What it Would Mean for the Philippines to Host an F1 Race

What it Would Mean for the Philippines to Host a Formula 1 Race

It would take a lot for the Philippines to host an F1 race. But, taking the risk could give the country a lot back in return.

Throughout the years, I’ve often been asked, “Why can’t we have an F1 race here in the Philippines?”

My answer is always the same: it’s impossible without a group willing to gamble a substantial amount of money with no guarantee of success.

Our top racetracks, Clark International Speedway and Batangas Racing Circuit, don’t meet F1 standards, and neither does the rumored new track by the new airport in Bulacan. The idea of a street race here is also close to impossible. Having participated in street races during my time with the Vios Cup in BGC, Cebu, Alabang, and MOA, we just don’t have the capability for the roads to meet F1 standards, so no, I don’t believe a street race here is possible.

Thailand, however, has recently bid for a Formula 1 Grand Prix, and if successful, it would add another ASEAN neighbor on the F1 calendar, along with Singapore and for a long time Malaysia.

For about two decades now, the closest F1 track to the Philippines had been the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia, built for $12 million. This circuit successfully hosted F1 races from 1999 to 2017 and Moto GP races from 1999 to 2024. Conversely, the Expo Pilipino in Clark, Pampanga, which cost about PHP 3.5 billion in 1999, failed to take off.

But what if we had invested in an FIA-approved track instead?

While there’s no guarantee, the country might have benefitted immensely. Hosting an F1 Grand Prix brings numerous benefits, including economic, social, and promotional advantages. Here’s what it could mean for the Philippines.

Economic impact

Tourism Boost. F1 events attract numerous international visitors, increasing spending on hotels, restaurants, and local attractions. For instance, the Monaco Grand Prix significantly boosts local tourism and economy.

Job Creation. The event generates temporary jobs in hospitality, security, transportation, and event management, as seen with the Singapore Grand Prix.

Local Business Revenue. Local businesses experience a surge in customers due to increased foot traffic during the event.

Long-Term Investments. Infrastructure improvements often benefit the city long after the event, enhancing its long-term appeal. The Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, for example, involved substantial investments that enhanced the city’s global profile. I had the privilege of experiencing the circuit firsthand, including driving a race car on the track, which they offer to tourists.

Global exposure and branding

International Media Coverage. Hosting an F1 race brings extensive media coverage, boosting the city’s international profile.

City Branding. Associating with a prestigious global event like F1 helps in rebranding or reinforcing the city’s image as a modern, dynamic, and attractive destination.

F1 Singapore Track
Singapore has become one of the premier races on the F1 calendar. (Photo credit: Singapore Grand Prix on Instagram)
Cultural and social impact

Community Engagement. Local residents often experience a sense of pride and excitement from hosting a high-profile international event.

Sports Promotion. The presence of an F1 race can spur interest in motorsport and other sporting activities among the local population. Perhaps, we would’ve seen a driver from the Philippines get an F1 seat by now.

Long-term development

Infrastructure Development. Significant investments are often made in transport, accommodation, and other urban infrastructures, which can have lasting benefits for the city’s development.

Business Opportunities. Networking opportunities arise for local businesses and entrepreneurs through the various events and gatherings associated with the Grand Prix. The Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai, for example, has created numerous business opportunities, facilitating networking and partnerships between local and international companies.

Environmental considerations

Sustainability Initiatives. In recent years, F1 has been promoting sustainability, encouraging host cities to adopt greener practices and technologies, which can lead to long-term environmental benefits. The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, which hosts the Spanish Grand Prix, has implemented various green initiatives, such as recycling programs and renewable energy use, setting a standard for sustainable sporting events.

The bottom line

With all this, it’s clear that the Philippines hosting an F1 Grand Prix can serve as a catalyst for economic growth, urban development, and enhanced global recognition. However, it requires careful planning and investment to maximize these benefits and address potential challenges such as environmental impact and costs.

As I mentioned earlier, there is no guarantee that if you build it, they will come. There have been F1 races or circuits built that failed. The Buddh International Circuit in India only hosted F1 races from 2011 to 2013. Vietnam was supposed to be on the F1 calendar for a street race in 2020, but it didn’t push through, due to the pandemic. Subsequently, a high-ranking official from their race organization committee was arrested on charges of corruption, so F1 took them off the calendar. There have been several other failures as well.

So yes, the risk is massive, but I believe there is a glimmer of hope. The Philippines has proven we can put together a world-class sporting event, with the success of the FIBA World Cup in 2023, which likely was one of the reasons the FIVB also granted us the World Championship in 2025. So perhaps, the dream of one day having a Formula 1 Grand Prix in one of the 7,107 islands is not as impossible as it once was.

Now the question is, will there be a group that is willing to put everything on the line?

Banner image from AFP.

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