Malaysia to Drop F1 from 2018 Onward

Although F1’s presence at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia has been an annual occurrence since 1999, it looks like the times are a-changin’.

Malaysian government officials have cited low public turnout and declining television viewership as the principle causes. The tourism and culture minister of Malaysia, Nazri Abdul Aziz, commented on the development saying:

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - SEPTEMBER 30: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo comes into the pitlane during practice for the Malaysia Formula One Grand Prix at Sepang Circuit on September 30, 2016 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA – SEPTEMBER 30: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo comes into the pitlane during practice for the Malaysia Formula One Grand Prix at Sepang Circuit on September 30, 2016 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

“After 2018 no longer… From the longer term perspective, it’s probably the correct decision because it’s more expensive and no longer that attractive.”

– Nazri Abdul Aziz

While F1’s appeal still shines strong in this writer’s eyes, it does beg the question: is the falloff in Malaysian interest an isolated case, or is the sport beginning to slip in worldwide attention? The announcement from Malaysia comes at a time when other locations are still considering the possibility of renewing their contracts with F1 beyond 2017 – or not. Eyes are on Singapore next as their contract runs out at roughly the same time as Malaysia.

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“I don’t think there is anywhere in the world where the number of spectators for F1 has increased,”

– Nazri Abdul Aziz

Scathing. Regardless of Singapore’s decision, the question is one that both officials and fans should ask themselves: is the sport doing everything it should be to retain the faithful and attract newcomers?
While we can look to the upcoming regulations change as a potential source of “shakin’ shit up good”, is it going to be enough of a change to drum up interest? Personally, I think the time is ripe to begin the transition into a brutal gladiator death-match akin to that featured in the film Death Race with yaboi Jason Statham – or the notorious Twisted Metal games.

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Think about it, we not only get to retain the high-octane breakneck speeds, but we get to throw a little apocalyptic bloodshed in as well. Viewership and involvement would soar and the franchise could truly initiate the genre of apocalyptic sports. If we’re already headed to oblivion, you might as well ride through the Gates of Hell in a shiny McLaren.
Daydreaming aside, there is no question that changes are coming to F1, and that like any sustainable sport it needs to remain dynamic and captivating.