The Malaysian Grand Prix maybe under treat when his contract expires in 2016 because of a fall in ticket sales and competition from other venues. The race at the Sepang International Circuit has been a fixture on the F1 calendar every year since 1999.
The circuit CEO Razlan Razali told the BBC that the circuit which can hold 120,000 fans, drew just 45,000 to the 2016 race on 2 October. “If there is no economic value, why should we continue?” Razali added.
Malaysian Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said competition from other Asian venues was also taking its toll. He tweeted: “When we first hosted the F1 it was a big deal. First in Asia outside Japan. Now so many venues. No first mover advantage. Not a novelty.”
Last weekend by comparison the organisers of the United States Grand Prix say a record crowd of 269,889 attended over the three days at the Circuit of the Americas.
Hulkenberg’s mind at rest – Fernley
Force India’s deputy team principal Bob Fernley says the agreement to allow Nico Hulkenberg to leave the team to join Renault “put his mind at rest.” Despite having a contract with the team next season Force India have allowed him to join Renault on a multi-year contract.
Fernley feels his team’s approach helped Hulkenberg at Austin, where the German qualified seventh before being eliminated in a first corner collision. Fernley told Autosport “Credit to Vijay [Mallya, team principal] for dealing with things swiftly, efficiently and compassionately.”
“It settled Nico down and allowed him to do what we need him to do for the balance of his career with us, and he delivered a strong qualifying. Unfortunately he was then involved in an incident at Turn 1 that put him out of the race, but there was nothing he could have done about that.”
Fernley says that team principal Vijay Mallya was swift, efficiently and compassionately which settled Hulkenberg down. Hulkenberg he says has always been quick in qualifying anyway, and has always gives 100%.
Hamilton’s breath of fresh air
Perfect-reliability until the end of the season would be “a real breath of fresh air” says Lewis Hamilton. The current world champion has had a number of engine problems this season which have proved costly in the second half of the season.
Hamilton had to take a grid penalty at Spa after the summer break, starting 21st, while team-mate and championship leader Nico Rosberg has been virtually untroubled. Team-mate Nico Rosberg has not had any major issues with his power unit.
The three time champion told Autosport “So far it has been 100% reliable on his side. But often in seasons there can be 100% reliability on a car. Will that be the case on Nico’s? Only time will tell. I can’t get fixated on that.”
“I have to focus on mine, and I am hoping for these last three I will have 100% reliability – that would be a real breath of fresh air. If so, then I will try and utilise that opportunity.” He added.
His victory in Austin put him only a race win and a ten place behind Rosberg in the championship. Meaning if Rosberg retires or is outside the top ten in Mexico and Hamilton wins it would throw the title wide open, however Rosberg can still afford to finish second to Hamilton in each race and win the title.
Hamilton’s race in Austin wasn’t trouble free with Mercedes breaking curfew to change his fuel system on Friday evening, team boss Toto Wolff said it was “uber cautious” after seeing an anomaly in the practice data.
While he got through the 56-lap race, Hamilton said he backed off, “dreading” a repeat of what happened in Malaysia.
“true McLaren” in Austin – Boullier
“True McLaren” returned to action in Austin says the team’s Racing Director Eric Boullier. The team had a disappointing race at engine suppliers Honda’s home race in Japan with Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button finishing a lap down in 16th and 18th respectively.
However in Austin the team match their best result since Honda’s return with Alonso fifth and Button ninth. Boullier told Autosport “The performance of our car was the same [as in Japan], but compared to others we are losing a little in the high-speed corners. We are strong in the low-speed corners, but in the high-speed, no.”
“In Japan we didn’t get a good balance for qualifying, we didn’t qualify well, and in the race we got stuck behind people. We didn’t have a great start, didn’t have a great first lap, and everything went wrong.” But in Austin he said the team was back to normal.
Boullier said “What you saw was more the true McLaren, and if you look back over the last four or five races, this is where we are. Japan was just one glitch.” He says that the team will not address there will not try to address its high-speed corner weakness this season, as its focus is now on the regulation changes for 2017.
However he says the fifth place wasn’t an accurate reflection of where McLaren stands in the current pecking order.
Too early to throw towel on Kvyat
Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner says that Daniil Kvyat was given a new contract because it is “too early to throw in the towel” on a driver who was demoted from the senior Red Bull team to Toro Rosso five months ago.
The announcement in Austin he was staying with the team, after weeks of speculation that the Russian would lose his seat came as a surprise to many. But Horner says he is glad the youngster earned a reprieve but say the decision to demote him was the right one.
Horner told Sky Sports “When I was consulted, I recommended that they keep him in the car. I think it’s the right thing to do. Daniil had a tough year this year.”
“His confidence took a dent, understandably, but he’s worked at rebuilding himself and got it together. At 22 years of age, I think it’s too early to throw in the towel on him.” It is the right decision to see him turn it around he added.
Kvyat s confidence appeared to be shattered at the German GP in July but he has hit form following the summer break. But any hope of a return to Red Bull looks blocked for the next few years as both drivers are on multi-year contracts.
Horner added “He’s still very young, he’s a quick driver – he demonstrated that last year – and he deserves a chance to try and regroup and re-establish himself.”
Gasly doesn’t understand move
Pierre Gasly says meanwhile, that he doesn’t understand why he wasn’t moved into the Toro Rosso seat of Daniil Kvyat and is now exploring alternatives to make his Formula 1 debut in 2017.
Red Bull say with that the importance of continuity with next year’s major rule changes was the reason that it chose to retain Kvyat alongside Carlos Sainz Jr. but Gasly who could win the GP2 title in Abu Dhabi felt in a good position to earn promotion at the Russian’s expense.
He told Autosport “The target for me of course was to get in Toro Rosso next year. I didn’t actually understand their decision and I didn’t get any reasons as well.”
“It was kind of looking good for me, talking about it with [Red Bull motorsport advisor] Helmut [Marko] and trying to make it. Then I don’t know what has happened as in two or three days, everything went so quickly.” The Frenchman hasn’t ruled out looking at other teams.
He adds that he has spoken to Helmut Marko, the head of the young driver programme, about other options and made it clear he wants to get into F1.
Christian Horner said Gasly will remain with the Red Bull family, with his main focus winning the GP2 title before turning his attention to more work next year.