Malaysia promoter: FOM must improve F1 spectacle

2015 Malaysian Grand Prix

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The organiser of the Malaysian Grand Prix has urged Formula One Management to respond to the decline in interest in F1 racing.

Sepang International Circuit CEO Dato Razlan Razlai says interest is waning in F1 and that viewers have found recent races boring and singled out the season-opening racing in Australia, where just 15 cars started, as an example.

The circuit’s contract to host its round of the championship is up for renewal at the end of the season, and Dato’ Razlan says he is “reminding” FOM that “something needs to be done”.

Tickets sales to local spectators are in decline, but Dato’ Razlan believes they can make the race more appealing to families because of the quieter sound of the new generation of engines.

“We have gone all out to make the year’s F1 grand prix attractive for the whole family,” he said.

“In terms of the race itself, we have noticed that the quieter V6 turbo hybrid engine is actually friendlier to young spectators, compared to the roar of the older V8 engines. The noise of the race is less stressful for young ears. There is less need for [earplugs] and parents can explain the race to children on the spot.”

Race needs “a local hero”

However he believes having a Malaysian driver on the starting grid would do wonders for the sport’s profile.

“For any event, especially a sporting event, the passion of local support and the interest in the domestic market is crucial,” said Dato’ Razlan. “For F1 in Malaysia this is a challenge that we face. We do not currently have a viable local hero, and people have been asking when they can see a local hero among the F1 contenders.”

“Looking at the extremely high entry barriers to F1, particularly in terms of funding, it would be wonderful if there were lower tiers that follow the F1, so that we might have a chance of placing a young Malaysian driver there, to create a glimpse of hope for a local hero. Then I can foresee Malaysians coming back to the circuits in droves for F1.”

The only Malaysian driver to have competed in the race is Alex Yoong, who did so with Minardi in 2002. Fairuz Fauzy is the only other Malaysian driver to have participated in the race weekend when he drove for Lotus in the practice session for the 2010 race.

Bernie Ecclestone has previously said he wants the Malaysian Grand Prix to become a night race. However Dato’ Razlan remains cool on the idea, saying that by holding the race in the daytime spectators can “get the look and feel of the track better ­‐ we have a lot of greenery, gravel beds – we have the feel of a proper race track”.

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    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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    38 comments on “Malaysia promoter: FOM must improve F1 spectacle”

    1. This guy knows what he is talking about!

      A message from me to the FIA: Increasing spectacle does not mean increasing DRS.

      1. Without discounting the circuit promoter’s point, I think this is classic bargaining rhetoric on his part. Given that the race is up for renewal, the message is being sent to B.E. that the price needs to come down in order to keep F1 at Sepang.

    2. There isn’t a damn thing wrong with the “Spectacle” there is something wrong with the “Management”.
      We are headed towards 16 car grids and this guy is talking spectacle and the sound is “actually friendlier to young spectators, compared to the roar of the older V8 engines..” This is getting out of hand.
      It is called Motor Sports get over it.

      1. What do mean there is nothing wrong with the spectacle? It is currently the least exciting motorsport! Even FE is more entertaining!

        1. @irejag Me driving to work is almost more exciting.

          1. I feel for you mate. Me driving to work is more exciting.

        2. ColdFly F1 (@)
          26th March 2015, 22:09

          It still beats watching grass grow! – barely though.

        3. @irejag Completely disagree with that, OK Melbourne wasn’t the most exciting race ever but 2014 was a very good year with lots of good racing & watching the cars sliding around more with drivers actually having to manage wheelspin/torque again was a far better spectacle than we have seen in F1 for a very long time.

          With regards to Formula E, I’ve found the races to date to be somewhat lacking in both spectacle & excitement & don’t plan to watch any of the remaining races as a result.

    3. Bernie Ecclestone has previously said he wants the Malaysian Grand Prix to become a night race.

      A guide to succes by Bernie
      1) build new track in forgotten place
      2) host few races
      3) turn it into night race so Europeans can watch it in the afternoon.
      4) delete European event from calender
      5) repeat.

      1. 6) believe that WDC battle between dominating Mercedes of Rosberg and another dominant Mercedes of Hamilton will be a cure for that. NEVER. Competitive field, at least two teams fighting for wins at regular basis, underdog sensations, exciting races and of course healthy grid and if controversy then about about on-track rather than off-track. Not one team quicker which has more advantage than 2nd has over 8th.

      2. 7) Make some smarmy comment along the lines of “I told you Europe was becoming third world”

    4. I don’t really know much about grassroots motorsport in Malaysia, so I don’t know how many young Malaysian drivers are actually coming up the ranks. He says that there need to be feeder series that follow to F1, but that’s exactly what thye have in GP3 and GP2. Do they not race at Malaysia?

