For­mula One rac­ing wel­comes new­comer Viet­nam but older race hosts sweat on fu­ture

Business World - - Sports World -

LON­DON — For­mula One wel­comed Viet­nam as its new­est race on Wed­nes­day while re­mind­ing some of the old­est, and Bri­tish Grand Prix hosts Sil­ver­stone in par­tic­u­lar, that they could take noth­ing for granted.

“We’re a 68-year-old en­tity and the na­ture of grand prix rac­ing is that it is dy­namic,” For­mula One’s com­mer­cial man­ag­ing direc­tor Sean Bratches said af­ter it was an­nounced that Hanoi will host a street race in April 2020.

“Sil­ver­stone was the first grand prix, but we haven’t raced at Sil­ver­stone all those 68 years. The race has been held at Brands Hatch and other venues,” he said in a For­mula One ques­tion and an­swer.

“Noth­ing is im­mutable in this sport in terms of where we race,” he added when asked whether grands prix might be moved from their ‘tra­di­tional homes’ to a city street cir­cuit else­where in the coun­try.

Sil­ver­stone, owned by the Bri­tish Rac­ing Driv­ers’ Club, is out of con­tract af­ter next year’s race hav­ing ex­er­cised a break clause for fi­nan­cial rea­sons and in the hope of ne­go­ti­at­ing a bet­ter deal.

Talks be­tween the two sides re­main on­go­ing.

The cir­cuit has boasted sell-out crowds, with some 140,500 fans turn­ing up on race day this year for a grand prix that is home for now-five times world cham­pion Lewis Hamil­ton and a ma­jor­ity of the teams.

Bratches said the sport val­ued and wanted to keep the ‘her­itage races’ — such as Sil­ver­stone, Spa and Monza — and rec­og­nized their im­por­tance to fans.

“But we are a busi­ness,” he added. “We are a pub­lic com­pany and we have a lot of stake­hold­ers and share­hold­ers and we’re try­ing to marry what’s best for fans with run­ning a suc­cess­ful busi­ness.”

For­mula One has 21 races con­firmed for 2019, but Ger­many’s Hock­en­heim will also be out of con­tract at the end of next sea­son along with Italy’s Monza and Spain’s Cir­cuit de Catalunya.

Viet­nam is the first race con­tract ne­go­ti­ated by Lib­erty me­dia since the US-based com­pany took over For­mula One’s com­mer­cial rights in Jan­uary 2017 and ousted long-reign­ing supremo Bernie Ec­cle­stone.

Bratches said Hanoi fit­ted the new vi­sion of the sport’s own­ers, with an­other street race in Mi­ami also in the pipe­line.

“One of the things we have been in­tensely fo­cused on is ex­tend­ing grand prix rac­ing to iconic cities, in down­town ar­eas, where we can best en­gage fans,” he added.

“Most of our grands prix are cur­rently half an hour to an hour out­side cities, so this race in Hanoi ful­fills one of our pre­lim­i­nary goals — an iconic city host­ing rac­ing on a po­ten­tially thrilling street cir­cuit.

“Viet­nam’s con­cept of what grand prix rac­ing should be about matches our vi­sion for the sport.” —

AC­TION IM­AGES VIA REUTERS

SIL­VER­STONE CIR­CUIT, Sil­ver­stone, Bri­tain — Fer­rari’s Se­bas­tian Vet­tel in ac­tion dur­ing the race on July 8.

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