At only four races into the current Formula 1 season, a season being dominated once again by Mercedes, the spotlight is already being shone on what next year is expected to bring. After all the uncertainty surrounding Miami this week, one intended addition to the 2020 calendar which goes from strength to strength is the street circuit in Hanoi, Vietnam planned for next April. So, with less than a year to go, how realistic is it that the track will be ready in time and what is in store?
The latest issue of F1 Racing (The Formula 1 owned magazine) has provided an insight into how the circuit in the Nam Tu Liem district (downtown Hanoi) is going to look. A standout image includes a long wide straight measuring 1.5km – Baku will still have the longest straight of the F1 calendar at 2.2km but this is a tantalising prospect nonetheless. Where Hanoi differs to Baku is the fact that a number of its straights are connected by roundabouts into long braking zones and tight hairpins. Hanoi will look very much the epitome of a city street circuit and the namesake managing director of the company Tilke behind its design is very pleased with what is on the way. Carsten Tilke remarked:
"There was a close co-operation with the team at Formula 1 and the organisers at Hanoi to design the circuit…They had a lot of input and we had many discussions about how we could create a good circuit, not only from a driving perspective but to offer a lot of overtaking too.’’
The prospect of increased overtaking is enough to intrigue any racing fan and the citizens of Hanoi came out in their thousands to witness the recent Heineken launch party with a guest appearance by former Formula 1 racer David Coulthard pulling donuts and burning rubber in a halo-less Red Bull from the past. The vehicle on track may have been from a previous era of racing but Hanoi certainly intends to be the future of Formula 1.
So much so, that the plans include a capacity of 100,000 race goers; high expectation indeed.
Following inspiration from Mexico’s stadium element of its own F1 circuit, the Hanoi track will feature grandstands on both sides of the track at the end of the aforementioned long straight and a hungry crowd will be anticipating a feast of overtaking manoeuvers. Tilke willingly describes this as a "stadium" section (showing clear reference to Mexico).
When reflecting on the track as a whole, Tilke told journalists:
"The whole track has a nice combination of fast corners and long straights, so it will be difficult to find a good setup for the teams…our simulations have shown it will offer good racing and plenty of overtaking options. It will be difficult to get a good lap time as it will be very easy to make a mistake - so hopefully the drivers will like the challenge."
So, how is construction proceeding? To this question, Tilke replied:
"The design and planning process is quite far down the line…almost everything is ready, but the construction has only just started.’’
Formula One supremo Chase Carey has told fans that next year’s inaugural race in Hanoi will be “uniquely exciting” after he inspected the initial work on the 5.6km track two weeks ago. Carey also warned organisers to be focused despite the hype surrounding the proposed event:
“There’s a lot to get done, so the right thing is to continue to worry, not to take things for granted.”
Vietnam’s projected 100,000 spectators would not come close to the Asian highlight in the F1 crown that is the Marina Bay Sands street race – 263,000 in attendance last year - but this could be the beginning of an F1 Asian assault and with a circuit looking this good many a fan will be desperate to see it come to pass.