A Thailand Grand Prix

There are probably too many Formula 1 races in Asia at the moment, but one country that is keen to get involved is Thailand, where Red Bull originated and where there seems to be a certain amount of national pride about the success of the Red Bull Racing team in recent years. There has been talk of a street race in Bangkok and there is no doubt that the government would welcome moves to restore the tourist industry which was damaged by the military coup in 2006, and the subsequent political instabity and violence. The situation changed in July last year when an election brought Yinglat Shinawatra to power. She is the country’s first female Prime Minister and is the sister of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was overthrown in the coup. he was later found guilty of various corruption charges and has been living in exile in recent years. The new government is now looking at whether to accept a recommendation that the sentence against Thaksin be dropped. There are fears that his return to Thailand could trigger new clashes between his supporters and those of the conservative royalist elite and the military. The army says that it will not intervene again as long as the new government keeps on the straight and narrow. More than 100 politicians were banned from office five years ago, but there are moves now to have them allowed back.

There is a small permanent circuit in the seaside town of Pattaya, which was built in 1985. This is named after Prince Bira, a member of the Thai royal family, who raced Grand Prix cars with great success in the 1930s and 1950s.

Red Bull would likely help to pay for such an event although the drink on offer in Thailand is very different to the international one but more than 100,000 people turned out recently when Mark Webber drove a Red Bull-Renault on Bangkok’s Rajdamnoen Avenue, as part of the celebrations for HM the King’s 84th birthday. The event was presided over by Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn. Red Bull and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration jointly organised the event.

It should also be noted that Red Bull is funding the career of a young Anglo-Thai rising star called Alexander Albon. The 16-year-old is making a big step up this year moving to Formula Renault, after an impressive career in karts, which included winning the KF3 World Championship and battling Nick de Vries for last year’s KF1 title, finishing runner-up in his debut year against the more experienced de Vries. Albon will be driving for Epic Racing in the Eurocup and Alps championships.

The problem will a Thai GP is that the F1 calendar is already oversubscribed and there is speculation that there might start to be alternation between some of the Asia venues.

30 thoughts on “A Thailand Grand Prix

  1. I’m married to a Thai and travel 3 , 4 times a year. Once a certain person passes on , all hell will break loose, civil war will happen between the reds and yellow , but most thais will get on with there life’s , and yes red bull so different over there , almost flat without the gas but god two small bottle and your awake for hours 🙂 love the stuff for long nights out ….my wife hates the stuff …very much a stay awake drink 🙂 would love to see a f1 there would be great fun ….L L T K

  2. This is completely speculative, but do you think there is much chance of the new concorde having an increased maximum number of races?

    There seems to be a lot coming onto the calendar, and not that many opting to make way.

    1. Dont worry, spain will alternate between barca and valancia. If there is 2 GP in the US, Montreal may get drop. Barain is a big question mark, if they have to cancel the race this year, I dont see F1 coming back any time soon.

      1. Montreal get dropped from the calendar? Montreal attracts 300,000 people over it’s weekend to it’s race and it’s well liked by the teams & the fans of europe [where all the tv money is according to your other post]. My friend, give your head a good shake before you make a statement like that since you don’t know what your talking about.

        1. Don’t take this personally, but it’s hard not to laugh.

          Feel free to look up the 2009 Canadian Grand Prix.

          Race spectator numbers are largely irrelevant. TV viewer figures don’t change that much race to race. Fans and teams have essentially zero input in choosing F1 race tracks.

          If the circuit has the money, the race will keep coming. As soon as it doesn’t, F1 (read: FOM) will walk away without a drop of sentimentality.

          1. Aye, your right Jem. It’s hard not to laugh. When Formula One Management sought to charge higher fees to host the Canadian Grand Prix when the old contract was running out, Normand Legault and his boys and girls walked away from the table and let Bernie keep his game for the proposed $35 million a year fee. In November of that same year Formula One Administration, Quebec officials & the grand prix organizers came to an agreement for a 5 year contract at $15 million a year. Quite a drop in the price of race fees don’t you think?

      2. “If there is 2 GP in the US, Montreal may get drop.”

