Check­ered flag for our F1?

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SUNBIZ -

SO, we’re all well aware that the Sepang In­ter­na­tional Cir­cuit (SIC) is look­ing at dis­con­tin­u­ing its run as the host of the Malaysian For­mula 1 Grand Prix.

Hav­ing hosted the event since its doors opened in 1999, it is un­likely that they will re­new their con­tract with the For­mula One Man­age­ment when it ex­pires in 2018. Though noth­ing is con­firmed, one can’t help but feel that the fate of the cir­cuit is sealed – the quotes com­ing from high­rank­ing Sepang of­fi­cials and Min­is­ter of Youth and Sports Khairy Ja­malud­din’s ac­count im­ply that they’ve made up their minds.

It is clear to see why they’ve made this de­ci­sion; to quote SIC chief ex­ec­u­tive Ra­zlan Razali, “If there is no eco­nomic value, why should we con­tinue?” And fair enough – the big boys are run­ning a busi­ness, and need to act ac­cord­ingly. With a ca­pac­ity of 120,000 spec­ta­tors at their dis­posal, sell­ing only 45,000 tickets for this year’s GP would’ve ob­vi­ously set off some red lights.

But what ef­fect will can­celling the GP have on the Malaysian mo­tor­sports com­mu­nity – par­tic­u­larly the grass­root rac­ers in the for­ma­tive years of their ca­reers? To many, no more Malaysian Grand Prix equates to the end of our chances of hav­ing a Malaysian in the big league. How­ever, de­spite that be­ing said, I don’t think it will be quite that bad. In fact, it could ac­tu­ally do the in­dus­try some good.

As Khairy rightly tweeted, the large in­vest­ment re­quired to host a Malaysian Grand Prix could be used to help the few Malaysian rac­ers that do ex­ist. If the bud­get is re­al­lo­cated to help out this small group of driv­ers (Ed: With clean, hon­est man­age­ment and strict trans­parency, of course!), it could do won­ders. As one of those few Malaysian driv­ers, I un­der­stand how a lit­tle bit can go a long way.

An­other way this “di­vorce” from F1 could be soft­ened is by fo­cus­ing ef­forts on other world-class cham­pi­onships. To the sur­prise of the pub­lic (and rightly so, as this sport can be very dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand), there are other forms of rac­ing outside of F1. These cham­pi­onships are not only cheaper to host, but cheaper to watch, pro­vide bet­ter fan-ac­cess, and quite frankly, show­case bet­ter rac­ing.

Our sights need to be set on bring­ing in the World En­durance Cham­pi­onship and once again, the Ja­panese Su­per GT onto Malaysian soil. It’s not only bet­ter for busi­ness, but also bet­ter for as­pir­ing Malaysian driv­ers – if you’re go­ing to make a ca­reer in this sport, that’s where you’re go­ing to do it. The F1 club is re­served for those who can af­ford a few ex­tra ze­ros at the end of their pay­checks.

But what about the net­work­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties the Grand Prix can of­fer be­tween Malaysian driv­ers and those in F1, you ask? Not much re­ally. Hav­ing a Malaysian par­tic­i­pat­ing in a sup­port race for the F1 on home soil will pro­vide lit­tle more than a smart mar­ket­ing op­por­tu­nity. To be frank, if you have the fund­ing to race in those sup­port­ing cham­pi­onships, then the eyes of F1 will al­ready be on you. As I’ve men­tioned in my pre­vi­ous ar­ti­cles, the big­gest hur­dle that any driver will face is fund­ing. While not hav­ing the nov­elty of a home race to woo spon­sors may elim­i­nate some golden mar­ket­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, host­ing the F1 isn’t go­ing to foot our bills to keep us rac­ing. The funds are out there; they just need to be al­lo­cated to the mo­tor­sports com­mu­nity in an ef­fec­tive and strate­gic way. And as talk con­tin­ues on when we’re go­ing to fi­nally have a Malaysian in F1 again, it won’t be any­time soon – not if the num­ber of Malaysian driv­ers in the lower rungs of rac­ing con­tin­ues to fall. Seem­ingly, the Malaysian mo­tor­sports com­mu­nity has bigger things to worry about than host­ing the F1.

# Lo­cal

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