This year’s Malaysian Grand Prix will be the country’s last, it has been confirmed today.
A statement posted on the official Formula 1 website confirmed that the Sepang International Circuit and Formula One Management had jointly agreed to terminate their contract one year early.
“Over nearly two decades, the Malaysian Formula 1 fans have proven themselves to be some of the sport’s most passionate supporters,” commented Sean Bratches, the Managing Director of FOM’s Commercial Operations division.
“Over nearly two decades, the Malaysian Formula 1 fans have proven themselves to be some of the sport’s most passionate supporters.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Sepang International Circuit for their hospitality and professionalism over the years, and their ongoing commitment to motorsport.”
Doubts over the future of the Malaysian Grand Prix – which first appeared on the F1 calendar in 1999 – have steadily built, with dwindling crowds and the success of the Grand Prix in its southern neighbour, Singapore, both proving to be factors.
Added to that, the country’s oil export dependent economy has slowed, while the ruling government – which partly subsidises the race – is mired in scandal amid claims that the Prime Minister, Najib Razak, has been helping himself to a government wealth fund.
While the Prime Minister has predictably denied any wrongdoing, the allegations are being investigated by a number of groups which include the American Justice Department.
It is a far cry from the days of the Malaysian Grand Prix’s visionary, the then-Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who led the country for over twenty years. While Mahathir was himself no political saint, he had a clear vision to bring Malaysia into one of the world’s leading technological and industrial hubs. Bringing Formula 1 to Malaysia was part of that vision, and he remains widely lauded for doing so.
Today, Malaysia remains highly dependent on oil and gas exports headlined by the Petronas group – amounting to roughly one-third of the country’s total revenue – but with the current low oil prices the country is suffering and has to make drastic spending cuts in the short to mid-term.
Image via Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team