Checkered flag for our F1?
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.