F1 drops Vietnam from record 23-race 2021 calendar
Singapore GP pencilled in for Oct 3 return next season, after one-year absence
The Vietnamese Grand Prix was absent from a draft 2021 calendar published by Formula One yesterday that featured a record 23 races, with a debut in Saudi Arabia and Singapore pencilled in for Oct 3.
Vietnam was due to host a street race in Hanoi for the first time last April, but that was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The absence of the grand prix next season has been attributed to local issues, although Formula One did not give a reason or mention Vietnam in a statement setting out the planned season.
The BBC reported the decision not to host the race followed the arrest in August of Hanoi People's Committee chairman Nguyen Duc Chung.
The April 25 slot was left vacant, with various circuits in the frame.
The sport, which has never before had more than 21 rounds in a season, said it expected fans to be back at races after a 17-round 2020 season conducted either behind closed doors or with very limited attendances and mainly in Europe due to the coronavirus.
"We are planning for 2021 events with fans that provide an experience close to normal and expect our agreements to be honoured," said chairman and outgoing CEO Chase Carey.
"We have proven that we can safely travel and operate our races, and our promoters increasingly recognise the need to move 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."
The season will start with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 21 and will end in Abu Dhabi on Dec 5.
Saudi Arabia, with a Nov 28 night race along the Red Sea corniche in Jeddah, will become the 33rd country to host a Formula One race.
Brazil's race at Sao Paulo's Interlagos circuit on Nov 14 was subject to a new contract being agreed, as was Spain's round in Barcelona on May 9.
Formula One had planned to move to a new circuit in Rio, but that has proven controversial for environmental reasons and work has yet to start.
The Dutch Grand Prix, at Zandvoort, returns for the first time since 1985 with a race on Sept 5 and immediately after the Aug 29 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps. It forms part of a triple header with Italy on Sept 12.
Russia, Singapore and Japan will also form a first long-haul triple header on Sept 26, Oct 3 and Oct 10; both Asian nations opted out of this year's programme due to the pandemic.
Singapore GP's contract was due to end after next year's race. The Marina Bay Street Circuit has been a fixture of the F1 calendar since 2008.
McLaren boss Zak Brown said the planned 23 races represented "extremely positive news" for the sport's teams and partners after a tough 2020. - REUTERS