The organisers of the touted Thai Grand Prix have the money in place and are willing to run a night race to fit in with European TV schedules which will have pleased Bernie Ecclestone and should attract sponsorship: what then could stop the idea going ahead and the proposed inaugural race the 2014 Thai Grand Prix becoming a reality?
The appetite for Formula One in Thailand is thought to be strong and as discussed earlier this year in this article Thailand has had a Formula one driver in the past when Prince Bira, of then Siam, competed between 1950 and 1954; Thailand then has more of a history of motorsport than any other Asian country other than Malaysia, Singapore and Japan. The passion for motorsport though may become clear this December when the Race of Champions featuring drivers such as Vettel and Schumacher comes to the country for the first of two years. The event previously held at venues such as Wembley in London will be at Rajamangala National Stadium in Bangkok and the capacity for the event will be 50,000: a sell out or close to a sell out will be a good sign for a Grand Prix which would also attract tourists.
Certainly a major reason for getting the Thai Grand Prix will be to bring more tourists to Thailand and to Bankok especially that has suffered from International news stories in recent years where floods and political protests have left tourists stranded at Bankok’s airport. Bernie Ecclestone is likely to look for assurances that there will be no repeats of at least the occupation of the airport by protestors or other disruption but the Sports Authority of Thailand’s chairman Kanokphand Chulakasem said at a press conference for the Race of Champions that regarding the Grand Prix: “Our discussions with Bernie Ecclestone have gone smoothly,…..Chalerm Yoovidhya, Red Bull team owner, is helping negotiate the hosting fee, which is likely to be about Bt1.2 billion’ (that’s £24.5 million).
Red Bull is of course partly Thai owned as it was in Thailand the energy drink that became Red Bull was first sold before being introduced to the rest of the World in Partnership with Dietrich Materschitz; as such the Thai people see Red Bull as their national team and support is high. Red Bull may well be major sponsors of the race therefore and help cover the outlay, talking about the costs of staging a Thai Grand Prix Mr Chulakasem said:
“The cost of building a new F1 venue to accommodate 100,000 spectators will be about Bt100 million. We need to finalise the budget before we propose it to the cabinet. We expect the overall budget for hosting an F1 race to be around Bt5 billion,[approx. £100 million] “.
It seems then that there is still some way to go for the Grand Prix to go ahead with government approval but the idea seems a fine one in principle.