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GP Week : Issue 184
Thailand’s plans to hold its debut Formula One grand prix around the streets of Bangkok hit a snag when the local government passed a law prohibiting racing around some of the city’s most famous landmarks. The Grand Prix of Thailand was set to debut in 2015 around a 5.9 kilometre city circuit – with local sports authorities having approved the layout -- that would have been Formula One’s second night race and would have seen cars drive past some of the city’s most famous monuments: the Grand Palace, the Temple of Dawn and the Victory Monument. “The law came into effect on May 16 prohibiting car racing in inner Bangkok because that area is a conser vation for culture and arts,” Bangkok’s director general of city planning Kriangphon Pattanarat, was quoted as telling news agency AFP. Pattanarat said the law had been under discussion for two or three years and that it wasn’t specifically targeted at Formula One. There is huge enthusiasm in Formula One for a race in Thailand. Energy drinks firm Red Bull, co-founded by the late Thai businessman Chaleo Yoovidhya, are understood to be keen on the race and the Thai side of operations are understood to have already put up the money to host a grand prix. And while plans to run the race around Bangkok seem to have hit a dead end, other locations are being scouted, including the tourist resort of Phuket. A race in Thailand will also open up another Asian market for the sport which under Bernie Ecclestone’s stewardship has been steadily growing its presence in the region in an attempt to tap into its growing popularity among the emerging middle class there. The sport has had a presence in South East Asia since 1999 when the Malaysian Grand Prix was first held and has since added Singapore, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi in the Middle East, China, South Korea and India to its ever-expanding calendar. With Russia set to host a race starting 2014, a Thai race could also potentially spell the end of the grand prix in South Korea which is one of the most low-key of the year and unloved by most, with the track in the middle of nowhere and hours from Seoul by train. F1 >>> nEWs THAI RACE UNRAVELS Tyre manufacturers Hankook and Bridgestone have both ruled out the possibility of replacing Pirelli as Formula One’s sole rubber supplier in 2014 as speculation surrounding the Italian company’s future in the sport continues to mount amid controversy and a barrage of negative press. Pirelli has taken a lot of flack this year for supplying tyres that fall apart too quickly, forcing drivers to drive well within the limits of their cars, despite the fact that the tyres developed by the Italian firm were built to a brief supplied by a sport keen to make racing more exciting after years of processional racing. The aim was to make the tyres less durable in an attempt to force drivers to make more pit-stops, keep team tacticians on their toes and re-introduce the strategic element to racing, and there is no doubt that Pirelli fulfilled the brief. Many have accused Pirelli of taking the brief too far, giving fans contrived racing and robbing drivers of the ability to defend their positions for fear of wearing their rubber out and hurting their overall race. To add to all the negative press, Pirelli have become embroiled in controversy over two separate tyre tests conducted with Ferrari and Mercedes before and after the Spanish Grand Prix, respectively. The paddock rumour mill has been swirling with speculation that tests might be used as an opportunity to replace Pirelli with another supplier. Hankook’s name has cropped up as a possible replacement for Pirelli, with the South Korean company supplying tyres to the DTM German touring car championship and the Formula 3 European Championships among other racing series. But the company’s DTM competition engineer Michael Eckert has denied that they have F1 plans for 2014. “For 2014, it's completely impossible not only because of the lack of tyre development time,” Eckert told Autosport. “Even if Hankook wants to take three, four, five years to jump into Formula One as a supplier, the lack of testing opportunities would make it impossible. With the current cars and drivers, it's impossible [to test], so you need to find a suitable number of vehicles and drivers that would allow you to get some reliable feedback.” Bridgestone, who supplied tyres to Formula One from 1997 until the end of 2010 and were the sole supplier to the sport from 2007 to 2010, also ruled out making a return. “ We have no current plans to re -enter F1,” a Bridgestone spokesperson told Autosport. “Since our participation in F1, Bridgestone has achieved a significant improvement in brand awareness in Europe and in other areas all over the world.” Meanwhile, Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery warned over the Monaco Grand Prix weekend that his company could pull out of Formula One if not offered a new deal soon. Should that transpire, it would leave the sport in the lurch just as 2014’s radically different engine rules – with their attendant effect on tyre construction – come into force. HANKOOK, BS SAY NO PLANS TO SUPPLY 10 GPWEEK.com // 10 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: