For the past week, Malaysians have followed the trail of the celebrity-like
F1 drivers who turned up at functions to
please their sponsors. They have had to
kiss babies, sign autographs, pose for
photographers one even
opened a bank.
There's no such thing as a free ride in
this case. The F1 event is more than a
race it's mega bucks business.
And if you believe the claim by PAS
central committee member Datuk Dr Hassan
Harun, the entire exercise is to
hypnotise Malaysians with the various brands of
It's another kind of vice endorsed by Barisan Nasional, the motivation-speaker-turned-politician said at
a recent ceramah. In August, PAS
condemned the pre National Day celebration in Bangsar, describing the trendy
spot as a haven for vices.
Dr Hassan and his supporters are
unlikely to be at Sepang today.
Presumably, shouting slogans and
burning Barisan flags would be
more thrilling for them than
watching speeding cars.
Bringing Formula One racing to Malaysia
is a coup. It has put Malaysia on the world map because the event is not a one-off race.
Next year, Malaysia will host the last
leg of the race. That means the champion
will be crowned here.
Beside the international exposure, the returns from tourism will be enormous. Hotels in Kuala Lumpur were booked solid over the past one week.
Nearby tourist spots such as Port
Dickson and even Pangkor have attracted
visitors who came for the race.
The F1 is one of the biggest sports
events, attracting over 500 million
television viewers across 260
That aside, it makes sense to hold the
race in Malaysia as it complements our
efforts to be an automobile producer. It
is also a boost to motorsports as it
will enhance automotive engineering capabilities.
As Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad pointed out, it could encourage locals to
design racing cars on par with those
Malaysia should now take the next step
of hosting world-class motor shows like
those held in Japan, the United States and Europe. The F1 race, considered the ultimate in motor
sports, will strengthen any bid by Malaysia
to host an international motor
PAS leaders are merely being
economically myopic when they
bring up petty issues to criticise
Tobacco sponsorship in the race, for
example, reportedly amounts to 30mil per
season, which covers 16 races, while
souvenir sales run to millions of
Over the next five to six years,
however, financial institutions are
likely to edge tobacco companies
out as they take over F1 sponsorship.
The countries involved in hosting the races are Australia, Brazil, San Marino, Monaco, Spain, Canada, France,
Britain, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, Malaysia and Japan.
The 61 sq km San Marino is smaller than
Perlis and is located near Italy. A tax
haven, the landlocked republic has made itself
known following the F1 race despite having a population of only 25,000.
Despite its small size, it has not
stopped San Marino from hosting
the event. Malaysia certainly has
Now is the time to show the world whether
we are world class or merely interested
in hoisting party flags on tree
The RM286mil Sepang F1 circuit is
regarded as the best. It won't be a
white elephant because it will stage the
World 500cc motorcycle GP in
It also has a go-kart circuit and tracks
for motorcross. An 18-hole golf course
is on the cards while other
facilities including a theme park, hotel and hypermarket will be built.
Similarly, when the National Stadium at Bukit Jalil was being constructed for
the Commonwealth Games '98, criticism
was rife that it would be left idle. It
has turned out otherwise the stadium is used for concerts and trade fairs now.
And as F1 legend Jackie Stewart said,
“make Malaysia known for its
attractions and not because of its
Let's prove to the world that the
Malaysian Formula works.