Malaysia will not extend F1 deal, minister confirms

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Malaysia will not extend its current deal to host Formula One races, the country’s minster for tourism has confirmed.

“The current agreement is from 2016 to 2018,” Nazri Abdul Aziz told Today Online, “so once that ends, there will be no more”.

“F1 attendance is dropping and there is less attraction now,” he added. “We are spending RM 300 million [£54.7m] a year.”

Last month the CEO of the Sepang International Circuit Datuk Ahmad Razlan Ahmad Razali told reporters the race was under threat due to low ticket sales and falling television viewing figures. He previously urged Formula One Management in 2015 to improve the racing spectacle and said Malaysia needs to have a local driver in the race, which it has not had since 2002.

Youth and sports minister Khairy Jamaluddin also argued for the circuit to drop F1 but retain more popular events such as Moto GP. “When we first hosted the F1 it was a big deal,” he added. “First in Asia outside Japan. Now so many venues. No first mover advantage. Not a novelty.”

The Sepang International Circuit was built to host the first Malaysian Grand Prix in 1999, which it has done ever since. Its last contract extension was in 2015, following which the track conducted extensive renovations.

The race is backed by Malaysia’s state-owned oil firm Petronas, which is also Mercedes’ title sponsor. However another of the complaints the Malaysian promoters have raised about F1 is that Mercedes’ dominance has made the sport too predictable.

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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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63 comments on “Malaysia will not extend F1 deal, minister confirms”

  1. Shame as its one of the best of the new circuits. Several fast & flowing corners as well as several more tricky areas that challenge car & driver.

  2. Tides are turning. It’s suddenly the circuit organizers who’re threatening to leave the sport rather than the opposite which has happened for years by Bernie and co.

    I really wonder what that’ll leave Sepang with other than MotoGP in terms of international event unless they try to attract some other international events.

    I understand that Formula 1 costs are high for the organizers and apart from ticket sales, there is no other significant form of revenue which would result in net losses from Formula 1 unless ticket sales are nearly full house which I am sure doesn’t happen looking at current state of the sport.

    I’ll be sad to Sepang go but I can understand the reasons and I am glad that it’s a circuit that has declined the sport rather than other way which has been the norm for a good part of the decade.

    1. There’s probably a few more countries wanting to host races at the moment. And let’s face it, some of these circuits are too close to each other: Singapore and Malaysia, for example. I’d keep Singapore and let Malaysia go. Perhaps revive the Indian Grand Prix, maybe look to have another race in Hong Kong or South Africa, and double the South American races by adding one more – Argentina, Chile, Urugual perhaps?

      1. The more people start saying no, the better F1 gets. Unfortunately, that is the only way you can hold back the ridiculous unnatural appeal F1 proposes to the spectators. If F1 offered a real spectacle/real and more competitive seating prices, and competitive tv offers, F1 might be better for it.


  3. Great, now we’re stuck with –@#_+* Singapore…
    Hope we can get this one back sometimes, but with the promoter fees not likely to decrease, i’m not optimistic

    1. Looking at the recent news, Singapore might be gone soon as well.

      1. @kaiie
        Really? I wouldn’t be displeased if that happened.
        I do like the track in Singapore, but it’s always been bugging me that F1 holds a race in eastern Asia in the middle of the night to please European viewers. Also, I hate the very idea of night races when they’re not necessary. There exists a perfectly reliable source of light that will probably keep making additional lighting redundant for the next few billion years. The only thing a race organiser has to do is let the darn race take place during daytime.
        But yeah, F1 looks prettier in the dark, or whatever …

        1. It really isn’t a good idea to have a race in Singapore during the day- 3 p.m. is the time of day when it is most likely to rain there- and it rains all the time there; that goes for every day of the year.

          1. It works in Sepang, where it rains even more than in Singapore. Rain is an understandable concern, but definitely not the reason.

          2. You cant compare rain with a monsoon

  4. Wait another few years, i predict Malaysia with have another driver – Putera Adam.

  5. It’s a great shame, Sepang is a cracking circuit, by far my favourite of all of the modern tracks.

  6. Do we actually think they’re leaving, or is this just a stunt? Publicly threatening not to play is a tactic Bernie is very familiar with, and I sure hope Sepang’s just doing it to him for a change…

    1. Jed Pilmoor-Brady
      21st November 2016, 14:36

      No, Sepang are going to drop F1. They’ve sold out the MotoGP event for the past 4 or 5 years, yet there isn’t the interest for F1, costs are too high for the circuit and the spectators.

