Gone are India, South Korea and now Germany for 2015. As the teams touch down in Kuala Lumpa, there is a question over the future of the Malaysian GP, now in its 17th year. 2015 is the final year of Sepang’s contract with FOM and in February, Sepang circuit CEO Razlan Razali was optimistic that a new agreement will be in place by the upcoming weekend.
“We are still finalising our discussion with Formula One,” he said. “Unfortunately I can’t reveal any more than that. We just have to wait until the race weekend”, Razali claimed. “Both parties have come to some kind of an agreement, but certain items – we are still discussing the finer points.”
Yet no deal has been made as the Bernama news agency reveals today and was the case with this year’s German GP, fees are one of the sticking points.
“We are still in discussion with Formula One Management and studying the latest terms of agreement,” said Sepang chairman Mokhzani Mahathir. “We want a win-win situation”. However, “There are several issues which I’m still not very satisfied and if we can discuss this further, we will renew the contract for another three years.”
Sepang was the first of the new Hermann Tilke designed tracks to join the Formula One calendar back in 1999 and has been heavily reliant on state support. Back in 2007 Ecclestone described the venue as ‘shabby’ and in need of a ‘facelift’.
“They did such a fantastic job when it first started, but now it has become, if you don’t mind, like an old house that needs a bit of redecorating.” The work was slow and painful and procuring the finance was difficult as Razali revealed 3 years later. “The Malaysian government was fully supportive of the Grand Prix for the first four or five years but then lost interest”.
Improvements have been made in the intervening period though not to Ecclestone’s satisfaction as in 2013 he issued a wakeup call. “They need to finish what they started. It is obviously not the same as Singapore. Maybe because they don’t spend the money.”
Sepang signed a new deal with MotoGP last autumn which sees them host a round of that championship until 2016, though observers were surprised at the contract extension being relatively short. The fact that Sepang Chairman Mokhzani Mahathir is now talking only of a three year extension to the F1 contract – at a time when Ecclestone is desperate to sign longer contracts to increase the value of CVC’s investment – is also revealing. The days of a long line of nations jostling for position to host Formula One are definitely over – as is the “how much??? (shock)… but where do I sign?” automated response to Ecclestone’s demands.