F1 race draws to an end, but motorsports continues in Malaysia
Many Sundays from now, the annual journey to the Formula 1 Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix will begin.
Whether they come by public transportation or brave the traffic jam in their own vehicles, the fans are set to gather one last time at the Sepang International Circuit (SIC).
To be part of history in celebrating the last F1 race at a circuit, which has hosted the championship since 1999.
Race weekend will be from Sept 29 to Oct 1.
It had recently been announced that the Malaysian government and Formula One Management had agreed that 2017 would be the last year the country would host the race despite having a contract that ran until next year.
The venue has been the backdrop for many exciting races right from the inagural race besides evolving from just hosting a race to having activities that catered to even non-motoring spectators, including after-race concerts.
Besides the hordes of spectators that turned up year after year, there were also celebrities who turned up at the exclusive paddock area.
Celebs like Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh, Kimora Lee Simmons, Owen Wilson and Datuk Shah Rukh Khan are just among the few that had others in the paddock whip out their mobile devices to snap a shot of them.
And while there is always a buzz around the F1 circus coming to Malaysia, SIC itself is a venue that hosts other races throughout the year, including the MotoGP, Sepang 1,000km Endurance Race and Malaysia Superbike Championship.
Bidding farewell with F1NALE campaign
The campaign for the Formula 1 Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix kicked off at Suria KLCC on Friday night with a launch that gave attendees a chance to have a memory lap of memorable incidents that took place at SIC during F1 races.
They were treated to a video clip that showcased highlights of the past 18 years. Such highlights were also available for reading courtesy on display boards at the area besides it being beamed on one of the pillars of the mall.
An exhibition of Petronas-sponsored cars is also available during the roadshow that ends in Kuala Lumpur on April 16. Similar roadshows will be held in Penang and Johor Baru in August and September respectively.
“The Sepang circuit has a pull that keeps you coming back for more. You may complain about the weather and the distance but come the F1 race, you will find yourself back at the circuit and bracing yourself for when the five lights go out,” said SIC chairman Tan Sri Azman Yahya at the launch.
“Sepang Circuit holds many memories for the 1.8 million spectators who have walked through the entrance to catch their favourite team. Yes, we have had 1.8 million spectators coming for the F1 races over the last 18 years, and out of which about 450,000 are international spectators from all over the world.”
He added that the Formula One event has been a success and it had been instrumental in the development of not only the circuit but the country’s motorsports industry and the sports tourism sector.
“The impact of the races has been felt and will continue to be felt in the years to come as it has placed Malaysia prominently on the global map,” he added.
Besides more infrastructure development for the circuit, he said SIC was also investing in soft infrastructure including skills and talent development.
This includes a programme for four wheels with Nabil Jeffri in F2, Jazeman Jaafar in Blancpain GT Europe and Muizzuddin Musyafa in WSK and CIK European championships.
SIC, he added would also be embarking on a Technical Academy for race technicians and mechanics.
Petronas group strategic communications senior general manager Zahariah Abdul Rahman said Petronas was honoured to have the opportunity to host the race.
“At Petronas, our Formula One journey continues as the technical partner to Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport. We will proceed to nurture talents and bring the same fuel and lubricants technology developed for Formule One world champions to our consumers,” she said.
Future of Malaysian motorsports
Finance Minister II Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani, who launched the event, said investments would now be chanelled to several strategic areas including investing in new and upgraded facilities at the Sepang International Kart Circuit, installing new lighting to accommodate night driving activities and establishing the Advanced Driving Experience Centre.
He also announced plans to develop more low-cost motorsports circuit or ‘litar rakyat’ across the country, citing that the country currently had three motorsports circuits the Sepang International Circuit, Pasir Gudang Circuit and Tangkak Racing Track, since the Shah Alam racing track closed down in 2003.
“As racing tracks are not easily available, the youngters have taken their passion to the roads and this has created various social problems,” he said in his speech.
“Once these circuits are built and it is affordable enough for the rakyat to use these facilities, we will then be able to encourage more people to participate in motorsport at the proper place, and not on the streets.”
He added that the government would then organise racing events at local levels and use it as a platform to spot potential talents that can be groomed at professional level.
“This is indeed in line with our continous efforts in developing young talents to thrive in motosports,” he said.
He later told reporters that several states had requested for a budget to construct such circuits.