a long-term partnership last week between Formula 1 and the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF).

The inaugural event will take place on Jeddah’s corniche, which runs along the banks of the Red Sea, providing a coastal backdrop for a thrilling and adrenaline rush weekend featuring live motorsport, entertainment and culture that will take over the second biggest City in Saudi Arabia.

The Dutch Grand Prix was also due to return to Formula 1 in 2020, and has been assigned a new date on the 2021 calendar of September 5th. In May, it was announced that this year’s edition of the Dutch Grand Prix at the reworked Zandvoort Circuit (Netherlands) would not go ahead as planned after organizers decided that it was best to delay the event until 2021 than stage it sans spectators. The Dutch Grand Prix has not been held since 1985.

Elsewhere, an asterisk has also been placed against the Spanish Grand Prix on May 9th in Barcelona (Spain) and the Brazilian Grand Prix on November 14th in São Paulo (Brazil). Both events have yet to extend their race contracts for 2021, with the latter having been entangled in a political dispute in Brazil.

The Brazilian Grand Prix is traditionally held at the Interlagos circuit in São Paulo but the future of the race has been unresolved. F1 has agreed to a deal for a race at a proposed new circuit in the Deodoro area of Rio de Janeiro, but these plans have come under fire for their potential environmental impact and have yet to be given the green light.

The April 25th slot on the calendar for the fourth round has also been left to be confirmed, with various circuits in the picture for this race.

Commenting on the proposed calendar, Chase Carey, Chairman and head honcho of Formula 1, said, and “We are planning for 2021 events with fans that provide an experience close to normal and expect our agreements to be honored. We have proven that we can safely travel and operate our races and our promoters increasingly recognize the need to move forward and manage the virus. In fact, many hosts actually want to use our event as a platform to show the world they are moving forward.”

Carey added, “We are delighted to see Saudi Arabia become part of the schedule and are equally excited to return to the venues we hoped to race at in 2020.”

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