Malaysia bids goodbye to F1

This year's Malaysian Grand Prix on Oct 1 is set to be the country's last, Prime Minister Najib Razak said yesterday, citing rising costs and falling ticket sales.

The Malaysian race will disappear from Formula 1's 2018 calendar - a year earlier than initially planned - while France and Germany return for a 21-race season.

"The Cabinet has agreed to end the Formula 1 Grand Prix effective 2018 in view of the low returns compared to the cost of hosting the race," PM Najib said.

Officials said last year that Malaysia would cease to host Formula 1 from 2019, waving the checkered flag on a race which began in 1999.

Razlan Razali, chief executive of Malaysia's Sepang International Circuit (SIC) where the Grand Prix is held, said the termination was "mutually agreed" by race organisers Formula 1 Management and SIC.

"Since I joined SIC nine years ago, we had tried to make it work for the economy and ensure all stakeholders like hotels and airlines benefit," Razlan said.

"But, unfortunately in the last few years, we had seen a dramatic decline in terms of television audiences and spectators."

Malaysia spends RM300 million (S$95m) each year to host the race, but was not getting any return on its investment, according to Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz.

Meanwhile, yesterday afternoon's practice sessions at the Shanghai Grand Prix were cancelled due to China's notoriously murky air.

Smog and damp weather combined to interrupt morning practice and force the cancellation of the afternoon session, without title hopefuls Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel logging any timed laps.

F1 officials also said the race's medical helicopter would not have been able to land at a suitable hospital in the city.

With further poor conditions forecast, one option for organisers could be to bring tomorrow's race forward to today as a precaution.

More than half the drivers got a crack at the circuit during a curtailed morning session, with Max Verstappen of Red Bull getting around the quickest. - AFP

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