Malaysia have decided to scrap the Sepang Formula One race after its contract ends in 2018, the country's tourism and culture minister has confirmed. Meanwhile, F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, who had reportedly said that Singapore no longer wants to hold the race, has given a completely different account of the situation, saying it will be "sorted out shortly".
The Malaysian senator, Nazri Abdul Aziz, has conceded that the F1 race at the Sepang International Circuit (SIC) was not a revenue generating option but was costing them quite a lot. Reuters reported that the state oil and gas company Petronas has been hard hit by dropping oil prices and that it was no longer in a position to sponsor the title race in Kuala Lumpur.
The decision comes after SIC Chief Executive Officer Razlan Ahmad Razlan Ahmad Razali opined against hosting the annual race saying the ticket sales for the F1 race has been going down 10% every passing year and reached only between 55 and 60% in 2016.
Razali also shed light on how Mercedes domination has made the product [F1] less exciting. The country's Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin had also expressed agreement with his views saying the cost for hosting the race was not affordable and that the returns were limited as well.
"After 2018 no longer. From the longer term perspective, it is probably the correct decision because it's more expensive and no longer that attractive," Abdul Aziz said on Monday, as quoted by the Reuters.
Meanwhile, Ecclestone, in an interview to The Straits Times, has said that the races at the Marina Bay Circuit will "hopefully continue" and the calendar would not want to lose the night race.
Singapore witnessed a 20 percent dip in ticket sales for the 2016 race, which was held on 18 September. It is also reported that the attendance has slipped 15 percent and currently stands at 219,000 spectators over three days of the race and 73,000 per day.
"F1's stand is to hopefully continue in Singapore. Everybody is happy to be in Singapore and (we) don't want to lose Singapore," Ecclestone said, as quoted by the news daily.
"Negotiations are ongoing and will be sorted out shortly... before the end of the year, I'm sure. We want to extend long term. We'll see what happens."
The 86-year-old F1 supremo also said his words were interpreted in a "funny way" and that he just said there was no final call taken on the contract extension with Singapore.