Vietnam GP aims high with 300,000-fan target

They might be the new kids on the block but that is not stopping the Vietnam Grand Prix promoters from dreaming big.

Hanoi will host the country’s first Formula One race in April next year and Le Ngoc Chi , chief executive of Vietnam Grand Prix Corporation, told The Sunday Times yesterday they have set a target of 300,000 fans over the race weekend.

She said: “We want to showcase our culture, our economy, our people.”

Vietnam will be only the third South-east Asian country to host a grand prix, after Malaysia (which stopped in 2017) and Singapore, and is the first new race announced current F1 owners Liberty Media.

Chi said one of the goals of the race is to raise Vietnam’s international profile. Last year, it welcomed 15.5 million international visitors who contributed 383 trillion dong (S$22.7 billion) in foreign tourism receipts.

“If they (those who come for the F1 race) have a good experience… then definitely they will spread the message to everyone around them and that is better than any other form of promotion. That will be the ultimate proof the first grand prix is a successful one for us.”

Last year, Hanoi inked a 10-year deal to host the race, which reportedly cost US$60 million (S$82.6 million) per year and fully backed by property conglomerate Vingroup. The race will be held on a 5.565km street circuit, which has elements from other circuits including the Nurburgring, Monaco, Suzuka and Sepang.

Football is by far the most popular sport in Vietnam, with a small base of motor racing fans, so Chi acknowledged that it will take time to convince its people of F1’s merits and the promoters were conscious of this when pricing tickets.

At around $45 for single-day general admission, entry into the Hanoi race is among the cheapest in F1. Walkabout tickets for this year’s Singapore GP start from $98.

“We have to build that crowd, we have to promote the race and educate people on how exciting and beneficial it can be for the country,” said Chi, adding that interest from overseas fans has picked up since the April 5 date for the Vietnam race was confirmed last month.

As part of their preparations, Chi and her staff have been to several grands prix in the past year, including Melbourne, Monaco, Shanghai and twice to the Republic.

Chi said: “Singapore is one of the greatest grands prix I’ve been to and I’ve spoken to the promoters here on how they deliver this event.

“This race is known for its A-list entertainment shows and has one of the best festive atmospheres… We have to differentiate ourselves and make sure when people come to our race, they don’t say ‘oh this feels like Singapore or Melbourne or another city’.

“We want to deliver an authentic Vietnamese experience.”

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