Dr M says F1 may return to Malaysia next year

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KUALA LUMPUR (April 18): Conforming his desire to see the Formula One (F1) race return to Malaysia, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad says it could happen as early as next year or 2021.

Malaysia had stopped hosting the F1 after 2017, citing rising costs and limited returns.

But the prime minister today said the Malaysian Grand Prix would continue to be well liked by many people.

"We believe that the interest in the grand prix is still very big, and we want to bring the race back here," he said at the American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce's annual general meeting.

Noting that the track in Sepang is "still very busy", Dr Mahathir said: "Lots of people [go] there, [they] have motorcycle races there."

"And a lot of people buy expensive cars, especially in Singapore. In Singapore they don't have to drive. When they come to Malaysia they find that breaking the speed limit here is okay," he quipped.

Dr Mahathir said F1 has stimulated Malaysians to go into the automotive industries, and people now buy all kinds of new cars because they have become addicted to motor vehicles.

"So, we think that by having the grand prix [again], we will be able to get more than 100,000 spectators and that will be worthwhile for us."

"Besides that, when we have the grand prix, the television stations broadcast this all over the world, bringing about 200 million viewers," he said, adding that it served as a good advertisement for Malaysia.

The Malaysian Grand Prix was an annual auto race held at the Sepang International Circuit. It was part of the F1 World Championship from 1999 to 2017.

Dr Mahathir was the prime minister when the first race in 1999 was staged.