Petronas reportedly eying F1 return to Malaysia in 2026

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Malaysia's state-owned oil and gas giant and long-time Mercedes sponsor Petronas has expressed a keen interest in bringing Formula 1 back to Sepang International Circuit (SIC) in 2026 according to Reuters.

The revival plan, allegedly hinted during a company town hall meeting led by Petronas' President and CEO Tengku Muhammad Taufik Tengku Aziz, would mark a potential return after a nine-year hiatus.

Malaysia hosted its national Grand Prix as part of the F1 calendar from 1999 to 2017, but declining ticket sales and rising event costs eventually led to the event's termination in 2017.

However, Petronas has maintained its commitment to the SIC, securing naming rights for the venue for three years in October 2023.

The circuit continues to host other motorsport events, including the MotoGP Grand Prix, demonstrating its suitability for premier racing events like F1.

While Petronas' plan to bring back the Malaysian Grand Prix has been met with enthusiasm among motorsport enthusiasts and tourism stakeholders, the company responded to Reuter’s story:

"There have been no discussions on bringing the sport back to the PETRONAS Sepang International Circuit."

The potential return of F1 to Malaysia in 2026 would hold significant promise. It would not only revive the country's motorsport legacy but also attract international attention, boost tourism, and potentially generate economic benefits.

However, last year, Malaysia's sports minister Hannah Yeoh admitted that hosting an F1 race was "very expensive" and that: "If we could host an F1 race, we already would have done it -- but for now, we can't afford to have races."

With the upcoming expiry of three F1 circuit deals – Baku, Austin and Barcelona - the timing might seem opportune for Petronas and SIC to reclaim their position on the F1 map.

However, such a plan would require careful consideration by Petronas and the SIC to ensure the event would be financially sustainable, attracting not only spectators but also generating economic spillover effects.

Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen was the last driver to triumph in Malaysia in 2017.

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