F1 unlikely to return to Malaysia anytime soon, says circuit chief

F1 unlikely to return to Malaysia anytime soon, circuit chief says

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel drives during practice for the 2017 Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang, Malaysia September 29, 2017. – Reuters pic

Thursday, September 15, 2022 07:33 MYT

SINGAPORE, Sept. 15 – Formula 1 is unlikely to return to Malaysia anytime soon as the government focuses on rebuilding the economy after the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic, the circuit boss has said.

Azhan Shafriman Hanif, general manager of the Sepang International Circuit which hosted the race, told reporters in Singapore on Wednesday that the government may reconsider its options after two to three years.

Sepang Circuit, located outside Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, first hosted the race in 1999, with the last Grand Prix held there in 2017.

Malaysia dropped the F1 calendar from 2018 due to the rising cost of hosting the event.

“At this point the answer is no, not at the moment,” Azhan Shafriman said when asked if Malaysia plans to host the race again.

“Maybe in two or three years, when the economy has stabilized.” He said Malaysia had previously hosted F1 “to put the country on the map” through sports tourism.

But for F1 to return, the government needs to look at the ‘big picture’ in terms of its benefits to the country.

“We need to know what the return is in terms of the training effect,” he said.

“We need to look at rebranding, how to monetize the platform. We need to talk about technology transfer, talent development and environmental sustainability. He and other circuit officials were in Singapore this week to promote the upcoming Petronas Grand Prix motorcycle race, also known as MotoGP, to be held at the Sepang track from October 21-23.

It will be the first MotoGP race at Sepang in two years after it was suspended due to the pandemic.

There had been speculation F1 would return to Malaysia to fill the void after Russia was dropped from the racing calendar following President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

Malaysia’s neighbor Singapore is hosting a Formula 1 night race which will run from September 30 to October 2.

Azhan Shafriman said Singapore “made the right decision” to promote the event not only as a race but also as entertainment including concerts and parties.

“If Formula 1 were to come back to Malaysia, it had to rely on something else, not just racing. There has to be another purpose for which we are doing Formula 1,” he said. AFP

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