        Sing a different song there Bieber! Montreal is in prime time on TV in Europe and is one of the highest rated F1 broadcasts; in the afternoon for ALL of the America’s, both north and south, the race is part owned by Bernie and Montreal will share in the freight charges with New Jersey. Perhaps you can visit Montreal and meet the real Justin Bieber as I hear he’s an F1 fan… LOL

  3. please please not another asian circuit
    The only one that is a true f1 track is suzuka.
    Joe, your blog carries some weight with bernie and the FIA could you please start a campaign to bring f1 back home to the much loved circuits of old poor depressed economically stagnant europe?

    1. Why don’t you do it yourself?

      If you want it back to old poor depressed economically stagnant europe i suggest you start a occupy Bernie rally to make it happen.

    2. Oh come on. Sepang is a nice track as well. The track in India looks fantastic although it didn’t produce a grea race last year.

      I do agree though that Thailand is not the place to be for F1. The whole country is rather unstable right now with Thaksin’s sister in charge.

  4. “There are probably too many Formula 1 races in Asia at the moment, but one country that is probably keen in Thailand, where Red Bull originated and where there seems to be a certain amount of national pride about the success of the Red Bull Racing team in recent years.”

    National pride is a curious thing, for a British-based team that runs under an Austrian licence! I know its originally a Thai drink, but that is kinda curious

  5. “The problem will a Thai GP is that the F1 calendar is already oversubscribed and there is speculation that there might start to be alternation between some of the Asia venues.”
    Nah! Bernie need only drop some of the more pesky venues with cash flow problems, or those who do not tug the forelock quickly enough. (Maybe those with grandiose ideas of negotiating the Bernie fee from a level starting point)

    I am sure that Bernie will sort it out, then after we have complained for a year or so it will seem normal to have all races in the middle of the night, ether for the locals/drivers or us listening in the uk.

    1. Bernie always amuses me. He says he wants Australia as a night race because the European audience is so important, while simultaneously taking races away from Europe…

      1. Its quite simple. F1 gets most of its audience(TV money) from Europe. On the other hand F1 can get more money for hosting F1 races from Asian/Middle-eastern countries because the government over there is willing to subsides the hosting fee.

    1. Obvious answer is Korea.

      Wherever the money starts to dry up will get squeezed, with the only exception being Shanghai because the car companies want/need China more than China needs F1.

      If we’re lucky, Singapore. If we’re unlucky, Suzuka.

  6. Personally although the Asian circuits are hard on the teams and journalists with the travel compared to Europe I actually prefer the scheduling. It means I can watch the race early Sunday and have the rest of the day to do things (less nagging from the wife that Formula 1 is coming first). I do think some races in Europe should have heritage status to protect them though like Spa, Britain etc.

  7. I’ve got no problem with more Asian Grand Prix. The less European Grand Prix, the less number of late Sunday nights for me.

  8. Yeongam are looking to renegotiate their contract. Over in Japan, Aida and Fuji couldn’t make their grand prix make money and Suzuka don’t make the money they once did, I wouldn’t be surprised to see those venues alternate at some point in the future.

  9. Money talks! But then again sometimes it is just… talk. What do you think Joe – just near the Shanghai contract expiry Bernie will be all ‘yes Thailand is great’?

  10. I love f1 and iv’e followed it for the last 30 years, im afraid Mr E and the teams have all got too greedy. European curcuits cant afford the financial demands Mr E requires. It seems all the other countries goverments are paying subsudies, where their own people are very poor, hmm not very good if you ask me. The asian cucuits are rubbish they resemble scalextric tracks.Suzuka is a challenge of its own. Poor old europe, should’nt have let this happen, but they did and they only got themselves to blame. Greed is ruining it all for the real spectators…..Red bull, how very odd, only thinking about advertising their drinks to push up the sales globally…….

  11. “…the F1 calendar is already oversubscribed…”

    Is it? This has become something of an article of faith amongst some in recent times, but you really have to look at the competition. If F1 is ever to compete in North America (I can’t really speak for Europe or Asia) you’ll have to get onto a North American schedule (and be sure to pronounce that with a k…). So who are you competing against?

