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Is it really worthwhile for F1 to race in Malaysia?


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Poll: Is it really worthwhile for F1 to race in Malaysia? (94 member(s) have cast votes)

  1. Yes (44 votes [46.81%])

    Percentage of vote: 46.81%

  2. No (35 votes [37.23%])

    Percentage of vote: 37.23%

  3. Don't care (15 votes [15.96%])

    Percentage of vote: 15.96%

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#1 jeze

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 10:07

It's October 17 1999 and a half packed grandstand awaits the start of the first ever Malaysian Grand Prix. The Malaysians had built a stunning circuit, that nobody had ever seen anything like it before. Everything is perfect, but for the local interest, which was staggeringly low, compared to all full house races, including the Argentinian Grand Prix, which it had replaced. Talk was about giving it a few years to grow interest in the sport, so we shouldn't bother about those grandstands.

Now we're in 2009, and we're approaching the 11th anniversery, as well as the twelth race at the track. It has never been full seated, and it appears that it doesn't increase anytime. The bulk of the spectators are made up of foreigners, who pay a huge flight fee to get there. Given the economic situation, I don't expect the foreign hordes to come in the same way as before, leaving the locals to fill the stands, which they do rather badly.

Is it marketing, or do the Malaysians don't car about F1. The ticket fees are, as much as I know, the cheapest in the Championship, which just shows that there have been been made several faults in promoting the series locally. Now that we have the magnificent Singapore event, is it really worthwhile for F1 to race in Malaysia, given that it's failed so badly locally. And the same pattern goes for other "new markets", such as Turkey and Bahrain.

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#2 ZooL

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 10:12

No its pointless. The Grandstands are empty.

It's only kept because they are willing to pay out alot of money to Bernie. And we lose circuits like Indianpolis, Montreal because they cant pay the monies requested by FOM. :(

#3 SeanValen

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 10:13

Good thread,

I can't believe it's been 10 years since 1999, wow.

I think it's one of the better modern tracks, very technical, very wide, great in the rain as we saw in 2001.
The heat gives it a physical challenge.

But your asking about it's economic viability, and I probabley am as spooked as it as are, but I as a fan, I want the track to stay, so long live sepang, 10th anniversary, wow, doesn't seem old, but it is. Time flies.

#4 Clatter

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 10:16

BE doesnt give a damn how many spectators turn up as he does not get any revenue from them. He and the teams will get the same amount of money from the circuit regardless. It's for the circuit to decide if it's worth having the race, and circuits like Malaysia receive government funding to keep them coming.

#5 Risil

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 10:19

With a history of events (especially Grand Prix motorcycling) at Johor and Shah Alam, Malaysia has quite a long association with motor racing. The problem, IMO, is that F1's business model is not improving matters -- tickets need to be affordable for locals to show up, no matter how interested they might be in the spectacle. Sepang is a fantastic circuit, definitely the prettiest of the modern tracks, in a great part of the world. Hopefully it'll stick around until FOTA figure out how to do something about ticket pricing and race promotion.

I would definitely keep Malaysia over every other 'non-traditional' event on the calendar, with the possible exception of Singapore.

#6 jeze

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 10:21

In a future scenario I can see Malaysia being dropped when Bernie's gone, because there's no point in going to a race where you don't have any spectators. And I believe that it's a stunning failure that nobody cares when the F1 World Championship comes to town, I really find it hard to swell. As we all know, Turkey is on the verge of being dropped, which in a way is sad, because I'd rather see empty grandstands in a day race at a better timezone, than what we're treated to in Malaysia, year after year. But I have to testify that I love the shape and the charachter of the track, in that sense it's amazing :)

#7 ZooL

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 10:25

Turkey should never be dropped because TURN 8 can become legendary (if not already).

#8 wewantourdarbyback

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 10:29

I voted yes, not for the viewership but because the circuit provides a genuine challenge and some decent racing, unlike places like the sudschleife (sp?).

#9 kNt

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 10:41

I like the circuit, I like to watch it on tv. Maybe it could become a place for chinese and japanese people to travel to, like the brits who travel to Spa e.g.

