While it has been recently ousted from the F1 calendar, the Sepang International Circuit have improved their facilities by adding floodlights.
Sepang held the Malaysian Grand Prix every year from 1999 until 2017, and proved a popular venue with the drivers and teams. However, attendances waned in recent years due to an increase in the amount of races held in Asia – the Singapore Grand Prix being particularly close to Sepang.
In 2017, the then Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak announced that the country would not be renewing its contract with Formula One Management, citing poor financial returns.
Despite this, Sepang has continued to expand its racing roster with other series and, having taken onboard local demands, have installed floodlights all around the track. According to the circuit chairman Tan Sri Azman Yahya, the floodlights are the same as those installed at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi and Sakhir in Bahrain:
“We see this as an ideal opportunity for us to attract more bookings for the track by opening it up for use for night races, so we decided to go ahead and install the floodlights all throughout the track.”
“We engaged with circuit floodlights specialists who were responsible for the installation of floodlights at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, the Losail Circuit in Qatar, the Jukasa Speedway in Canada as well as the Bahrain International Circuit.”
According to the New Strait Times, the floodlighting have already been approved and signed off on by FIM (governing body for motorbike racing, including Moto GP), as well as by the FIA. The latest documentation from the FIA shows that the circuit’s Grade 1 certification, which is required by a circuit for use in F1, remains valid until the end of 2020. However, additional lighting would need to be added for Formula 1 use if it were to return.
There is the possibility that F1 may yet return to Malaysia, particularly with the added potential novelty of a different night race. Petronas, Malaysia’s state energy company, remain a title sponsor of Mercedes AMG, while the newly elected Prime Minister of Malaysia is Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad – he held the same office in the late 90s and was responsible for bringing F1 to Malaysia in the first place. Back in 1999, he officiated the opening of the circuit and it’s understood he is keen to bring the sport back to his home country. The Minister for Youth & Sport, Syed Saddiq, has downplayed that expectation, saying that the circuit is concentrating on attraction more two wheel racing for now.