Formula 1 has today (Tuesday) revealed plans for a record 23-race calendar for its 2021 season, with the proposed new race in Vietnam being omitted entirely.
The absence of the heavily-touted Vietnamese Grand Prix is the headline item on the provisional calendar, which has been submitted to the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) of the International Automobile Federation (FIA) for approval.
The Vietnam Grand Prix Corporation (VGPC) last month officially confirmed the cancellation of its maiden Formula 1 race, citing the continued uncertainty caused by COVID-19. Vietnam was originally due to debut on the 2020 F1 calendar on April 3-5 at a new street circuit (pictured) developed in Hanoi.
However, the Vietnamese Grand Prix’s initial postponement was announced in March as F1 dealt with the fallout from the global pandemic, which has ultimately led to a heavily revised 17-race calendar for 2020.
VGPC said it would provide a full refund for all tickets purchased for the 2020 race, but did not comment on plans to reschedule for 2021. Vietnam last year signed a 10-year race deal with Formula 1 worth a reported $60m (£45.3m/€50.8m) per season – a fee that is said to be accounted for in full by the country’s biggest private conglomerate, VinGroup.
However, the BBC today reported that Vietnam’s removal from the 2021 calendar has been caused by the arrest on corruption charges of a key official responsible for the race. Hanoi People’s Committee chairman Nguyen Duc Chung was arrested in August for alleged appropriation of documents containing state secrets.
The case is not said to be connected to his involvement in the grand prix, but Chung was said to be a key figure in its organisation with Vietnamese authorities now said to be focused on other priorities including key elections and post-COVID and typhoon recovery efforts.
The 2021 season follows an unprecedented year for Formula 1 in which the pandemic resulted in a revised 2020 calendar of 17 races as the motor-racing series became the first international sport to resume its season, welcoming fans back in limited numbers to certain races.
F1 today said the plans for 2021 have involved extensive dialogue with all promoters and their local and national authorities at a time of “ongoing fluidity” related to the global pandemic. F1 added that its hosts for 2021 are “reassured by our safe return to racing this season” and are confident that the plans and procedures in place will allow a return to a “level of normality” for the 2021 season.
Elsewhere on the 2021 calendar, the inaugural Saudi Arabia GP has been assigned the penultimate round on November 28. The city of Jeddah will host the first Saudi Arabian GP following the signing of a long-term partnership last week between Formula 1 and the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF).
The inaugural event will take place on Jeddah’s corniche, which runs along the banks of the Red Sea, providing a coastal backdrop for a full weekend of live motorsport, entertainment and culture that will take over the second biggest city in Saudi Arabia.
The Dutch Grand Prix was also due to return to Formula 1 in 2020, and has been assigned a new date on the 2021 calendar of September 5. In May, it was announced that this year’s edition of the Dutch GP at the reworked Zandvoort circuit would not go ahead as planned after organisers decided that they would rather delay the event until 2021 than stage it without fans. The Dutch Grand Prix has not been held since 1985.
Elsewhere, an asterisk has also been placed against the Spanish GP on May 9 in Barcelona and the Brazilian GP on November 14 in São Paulo. Both events have yet to extend their race contracts for 2021, with the latter having been embroiled in a political dispute in Brazil.
The Brazilian Grand Prix is traditionally held at the Interlagos circuit in São Paulo but the future of the race has been up in the air. F1 has agreed a deal for a race at a proposed new circuit in the Deodoro area of Rio de Janeiro, but these plans have been criticised for their potential environmental impact and have yet to be approved.
The April 25 slot on the calendar for the fourth round has also been left TBC, with various circuits in the picture for this race. Commenting on the proposed calendar, Chase Carey, chairman and CEO of Formula 1, said: “We are planning for 2021 events with fans that provide an experience close to normal and expect our agreements to be honoured.
“We have proven that we can safely travel and operate our races and our promoters increasingly recognise the need to move forward and manage the virus. In fact, many hosts actually want to use our event as a platform to show the world they are moving forward.
“We are delighted to see Saudi Arabia become part of the schedule and are equally excited to return to the venues we hoped to race at in 2020.”
Main Image: Hanoi Circuit
Secondary Image: Formula 1