PREVIEW: 2011 FORMULA 1 PETRONAS MALAYSIAN GRAND PRIX

Published on April 7th, 2011

An Unprecedented Home Grand Prix for Three Formula 1 Teams

With three Formula 1 teams ‘carrying’ the Malaysian flag, the 2011 Formula 1 PETRONAS Malaysia Grand Prix will indeed be a special one for Malaysians.

“F1 has always been a special event for Malaysia. This year, however, it is even more extraordinary,” says Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak in reference to the alliance of Malaysian corporate companies with the Mercedes GP PETRONAS, Lotus Renault GP and Team Lotus.

“Never has the event been associated with so many Malaysian companies; making the 2011 Formula 1 PETRONAS Malaysian Grand Prix and Sepang Circuit as their ‘home race’ this season,” Najib said in his message at in the event’s official programme.

2011 marked the 13th edition of the Formula 1 PETRONAS Malaysian Grand Prix, which traced back to 1999 when it was first developed as tourism tool to sell Malaysia as an international destination and a national agenda to uplift the country’s image worldwide.

The new season opened at Albert Park in Melbourne with the Australian Grand Prix on March 27 and Malaysia hosts Round 2 of the 2011 Formula 1 World Championship, which now runs for 19 rounds with the cancellation of Bahrain Grand Prix.

Najib said: “Malaysia’s interest and its glorious image will be prominently projected this year, throughout all the rounds across the globe through the participation of Mercedes GP PETRONAS, the Proton-backed Lotus Renault Racing; the 1Malaysia Team Lotus as well as Virgin Formula 1 Racing, which has Q-Net as one of its key partners this season.

“Formula 1 – the world’s most prestigious motorsports event; and Malaysia’s tool in promoting the country for so long – is now adopted by more Malaysian companies as their business tools as well,” he said, adding that before Sepang Circuit came into the picture in 1999, Malaysia had Tourism Malaysia riding the popularity of the Stewart Grand Prix team in 1997.

Before that PETRONAS became the presenting sponsor for Red Bull Sauber in 1995. Over the years, the national petroleum company expanded further its investment in the sports including becoming the title sponsor for the Malaysian race and deeper involvement in the F1 racing teams.

Najib said: “With an extensive global audience; reaching hundreds of millions televisions on Race Day alone, the sport is undoubtedly the most effective platform for international mileage and worldwide recognition. Apart from global branding, it’s also the place for business networking, a stage to showcase a country; and an engine for transfer of technology. As such, for Malaysia, as a nation aspiring to be a major player in the automotive industry, its deep association with Formula 1 is only natural.

“Malaysia is always proud to be associated with Formula 1. We are proud to be the second Asian nation after Japan to host this prestigious event and inspired other Asian nations to bid for the privilege as well. Our current contract runs until 2015; and we aim to make full use of this privilege to reap in the fruits of benefits. And, to date, the impact of Formula 1 for Malaysia has been tremendous,” he added.

For Youth and Sports Minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek, the Formula 1 PETRONAS Malaysian Grand Prix was proof Malaysia’s capability in organizing world class motor racing events; and he hoped that it would be reflected as well in the competition field as well.

“Formula 1 has always been a special event in Malaysia; and the Malaysian Government has always been proud to be associated with the prestigious event. And, we, Malaysians, are truly privileged that have this event here at our own backyard.

“From the first race on October 17, 1999 and 11 editions later, the Formula 1 Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix had been a success story for Malaysia. It had transformed Malaysia’s status in the international arena; generated massive tourism dollars as well as jumpstarting the motorsports industry.

“Not too long ago, we would have never imagined of Malaysians competing in international races. But, after the establishment of Sepang Circuit in 1999, the perspective definitely changed – there’s was renewed confidence; and there was enhanced commitment among Malaysians,” he said.

He related the days of PETRONAS Sprinta Yamaha Team TVK venturing into the GP World Championship in 2000, to the introduction of Alex Yoong as Malaysia’s first F1 driver in Alex Yoong, the teenage Jazeman Jaafar dominating the Formula BMW Pacific series and Fairuz Fauzy role as an F1 test driver.

Declaring that he saw good prospects for the future, Shabery said that he believed with the continuous commitment and persistent effort, motor racing, too, could produce Malaysian world beaters

“We are proud to have world class athletes in badminton, squash, cycling and bowling. And, I strongly believe we can have world class performers in motor racing as well; especially with the current emphasis that Malaysian corporate companies are giving to the sports,” he added.

While welcoming the strong alliance of the Malaysian companies in the F1 teams, the minister hoped that the corporate companies involved would look at their partnership more than just from the business perspective.

“I sincerely hope that it would be translated into programmes for motorsports development as well,” said Shabery, who hailed SIC’s successful efforts in incorporating the Malaysian Super Series as support races for the 2011 Formula 1 PETRONAS Malaysian Grand Prix.

Hailed as the national championship for track racing and introduced in 2002, the MSS would be running the Malaysian GT class and the Malaysian Touring Car Challenge at the F1 race in Sepang as its opening round for its 2011 season.

In his message, SIC Chairman Datuk Mokhzani Mahathir said: “I am very happy that we finally managed to incorporate our Malaysian Super Series as the support races for the F1 event in Sepang. This is a racing series that we, at Sepang International Circuit, had diligently nurtured for years as the national championship for track racing; and the platform to provide top class competition for the drivers and teams.

“Together with our two other major events – the 12-hour Merdeka Millennium Endurance Race and the 1000-kms Endurance, these are the events that we hope for Malaysians to pick up their skills in managing and operating motor racing teams as well as to unearth new talents.

“Through these events, we aim to create a new culture of motorsports among Malaysians especially the grassroots, added Mokhzani.

words: SIC  pix: Syafril Ismail

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