Sepang organisers want F1 return but “can’t afford” calendar slot

10 Apr, 2023

Organisers at Sepang’s Kuala Lumpur circuit have explained that financial limitations have prevented them from returning to the Formula 1 calendar. 

Although plenty of venues are vying to host an F1 Grand Prix, there are few with more popularity amongst the fans than Kuala Lumpur.

The Malaysian GP became a fan-favourite in the 2000s and 2010s, with its circuit layout providing a combination of overtaking opportunities and challenging corners to test the drivers.

Rain was also a factor to consider in Sepang, adding another element to a track that consistently produced memorable races.

However, diminishing crowds at the most recent 2017 edition contributed to the decision to separate from Formula 1.

Sepang International Circuit, Sepang, Malaysia.
Saturday 30 September 2017.
Romain Grosjean, Haas VF-17.
World Copyright: Steven Tee/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _R3I4026

The situation has changed significantly since then, with the popularity of F1 justifying the expensive involved for organisers to host a race weekend.

Unfortunately, as explained by Malaysia’s Sports Minister Hanna Yeoh, the expense involved in returning to F1 is a significant obstacle:

“Motorsport is expensive, and the ministry does not want the SIC (Sepang International Circuit) to bear the burden alone,” Yeoh is quoted as saying by a Malaysian outlet.

“F1 is very expensive. We had to wait for $4,500,000 from the government just to upgrade the track. 

“If we could host an F1 race we already would have done it – but for now, we can’t afford to have races.”

There have been various suggestions for a rotating calendar over the last few years, which could be a potential solution for the circuits currently out of the F1 schedule.

Kuala Lumpur – as mentioned above – is still investing in improving its facilities to host race events, so the Malaysian GP will remain a viable option should an opening present itself.

For circuits like Sepang or even Hockenheim – without the financial firepower to compete with other organisers – a rotating calendar (or change in approach from Liberty Media) represents their best chance at an F1 comeback.

F1 and Liberty Media currently enjoy all the leverage in negotiations with bidding venues, so the likes of Stefano Domenicali will have the freedom to sculpt the calendar to their liking.

An ever-expanidng calendar will certainly allow for more opportunities, although there are no signs that Sepang will feature in F1 in for the foreseeable future.

The Concorde Agreement prevents the already bloated schedule from growing any larger, so – as things stand – there will be continuity over the next few years.