Vietnam’s inaugural Formula One Grand Prix “might not happen” next year, a source told AFP on Tuesday, as a report said it had been dropped from the 2021 calendar following the arrest of a key official.
Doubts arose after Nguyen Duc Chung, who was Hanoi’s mayor and a major supporter of the grand prix, was arrested on corruption charges in August.
FUTURE OF THE RACE IN HANOI IS GLOOMY
“Without Chung, the future of the race in Hanoi is gloomy. It might not happen,” a source close to the race told AFP on the condition of anonymity.
There has been no word from Vietnamese authorities on whether the race, postponed from April and then cancelled because of the coronavirus, would make its belated debut next year.
But the date of the grand prix, April 25, has been left blank on a 22-race 2021 schedule to be published on Tuesday, the BBC reported.
It said the move was triggered by the arrest of Chung, who was Hanoi’s mayor and a major supporter of the race, for the alleged “appropriation of secret state documents”.
The case is not related to the grand prix.
The communist, Southeast Asian nation signed a 10-year deal with Formula One in 2018. State media said it would cost the country $60 million per year.
The fee has been picked up in full by the country’s largest private conglomerate, VinGroup, which had been hoping to dazzle with a night race on a street track.
Vietnam signed up for Formula One hoping the glamour of the sport could reflect the country’s economic lift-off and reshape Hanoi’s staid image, much as it has done for Singapore.
TRACK HAD BEEN READY AHEAD OF SCHEDULE
Officials insisted the 5.565km track in Hanoi had been ready ahead of schedule.
The country has already gained plaudits this year for its handling of the coronavirus, with just 1 215 recorded cases and no community transmission for more than two months.
Vietnam last month formally cancelled the 2020 grand prix due to concerns that teams and fans coming from overseas could spark a new outbreak of Covid-19.
Authorities have allowed very few commercial flights into Vietnam since borders were largely closed in March, and tourist visas are still suspended.