Sepang chief happy to share limelight with night race

Malaysia has welcomed its move from being the second Formula One race of the season to the 16th.

The revised provisional schedule for next year's 21-race season was approved by the International Automobile Federation's (FIA) World Motor Sport Council and announced in Paris on Wednesday.

It sees the Malaysian Grand Prix, traditionally the second race after the season-opener in March in Melbourne, moved to Oct 2.

That is just two weeks after the night race in Singapore on Sept 18 and one week before the Japanese Grand Prix on Oct 9.

While the move has raised eyebrows on both sides of the Causeway, Razlan Razali, chief executive officer of the Sepang International Circuit which stages the Malaysian race, is taking it in his stride.

  • 2016 F1 CALENDAR

  • March 20: Australia (Melbourne)

    April 3: Bahrain

    April 17: China (Shanghai)

    May 1: Russia (Sochi)

    May 15: Spain (Barcelona)

    May 29: Monaco

    June 12: Canada (Montreal)

    June 19: Azerbaijan (Baku)

    July 3: Austria (Spielberg)

    July 10: Britain (Silverstone)

    July 24: Hungary (Budapest)

    July 31: Germany (Hockenheim)

    Aug 28: Belgium (Spa-Francorchamps)

    Sept 4: Italy (Monza)

    Sept 18: Singapore

    Oct 2: Malaysia (Sepang)

    Oct 9: Japan (Suzuka)

    Oct 23: United States (Austin)

    Nov 6: Mexico

    Nov 13: Brazil (Sao Paulo)

    Nov 27: Abu Dhabi

He told The Straits Times yesterday: "It will give us a longer time to promote the Malaysian Grand Prix and more effectively."

"Furthermore, the revised date will help us attract more global fans who would like to travel to the region to catch two back-to-back races," he added.

With the drivers' title rarely decided before the last couple of races in the season, Razlan also felt that "having the race later in Malaysia is good because the drivers will be battling here".

He added: "With Petronas as our sponsor (and also championship leader Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes team), our home fans will want to see the Mercedes team win on Malaysian soil."

He refuted the notion that the move could hurt Sepang, with foreign fans possibly plumping instead for glitzy Singapore, which has been hailed as the crown jewel of Formula One because of its tricky street circuit and glamorous atmosphere.

In fact, he believes it could be a win-win situation for both races.

Citing a survey he conducted, the findings showed that the overseas fans, who clocked at least six to nine hours of flight time to reach Malaysia, tended to spend about two weeks on holiday in the South-east Asian region.

No attendance figures are available for this year's Malaysian Grand Prix but last year saw a record low of 100,000 fans in the wake of the MH370 plane disappearance.

Razlan was also hoping to produce a "mega event" with the 2016 Malaysian motorcycle Grand Prix (motoGP) pencilled in for Oct 9, a week after the F1 race.

But how much of a benefit this will be remains to be seen as the event clashes with the Japanese Grand Prix, one of the traditional highlights of the F1 calendar.

In contrast to Razlan's upbeat mood, local race promoter Singapore GP gave the new arrangement the thumbs down, saying: "We provided feedback to Formula One Management (FOM) that we are not in favour of back-to-back sequencing of our race."

Singapore GP did not further elaborate on the reasons why it is not supportive of the revised calendar.

Other changes to the F1 schedule announced on Wednesday include the start of the 2016 season being brought forward to March 20 from April 3.

The Bahrain Grand Prix will replace Malaysia as the second race, with China moving up to be third.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 02, 2015, with the headline 'Sepang chief happy to share limelight with night race'. Print Edition | Subscribe