Ecclestone ‘made us look like idiots’
Rage from Sepang boss after former F1 chief concedes over-charging them
Bernie Ecclestone was accused yesterday of having “made us look like idiots” by the chief executive of Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit after the former Formula One chief conceded deliberately over-charging tracks to stage races.
“I don’t understand why he made those kinds of statements,” Razlan Razali said. “As a loyal customer of his for the last 19 years, it showed a total lack of respect, I think, and made us look like idiots in some ways.”
This year will witness the last Malaysian Grand Prix in October for the foreseeable future, with the race disappearing from the calendar a year earlier than planned.
It was a combination of low attendances and high fees, with the government spending some US$67.6 million (Dh248.2m) annually to stage a race first run in 1999, no longer something that Sepang International Circuit (SIC) officials and their political bosses could tolerate.
Earlier this month 86-yearold British businessman Ecclestone, ousted from his controlling position in F1 during the off-season following a takeover by US-based Liberty Media, gave an interview in which he admitted over-charging.
Speaking to Autosport in Bahrain this month, Ecclestone said: “When I convinced people to build this place [Bahrain International Circuit] and all the other places, I feel a little bit responsible. I charged them too much for what we provide.
“On my watch, we didn’t deliver the show that we charged people for. Sooner or later I’m frightened that the governments behind them [the track promoters] will say enough is enough, and bye-bye.”
That is pretty much what happened in Malaysia.
“We always complained that the cost was too high and every year we tried to negotiate to get more value for money,” Razali said. “To come out with that kind of statement, it’s frustrating and it makes us look like an idiot really.”
This month saw Prime Minister Najib Razak announce the end of the Malaysia GP, which has faced intense local competition from the night race in neighbouring Singapore.
Malaysian officials said the Sepang circuit, which can accommodate 120,000 fans, drew just 45,000 to the 2016 race, and TV ratings were also poor.
“Especially last year, the numbers were really bad,” Razali said. “Two numbers we looked at, spectators going to the track, bums on seats, and TV ratings because TV ratings affect us in terms of media exposure.
“At the end of the day, hosting Formula One is about promoting the country as a global destination and if the numbers are not there, the investment we make in Formula One is not justified.”
On my watch, we didn’t deliver the show that we charged people for Bernie Ecclestone Former Formula One chief
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