KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will be under the world sporting radar in the last week of March.
As sports icons converge on the Malaysian capital for the Laureus World Sports Awards on March 26, so will the speed demons of Formula One for the Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix that weekend.
With the new rule changes in Formula One, race organisers – Sepang International Circuit (SIC) – are confident they can rein in more international fans for the race from March 28-30 and surpass last year’s record attendance of 123,400 spectators.
SIC chief executive officer Datuk Razlan Razali said they are targeting more than 125,000 spectators to come on race day.
“We saw no less than 30% foreign tourists from all the world for the event last year,” he said after the official launch of this year’s event at the Pavilion here on Sunday.
“The Laureus World Sports Awards ceremony will be televised globally during the same week and world attention will be on us.
“With the support from the promotional activities, we are confident Formula One remains a strong pull for international tourists to come to Malaysia.
“It is going to be the most anticipated season for Formula One fans around the world.
“Unlike previous years, the championship will be the most open affair. No team will be seen as favourites and even four-time defending champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Racing has openly said this at the pre-season testing in Jerez recently.
“The pre-season results have been mixed and this trend is expected to extend through the championship.
“This is due to the introduction of a new V6 turbo-charged engine and energy recovery systems replacing the old V8s.
“Unlike the opening race in Australia, on the street circuit in Melbourne, the second round here at Sepang will be on a proper racing circuit. That’s when we’ll see the true potential of the new V6 machines.”
If all this isn’t enough, SIC have also lined up a host of starry events. There is the F1 Gala Dinner and Concert on March 27, which will feature the legendary David Foster and Malaysia’s very own Datuk Siti Nurhaliza.
Ticket holders will, for the first time, be allowed in for the after-dinner concert.
Title-sponsors Petronas are throwing in a free concert on Friday and Saturday at the Twin Towers, featuring the likes of Christina Aguilera, South Korean pop star Rain and British star Graig David.
For the after race concert on Sunday, a huge party atmosphere is expected at Sepang as top DJ Calvin Harris will be performing for the first time in Malaysia.
Entry for grandstand ticket holders will be free while standing-only concert tickets are available for fans of the artiste.
“We have made noticeable improvements to the circuit, including installing a new and stylish rooftop for the main pit building as well as sprucing up the facilities for both spectators and the teams,” said Razlan.
“We’ll also have an acrobatic air show by our very own Malaysian Red Arrows on all three days.
“There is also the F1 autograph session on Sunday and the open pit walk for ticket holders on Friday.
“In fact, it is only in the Malaysian round that the ticket holders can go for the open pit walk.”