#10 Bono

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 10:44

From a financial point of view, maybe no.

But personally, yes. Malaysia is the nearest F1 (and most practical) in Southeast Asia. Singapore is also near but it is not a proper racing circuit. I have been to Malaysia GP last 2002, and it was full. My point is, it would greatly benefit the other South Asia people who loves F1 just like myself.

So, Yes. It is very worthwhile.

I still believe that Malaysia GP has more "paying" spectators than the Middle eastern country(ies) (bahrain).

#11 howardt

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 10:55

It seems such a shame. I really like the Sepang circuit, but without local interest / ticket revenue the sanctioning fee is unaffordable.

Bernie's F1 business model seems to be falling apart. The same story is true in China. The government has had to pay people to fill up the grandstands for the GP, and the circuit has already fallen off the MotoGP calendar. So it seems that the big race sanction fees do not lead to a sustainable F1 calendar. There are always new countries willing to shell out for a race, but just a few years later Bernie's sky-high fee seems exhorbitant for a GP they can't sell.
In a few years' time, there will be no-one willing to pay Bernie $10m to hold a race. Maybe when the price comes down to a more realistic $1m then we'll be able to see some genuine competition and kudos for places on the F1 calendar, and some of the 'traditional' circuits actually able to break even.

#12 kar

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 10:57

Not really, no.

But I like the circuit.

#13 skinnylizard

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 11:13

well with a race in Abu Dhabi/Bahrain Malaysia is a little too far to go (from what ive heard from mates who have been there before)

im speaking from an Indian perspective only. I personally enjoy the races there, the grandstands might be empty but im sure the race brings in enough money with people flying in to watch.

not 20$million surely but im sure Malaysia gets plenty of global PR value out of being a GP holder

#14 jeze

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 11:13

This is ultimately a question whether F1 need half its calendar outside Europe/ North America. As far as I'm concerned; only Australia, Japan, Brazil and Singapore can claim themselves popular enough to really justify having a race there. The Chinese race is also well-visited, but as somebody said it's probably just because their government pays people to visit the race!

#15 Muddie

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 11:15

I hope it does stay in Malaysia, but I think F1 needs to work more on new markets. It always feels like they just show up and assume that the market will come to them. Especially with Sepang being so far out of town, they need to bring F1 to the general population. They do appear to be doing better this year - more meet-and-greets with drivers and cars dotted about the local shopping malls, but it needs to start before the week of the GP.

At the same time, Malaysia is one of the most accessible circuits for SE Asian markets and we regularly see Singaporean and Thai plates on cars in the parking lot. And it's a good circuit in a great city.

#16 krapmeister

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 11:24

For governments, its not just about getting people to the track - its also to build build awareness of their country to people in other nations.

As long as the government/organisers feel they are getting value for money compared to other marketing methods, they will continue to pay Bernie.

As someone said earlier, they thought that most of the spectators were foreigners - so its not just the money they spend at the race, its also the money they bring into the country. I am sure a lot of them combine the GP with a week or two within Malaysia (KL and an island destination like Langkawi for instance). They then tell their friends etc etc.

As for the circuit itself - Sepang is a great track, certainly much better than quite a few others the F1 circus goes to. Be a shame to lose it.

#17 HoldenRT

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 11:55

Great track, shame about the empty seats though.

#18 johnap

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 11:55

Not worth it at all. Another one of those government cheque races.

Drop Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and Turkey for the same reason.

There should only be two races of that kind on the calender, China and India, to keep the car manufacturers happy and keep Singapore as its genuinely good and has some history of Grand Prix racing.

#19 Racer Joe

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 11:56

Originally posted by jeze
Is it marketing, or do the Malaysians don't car about F1. The ticket fees are, as much as I know, the cheapest in the Championship, which just shows that there have been been made several faults in promoting the series locally. Now that we have the magnificent Singapore event, is it really worthwhile for F1 to race in Malaysia, given that it's failed so badly locally.


