BANGKOK, Thailand – Thailand’s bid to host the F1 takes a step backward with the objections of Bangkok residents initiating a search for a new venue outside the capital.
Hosting a Formula 1 race in Thailand, after the approval of a track route in the old part of the capital is knocked on the head, led many to believe the bid will ultimately be scrapped. However, Thailand does have the infrastructure and know-how to host an event of this size. Although it is unproven in F1 experience, Thailand has handled many large international sporting events in the past and is keen to do so again in the future.
Bangkok’s bid to host a round of the FIA Formula One World Championship commenced in early 2012, fueled by strong financial backers such as the energy drink maker and world championship winning F1 team owners Red Bull.
The potential cost to Thailand to host a race weekend is estimated to be around $40m, not including the cost of the venue itself.
What has been noticeable in this story is how vocal the Thai organizers have been – going ahead with the announcement last October that the Grand Prix is as good as a done deal – and the silence of the governing body Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) and the promoting Formula One Management (FOM), headed by Bernie Ecclestone, who normally don’t like it when local organizers jump the gun. Despite all that, F1 supremo Ecclestone reportedly gave his verbal blessing, aiming for an appearance on the 2015 calendar.
It would be the third race in Southeast Asia, with Sepang in Malaysia and Singapore being the other two. Singapore is currently also the host of the only night race on the calendar.
Local organizers have long expressed their desire to have Formula 1 cars race in the streets of Bangkok at night. The Sports Authority of Thailand announced in April 2013 that a route had been approved in the capital, however, this has received much criticism.
Tourism and Sports Minister, Somsak Purisrisak said Kanokphand Chulakasem, Governor of the Sports Authority of Thailand, has been given the task of getting the venue shifted. Somsak said Phuket, Khon Kaen, and Nakhon Ratchasima had offered to host the Formula 1 race.
The Tourism and Sports Ministry had planned to host the race at Bangkok’s Rattanakosin Island which features several landmarks such as the Grand Palace. But the proposal has drawn protests from people in the area and environmentalists.
The minister also said that the Sports Authority of Thailand might also consider the Government Complex in Chaeng Wattana and Muang Thong Thani which could be a new venue for Thailand’s first Formula One race in 2015.
Tourism and Sports Minister Somsak Phurisisak said the protests had prompted the organizers to consider moving the venue to another province which has proper facilities for more than 100,000 people.
This must be approved by the FIA. If the FIA insists the event must be held in Bangkok, then the race may be scrapped, he said.
“We may have to cancel the proposed Grand Prix,” he said.
Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has reportedly given the green light for Thailand to host a race in 2015, but a contract has not yet been signed.