A return to F1 for the Malaysian Grand Prix appears unlikely, according to the CEO of the Sepang International Circuit.
First held in 1999, the race dropped off the F1 calendar after the 2017 event, in which Max Verstappen overtook Lewis Hamilton on his way to his second career win.
Still a regular fixture on the MotoGP calendar, the Sepang International Circuit retains its FIA Grade 1 certification, and had been touted as a potential replacement Grand Prix venue in 2020 and 2021, as F1 sought to bulk out a calendar decimated by Covid-related withdrawals.
However, despite a slot on the 2022 calendar having emerged after the cancellation of the Russian Grand Prix, recent comments by circuit boss Azhan Shafriman Hanif would appear to suggest that Sepang is not close to returning to F1.
Malaysia set to prioritise recovery from the pandemic
"We should look at the big picture holistically, at how F1 can benefit not only the company but also Malaysia in terms of branding, ability to provide employment opportunities, talent development, and others," Azhan Shafriman was quoted as saying by BERNAMA, the Malaysian government news agency.
"So when we pay for the relatively high [F1] organising rights, the return should be high overall, not only from the [circuit] aspect."
BERNAMA added that Azhan Shafriman indicated that he felt Malaysia should prioritise recovery from the pandemic over hosting a Grand Prix.
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Malaysia not a key market for F1?
With a record 23 Grands Prix scheduled for 2022, and new races in Miami and Las Vegas to appear over the next two years, Malaysia would appear not to be a key growth area for F1, whose CEO Stefano Domenicali earlier this week touted the importance of developing the American market.
In recent years, F1 has also given greater focus to the Middle East, with the region currently playing host to four Grands Prix that are said to be paying among the highest hosting fees on the calendar.
The Malaysian Grand Prix was F1's first Asian race outside Japan, and played host to several notable moments, such as Kimi Raikkonen's first win in 2003, a monsoon-shortened event in 2009, and Sebastian Vettel's ignoring of team orders not to overtake Mark Webber for the lead in 2013.
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