  7. Would be a massive shame, but not wholly unsurprising considering the way attendance has dwindled over the years. Of course this picture only shows one corner, but it definitely tells a story: 2016 on the left, 2001 on the right.

    1. Wow. That speaks volumes.

    2. Whoa, @f1alex! A picture does speak a thousand words!

    3. Really great comparison.

      Wonder if we can do this for all tracks? Come on, get on with it!

  8. So after Singapore, Malaysia is dropping out too. F1 in Asia is in danger. Time for Indian Govt to hash out all their Tax Problems with FOM. Golden Opportunity.

  9. Well, the problem of having too much races on the calendar is solving itself apparently. Both Malaysia and Singapore don’t want their F1 race anymore.

  10. Doubt the new owners will be fussed.

    By 2020, all races will be in the US won’t they? After all there are several other “world championships” that only involve the US.

  11. Now with Singapore and Malaysia possibly gone, time for a race in Indonesia? They’ll kind of have a monopoly in Southeast Asia.

    1. @mashiat doubt it mate. currently we don’t have a proper circuit while a new one is out of question. if any, Indonesian also MotoGP minded. we even had temporary slot for MotoGP racing in 2017 only to find the government hesitating over money – same as Rio Haryanto case.

    2. WeatherManNX01
      21st November 2016, 16:20

      If the government couldn’t find backing for Haryanto to get a full season at Manor, they definitely can’t afford even one F1 race.

  12. Good for race organizers to step up and realise that the kind of money Bernie is asking, for the product they get, is a massive rip off.

  13. Great. Formula-1 has found itself in the same position as the international Olympics. Venues are dropping F1 because they can’t afford it nor quantify the costs in relation to tourism and promotion. And to Bernie’s regret, not many places are clamoring to get on the F1 calendar to replace these races.

  14. A bit of a shame that this will actually happen (although the article headline didn’t come as a big surprise), but at least it won’t happen immediately, which means that still two races to run there before the end of the Malaysian GP, which has been part of the F1 race calendar consecutively since 1999.

  15. Good, good. Now come back to Europe F1, you have always belonged here. I.e. race track like Estoril or Magny-Cours…

    1. Yeah, because of course Estoril can afford a F1 race! they don’t even host the MotoGP race anymore!

    2. WeatherManNX01
      21st November 2016, 16:19

      If it were going to return to Europe, it would have done so. These tracks simply aren’t going to pay the money Bernie wants, and it’s driving them all away. Estoril and Magny-Cours are gone, and the Nurburgring is pretty much gone with Hockenheimring not far behind. Silverstone and Monza got reprieves, but in a few years, we’ll be worried about their futures once again.

      Bernie will go to his grave clutching the wads of cash he took from them all.

    3. Why magny-cours?
      And estoril really?

      Magny-bores always put on incredibly dull races & I can’t remember a single race held there in the dry where anything of any note happened & the same is true of Estoril.

      If you want a race in France then go back to Paul Ricard & not that awful Magny-Bores!

      As to Portugal I’d rather the algarve circuit than Estoril, Far better track which all the drivers loved when F1 held a test there in 2009.

      And as to f1 in europe, its a world championship & not a european championship & as such should go to country’s all over the world & not just stay in europe. i think we have a nice mix right now to be honest.

      1. Magny-bores always put on incredibly dull races & I can’t remember a single race held there in the dry where anything of any note happened

        2000 – DC giving schumi the bird? if that doesn’t count, then 2002 – schumi sealing the title there after 11 races? 2004 – schumacher’s 4 stop strategy?

      2. I can’t remember a single race held there in the dry where anything of any note happened

        The first F1 race there was decent but otherwise no, it’s not a track which stands out in my mind as a scene of great racing.

        & the same is true of Estoril.

        I’d say Estoril had more good dry races: 1989, 1990 and 1996 spring to mind. But since it last held F1 the dramatic opening corner has been chopped and it’s still got that horrible chicane they built in 1994.

