Malaysia F1: End of the road or fresh start?By Gerardine Donough-Tan
12 Jun 2017
The final Formula One Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix (GP) at Sepang International Circuit (SIC) will be held from September 29 to October 1, a year earlier than previously expected.
While some corporate hosts, intermediary agencies and fans expressed surprise and disappointment last November when the 2018 termination was intimated, others now see an opportunity to host alternative races and other mega-events.
The Malaysian government pulled the plug on the F1 GP “after considering lowering returns to the country compared to the cost of hosting the championships", prime minister Najib Razak said in a statement on April 7.
F1 fans are obviously disappointed, especially since the GP has been running annually in Malaysia since 1999. However, for the final race, tickets for Malaysian identity card-holders are going at huge discounts—even for grandstands—and are currently the lowest price for an F1 race worldwide.
“We have seen growth in international interest this year compared to the drop in 2016. The team tribune, a favourite for international spectators, has already sold out and we hope more tourists will be attending this year,” says Dato’ Razlan Razali, CEO of SIC.
“Instead of saying goodbye, we aim to celebrate the 19 years of F1 being held in Malaysia," Razlan adds. "As such we have introduced new ticket pricing that will make it even more accessible. We also have exciting line-up of activities throughout the three days and leading up to the race weekend.”
A number of corporate sponsors and companies that are directly involved in hosting the GP are reportedly planning events around the grand finale in September. Global seminars and partner events will also be held in conjunction with the race, although details have yet to be announced.
With F1 gone, the annual MotoGP will become SIC’s main event. Attendance was 161,553 spectators over three days in 2016, with 25 per cent being international spectators—a seven per cent increase from 2015. Tickets are in high demand this year, and expected to sell out two months before the event.
To make the MotoGP relevant and more exciting, SIC has worked with Dorna Sports to create more fan engagement activities. “They have also been supportive to allow us to create off-track activities that work well with the crowd,” adds Razlan.
Andrea Lee, area director, Destination Asia (Malaysia) says: “The Moto GP which has been held yearly at the same F1 GP track has a stream of followers. If we can capitalise on this, perhaps we can make it a grander event to attract more spectators and create more hype.”
SIC is currently evaluating a new event line-up that could include a few big international players. So with new events, sponsorship support, strong programming and more promotion, the future could be looking up for SIC and Malaysia.