    NASCAR Sprint: 36 regular races and 3 specials in 9 months (i.e. about 1 a week, on average)
    NASCAR Nationwide: 33 races in 9 months (5 races every 6 weeks)
    IndyCar: 16 races in 6 months (2 every 3 weeks)
    MotoGP: 18 races in 7 months (2 every 3 weeks)

    Then look at some typical non-motorsport offerings:

    NHL and NBA: each team plays 82 times in a regular season (6 months) with up to 21 playoff games (two more months) and the All Stars and showcase games thrown in for good measure (a potential 3 games a week, or more…)
    NFL: 16 games in 17 weeks (1 a week except for Christmas)
    English Premiere League: 38 league games in 9 months (1 a week) with lots of cup, European and international games thrown in as well
    PGA Golf: 41 top line events, each at least 3 days long, over 9 months (more than 1 a week) with Ryder Cup extra

    Compared to these, F1’s 20 races in 8 months (4 races every 7 weeks) looks distinctly anaemic. Not only that, but F1’s schedule is so disjointed (a one week break here, two or three weeks there, and a yawning 4 weeks in the middle) that casual viewers lose all momentum to the season. When you compare value for money for your television subscription F1 struggles. F1 has a number of problems selling itself over here, but those are the main ones. Of the comparisons I’ve shown, IndyCar and MotoGP are far less popular than the rest, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they have the scantiest calendars. To compete you need to get that schedule metronomic in its regularity (one race every two weeks, for 6 months of the year, at least) and keep up the pace.

    I appreciate the the culture and history of F1 militate against this (oh, for the days that Jenks could biff around Europe in his E-Type, take in a Grand Prix a month, and fill the rest of his time with F2 or sportscar races, eh?) but this is the 21st century and as people in F1 seem addicted to drinking money then they have to make some considerable effort to earn it. I know that’s hard on you journalists and the junior team members who have to fly coach, but be very aware that for every person who has a job in F1 there are hundreds of junior engineers and the like (and journalists…) who would give both kidneys for the chance to be where you are. Nor is your schedule particularly bad in the context of other professions. In exploration geology (my field) rotations of “6&2” are not at all uncommon. In other words, six weeks away from home, working 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, often in the middle of nowhere in a tent, then 2 weeks off to recover, before back out for another 6 week swing. When the market was down a few years ago one chap offered me an 8&2 contract and seemed surprised when I turned him down. Why do people put up with it? That’s market economics for you. The job is awesome in so many regards (there aren’t many professional explorers left in the world), it can pay extremely well even in normal circumstances, and if you happen to have plenty of stock options in a company that hits the big one then millionaire status isn’t a pipe dream, and where dreams are concerned people sometimes don’t think straight. Look at where BCE, FOGW, PH, EJ, RD, RB and so on started. Millionaires all. Squillionaires in many cases. One gazillionaire…

    Your profession and mine (and doubtless many others) actually have quite a few parallels in that regard. The front line, boots on the ground work is definitely the preserve of the young and hungry. Those that survive that trial by fire slowly work their way up the greasy pole and spend more time in the office and less in the sun, before eventually starting out on their own, and finally the elder statesmen and stateswomen only have to show their face a handful of times a year to keep tabs on the general trends and personalities, but their experience and knowledge keeps them right at the tip of writers who must be read (Doodson is a prime example). There will be some pain initially, as people try to get used to the new system, teams try to work out the logistics and HR implications, and journalists work out new systems (freelancers teaming up seems to have worked for you and DT, for example, how about taking alternating fly away races?), but it’s just a case of adjusting to a new set of demands and constraints. A few years in F1 and any engineer could likely walk in to a regular engineering firm without even having to interview. Ditto public relations and other team members. Stop looking at what you are doing now as what you’ll be doing in 10 years; enjoy the ride while it lasts. Make plans to evolve your career, and make your own mind up (and live with the consequences) as to where you want to place the fulcrum of the work-life balance.

