Will Thailand really get a Formula 1 race?


The information that we are in the running for an F1 race has brought out plenty of rumors.  One that has resurfaced, after about eight or ten years, is that a new track is to be built in Chonburi province, complete with a five star hotel and a racing complex which can be used for other categories.  This was make-believe then.  It is still make-believe now.

The ‘real’ situation is that Bernie Ecclestone, always on the lookout for a quick buck or two, “sells” the licenses to hold an F1 race.  That license is not cheap, running into several million dollars.  Bernie has also said that any Thai F1 race will be a street race, and will be held at night.  And don’t start to think that we are going to get F1 race cars at Bang Saen either.  (However, with Sonthaya Kunplome being the real mover in Bang Saen, he is putting forward the idea of two meetings there per year, up from the current annual event.)

F1 lighting. F1 lighting.

Back to Bernie – the cunning little chap has said the (proposed) Thai F1 race will be in Bangkok, with Ratchadamnoen Avenue and the Victory Monument in the track layout.  Now envisage, if you will, Bangkok City laborers erecting safety fences all along the roads to be used.  How many days of gridlock will this bring?

Now we come to the small problem of lighting.  Illumination of the degree required for F1 is a bit more than a 60 watt bulb on the end of a bamboo pole.

Taking the Singapore experience as a guide, the lighting system for the track uses 1,500 lighting projectors powered by 12 twin-power generators.  The 24 generators are fitted in ‘special protected areas’ and will power, in addition to the lights, the PA system as well as the track’s monitoring equipment.  An estimated 3 megawatts of power is required for the event’s lighting system.  And how much for that lot?

Now, will that bring a benefit to Thailand, with hordes of spectators coming to watch?  The Grand Prix in Australia loses millions every year.  The new track in Korea has lost money each year, to the tune of 36 million dollars this year.  Germany says they can’t afford to run their GP without the government picking up the shortfall.  France ditto.  Spain ditto.  And so it goes on.

China gives away grandstand tickets, just so the stands don’t look empty.  Ditto Malaysia.  And while I am on about tickets, how much for a ticket to the UK venue Silverstone?  That will set you back at least 7,250 Thai baht.  Or Malaysia, that works out to be around 10,000 Thai baht.  Now then, how many ordinary Thais can afford those sorts of ticket prices.  Not many, and they will be giving away tickets so that they don’t lose face.  However, major projects such as this do lend themselves to a little bit of skimming!

I estimate the cost to stage a GP here in Bangkok to be about 12 billion baht, plus the cost of the lighting.  So, do you think we will have a GP?  I don’t!