Ec­cle­stone ‘made us look like idiots’

Rage from Sepang boss af­ter for­mer F1 chief con­cedes over-charg­ing them

The National - News - Sport - - LEADINGOFF -

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

Ale­jan­dro Gar­cia / EPA

Ney­mar, cen­tre, will be avail­able as the Brazil­ian striker re­turns from sus­pen­sion fol­low­ing his send­ing off at Osasuna.

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