Formula One (F1) is set to hold its first Vietnam Grand Prix on a street circuit in Hanoi in 2020 after signing a 10-year deal. However, world champion Lewis Hamilton has questioned F1’s policy of organising races in countries with no genuine racing tradition.
The Briton told BBC that he felt conflicted while going to India as it is a “poor” place. “I’ve been to India before to a race which was strange because India was such a poor place yet we had this massive, beautiful grand prix track made in the middle of nowhere. I felt very conflicted when I went to that grand prix.
“On the racing side, I don’t know how important it is to go to new countries as such,” said Hamilton who sealed his fifth world title last month.
“If you had the Silverstone Grand Prix and a London Grand Prix, it would be pretty cool.”
Formula One has steadily expanded beyond its traditional heartlands, adding races in China, India, South Korea, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Russia, Azerbaijan and Turkey, with mixed results.
At the same time, historic European races in England, Germany and Italy have come under threat, while France dropped off the circuit for 10 years before returning this season.
“We’ve got a lot of real racing history in England, Germany, Italy and now in the States it is starting to grow,” said Hamilton.
“But you only have one event per year in those places. If it was my business, I’d be trying to do more events in those countries.
“We had a grand prix in Turkey and hardly anyone came. Cool track, cool weekend but poor audience.”
Formula One has thrived in Singapore, but it didn’t last long in India and South Korea. Vietnam also has scant racing tradition.
“If you have the German Grand Prix and you’ve got a Grand Prix in Berlin, I think connecting to cities where a lot of people are is probably a good thing, not necessarily going to countries where they don’t know so much about Formula One.”