    Of course, if this really doesn’t appeal to those involved then you really have to reappraise the present commercial model of F1. If you want to only appeal to dedicated fans then the broadcasting mechanisms are all wrong. You need high quality streaming video. You need online pay-per-view. You need more opportunities for us diehards to get thoroughly immersed. Each NASCAR race here gets 5-6 hours coverage on TV; F1 gets 2. As TSN in Canada does such an appalling job of broadcasting F1 why can’t I buy my coverage, race-by-race, from Sky? As going out to the pub for an evening would probably cost me $20-40 I think I’d probably pay that for a 4-5 hour F1 show. I’ll not pay that much for what’s on offer at the moment. That’s like trying to fob off a heroin addict with a cupful of methodone, and expecting them to still be paying the same price as for full-fat scag. Lots of interviews, full qualification coverage, uninterrupted race coverage, technical and colour pieces, punditry, perhaps a historical piece or two. Hey, maybe you could sell GrandPrix+’s format? Now, GP+ in moving picture format would be a worthy basis for a pay-per-view package!

    Wow, terribly sorry that this rambled on so long. Doubtless it has gotten up your nose somewhat, but then blogs are all about opinion, as you so rightly say, so make of mine what you will (I know you’ll do that anyway, but normal social pleasantries demanded I say it). Do feel free to hit the delete button rather than posting it. Still enjoying GP+ just as much as ever, and very much looking forward to your 100th edition. Keep up the good work all of you.

    1. I’d just like to say that I disagree with your comparisons with the various leagues outside motor sports. I honestly don’t know enough about the American motor sports series to even start that conversation.

      [i]Days of competition[/i]

      F1 is more than the race day, you’ve got to look at qualifying and practice as part of the event – if nothing else it’s a part where the competitors aren’t going to get to go home and see their kids (except for one home GP a year – maybe).

      If you replace “20 races a year” with “60 days out on track per year” then the comparison with top level football seems more reasonable. A top international player with a truly top level club might be expected to play 35 league games, 10 cup games, 10 continental games and 5 international games in a year – or 10 in an international tournament year (60/65 in total).

      For those who say that practice doesn’t matter, I’ll simply state that my position is that half of F1 is about competing against the other teams and half is competing against the track itself. I count practice as a key part of that.

      [i]Transport – distance and time [/i]

      Not even going to talk about Premiership football, England – even Europe – is a doddle compared to the US.

      Taking the NHL, there is deliberate structure of east and west divisions to reduce travel time and fixture overload, but even ignoring that the longest possible trip in the NHL is about 4500km (I “measured” Edmonton to Miami but I think Vancouver to Montréal is similar). Flight time is reckoned to be around 6-7 hours from what I’ve seen on the internet.

      By comparison, only the European races come within that sort of radius – all the other trips are longer, some of them significantly more (Australia and the Far Eastern races in particular). The knock-on effect of this is that three days competition can become a five day diary entry.

      Notably this also includes large time differences, something which very few sports have to really take into account. Add the effect of three days of competition rather than just one and the staff are forced to pay attention to the time difference, you can’t just leave your watch set to home time, play your match and go home without changing sleeping and eating patterns.

      And let’s not even start talking about quantities of shipping, I’d love to know the total number of ton-miles of F1 freight but I’m reasonably certain that the figures would be mind boggling and put almost every other sport in the shade.

      1. Interesting points, and I can see where you are coming from. However, I was actually coming at it from the other angle. F1 may have lots of excuses as to why these things can’t happen, but when you are competing for TV subscribers (or trying to persuade a free-to-air to buy the contract) they are all completely irrelevant. F1 may be all glitz and glamour to those inside, and they may think that’s enough to be top dog in the sporting entertainment world (Max Mosley was wrong, F1 makes its money as an entertainment) but looked at dispassionately I can see why it struggles in the North American market. Certainly, asking many of my anglophone colleagues and friends about it (francophones are much bigger F1 fans, it is no coincidence that the only successful modern F1 race in North America is in Montreal) these are issues that are thrown up.

  12. The asian grand prix most likely to leave soonest would be the Korean Gp. The organizers are loosing money and seem to have given up on their grandiose plans for the area surrounding the track.

    The Malaysian gp has lost a lot of fans who prefer the glitz, glamor, and convenience of Singapore. The unpredictable weather isn’t helping either. Bernie has been pushing for a night race but the organizers aren’t biting.

    The Singapore gp organizers have been making some noise about evaluating the need for renewing their contract once it expires this year. Could be just posturing prior to contract renewal but who knows?

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