I think you need some kind of perspective of the purchasing power available to local Malaysians. I have friends in Malaysia and have visited there several times over the last few years (though never for the grand prix itself since I live in Melbourne and got one here to go to myself). As far as I know salary levels are approximately one-third (in value, give and take) of the level in Melbourne/Sydney for comparable office/professional positions. For work on the lower end of the wage scale it is even less. So ticket prices would have to be at one-third of say, what Melbourne charges, to be as affordable.

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#20 wingwalker

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 12:00

Track-wise If it was half as wide, It would be one of the best tracks on the calendar. It is worthwile for Bernie, as Sponsors want to want get exposure there (hello, BMW Sauber). From fans perspective it's outrageous to see tracks events like Canada being dropped to make more space for such events, but that doesn't matter.

#21 Clatter

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 12:02

Originally posted by johnap
keep Singapore as its genuinely good and has some history of Grand Prix racing.


Personally I didnt rate Singapore, but what GP history does it have?

#22 travbrad

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 12:09

Originally posted by Risil
I would definitely keep Malaysia over every other 'non-traditional' event on the calendar, with the possible exception of Singapore.


I know it's a matter of personal preference, but IMO Istanbul (Turkey) is far better than either of them.

#23 Rob

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 12:11

Originally posted by Clatter


Personally I didnt rate Singapore, but what GP history does it have?


The Singapore Grand Prix. 1961?-1973. Held on the Thomson Road circuit. They also held it as the Malaysian Grand Prix during the period when Singapore was part of Malaysia. By the time of the final event, it had become quite big.

#24 27GV

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 12:13

If we can somehow truck Sepang up to Shanghai then you get more spectators, keep a good track and don't have to race on the current ****hole in China. :clap:

Really with Singapore is there a need to have 2 races in SE Asia?

Ideally there should be 20 GPs
- 1 race in S. America,
- 2 in N. America,
- 1 in the Middle East,
- 1 in Japan (Suzuka duh),
- 1 in SE Asia,
- 1 in Australia,
- 1 in China,
- 1 in India,
- 1 in Africa,
- 9 in Europe,
- 1 race that goes to a different track each year
to keep the heritage and its place as a World Championship.

#25 Clatter

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 12:16

Originally posted by Rob


The Singapore Grand Prix. 1961?-1973. Held on the Thomson Road circuit. They also held it as the Malaysian Grand Prix during the period when Singapore was part of Malaysia. By the time of the final event, it had become quite big.


OK, but as far as F1 goes it only has a 1 year history?

#26 Rob

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 12:24

Originally posted by Clatter


OK, but as far as F1 goes it only has a 1 year history?


There has only been one F1 event, yes, but F1 isn't everything :)

#27 Clatter

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 12:26

Originally posted by Rob


There has only been one F1 event, yes, but F1 isn't everything :)


Yes it is.;)

#28 taran

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 13:09

In many ways, Malaysia actually did everything right.

It started by sponsoring F1 teams (Sauber with Petronas and Stewart with Malaysia Tourism), then built a track and hosted a race before putting a Malaysian driver in a F1 car. Which indeed gave a lot of publicity to the race and F1 in the country.

Unfortunately, things did not pan out well. Yoong was stuck in the second Minardi (by far the worst car in the field) and was hardly welcomed by the F1 community. His own teammate (the not so estimable Mark Webber), ridiculed him as did many commentators. Sure, he was pretty raw but his later achievements show he had the talent. And Malaysians were perhaps not sophisticated enough to realize that a Minardi drive is only a stepping stone in F1, not a winning car. And the tickets were simply too expensive for the average Malaysian. As for the more affluent Malaysians, racing simply did not have the cachet yet for them to happily spend a lot of money on it.

When the rather megalomaniacal prime minister Mahathir stepped down, the political and financial support for the race ended. So it never really got off the ground in Malaysia and the idea to promote the country and get a high tech image simply fizzled.

IMO, they should have given race day tickets away free to citizens for several years to grow interest and then keep ticket prices very low to keep the people coming. Petronas should have done more to publicize their involvement and it should have put up a young driver scheme with the government and other national sponsors to eventually get a driver in F1 with a long term plan. Yoong was good enough and with enough sponsorship for a couple of years he could have gone from backmarker to decent midfielder, thereby creating the basic awareness and following necessary to get a racing culture off the ground.

