Asia GP: Suzuka and Singapore top, India shy / Formula 1

Asia GP: Suzuka and Singapore top, India shy / Formula 1

Formula 1 owner Liberty Media wants to expand the premier class in Asia in the medium term. But our examples show: Not all Grands Prix in Asia were worthy Grand Prix.

Formula 1 is currently visiting the beautiful Suzuka Circuit, a traditional Honda race track popular with fans and drivers alike.

One of the goals of Formula 1 owner Liberty Media: to establish a wider presence in America, Asia and the Middle East. In the USA it worked well with Miami (since 2022) and Las Vegas (since 2023), and we also have the World Cup round in Austin (Texas). In terms of the Arabian Peninsula, the game has the most residents of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Abu Dhabi.

Asia, however, is a mixture of hits and misses, as our history shows.

Singapore: First night doctor
The organizers of the Singapore GP have achieved something amazing: as the first night GP since 2008, their race has become an important part of the World Championship calendar (when the world is not in a pandemic).

GP cars look magical under artificial light. Drivers enjoy the challenges of a tricky track that has to be exposed in the heat and humidity. Fans can look forward to many races and concerts, which they can enjoy for free with a Formula 1 ticket.

Singapore boasts world status, a city in GP fever. Success in Singapore encouraged Liberty Media to expand its presence in Asia.

Suzuka: classic
The Japanese are absolutely crazy when it comes to Formula 1. Their racing madness is not only expressed in fancy clothes – some make it themselves, others buy original memorabilia for a lot of money, which they wear with pride.

Sebastian Vettel once told me: “The fans are special. I don’t know of any other country where so many fans are already sitting in their stadiums on Thursday, and none of us go to the track. They just want to see the cars and watch the mechanics at work. The same applies after the race – they sit in their seats and enjoy the spectacle. They take all the emotions and give us a feeling of great gratitude that we run here.

Suzuka is a race track made of grit and grain. When it comes to favorite tracks, Suzuka appears in the top three for almost all drivers – often cited as Monte Carlo or Spa-Francorchamps.

China: The case of fifty-fifty
The 1000th round of the World Championship in the history of Formula 1 took place in China on April 14, 2019, but there was no real atmosphere to celebrate. The success of the GP race in the Middle Kingdom is still a good start: there was great interest in the first race, but the fans stayed away from the main race center. Maybe that will change if a local driver, Guanyu Zhou, starts this season. When the track opened in 2004, it was considered the most expensive racetrack in the world – with construction costs of (not officially confirmed) $500 million. For the first time since 2019 and the corona pandemic, Formula 1 will return to Shanghai in 2023.

Malaysia: Curtain!
The Asian Formula 1 race lasted 19 years and suffered from a long-term lack of spectators. The deal negotiated by long-time F1 promoter Bernie Ecclestone did not last long, and the curtain fell on the 2017 edition. That’s a shame because we were always treated to great motorsport on the spectacular Sepang track.

Fuji: One way is giving up
The first two Japanese Grand Prix were held at Fuji, in 1976 and 1977. In 2007, Formula 1 returned to the foot of the famous volcano. But just two years later, the Japanese had to throw in the towel. They were unable to raise the investments needed to modernize the railways and bid farewell to the GP calendar.

The race was supposed to be held alternating with Suzuka. In a letter in 2009, the Toyota-owned route operator said it was too risky from a business perspective to make significant investments in difficult times. This also affected the important expansion of the infrastructure around the course, where fans were busily transported to and from only one entrance road, which meant that there were always endless queues.

India: Ready for first abandonment
When System 1 was first launched at the “Buddh International Circuit” near Greater Noida (New Delhi) in 2011, the circuit already had an impressive patina, and that’s not meant as a compliment. The slope was built to slip, and some areas were ready for demolition shortly after completion. The stairs lead nowhere, the walls were bent, the doors didn’t lock. Three grueling races followed in a country that has problems unlike Formula 1. The track was too far from New Delhi to attract fans. Or as your colleague used to say: “Many spectators today came dressed as chairs.”

For years, the Indian authorities have been arguing with System 1 over tax payments. The Indians were of the opinion that racing teams should pay a withholding tax for their appearance on the “International Buddh Circuit” (which, for example, racing drivers pay in each country for their work). A point to note: The tax office in India did not want to tax the team’s profits, but their entire income. Of course the racing teams disagree with this. The money would be terrible.

India was not popular from the first edition: racing teams complained about the customs procedures, which were more difficult and unclear than in any other Formula 1 race. Frequent smoke and unacceptable sanitary conditions were added to this. Not to mention the traffic chaos and the bad number of spectators. The race track was supposed to be the center of a whole sports city, which turned out to be a good plan for robbers. Nobody in Formula 1 is shedding a single tear after this Grand Prix.

South Korea: Program failure
The South Korean Grand Prix in Yeongam County has had to contend with financial problems since it first aired in 2010, viewership left much to be desired, and work was still being done on the slopes during the first half. of training was already underway. Weeks of rain had delayed the work.

A big mistake was planned, which was obvious to everyone – except the South Koreans. Who takes a four-hour drive from the capital city of Seoul to South Jeolla Province to sit on a windy platform and not be given any useful software to help? The fact that visitors had to spend the night in love hotels, whose regular residents had been moved far from the city government’s reach by busloads, did not add to the appeal.

In 2013, the race near the industrial town of Mokpo was removed from the calendar, to the relief of the GP teams. All that remains of the city once planned around the course, which looks like a combination of Singapore and Monaco in the graphics, is computer animation.

How important Formula 1 was to downhill drivers was evident when the GP assistants returned for the second edition in 2011: the champagne flutes from the 2010 award ceremony were still on the winners’ podium, and there were leftovers from the previous year. race team fridges. What a mess!

TI-Circuit Aida: megalomania in Japanese
What is IT? The so-called “Pacific Grand Prix” was held at the “Tanaka International Circuit Aida” in 1994 and 1995 – because the title of the Japan Grand Prix had already been given to Suzuka.

slope? A monument to the megalomania of entrepreneur Hajime Tanaka in Okayama Prefecture, which is so remote it looks as if the race track had to be hidden from the public. Slope layout: very slow, not challenging. Fortunately, after two times it ended. The track was later renamed the Okayama International Circuit and races of the Japanese series are held regularly.