  16. Less spectacle on track and randomly applied most confusing rules means less viewers, less spectators and in the end less money. This is something F1 has called upon itself. MotoGP is just the opposite and F1 could learn from this.

    1. i can’t stand moto gp myself…. just don’t like bikes.

      1. No problems with that, PeterG. In MotoGP racers are allowed to race, race on the limit of their capabilities and on the physical limits of their machines. Defending their lines and attacking whenever possible even with touching each other in 100+ mp/h curves is a part of racing.
        In F1 however overtaking is prohibited to the straights and with the use of drs. Any other action, like defending a position, is during and after the race discussed by a bunch of referies and judges (and us :-). Luckely F1 bosses are discussing about the choking rules of F1, even to drop all present rules and introduce new rules that allows drivers to race again.

  17. WeatherManNX01
    21st November 2016, 16:15

    The cost of hosting a race (and thus tickets) is absurdly high, and the number of governments that have to subsidize races is alarming. I get that there’s a supply/demand factor, as well as the fact that Bernie wants his money, but some great races are falling off the calendar because of it. Brazi is on the edge;Germany and Britain have been on the edge for years; Canada is stepping back from the edge, as is Monza; and now Singapore and Malaysia are going over the edge. How much longer until Australia goes the same way? Belgium? Mexico has a future ahead of it, but at what point does that break down, as seems to happen to everyone?

    As it stands now, Bernie gets his money, he brings the teams, and that’s the end of it on his side. I wonder if a different approach wouldn’t be better. Perhaps have a lower flat-rate fee with a percentage added on for each ticket sold (say, $15 million per year plus 10% of each ticket). Then you add other risers, like the fee goes up to 12.5% if total weekend attendance breaks 250,000 and 15% at 300,000.

    Obviously, the numbers I use are just examples, as I have no idea what the books of a track look like, but I think the principle isn’t terrible. By organizing it this way, the onus is on both the track and FOM to attract as many people as possible.

    There also needs to be a new sponsorship model that isn’t just FOM hanging Pirelli, Rolex, and UBS signs at the tracks each weekend. Tracks need to get some of that inventory back to sell and make some money on their own.

    Bernie’s model is broken. It’s time for a new one.

    1. To be honest, Canada, Brazil, Monza, Silverstone and many others have been “on the edge” as you say for more than a decade. Bernie aaaalways says the same things over and over again, but the race organizers kept finding that last penny and signed those Bernie-tastic contracts.

      We’re just a hair’s breadth away from actually seeing them dropping from the calendar forever like France, San Marino and others.

    2. There is no model that can sustain F1. Simple case of no future demand.

  18. Interesting. With Malaysia disappearing and Singapore also wanting to go some gaps are opening up on the calendar. Might be the ideal opportunity for some classic European races, like France and San Marino, to finally return.

  19. Good… First issue of the Liberty era, despite Bernie still being around there’s no doubt he won’t be the one pulling the strings on these deals.

    Can’t wait to see what tracks start replacing the ones that drop out. They’ve said they want both more tracks in the US and classics in Europe to return. Will they put their money where their mouth is?

    1. F1 is not non-profit. Are you willing to pay higher ticket fee? Because others sure are.

  20. It’s kind of inevitable really. Compare the crowds at Sepang for MotoGP and compare the crowds for F1 – both World Championship Grand Prix, and it was absolutely obvious that bikes were going to be a priority.

    I like Sepang (although the final corner is now bafflingly clumsy) and I will miss it, but it is replaceable.

  21. At those prices, just not sustainable… Viewership fell 40-50% yet venue hosting fee increased…

  22. So Bernie says “It is the same with the organisers. Look at what we have done for Singapore. Yes, the Grand Prix has cost Singapore a lot of money, but we’ve also given them a lot of money. Singapore was suddenly more than just an airport to fly to or from somewhere. Now they believe they have reached their goal and they do not want a grand prix anymore.” as if they are being disloyal by quitting. Turn that around and it says “FOM is simply not giving value for money any more”.

    As FOM takes an ever increasing share of the money more and more circuits will be unable to break even, especially as they are dependent on spectator attendance at increasingly boring events from the promoter.

