The Philippines may be the next South East Asian country to host an F1 race based on recent trademark filings by Formula One Licensing BV made on January 7, 2019.
The licensing arm of Formula One (F1) recently filed trademark applications for the terms ‘MANILA GRAND PRIX, ‘PHILIPPINE GRAND PRIX, and ‘FORMULA ONE PHILIPPINES GRAND PRIX’ with the Intellectual Property Office in Manila on the first working Monday of the year. The filings were made by Castillo Laman Tan Pantaleon & San Jose Law Offices in behalf of the company under the classifications of photo and video recording, printed material, leather goods, clothing, games and toys, broadcasting, entertainment, and sporting activities.
While a patent filing does not automatically mean that an F1 race event is certain, it does signify interest. The Philippines does hold the distinction of being a host of the FIA Sport Conference in June of 2018.
The FIA is the Federetion Internationale de l'Automobile, the group that oversees worldwide motorsports events, including Formula One. Manila joined Goodwood, Munich, Mexico City, Turin, and Geneva as cities to have hosted the prestigious annual FIA event.
The filing could pave the way for a possible hosting of a Formula One Grand Prix event in the Philippines. The event will likely be held on a street circuit as opposed to a circuit which would take years and billions of Pesos to construct. It might not exactly be held in Manila, as logistics and traffic management would certainly be a nightmare.
Pampanga-based billionaire Rodolfo "Bong" Pineda who is described to be a "sportsman-philanthropist" recently began construction of a 5-kilometer Hermann Tilke-designed circuit in his Pradera Verde estate in Lubao, Pampanga. The 400-hectare mixed-use complex currently features a 36-hole golf course, swimming park, and wakeboard park. The upcoming circuit aims to be an FIA Grade 2 circuit that can host MotoGP, FIM World Superbike, and GT races. An upgrade to an FIA Grade 1 would entail additional costs for inspection and certification from the global motorsport supervisory body, as well.
However, hosting the world's most prestigious motorsport event, an F1 race does come with the costs. According to an article on Forbes, the typical investment for an F1 circuit is about $270 million as it requires significantly more facilities than what a normal racing circuit would. Hosts would also need to pay F1 an 'annual race fee' which is normally contracted for 10 years, escalating that is nearly $400 million. The average running costs for a race was estimated at $57.5 million annually. On top of that, organizers would still need to spend on promotions which would entail millions of dollars more.
Singapore spends nearly $100 million per year to host their F1 night race, "lower" than the usual $110 million they spent in the past years. This is shouldered by the government to help the promotion of tourism, which according to them has attracted over 450,000 visitors that contributed to about $1.1 billion in tourism-related income. They decided to extend their contract with F1 from 2018-2021.
Malaysia, on the other hand, had decided to shelf their F1 hosting activities for 2018 after having hosted the event for 37 years. Costs and lower turnout have been cited as the causes of this decision. Over the past years, MotoGP has proven to be a better investment as it attracts a wider audience with a lower running cost.
Vietnam, however, is gearing up for its first-ever Grand Prix in 2020 on a street circuit in Hanoi. They are currently constructing 5.565-km a track, also designed by Tilke, the project is scheduled to be completed in 2020.
The Philippines currently has two international-grade circuits, one in Batangas and another in Clark. The Batangas Racing Circuit has hosted the Asian Formula 3 from 2003 to 2006. The Clark International Speedway hosted the Philippine leg of the FIA Formula 4, but it did not prosper as turnout was terribly low.
Four-wheeled motorsport events in the Philippines is unfortunately not as popular as its two-wheeled counterpart. The lack of proper mass transit and access is also seen as the major stumbling block for motorsport events in the Philippines. Only a few and well-to-do individuals with cars could access racing circuits.
The feasibility of actually making money for an F1 hosting venture seems cloudy, this is a dream come true for the country if it were to be realized.