Lotus's return to Formula 1 and the decision by Petronas to sponsor the Mercedes GP team have been a huge boost to the Malaysian Grand Prix, claims its circuit boss.
Razlan Razali, the CEO of the Sepang track, believes that interest stirred up by the Malaysian-backed Lotus effort and the national oil company's affiliation with Michael Schumacher have provided an unexpected boost to his venue.
"The last six months have seen a tremendous development for Malaysian motorsport," Razali said at the AUTOSPORT International show. "We have seen Lotus F1, which is backed by Tony Fernandes as the new Malaysian team. Then Petronas was searching for a new partner. There was a lot of speculation and suddenly out of the blue, it came out with Mercedes. It is a really good development, a world champion team, with the return of Schumacher. So for us, as Malaysians, it cannot get any better than this. It is good for us and the country especially."
Razali is hopeful that the event's shift in start time to 4pm, one hour earlier than last year, will help avoid a repeat of the forced abandonment of the 2009 grand prix through bad weather and poor light conditions.
"We haven't seen rain like it!" he said of last year's race. "It was totally different for us as well. At the 2009 F1 race, it was my first F1 event, so it was not helping. But we have shifted the time to 4 p.m. this year and hopefully the weather will be OK – but who can control that?
"It was crazy. You couldn't do anything, and there was no room for error, really. We ran out of light so we could not continue the race. It was sad – good for television, but I did pity the guys who came to the track on the day."