  23. Terrible news. I’ve always been a big fan of this circuit.

  24. I guess with an 18 year run, and two more to come it still has had a longer life than Istanbul, India, Korea and Valencia. I really like Malaysia.

  25. As long as there are Baku’s and Abu Dhabi’s around, things won’t change. Just another circuit giving up on filling Bernies coffers like a lot of Europeans did. Nothing new there in my opinion. What would be new is if FOM cannot find new countries that will join their circus and hand over their cash. Let’s see if that is going to happen.

  26. This is sub-optimal.

    Sepang is one of the best racing tracks on the calendar.

    Why couldn’t it be Sochi or Abu Dhabi instead?

  27. Damn shame. I’m currently playing f1 2013 career mode and I just love this track. Sepang, Silverstone and Spa are my three favourite circuits.

  28. I don’t think this is going to be the last circuit to drop F1. Much like the knife edge the cars perform on, F1 is on the brink of retaining its fans. The rights holders squeeze the circuits, the circuits squeeze the fan, and it only takes a slight nudge to push things over the tipping point.

    I would never pay the current prices for Silverstone. And I imagine a lot of fans are on the brink of not bothering anymore if prices continue the way they are.

  29. Twenty years is a good run..
    Keith can we get the comment box up to the top of the comments? It is hard to get to on mobile endless scrolling down to the very bottom of the page. Thanks.

    1. I think it makes perfect sense to require you to at least glance at the discussion you’re contributing to.

    2. ColdFly F1 (@)
      22nd November 2016, 10:43

      £54.7m is a bit steep to organise a GP, but 2ct to get a comment box on top would be the other extreme!

  30. Evil Homer (@)
    22nd November 2016, 4:11

    This is disappointing really! I went in 2014 and the track was great, circuit is a bit of a hike from KL city but quite a few tracks are like that. That photo of the crowds tells the whole story with attendance yet at the same time Moto GP crowds are going great guns, something needs to change and fast. There was a similar one with Barcelona as well this year!

    I went to Singapore this year and from a racing point of view Sepang is superior, from a convenience stand point Singapore was great and there are many hotels within walking distance. Now Singapore want to drop out too, among others!

    Cost is far too high for governments struggling for money. While they can argue the high fee is justified with tourism and funds into the economy that’s hard to sell to the people when some grandstands are empty. The last race in Adelaide in 1995 had an attendance of 210,000, F1 needs those days back again!

  31. Well, there goes the only reason for me to go to Malaysia. And I was seriously considering it.

  32. Guybrush Threepwood
    22nd November 2016, 8:04

    Having been to Melbourne, Silverstone, Spa, and Malaysian F1 races, I can say that Malaysia is by far the best track for viewing the race. It is set in a bowl so from one side of the main grandstand you can see one half of the track and from the other side you see the other half of the track. It is a truly spectacular viewing experience and one that will be missed greatly if it no longer is raced on.

    1. Evil Homer (@)
      22nd November 2016, 9:25

      I have been to Melbourne, Adelaide, Sepang, Barcelona, Suzuka, Singapore and Monaco.
      Monaco is the best because…. well its Monaco :) Sepang and Barcelona and close to equal in quality of viewing, both great tracks to watch from.

      Suzuka is obviously very special but being so long and narrow its actually not as good a circuit as Sepang and Barcelona for overall viewing (meaning seeing a lot of the track), but an F1 car through the esses is most impressive to watch, I can only think En Rouge would top that but haven’t got there… just yet :)

    2. ColdFly F1 (@)
      22nd November 2016, 10:49

      Of course Melbourne is better because I can see the whole track from my living room ;-)

      For me the best track I’ve visited was Interlagos; some seating has a good overview of the track as well.

  33. I don’t dislike Malaysia really but I would much prefer to see some of the older races come back that should always have stayed, I think now that we have Renault back in F1 it’d be really nice to see the French GP come back.

    Seems absolutely criminal to not have a race in a country that has such huge motorsporting history and from 1950 to 2008 only went one year without a grand prix..

  34. They have two years to change their minds. F1 isn’t having trouble finding places to race. I have a feeling there will be a series in 2019.

    1. better bring back imola

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