Currently, the race is losing money and has little political support. And little future.

And that seems to be the problem with many new races. They are held in places without a racing culture and without a local driver to raise awareness and galvanize the locals. And without a popular local driver, these races invariably fail to get much local attention (in combination with high prices for tickets).

#29 BMW_F1

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 13:30

Before Lewis, attendance in Silverstone GP was quite low.

#30 pingu666

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 13:44

thought the british gp normaly brought in a good sized crowd?

sepang has some nice bits, but its pretty meh as a circuit for me

#31 wj_gibson

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 14:00

Sepang has now hosted more World Championship races than Rouen and Montjuich Park combined, which I find slightly bizarre.

#32 Risil

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 14:02

Originally posted by travbrad


I know it's a matter of personal preference, but IMO Istanbul (Turkey) is far better than either of them.


It's a wonderful race track, but it is utterly soulless, IMO. And is in the exact geometric centre of the middle of nowhere. Singapore, on the other hand, is exactly the kind of unique, weird, imperfect track that Formula One should have on its calendar.

#33 jokuvaan

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 14:22

From my point of view there is no need of any spectators. If track and such are good, everything is good.

#34 Bernd Rosemeyer

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 16:25

It's a great circuit, certainly worth watching a race there.

#35 jeze

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 19:34

I'm not saying that the track isn't great, I think it's wonderful, had it been in Europe or the States it would be a legedary track, but it's in the wrong coutnry. I think that turns 7/8 almost merits an F1 race on their own ;)

#36 D.M.N.

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 19:45

Originally posted by BMW_F1
Before Lewis, attendance in Silverstone GP was quite low.


The grandstands weren't half empty though, were they?

#37 Tenmantaylor

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 19:45

I understand the crowd situation but that doesnt have a massive effect on the race. Its a good track and Id like to see it stay.

#38 Clatter

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 20:07

Originally posted by D.M.N.


The grandstands weren't half empty though, were they?


I can remember there being an empty grandstand at Stowe a couple of years ago.

#39 BMW_F1

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 20:09

Originally posted by D.M.N.


The grandstands weren't half empty though, were they?


I've read that they were - I can't remember the year .. Will have to look it up.

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#40 Trebor152

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 20:14

Originally posted by ZooL
Turkey should never be dropped because TURN 8 can become legendary (if not already).


I dont think any turn can be legendary with that much tarmac runoff.

Also, of all the tilke circuits, I have to say Sepang is a favourite. Atleast on the Playstation.

#41 Darrenj

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 21:18

I voted yes for its technical brilliance.

But fan attendance, ticket sales, may be a mute point here as Sepang is possibly well funded other wise: fuels, tobacco, the Malaysian Gov't (I believe they bought out the reminding shares in the track from Malaysian Airport Holdings). It's also a venue for other types of motor sport. Bernie gets dosh, Bernie happy. It's a shame ..

#42 Kelateboy

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Posted 01 April 2009 - 04:10

The ticket price for Malaysian GP is the cheapest in F1, and I believe is very affordable to all Malaysians. For RM100 or USD27, you can watch F1 from a hillstand for 2 days - practice/qualifying and race day. To put into perspective, RM100 is what I would normally spend if I dine out with my family of 1adult & 3children at Pizza Hut.

The reason why there are not very many spectators at the circuit is that we have at least 4 local and paid channels carrying the race live on TV. Why would you go to the circuit and brace the sun and/or the torrential rain when you can watch the race at the comfort of your house? This is the excuse given by most of my friends on why they failed to turn up at the race, even though some of them already bought the tickets long time ago.

However, rest assured that the awareness and love for the F1 race in Malaysia has grown by leaps and bounds since it first started in 1999.

#43 Muddie

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Posted 01 April 2009 - 05:40

To be fair about the RM100 tickets, open hillstand can't be very pleasant. I'd think twice about being sat in the blazing sun probably getting bitten to pieces. And if it did rain, you'd get soaked, not to mention the risk of lightning.

