THE chances of Vietnam ever seeing a Formula 1 Grand Prix are getting slimmer all the time.
The central government’s crackdown on corruption is now threatening any major events that were announced during the tenure of former city Mayor Nguyen Duc Chung.
The Grand Prix website reports it was Chung that pushed the central government to back the construction of a semi-permanent circuit around the My Dinh National Stadium, some 11km west of Hanoi’s city centre.
It’s an investment estimated at nearly $200 million Australian dollars and that is just for for the initial construction.
An extra $13 million per year is also required for the installation and removal of the temporary structure, including walls, ProTec barriers, safety nets, grandstands, illumination et al.
They’re required to surround the four main straights and two roundabouts when cars would be running on the street circuit part of the track, having emerged from the permanent structure built around the stadium.
Chung was jailed for five years in December, having pleaded guilty to the charges of stealing state documents and also faking documentation from the Hanoi Mayor’s office for personal gain.
In spite of his plea and claiming poor health to spare him from being sent to prison, Chung was sentenced to five years after a speedy process — a decision that took just four hours.
But his problems don’t seem to have finished there.
There are now indications from Vietnam further charges will be pressed against the former mayor, involving some of the major contracts he signed with construction and promotional companies.
The deal done with the VinGroup, the official promoter of the Vietnamese Grand Prix, now suggests Chung received a substantial payback from all the deals.
The experience seems to have put the Vietnamese Government off Formula 1, as under President Nguyen Phu Trong’ guidance the country has seen the strongest anti-corruption drive in its history.
All temporary structures that were put in place for last year’s race have been taken out since the start of October, 2020 and My Dinh district life has returned to normal, with virtually no signs that part of town was going to be used for motor racing.
Also, all main Vietnamese newspapers have been quietly ordered to remove the Formula 1 sections from their websites and limit their news about the sport to the bare minimum: a clear sign the government wants its population to forget the Grand Prix was ever a possibility.
Unless there’s a dramatic change in the situation, Vietnam will join the list of countries with aborted Grand Prix plans.
It seems the stadium built last year, including the pit building and main grandstand, will remain a white elephant for the local population to see and dream about what could have been . . .
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