Mercedes F1 drivers, Lewis Hamilton (left) and Nico Rosberg, seen here greeting fans at a promo event in KL on Monday, will have a 'Come Home MH370' message on the side of the cars for the Malaysian GP this weekend. - BERNAMA
PETALING JAYA: The Petronas Malaysia Formula 1 Grand Prix will go on – albeit in a more subdued atmosphere.
It is unfortunate that the Grand Prix will be held at a time the nation is dealing with the crisis surrounding the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight 370.
The Beijing-bound flight disappeared on March 8 with 239 passengers and crew aboard, sparking a massive international search for its whereabouts.
It’s been more than two weeks now but there has been no sign of the plane.
The Petronas-backed Mercedes team, viewed as the ‘home team’, will show its support this weekend by displaying the ‘Come Home MH370’ message on the side panel of drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg’s machines.
Norliza Kamaruddin, the senior general manager, Group Strategic Communications for Petronas, said this is their way of lending support to the current situation.
“Everyone is sad about the situation. We want to keep the MH370 in mind although we are hosting the Malaysian GP,” she said.
Sepang International Circuit chief executive officer Datuk Razlan Razali said there is no reason for the Malaysian GP, which is the second round of the Formula 1 World Championship, to be cancelled.
“The atmosphere is subdued and I understand everyone is talking about it (the missing MH370) everywhere and asking why we are hosting a Formula One race under such circumstances,” he said.
“But it is something that was decided a long time ago.
“The teams have arrived and the race will go on, including the post-race concert ... but we must be sensitive and not go overboard.
“In fact, we also conducted a special prayer session (solat hajat) for the safety of the passengers and crew of MH370.”
Malaysia will be hosting the 16th edition of the F1 Grand Prix and this is not the first time that the sport has been staged under difficult circumstances.
Japan continued to stage the event although the country was devastated by the tsunami in 2011.
Last year’s F1 race in Sepang saw a record crowd of 123,400 thronging the circuit and the organisers are hopeful of an even bigger crowd – 125,000 – this weekend.
Fans will also be treated to a concert by chart-topping deejay Calvin Harris, who is performing for the first time in the region, at the Helipad area after the race.