#44 Clatter

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Posted 01 April 2009 - 09:28

Originally posted by Muddie
To be fair about the RM100 tickets, open hillstand can't be very pleasant. I'd think twice about being sat in the blazing sun probably getting bitten to pieces. And if it did rain, you'd get soaked, not to mention the risk of lightning.


So some sort of umbrella and an earthing strap might be called for?;)

The price sounds very cheap, but what is the average wage for the locals?

#45 MichaelJP

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Posted 01 April 2009 - 09:38

Originally posted by Kelateboy
The ticket price for Malaysian GP is the cheapest in F1, and I believe is very affordable to all Malaysians. For RM100 or USD27, you can watch F1 from a hillstand for 2 days - practice/qualifying and race day. To put into perspective, RM100 is what I would normally spend if I dine out with my family of 1adult & 3children at Pizza Hut.

The reason why there are not very many spectators at the circuit is that we have at least 4 local and paid channels carrying the race live on TV. Why would you go to the circuit and brace the sun and/or the torrential rain when you can watch the race at the comfort of your house? This is the excuse given by most of my friends on why they failed to turn up at the race, even though some of them already bought the tickets long time ago.

However, rest assured that the awareness and love for the F1 race in Malaysia has grown by leaps and bounds since it first started in 1999.


Was about to say the same thing - when you combine the climate in Malaysia which is hardly conducive to sitting outside in a grandstand for hours, with a modern F1 track where you are miles from the track which has no definition due to extensive run-off, it's hardly surprising that the grandstands are empty.

Contrast with venues like Monaco and more recently Singapore with their amazing backdrop and atmosphere. Purpose built tracks like Sepang and Shanghai, while great for the teams and the media, are terrible for paying spectators and only worthwhile on TV.

#46 Clatter

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Posted 01 April 2009 - 09:48

Originally posted by MichaelJP

Contrast with venues like Monaco and more recently Singapore with their amazing backdrop and atmosphere. Purpose built tracks like Sepang and Shanghai, while great for the teams and the media, are terrible for paying spectators and only worthwhile on TV.


Why do you think tracks like Monaco are better for the paying spectator? IMHO it's the opposite. The big problem with street circuits is that no matter where you view from you are only going to see a very small section if track, whereas at other circuits you can usually choose somewhere that will give you a view of far more.

#47 ensign14

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Posted 01 April 2009 - 09:55

Originally posted by BMW_F1
Before Lewis, attendance in Silverstone GP was quite low.

Britain had 2 sell-out Grands Prix in 1983 when the combined total of Grand Prix wins by British drivers in the previous 5 years was 4.

#48 wewantourdarbyback

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Posted 01 April 2009 - 11:13

Attendance at the BGP has been pretty high this century, the only time I managed to go was 2000 and even amongst the mud it was packed.

#49 jeze

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Posted 01 April 2009 - 12:21

Originally posted by wewantourdarbyback
Attendance at the BGP has been pretty high this century, the only time I managed to go was 2000 and even amongst the mud it was packed.


I think that the attendance of the BGP has never been in doubt, people will always turn up for races in Europe (bar Turkey). Don't forget that they even packs in hordes of fans in Hungary for the most dull race every year :lol:

#50 MichaelJP

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Posted 01 April 2009 - 13:19

Originally posted by Clatter

Why do you think tracks like Monaco are better for the paying spectator? IMHO it's the opposite. The big problem with street circuits is that no matter where you view from you are only going to see a very small section if track, whereas at other circuits you can usually choose somewhere that will give you a view of far more.


Because at Monaco you can be close to the cars and get a real feel for the amazing performance and sheer energy of an F1 car. Granted at a Tilke-drome you will get a wider view of the race, but if all you want to do is follow the race then watching it on TV is a far better way of doing that. Personally, when I actually go to a GP and pay the high price of doing so it's for the visceral thrill of high-powered motorsport, and I don't mind a limited vista if I'm close to the action.