Heineken takes F1 to Vietnam


Back in 2016, Sir Martin Sorrell, head of WPP one of the world's leading advertising companies, and a non-executive director of F1's Jersey-based parent company Delta Topco, predicted that in time the F1 calendar might include the likes of Indonesia, Vietnam and Nigeria, as well as Argentina, Colombia and Peru.

"Probably not all of them will have an F1 race," he admitted, "but they are definitely considering events."

A year later and Bernie Ecclestone revealed that he had actually given the red flag to a Vietnam race, claiming that the country had little connection to motorsport and that there were already several F1 races in the region.

"Last year I was approached about having a race in Vietnam. I was offered the opportunity to meet the president about doing a deal for a Grand Prix," he told the Independent. "I could have done the deal and signed it in August. Everything was arranged for this to happen but I didn't do the deal because we already have quite a few races in that part of the world and I thought it might be a little bit over the top to have another one."

It's believed that the proposed race would be held in Hanoi, and even though organisers would have paid an estimated 320m over the ten years of its contract Ecclestone said it would have been a step too far for F1. "It hasn't got any racing history at all," he said. "So I didn't want to put another race in the same sort of area where we already have very good promoters.

"I was criticised for putting the races in Baku and in Russia because they hadn't got that much racing history," he added.

Just a couple of months after Ecclestone's admission, FOM's new commercial boss, Sean Bratches, admitted that the sport was eyeing two additional races in Asia, though he refused to identify them.

"I'm spending a lot of time reaching out proactively to cities," he told AFP during a visit to Shanghai, "and ultimately we will realise more street races than we have seen historically.

"We will go to iconic cities where there are large fan bases," he continued, "particularly new fan bases that we can activate. From a fan standpoint the backdrops of these city centres can really make compelling television and pictures."

Asked if this would mean more street races in Asia, he replied: "Yes, two.

"We are very focused on bringing additional Grands Prix to the continent here," he added. "We're in talks with a couple of cities to that end. We think there is a lot of vibrancy to having a few more street races to the calendar."

In January, following a meeting with Formula One Promoters Association in London, a source confirmed to Forbes that under the sport's new ownership Vietnam had been given the green light.

"A Vietnam street race is what they are going to announce," said the source, adding that the event was likely to be held it on the streets of Hanoi.

Since then speculation over Vietnam joining the calendar has intensified, but Liberty has steadfastly refused to deny or confirm the talk.

Now however, it has been revealed that Heineken - one of F1's few official sponsors - is taking F1 to Vietnam, albeit as a promotional event.

Next month, "Heineken F1 Ambassador" David Coulthard, will head an event titled "Perfect Experience with F1" in Ho Chi Minh City.

At the event, scheduled for May 4, fans will be able to take part in various activities, such as watching a "current F1 Red Bull" car in action and taking in the excitement of the Paddock, as well as the Pit stop Challenge.

The event is understood to be an expansion of Heineken’s commitment to responsible drinking and will be used as a platform to raise awareness of the dangers of drink-driving following a campaign that was launched in September 2017.

Whatever the reason for Liberty's procrastination in terms of denying or confirming a slot on the calendar for Vietnam - somewhat ironic when it has yet to add a second US race to the schedule - the Heineken event does at least move the Southeast Asian country into the F1 spotlight.

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Published: 05/04/2018
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