PM's dream of a Grand Prix in Thailand is futile
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PM's dream of a Grand Prix in Thailand is futile

Bad news. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin is pitching to bring a Formula One race to Thailand.

The prime minister is keen to host an Asian round as he met F1 executives in Milan and visited a racing circuit in Bologna during his visit to Italy last month.

The fact that it was the second meeting with the F1 bigwigs in merely two months shows his determination to see a race take place in the kingdom for the first time ever.

The most likely venue for the circuit in Thailand, if it happens, would be the premises of U-Tapao airport in Rayong.

He also took along PTT chairman Chatchai Phromlert and BTS Group Holdings president Kavin Kanjanapas to the Milan meeting. The PM hopes the energy conglomerate would be a prime sponsor and BTS would be interested in building the race track.

Mr Srettha has boasted about the benefits to be derived from seeing a race in Thailand as the event would create more jobs, more money and more skills for Thais.

The bid is also a part of his attempts to bring international events to the country to boost tourism and revenue.

"A huge number of people across the world would come to Thailand to watch the race, have food, stay and relax," the PM wrote on X.

"They would use the F1 venue as a meeting place to talk trade and investment, as well as other activities," he added.

Alas, things won't look as rosy as he seems to think. Bringing F1 to a country is not a sure money-maker.

Neighbouring Malaysia has shown Thailand the other side of the coin.

Malaysia decided to scrap hosting F1 after the last race in 2017. The country got the chance to bring the event to the country in 1999, the first time for Southeast Asia.

That pride turned to sadness as it was struggling to fill the 120,000-seat grandstands, and the Malaysian government had to splurge $67 million (2.5 billion baht) each year to keep it running.

What went wrong with Malaysia was the venue was too far from Kuala Lumpur (about one hour's drive from the capital), competition from the Singapore Grand Prix and no homegrown drivers to draw local spectators to cheer them on at the circuit.

Singapore also makes its race different by holding a night race on the streets and offering accompanying concerts and other entertainment activities.

"The returns are no longer positive for Malaysia. That includes declining spectators year-in, year-out," Sepang International Circuit CEO Razlan Razali was quoted by TODAY, a Singapore online news service, in 2017.

But the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

Mr Srettha is not alone in his bid to lure racers to his country.

South Korea and Indonesia are Thailand's competitors, as they also hope that F1 organisers will include their country among the 24 races held each year.

For him, Thailand holds an edge over the other two as it could woo local people to watch racer Alex Albon (British-born with a Thai mother), who drives for Williams Racing.

But in reality, a Thai driver based in the United Kingdom needs to show proof that he can attract a huge number of fans to buy expensive tickets to fill the stands.

The location at U-Tapao would be a big risk, just as the Malaysian Grand Prix was to the Malaysian government, because it is far from big cities. The closest city to U-Tapao is Pattaya.

Mr Srettha said Thailand could build a circuit for racers by 2028 if F1 gives the country a chance.

"I am confident there will be good news in a few months," he said during the Italian trip last month.

What happened to the Grand Prix in Malaysia could make him rethink this grand plan.

A Thai Grand Prix could become a Thailand grand burden if things don't go as he wishes.

Saritdet Marukatat

Bangkok Post columnist and former Digital Media News Editor

Saritdet Marukatat is a Bangkok Post columnist and former Digital Media News Editor at the paper. Contact Saritdet at

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