Malaysian GP bows out; critical of Liberty Media, Ecclestone and F1

This October, Malaysia will host its final Formula 1 Grand Prix. The Sepang circuit has been a feature of the F1 calendar for 19 years but this year is its last according to Dato’ Razlan Razali, the circuit’s chief executive.

The departure of the Sepang International Circuit (SIC) isn’t without its controversy and back-biting activities as Razali had some choice words for the new owners of F1, Liberty Media and the former boss, Bernie Ecclestone.

“They are very much learning,” Razali said. “The only personality on board that knows about Formula One is Ross Brawn. But he is an engineer. He is a technical guy.

“We just want to celebrate the final year. We don’t want to be too emotional about it. We want to give Formula One a good send off come 1 October,” said Razali, who met with Liberty Media at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

“We presented them with what we feel would be a good plan. Unfortunately, it is something that they can’t help us with.”

“We are not so convinced in how they can improve Formula One if they can’t even help us in our final event. We are representing it again to them in Barcelona, so we’ll see. If they value our 19 years of relationship they should at least try.”

Perhaps Razali is more of an Ecclestone fan than Liberty Media? Perhaps not as the former F1 boss said recently that he had charged extremely high fees to host Grands Prix which left the SIC boss perplexed.

“For [Ecclestone] to come out with that statement we can’t help but feel suckered by him in some ways and quite disappointed,” Razali said. “We thought we have a relationship. But I guess the reality is there are no loyalties in this business, it is all about dollars and cents.

“So with that statement, yes, it upsets us in a way.”

One comment that isn’t hard to figure out is the impact the new hybrid engine has had on the sport and the feelings of Razali on how this had a knock-on effect to his race. Razali says he can’t get “bums in seats” and that the product had become “boring”.

“Since 2014 the numbers don’t add up anymore, so it was quite an easy decision to not host Formula One anymore. It was not difficult at all to be honest,” he said.

“Right now we are firm in our decision to take a long break. We are looking at a 7-10 year break,” he said.

“They need to fix the sport,” he said. “MotoGP is so successful because of the product… you don’t have to look far.”

SIC still has a MotoGP contract until 2021 and the race is well-received by the Malaysian public. It will be interesting to see what circuits in AsiaPac do when their contracts end. Ecclestone’s comments won’t be lost on them and nor will the high fees. Can Liberty Media create more value for these venues and still demand a premium in doing so? Time will tell. 

Hat Tip: City AM

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Daniel Johnson

I think the main issue is that Liberty Media doesn’t want to renegotiate something substantially cheaper than what Bernie got, because that could trigger a run of all the circuits doing the same. They time and time again in interviews talk about long term and big picture. My guess is they slowly try to deflate the balloon before it pops rather than risk letting all the air out at once.

Zachary Noepe

Kind of a big leap between the (perennial) lack of a Malaysian fan base and hybrid engines there. That was a bit of a ‘and what else floats’ ‘very small rocks!’ analysis I’d suggest.