      I think there needs to be that grassroots support to create a proper culture of motorsports in any country. Kids need to be karting or sportscar racing from a young age, and there needs to be a decent level of compatition. Otherwise it’s very hard to see how a Malysian driver is going to come through the ranks and be good enough to find a seat in F1. You can send people off, of course, to Europe, the US, Japan, etc, where they will have access to those tiers. But in the UK there are thousands of kids racing almost every week, so the talent pool is massive.

      F1 to me is the ultimate top step for drivers. If you want drivers from your country in F1, it’s not right to simply demand that F1 makes itself more attractive. Because to get to F1 there has to be that core entusiasm for motorsports. That can only be kindled by making it aspirational – lots of Malaysian kids need to grow up with the dream of becoming racing drivers, and they will never have that dream in an environment where it’s impossible for them to achieve, and where they can’t see other kids like themselves also pursuing that goal.

      1. In GP3 and GP2. Do they not race at Malaysia?

        I’ve been a long time fan of the idea to have GP2/3 race at nearly every round as a feature series. Only cost gain would be in transport and entry fees for those teams but drivers gain so much more experience. Of course with exceptions of some unique distant races like for example Canada mid-European season which would be an unnecessary transport cost for one race.

        1. Anyone remember GP2 Asia? Anyone?

    5. As I see it, F1 needs two things right now; A full grid (why not 30+ ?) and better deals for the circuits so that ticket prices can go down to reasonable levels. A F1 weekend just isn’t great (not even good) value.

      1. @me4me To put that in perspective;

        F1 British GP weekend; flight + F1 tickets (Stowe) + hotel + food = 800 euro
        F1 Belgian GP weekend; hotel + F1 tickets (GA) + food = 300 euro
        WEC Belgian weekend; hotel + tickets = 200 euro
        WSR weekend; 5 euro for that burger I ate on track.
        24H Zolder; tickets + food = 50 euro

        1. @xtwl your prices look so good in general, but where are you considering as your take-off? Going from Peru must triple those prices (plane tickets especiallym I wouldn’t mind eating leftover to be able to see a race :P)

      2. why not 30+ ?

        @me4me Because there are a number of circuits that don’t have the garage/paddock space for that many cars.

        The 26 car limit was introduced primarily for that reason & there were circuits in the past which had lower limits (Monaco used to only allow 16 starters for instance).

    6. I think the spectacle is as good as it’s ever been. But you can’t plonk F1 down in a country and expect motorsport to instantly become what it is in Europe or the States.

      Especially when FOM keep trying to monetise it into the ground. Now we have GPS on the F1 website, yay, but it’s for cash. Is it on pay TV in Malaysia? They’re not in Keith’s table.

      1. The spectical isn’t as good as it was 10 20 30 years ago (viewer since 1984)
        F1 has gone from a sport that happend to be entertainment to entertainment that happens to be a sport.
        The difference? The introduction of artificial elements like DRS, tires with pre-determined degradation etc.
        Why? Because of to much ruling in the sporting regulation. For example the cost cuts (what do not work) resulting is advancements that are not visible for the viewers, but did result in less and less overtaking.

        FIA has forgotten that it is a sport where one drives a car as fast as possible, limited by what the car can do; what the track will allow (snow rain dust etc) and the limit of the driver.
        Now days there are all kinds of limiting rules not for safety.
        Bring back the tire wars, let the teams them selfs decide if they want a hybrid v6 or just a v8 v10 v12 v20
        Go back with the rules to the basics maxlength width height of the car, limit the size of fuel tank. Slap on safety rules, front rear and side impact test etc etc and F1 would be a whole lot nicer.
        The teams need to think about the velocify of the car again big v20 lots of fuel bif tank compared to small v6 less fuel but also less speed.

        1. Well I’ve been watching since the mid-70’s and I can remember the massive gaps between cars, the TV mindlessly watching the leading car go round and round, the brief highlights with the detached commentary…

          Watch some old races again – Tyres always wore and had to be changed, apart from a dreadful Bridgestone period. Fuel had to be managed. Cars had to be nursed. Yes I know we were younger then, but the racing was nothing on what we get now. We’d get two protagonists on a good day. Senna spent a minute or whatever in the Suzuka chicane, pitted for a new nose, and still won easily! People go on about Kimi on Fisi at the same track but it was a non-event by today’s standards.

          We never had it so good. In fact it’s because it’s nearly perfect that we complain so much.

          1. Sure tires wore but that was after the driver took everything out of them of what the manufacturer could put in, unlike now when they are made by FIA spec’s to make the race interesting. If drove smart you could run with one set, now you must drive on two compounds just to have pitlane action.

