It is confirmed, folks. No more F1 GP to be held in our home circuit, Sepang International Circuit. The news was announced and confirmed by the Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz, following certain rumours that has been circulating over the past few months.
According to Nazri, the current (renewed) agreement expires in 2018, and it is safe to say that no sign of renewal seen to this date. Nazri added that he agrees with Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin who had also mulled on dropping the prestigious motorsport event last month, saying that the race is proving to be a costly affair and is not bringing expected returns to the country.
“F1 attendance is dropping and there is less attraction now. We are spending RM300 million a year (for the race),” Nazri said. “We are not even making back RM300 million,” he added.
Since it started back in 1999, the F1 Malaysian Grand Prix with Petronas being the main sponsor has been a fixture in the motorsport calendar for 17 consecutive years. The minister also added that the attendance in other F1 Grand Prix across the world has been declining.
Nazri also said that the lack of local drivers in F1 also contributed to dwindling interests, as opposed to motorcycle racing where we have Malaysian riders competing, apart from more action showcased by the race.
Can it return?
The question here is, will 2018 be the last F1 race ever held in Malaysia? An F1 circuit can be dismissed from the motorsport events due to many factors that include circuit repairs and reconstruction, financial as well as political issue.
The Fuji Speedway Circuit, Japan
History shows that an F1 circuit can make its return into the racing calendar. For example, Autódromo Juan y Oscar Gálvez circuit in Buenos Aires, Argentina hosted 20 F1 races on and off between 1953 and 1998 using a range of different layouts. Same goes to Fuji Speedway circuit in Japan, where F1 has had 2 brief stints at the circuit – 1976 to 1977 and 2007 to 2008.
The Baku Street Circuit, Azerbaijan
Even before the debut of Baku Circuit in Azerbaijan as the 2016 European GP, few circuits also surfaced into consideration. These circuits - Detroit Street Circuit (US), Indianapolis Motor Speedway (US), Valencia Street Circuit (Spain), Korea International Circuit (Korea) and Buddh International Circuit (India) – were all facing the possibility of hosting the glamorous racing event, again.
Let’s take a look at it this way: F1 GP hosting contract for SIC is not going to be renewed in the near future, instead of saying that 2018 will be the final F1 GP held by the country. The dismissal and the return of an F1 circuit into the calendar is not a rare case and is believed to be taken optimistically.
It is just a matter of possibility.