Malaysian GP chiefs wait and see on new contract

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 27, 2014 at 9:06 pm •  Published: March 27, 2014
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SEPANG, Malaysia (AP) — The head of the Malaysian Grand Prix says fan reaction to Formula One's new era, with quieter engines and energy-efficient racing, will play a role in deciding whether the race will stay on the calendar.

Sepang International Circuit chief executive Razlan Razali says talks to extend the contract beyond next year's expiry will begin this weekend.

He told the local New Straits Times newspaper that F1's new rules and quiet engines "affect the atmosphere of the race so we'll want to see more of how this issue develops."

Razali's concerns echo that of Australian Grand Prix chief Ron Walker who, after the season-opening race earlier this month, said he was considering suing F1 officials for breach of contract over the lack of sound made by the new V6 turbo hybrid engines.

The engine issue is the latest political skirmish between the sport's organizing body, the FIA, which introduced the new rules to make F1 engines more efficient and relevant to road cars, and the sport's commercial-rights-holding body headed by Bernie Ecclestone, who always opposed the move away from the loud V8 engines.

Razali said ticket sales for this weekend's race were down as expected, with the nation in a somber mood following the loss of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.

"People are not in the mood to celebrate," Razali said.

The loss of MH370, with 239 people on board, has prompted the cancellation of some planned activities around the race, including a Christina Aguilera concert and an acrobatic jet show at the circuit.

F1 teams and drivers will display commemorative stickers on their cars and helmets in honor of the people lost on the flight.