- The Inside Line
Thailand or bustKate Walker July 11, 2013
In my never-ending quest to see the proposed Thai Grand Prix come to life it was heartening to see reports that a new effort is underway to bring Formula One to Pattaya.
This week the Bangkok Post reported that Itthiphol Khunpluem, mayor of Pattaya, had put his city forward as an ideal place to host a grand prix in light of recent changes to the law that made the proposed Bangkok street circuit untenable.
At present there are no details of the Pattayan bid
"We are interested in hosting the F1," Itthiphol told the paper. "We have enough accommodation. It is not far from Bangkok. It is near the sea so it would be convenient for transportation of equipment."
The next step will see Pattaya officials draft a letter of intention for submission to the Tourism and Sports Ministry, who will consider whether or not to give their support to the bid.
Located around 100 miles southeast of Bangkok, Pattaya is already a bustling tourist spot, well-known to travellers for its beaches. But the resort also has something of a seedy reputation; it is a popular destination for sex tourists, both those who come to gawk at the shows and those who hope to avail themselves of opportunities not available elsewhere.
Bringing Formula One to town would help Pattaya to shed some of its seedy rep; town officials are already working hard to clean up the famous 'Walking Street', and the imminent arrival of the F1 circus would add a new impetus to their work.
But while Pattaya could benefit from a grand prix, as an already popular tourist destination it does not need one in order to put itself on the map. This could make negotiations very interesting indeed, should the Pattaya proposal get to that stage. Given the recent waiving of fees for the German Grand Prix, Bernie Ecclestone is going to have to get used to potential race hosts attempting to play hardball.
Formula One has not reached market saturation, but when it comes to finding the combination of a place eager to host a race, with the money to pay the fees, and which needs our exposure more than we need them? The list of potential candidates is growing ever shorter.
Southeast Asian countries willing to hold night races are a boon to Ecclestone, thanks to the convenient European TV scheduling. Thanks to the Red Bull connection, there is plenty of private money available for a race, and an existing 'local' brand in place to promote it. Thailand is just what Bernie Ecclestone wants, which means we'll almost certainly get it.