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Petronas seeks to bring F1 race back to Malaysia

Malaysia’s state oil company Petroliam Nasional — or Petronas — is looking to bring Formula One races back to Malaysia in 2026 after a nine-year hiatus, three sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Malaysia hosted a leg of the F1 world championship at its Sepang International Circuit (SIC) from 1999 but staged its last race in 2017 due to declining ticket sales and rising costs of hosting the event.

Petronas, Malaysia’s only Fortune 500 company, gained naming rights to the SIC for three years in October. The circuit continues to host MotoGP races and other motorsport events.

Petronas’ plan to bring back the F1 race was revealed during a company townhall led by the firm’s President and Chief Executive Tengku Muhammad Taufik Tengku Aziz on Tuesday the sources said. They declined to be identified as they were not authorized to speak to media.

The sources did not elaborate on the reasons for the return.

In a response to Reuters’ report on the plan, Petronas stated: “There have been no discussions on bringing the sport back to the PETRONAS Sepang International Circuit.”

Last year, Malaysia’s sports minister Hannah Yeoh said hosting an F1 race was “very expensive” and that: “If we could host an F1 race, we already would have done it — but for now, we can’t afford to have races.”

F1’s office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The sport’s popularity has widened globally in recent years, driven by the ‘Formula 1: Drive to Survive’ Netflix TV series and as more countries vie to host the races to raise visibility, boost tourism, and stimulate their economy.

Max Verstappen won the last Malaysian F1 Grand Prix in 2017 while Lewis Hamilton, one of the drivers for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team, won the drivers’ championship that year.

Petronas has been a sponsor of the Mercedes team since 2010, with the partnership bearing eight constructors’ and seven drivers’ world championships.

The team ranked second in the constructors’ standings last year, with Hamilton in third and team mate George Russell in eighth in the drivers’ standings.

Petronas is due to reveal its full year 2023 and fourth quarter earnings profit in early March. In November, the company posted a lower third-quarter profit on the back of softer revenue due to lower average realized oil and gas prices.

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