Skip to main content

F1’s Expansion Into ‘New’ Markets

Formula 1 has predominantly had a European love affair. There have been far-off flings into North and South America, South Africa and season-ending races in Japan and Australia. But it wasn’t until a new country appeared on the calendar in 1999 that F1 broke into Asia and became a truly global sport. When the Sepang International Circuit, near Kuala Lumpur, first hosted the Malaysian Grand Prix, it was the initial step in the expansion of the traditional 16-race season.

Over 20 years on, the calendar will grow to a record-breaking 22 races with the latest addition being Hanoi. Its city streets will host the Formula 1 VinFast Vietnam Grand Prix on 3rd – 5th April, 2020.

When Sepang held its inaugural race in 1999, it was one of the first purpose-built grand prix circuits designed by legendary track designer Hermann Tilke. The wide track, state-of-the-art facilities and strategic location set a new standard for countries joining the F1 schedule. Five years later, two new additions to the calendar appeared. On the memorable date of 04/04/04, the tiny Gulf kingdom of Bahrain unveiled its new track in Sakhir while in September the Shanghai International Circuit hosted its first race as Formula 1 gained a foothold in China.

A year later, another Tilke-designed track held the Turkish Grand Prix at a new facility on the outskirts of Istanbul – but the deal came to an end after just seven seasons.

The tide was turning. F1 promoters realised they had the opportunity to endorse both their city and country by hosting street races rather than constructing brand-new facilities. In 2008, two new races expanded the F1 calendar to 18 races as the Spanish seaside town of Valencia and the Asian city of Singapore both held grands prix on closed public roads – the latter under floodlights.

A second night race took place in the United Arab Emirates with Abu Dhabi the location in 2009 and further expansion took place with a new race in Korea (2010) and India (2011). Russia followed in 2014, followed two years later by near-neighbours Azerbaijan, with an exciting new race on the city’s capital Baku.

With Formula 1’s continued growth towards “destination cities” it is breaking ground with another new territory this year as Vietnam will be the 33rd different country to hold a grand prix since the FIA Formula 1 World Championship began in 1950. The pinnacle of motorsport will make its first ever appearance at the Tilke-designed Hanoi Circuit on 3rd – 5th April, 2020. 

Make sure you buy your tickets now at