No more F1 in Malaysia after 2018: Smart move or bad move?

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Photo: Reuters

Our Youth & Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin tweeted last month that it would be better for Malaysia to take a break from hosting the F1 race in Malaysia.

While he received a lot of disapproval from his followers, the critics silenced when Singapore also decided to jump on the boat and stop hosting the race.

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The minister cited high cost, limited returns, declining F1 ticket sales and TV viewership figures as reasons to why Malaysia should take a break from hosting the event. Apart from that, he also didn’t want the Sepang International Circuit (SIC) to turn into a white elephant.

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It was still undecided at that point, but the Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Abdul Aziz confirmed yesterday that the decision is final. Malaysia will not be hosting the F1 race after 2018, as soon as the agreement with F1 ends.

“The current agreement is from 2016 to 2018. So once that ends, there will be no more F1 in Malaysia.” Nazri said.

So is that a good thing or a bad thing? We think it’s both. 

Hosting F1 race in Malaysia did put us on the international map. Tourists flocked to Malaysia to catch the race here as tickets were more affordable in Malaysia compared to other countries. This helped to boost the income in hotel and transportation industries, not only for the tourists, but for Malaysians flying in from other states as well.

The races also helped SIC earn a reputation as a world-class race circuit, favoured by many international racers. MotorGP stars Andrea Dovizioso and Valentino Rossi said Sepang was their favourite circuit in the world! We also saw international stars like Usher performing at our homegrown because of the race.

Photo: KVUE
Photo: KVUE

But although ticket sales were good, they were not great. Perhaps because the race was an annual event, people started taking it for granted. Ticket sales declined each year, and the organisers were not breaking even.

“F1 attendance is dropping and there is less attraction now. We are spending RM300 million a year for the race,” Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Abdul Aziz said.

The main sponsor of the F1 race in KL, Petronas, is also facing a hard time due to the fluctuation of oil prices, and may not be able to continue sponsoring the race. SIC’s chief executive said that reports for this year’s race showed that TV viewership in Malaysia was the lowest in history.

Based on the pros and cons, it’s probably wise for Malaysia to take a break from hosting the race after 2018. But we do hope that the deal will be reconsidered in the future for all the racing fans in Malaysia, because it will be too expensive to go all the way to Monaco, although that’s the dream.

And hey, we still have two years to catch the race!