Malaysia are planning to "take a break" from hosting Formula One races at the Sepang International Circuit due to dwindling interest in the annual race.
The country's Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin opined against hosting the race after the Sepang International Circuit (SIC) Chief Executive Officer Razlan Ahmad Razlan Ahmad Razali suggested that discontinuing the annual event will benefit Malaysia.
Notably, the Southeast Asian nation have a contract to host the race until 2018.
Razali revealed that the ticket sales for the F1 race has been going down 10% every passing year and reached only between 55 and 60% in 2016, according to New Straits Times Online. He also added that Singapore, which hosted the season's night race on 18 September, also faced a 20% dip in sales.
Also, the SIC official said that the TV viewership for the race, held on 2 October, slumped to an all-time low figure. He also pointed fingers on the domination of Mercedes for the decline in interest in the race.
Notably, it was Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, who clinched the title at this year's Malaysian Grand Prix after Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton was forced to exit the race, which he was dominating from pole until the final few laps, due to engine fire.
However, Mercedes, who are also sponsored by Malaysia's state oil company Petronas, clinched their third straight constructors' championship earlier this month when Nico Rosberg won the Japanese GP. The German driver and Hamilton have been dominating the races in the ongoing season sharing 16 titles between them with three more races to go.
"I think the product (F1) is no longer exciting. It is being dominated by one team. Maybe it will do Malaysia good to take a break," Razali was quoted as saying according to the news portal.
The Malaysian sports minister expressed agreement with Razali's views saying the cost for hosting the race was not affordable and that the returns were limited as well, in a series of Tweets. He rued lack of public participation in the race and said football drew the attention of more people than F1 races in the country.
He also opined in favour of continuing with Moto GP races in the country. Notably, tickets for the motorcycle race which will be held on 30 October at Sepang have been sold out, the report reveals.
Night race in the city. Novelty. No where else in the world. Even then ticket sales are down. https://t.co/DLkIVWDbnA— Khairy Jamaluddin (@Khairykj) October 24, 2016
I think we should stop hosting the F1. At least for a while. Cost too high, returns limited. https://t.co/1XQxuS2CO5— Khairy Jamaluddin (@Khairykj) October 24, 2016
When we first hosted the F1 it was a big deal. First in Asia outside Japan. Now so many venues. No first mover advantage. Not a novelty.— Khairy Jamaluddin (@Khairykj) October 24, 2016
F1 ticket sales declining, TV viewership down. Foreign visitors down b/c can choose Singapore, China, Middle East. Returns are not as big.— Khairy Jamaluddin (@Khairykj) October 24, 2016
SIC should bid for less costly races, retain Moto GP which is still popular, spend on development & increase public access to track days.— Khairy Jamaluddin (@Khairykj) October 24, 2016
For the record I still think we should host Moto GP. 1) Cheaper fee & cost, 2) Sellout crowd, 3) We have riders in Moto 2 & 3.— Khairy Jamaluddin (@Khairykj) October 24, 2016
Public participation. Football > motor sports. Plus hosting the F1 for one year pays for 20 years of football development. 20 years. https://t.co/RnSfSALaSK— Khairy Jamaluddin (@Khairykj) October 25, 2016