"Hanoi’s Formula One track nears finish line"

Photo courtesy of VNExpress International

According to Chung (Nguyen Duc Chung, chairman of the Hanoi People’s Committee), the event is a further demonstration of Vietnam’s ability, as one of the fastest growing economies in the world, to host events on a global scale and attract tourism to the country

I’m not a big fan of Formula 1 racing. Watching a bunch of loud cars race around a track at breakneck speeds is not my idea of a good time. It won’t surprise you, therefore, to learn that I’m not excited about the amount of money and effort that has been spent on building a F1 track in my adopted city of Hanoi. Just what we don’t need – more exhaust and noise, even if it is only for a few days in April.

Yes, I know it’s created a lot of jobs and will generate a lot of revenue. It’s also a brilliant branding strategy for Vinfast, a subsidiary of Vingroup. I’d be interested in knowing who is paying for what, including the local and national government, Vingroup, and the various corporate sponsors. To what extent will ticket sales offset the total cost of this event? How many F1 fans will fly to Viet Nam, thereby contributing to the local economy?

In terms of the right just to organize F1 races, 19 of the 21 races worldwide are funded by respective governments of the countries where races are held at an annual cost of $50-60 million. (The ad to the left runs to the right of the VNExpress International article whose title appears in the subject line of this post.)

The article neglected to mention the ticket prices, which range from 74 to 4680 euros ($82 to $5204) in a country with a nominal per capita income estimated at $2,740 in 2019.

Seats waiting for F-1 fans who will not be there, at least next month.

The various justifications for having an F1 face in Hanoi, including the one that it is a demonstration of Viet Nam’s “to host events on a global scale and attract tourism to the country” sound like so much lipstick on a pig. Aren’t there less disruptive and more environmentally-friendly ways of doing this? Hasn’t Hanoi already proven itself in this respect? Hasn’t Viet Nam, most recently with its handling of the COVID-19 epidemic, which has garnered praise from the WHO, among others? First and foremost, F1 Vinfast Vietnam Grand Prix 2020 appears to be another way to make money and hawk Vinfast cars and motorbikes.

Driving on the F-1 race track. Vroom, vroom!

Speaking of attracting tourism to the country, Viet Nam welcomed record numbers of tourists in 2019. For information about some unresolved issues that could reverse this trend, if not addressed soon, including air and water pollution, have a look at this 2.1.20 blog post. (NOTE: The numbers are much lower right now because of the impact of COVID-19 but will rebound after the crisis is over.)

A road blocked off to accommodate bleachers…

On a lighter note, I’d to see how many of these F1 drivers could navigate Hanoi’s traffic, not to mention drive in the countryside of Viet Nam or cross the street, for that matter. That would be more entertaining than watching them race around an expensive track like well-paid rats in a gilded maze.

Postscript: It looks like COVID-19 has claimed another victim, this time the F-1 Vietnam Grand Prix. Follow this link to learn more. This just in: F1 drivers will join video gamers and others in a series of virtual grands prix to replace a swathe of races postponed by the coronavirus outbreak, including the Vietnam debut. Just what people need – more time online in the spirit of digital maximalism as opposed to Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World. You can’t make this stuff up!

Shalom (שלום), MAA