China F1 Fans

Maffei: Formula 1 in China has exploded, a lot of interest from Asia

China F1 Fans

Formula 1 is seeing a surge of interest in China and could comfortably add a second race in Southeast Asia, according to Chief Executive Greg Maffei, boss of the sport’s owners Liberty Media.

Maffei told reporters at the Monaco Grand Prix that Thailand, South Korea and Indonesia were all interested in hosting an Asian round, with the championship currently at a record 24 races.

South Korea previously hosted a grand prix in Mokpo but local organisers are now interested in bringing racing to the capital Seoul.

Thailand’s Prime Minister attended last weekend’s race at Italy’s Imola circuit, with talk of a race in Bangkok, while Liberty Media recently acquired MotoGP, which has races in Thailand and Indonesia.

Formula 1 returned to China this year after a four-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with Stake F1 Team Sauber’s Guanyu Zhou making his home debut.

“We’re lucky that we were able to get a Chinese race off this year after four years,” Maffei told an event attended by Las Vegas Grand Prix promoters. “It was very successful. The interest in China has exploded in part because we now have a Chinese driver. There’s a lot of interest across Asia…Thailand, Seoul, we’ve had interest from Indonesia.”

Maffei: There are lots of places which want a Formula 1 race

Japanese Grand Prix Fans-004

“There are lots of places which want a Formula 1 race and we really look to the intersection of where our fans are and where they could be, who could run a great race and who can frankly afford a race. I think you could very easily see a second one in Southeast Asia,” Maffei added.

Singapore is the only southeast Asian race after Malaysia’s round was dropped. Thailand is represented on the Formula One grid by British-born Williams driver Alex Albon, whose mother is Thai.

Maffei also said Formula 1, which has invested heavily in Las Vegas, hoped to build on last year’s inaugural night grand prix on the famed Strip in which problems with loose drain covers halted practice: “We would surely like to make more money in Las Vegas but over time, I expect we will.”

“I think we’ll be smarter next time. And we’ll be more efficient and will probably be less disruptive to the community and understand better what the fans want,” Maffei said.

The 1976 Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji was the first FIA F1 World Championship race held in Asia. Malaysia was next on the F1 calendar from the continent, their first Grand Prix at Se[ang International Circuit. Bahrain was the first of the Middle East countries to host the series starting in 2004.

Vietnam was set to host a Grand Prix. A deal from the Bernie Ecclestone era that never happened because of Covid-19 and a lack of interest thereafter from the third-world country. But interest in the region remains bullish, despite India’s three-race appearance on the calendar from 2011 to 2013 and the fact that Malaysia fell off the radar too. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin)