Sepang International Circuit chief executive Dato’ Razlan Razali says a return of the Malaysian Grand Prix is still a possibility, with its final appearance on the F1 calendar currently scheduled for later this season.
The Malaysian government has yanked funding for the race a year ahead of schedule, coming to a mutual agreement with the sport’s new owners Liberty Media to terminate their contract. The government has blamed a lack of economic return of late on the decision, but Razali says a return would not be out of the question, if the circumstances were right.
“The circuit is there – if it ticks all the boxes, we will take it back,” he told Autosport. “We want to see how exciting F1 is again.”
“The new owners need to take back control of F1 and the racing. [Former F1 commercial chief] Bernie [Ecclestone] lost a bit of control with the FIA. The drastic regulation change for 2014, with the new V6 engines, was the beginning of the downward spiral of F1.”
“Racing has become less exciting and that has had an impact on interest, both in terms of TV viewers and those coming to the track. They need to bring the excitement back, they need to sort it out. Let’s see what the new management comes up with.”
A lack of ticket sales has hurt the venue – filling out just over a third of its 120,000 capacity last season – and Razali has put this down to the introduction of the Singapore Grand Prix back in 2008.
“Having two F1 [races] in south-east Asia is killing the sport,” he said. “It would be much better if we could alternate.”
Many venues, including high profile circuits like Spa-Francorchamps, have discussed and rebuffed alternating races, but he suggested this may have helped the longevity of the race. Singapore had offered the Malaysian organisers this option before becoming a permanent fixture on the calendar.
“It was before I took this job and apparently we refused. Would I consider it if it was an option again? Yes I would.”
With no F1 race on the horizon, Sepang’s primary draw will be its Moto GP race, but Razali is still evaluating ways to bring Formula 1 cars back to the circuit in the near future.
“I’m exploring the idea of testing, but I’m not sure if fans will want to come and watch cars testing.”
“It would also be an issue of cost. MotoGP pay us to test at the venue, so we have always made it free for fans. I’m not sure if that would be viable with F1.”