MALAYSIA will stage its final Formula One (F1) Grand Prix in October after the government and the sport’s commercial rights holders announced on Friday their hosting agreement would end a year early.
Malaysia has hosted a round of the world championships at the Sepang International Circuit (SIC) since 1999, but the government said last November the deal would not be renewed when it ran out at the end of 2018.
On Friday, however, both parties announced the Oct 1 race this year would be the last.
“It’s always sad to say goodbye to a member of the Formula 1 family,” F1 commercial operations managing director Sean Bratches said in a statement.
“Over nearly two decades, the Malaysian Formula 1 fans have proven themselves to be some of the sport’s most passionate supporters.”
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Friday declining ticket sales, viewership and tourism were behind the decision.
“The Cabinet has agreed to end the contract for hosting the Formula One race starting 2018 after considering lowering returns to the country compared to the cost of hosting the championships,” he said in a statement.
State oil and gas firm Petronas is the race’s title sponsor. The company has been hit hard in recent times by tumbling oil prices.
Petronas, however, will continue to sponsor the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team as part of its marketing strategy, Najib said.
Government funds allocated for the race will be redirected towards other types of motor racing, upgrading the circuit, and training future Malaysian F1 drivers, Najib said.
The Sepang circuit will continue to host a round of the motorcycling world championships until 2021 under the terms of a deal signed with MotoGP rights holders Dorna Sports last year. – Reuters