Grief slows F1 ticket sales

Grief slows F1 ticket sales
A crew member checking the track temperature at the Sepang circuit yesterday, as ticket sales for the Malaysian Grand Prix remain lukewarm. Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg won the season-opening race in Melbourne two weeks ago to grab the first chequered flag of the V6 turbocharged engine era.

Despite the watered-down festivities, organisers of this weekend's Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix are adamant that the show must go on.

But not even Sepang International Circuit chief executive Razlan Razali can deny that the race has been hit by the tragedy of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

"Because of the incident, promoting this year's race has been a huge challenge," the 41-year-old admitted on Thursday.

Ticket sales - particularly among locals - suggest as much.

With the track action getting under way today, organisers are bracing for a 60 per cent fall in the number of Malaysians at Sunday's race from last year.

Of the 84,000 spectators who watched Sebastian Vettel clinch victory in Sepang last year, approximately 55,000 were locals.

The anticipated drop comes as no surprise to Razlan who noted that the country has been "in a sombre mood" since the Boeing 777 disappeared on March 8.

This was reiterated by Christopher Raj, the chief executive officer of Malaysian public relations agency Shekhinah which specialises in sports events.

"As the nation grieves for the lost plane, it is understandable that ticket sales have been slow," he said. "Sporting events and concerts up and down the country are all going through the same thing."

Even so, the impact from the MH370 tragedy could have some bearing on Malaysia looking to extend its hosting rights deal with Formula One Management, which runs out at the end of next season.

"We would have wanted to discuss an extension now but this may no longer be the ideal weekend to do so," Razlan said. "But we'll definitely finalise something at least six months before the 2015 season starts."

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