            Sure there where massive gaps one team could get more from their package than a other could, but next race or next year an other team could develop a car from scratch and be ahead. These days you can hardly change anything on the engine, the aero package is so locked in by the rules that any improvements are invisible for the audience.

            Camera wise i agree with you that was horrible in those years, although we still hardly see the tail end of the grid.

          2. Tyres always wore and had to be changed

            @lockup Not strictly true as Pre-1994 (When refueling came in & ruined the racing) the hardest tyre compounds were more than capable of running the entire race non-stop with relatively little performance drop off. Was common practice back then for drivers to go the whole race non-stop.

            I also think there is a difference in that back then the tyres were not designed to degrade.
            In the past they were designed for performance to be the best they could be while today there designed to degrade & the performance is nowhere near what it could be.

            I honestly believe that if Pirelli were to make the best tyres they could possible make without having to worry about making them intentionally degrade the cars would be 2+ seconds a lap faster.

    7. Uhm… again jumping into the “the racing is boring” bandwagon?

      I didn’t watch last year’s opener, but I believe it was quite boring aswell. And look how the season ended, it was very exciting even with one team dominating so much.

      1 race doesn’t define a season.

      Tho I quite like to see organizers wishing to get more from F1. They should all join forces and ask for more together. Or force Bernie to ask less from them.

      1. @fer-no65 That’s a cool picture of Webber you got there.

        1. @xtwl I uploaded it like 4 years ago to Gravatar and I lost the file I uploaded. I’ve been trying to find it again to use it on other forums without much luck.

          It really is a cool picture :)

      2. @fer-no65, I think you’re a bit harsh there. He doesn’t say the racing is boring, just that something has to be done, which to me is pretty obvious. The grid is only half of what it could be, spectators are paying super high prices or not showing up at all, and the promoters aren’t making much money either. I think it’s pretty fair of him speaking up.

    8. Malaysia night race….omg what a bad idea. I agree with russ above. The problem is MANAGEMENT.

    9. Having a night race in Malaysia is a bad idea- because that is the time of day when it is most likely to rain. So basically Sepang will become a swimming pool (like it was in ’09).

      But to be honest, I think that the Malaysian race should be scrapped or alternated with the Singapore event- because those 2 events are too close to each other in terms of location. The Indian GP should replace it.

      1. *most likely to rain there at Sepang

    10. FIA’s answer will be that there is no more Malaysia Grand Prix in the future.

    11. Maybe this organizer has shot himself in the foot. Bernie needs excuses to make room for Azerbayan and Qatar, he already have Germany out, this might be the next one.

    12. ColdFly F1 (@)
      26th March 2015, 22:21

      – allow more teams to enter Championship (make sure it is financially viable for any seriously managed team);
      – have races in exciting places with good tracks and big crowds
      – allow organisers to make money at reasonable ticket prices (reduce sanctioning fee, or allow more advertising ‘track side’ or hospitality income)
      – solve the equations of having state-of-the-art engines (like the current V6 hybrids) but they should ‘scream’ speed at the same time – can it be as simple as increasing rev limiter??

      1. @coldfly

        The more I think about the engines, the more I think the problem may be the lack of revs, rather than just the lack of actual noise. There is something intrinsically exciting about an engine revving higher and higher, and the engines we have have now just don’t sound like they are making much of an effort, with a resulting loss of excitement.

        Agree with your other points too.

    13. “Bernie Ecclestone has previously said he wants the Malaysian Grand Prix to become a night race”

      The only reason why the races in Asia and Australia are so late in the day is so his fellow Europeans can watch the race in the afternoon. As I live in Australia, I watch all of the European races at 10 pm at night and they finish at midnight. Which really sucks.
      So I believe all Asian & Australian races should be raced at the same time as the Europeans races (usually 2 pm local) and Bernie should leave these races alone.

    14. Malaysia does have a local hero, PETRONAS! Aussie GP was a one off situation with many cars suffering reliability problems. I think of it as an exception than a rule.

      I am all for attracting crowd to F1 but we would be better off without the crowd that gets its excitement from crashes and highway passes. Also fans need to put in effort to understand the sport and not merely watch it for the overtakes.

      Imola 2005/2006 was one of the good examples of good racing even without overtakes with Alonso/Schumi pushing to pass each other on the track.

      Although from the recent years, I would vouch for doing something about Aero to allow cars to close in and try to overtake when they don’t have a massive speed differential. Vettel staying behind Massa during the first stint is an example of it. Without it, we might have seen Vettel try his luck a bit more than just wait for the pit stops. Also need to ensure the tires are compatible for that sort of racing.

    15. I’m sure the irony is not lost with many of you that Ecclestone doesn’t mind losing all of these European races but pressurises the Asian races to be held at a time where it’s more convenient for Europeans.

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