F1: France returns as Malaysia goes off track

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Bye Malaysia. Hi France. That will be the story for Formula One circuit with the conclusion of the 2017 season. This year’s race at the Sepang will be the last F1 Grand Prix event in Malaysia. There are 20 races on F1 circuit. The number next year will go up to 21 even as Malaysia is opting out. Taking its place will be the return of the French. German Grand Prix is another addition.

Malaysia’s agreement with F1 runs up to 2018. Country’s Tourism Minister had confirmed in November that Malaysia will stop hosting the racing championships after the current agreement expires in 2018. However, lower returns and high costs of running the championship have forced the nation to scrap the agreement after the 2017 event itself.

Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula 1 Team, however, will continue to represent the country in Formula One competitions. The country has been hosting the event since 1999. For nearly two decades, the Malaysian Formula 1 fans have proven themselves to be some of the sport’s most passionate supporters. It is F1’s second-oldest Asian race, after the Japanese Grand Prix.

Race organizers at the Sepang International Circuit plan on making the October Malaysian Grand Prix a fantastic farewell for the fans.

The French Grand Prix will be welcomed back with open arms as both fans and drivers have been clamoring for its return. The Paul Ricard Circuit, which last held a Formula One race in 1990, will host the event next year. The last French Grand Prix was held in 2008 at Magny-Cours.

The German Grand Prix had pulled from the 2018 calendar late last year, but is now back on at the Hockenheimring. There has been no word yet if the race will be held every other year as originally planned, or if Germany will be back on the calendar annually.

The French Grand Prix will return after a nine-year hiatus as will a race in Germany, which took place last year but is missing in 2017. The race alternates between two venues but one of them – the fabled Nürburgring track – has given it the red light due to the high-octane cost of hosting it. With the loss of the Malaysian Grand Prix the onus is now on Liberty to secure the future of its counterpart in Germany which is the home of F1’s third-highest television audience.

It is the first major development since F1’s parent company Delta Topco was acquired in January by Liberty which is listed on the Nasdaq with the ticker FWONK. Liberty has re-signed the contracts for two races in Russia and Canada but others in Britain and Germany are still under threat and the Malaysian Grand Prix has now bitten the dust. It is F1’s second-oldest Asian race, after the Japanese Grand Prix, as it has been on the calendar since 1999.
Liberty insists that its ownership marks a new start for the F1 championship which held its first race in 1950. However, the takeover has been beset with controversy as it required approval from F1’s regulator, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), which was paid $80 million in cash, shares and securities by Liberty after giving the green light to the deal.
It 2013 the directors of Delta Topco, which was controlled by the private equity firm CVC, sold a 1% stake in the company to the FIA for just $458,197.34 even though it was valued at $70 million at the time. The 1% came with the crucial condition that it could only be cashed in when CVC sold its stake in the company and this required the FIA’s approval fuelling claims that it had a conflict of interest, says a Forbes report by Christian Silt, columnist who writes about the business of auto racing.

The sale alone gave the FIA a profit of $79.5 million and Damian Collins, chairman of the British government’s Culture Media and Sport Committee, has said that it amounted to a “severe conflict of interest”. However, in a statement, the FIA said “there is no conflict of interest on the part of the FIA” and it “would naturally be happy to demonstrate the absence of any conflict of interest to any competent authority that may so request.”

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