• Malaysia wouldn’t want to host F1, even for free – SIC

    Published: Sunday, 1 October 2017
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    This weekend sees the final Formula 1 Malaysian Grand Prix being held in Sepang, but its organiser isn’t feeling warm and fuzzy about the farewell, it seems. If anything, the sentiment is very much the opposite, as Reuters reports.

    According to Sepang International Circuit CEO Datuk Razlan Razali, the country wouldn’t want to host Formula 1 after this, even if it was offered for free. Fans, he said, weren’t turning up because the show wasn’t exciting enough to draw them in, and as such there was very little to compel the country to host an F1 race.

    “Even if we got the greatest of deals, do it for free for example, what’s the product? I myself am not able to sit in front of the television and watch from lap one until whatever lap (for) two hours. It’s hard to sell this kind of event and to get bums on the seat, and it’s not worth the investment at the moment,” he told the news agency on the sidelines of the free practice session at the track yesterday.

    Razlan said that attendances had been on the decline since 2014, when the quieter 1.6 litre turbo-hybrid engines were introduced. Last year, only 46,944 people turned up to watch the race. While a slight improvement over that of 2015, the attendance figure was far from the 88,450 spectators recorded in 2013.

    At the time of the report, grandstand tickets for the race were still on sale despite an 82% discount. Razlan said he expected about 80,000 spectators for the finale. Meanwhile, tickets for next month’s MotoGP race, which Sepang will continue to host, have already been sold out. Last year, a record crowd of 160,000 people turned up for the 2016 edition of the bike race.

    Declining ticket sales, viewership and tourist numbers were among the reasons why Malaysia pulled the plug on the race it has hosted since 1999. Razlan added that what F1’s new owners Liberty Media had done wasn’t enough. “They did not work hard enough for us to change our minds,” he said.

    “I turn it back to the media. What changes have you seen that makes it any more exciting than in the Bernie days, in terms of the sport, in terms of racing, what have they done? Fan engagement, yes. What they have done off-track, it’s great, but what triggers for someone to buy tickets to come to the circuit? It’s the product, the sport, not because of the activation they have done,” he explained.

    Razlan said that Malaysia would be happy to come back if Formula 1 delivered a show that would bring in the fans and dish out something that will keep them on the edge of their seats. “The easiest part is to come back and negotiate with Liberty Media for F1 to come back. The hard part is (determining) whether the sport has changed for the better,” he said.

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