Malaysia to discontinue Formula One Grand Prix after 2018

New Delhi, PTI | Updated : 22 November 2016, 10:09 AM
Sepang International Circuit - File Photo
Sepang International Circuit - File Photo

Malaysia will discontinue its Formula One Grand Prix race after 2018 due to declining revenues, a government minister said on Monday.

The decision by the Malaysian government shall bring an end to one of Asia's longest-running F1 races.

The economic problems besetting the sport are taking too much of a toll and Malaysia will not renew after its current contract expires in two years, Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz told local media on Monday.

The race's future had been up in the air after officials said last month they were reassessing their commitment to the event amid ebbing television viewership and anaemic ticket sales.

"We spend 300 million ringgit ($67 million) per year but are not getting 300 million back. There are no returns on the F1 Grand Prix," Nazri told state-run Bernama news agency.

He noted that attendance had declined despite the high cost of staging the race, which has been held at the Sepang circuit near Kuala Lumpur since 1999."I think the people have lost interest," he said.

The race has faced intensifying competition, particularlyfrom the glittering night grand prix in neighbouringSingapore, just as energy-exporting Malaysia has seen itsgovernment revenues sapped by weak world oil prices andslowing economic growth.     

Formula One races are often run at a loss but they areattractive to many cities because of their prestige andexposure to global audiences.      

Malaysian officials have said Sepang, which canaccommodate 120,000 fans, drew just 45,000 to last month'sgrand prix, and added that race-day TV ratings were also poor.

In comments on Twitter last month, Sports Minister KhairyJamaluddin stressed the competition from other events outsideof Malaysia.

"F1 ticket sales declining, TV viewership down. Foreignvisitors down b/c (because) can choose Singapore, China,Middle East. Returns are not as big," he said.

In September, US firm Liberty Media announced a takeoverof F1, including a new chairman and plans for greaterpenetration in the United States to try and right the ship.