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Najib does not rule out return of Malaysian GP

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said yesterday that Formula One could return to Malaysia and pledged the Sepang circuit will not become a "white elephant".

Speaking before the final edition of the Malaysian Grand Prix, which began in 1999, Najib said the loss-making race could return if the "economic conditions" were right.

"The economics viability of it is less and less attractive, so we decided to terminate it," said Najib.

"But it does not mean it cannot be reconsidered sometime in the future provided the economic set of conditions is deemed to be favourable."

Najib said there was a "sentimental kind of feeling" about the last edition of a race which helped raise Malaysia's profile around the world.

"But it is time to call it a day although we have benefited from hosting the F1. It has been a kind of diminishing returns for us," he said.

Najib's remarks come after the Sepang circuit's CEO, Razlan Razali, told AFP that it will be at least five years before Malaysia even contemplates bringing back the race.

Malaysia's government, who has bankrolled the event since its inception, announced in April that they were no longer prepared to shell out RM67 million (S$21.5m) a year to stage it.

Najib said the Sepang circuit, built in 1998 at a cost of RM308 million, will not be under-used as it will host other races, including the highly popular MotoGP.

"We will develop other kinds of motorsports and see stronger Malaysian participation in the sports. It (Sepang circuit) will not be a white elephant," 
he said.

F1 chief executive Chase Carey also said he saw a bright future for the sport in Asia, even though it will host only three of a record 21 races next year.

China and Singapore have both renewed their contracts, to 2020 and 2021 respectively, while this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix has been part of the schedule since 1987.

"We are really excited about the future in Asia in general and certainly love to continue our relationship with Malaysia even if we do not have a race here," Carey said. - AFP

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