KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will stop hosting the Formula One Grand Prix in Sepang after its current agreement expires in 2018, confirmed Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Abdul Aziz on Monday (Nov 21).
He said this was because the race had become too expensive to host and was no longer attractive. "I don't think there is anywhere in the world the number of spectators for F1 has increased, Mr Nazri told reporters at Parliament.
“F1 attendance is dropping and there is less attraction now. We are spending RM300 million (US$67 million) a year (for the race),” he said, adding that Malaysia has not been able to recoup the money spent on hosting the event.
He said he agrees with Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin who had considered dropping the F1 last month due to declining ticket sales and because Malaysia has not produced quality F1 drivers in all the years that it has hosted the race.
Malaysian officials have said Sepang, which can accommodate 120,000 fans, drew just 45,000 to last month's grand prix, and added that race-day TV ratings were also poor.
In comments on Twitter last month, Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin stressed the competition from other events outside of Malaysia.
"F1 ticket sales declining, TV viewership down. Foreign visitors down b/c (because) can choose Singapore, China, Middle East. Returns are not as big," he said.
Mr Nazri noted, on the other hand, that the Motorcycle Grand Prix (MotoGP) has seen an increase in following. "If MotoGP is scrapped next year, it will affect our tourism badly," he said.
The future of the F1 race in Singapore is also in doubt, after Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone claimed that the city-state does not want to host the race any longer. In an interview with German magazine Auto Motor Und Sport published on Sunday (Nov 20), Ecclestone said Singapore may not extend the deal, because it had achieved what it wanted with the Grand Prix.