The 1Malaysia F1 Team, a joint venture between the government and private sectors in the country, will participate in the F1 race beginning next year, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced Tuesday.
The Prime Minister said the project involved the combined expertise of Proton and Lotus with the support of the Sepang International Circuit (SIC), Motorsports Association of Malaysia (MAM), Naza Motor and Air Asia.
Najib, who is also the Finance Minister I, told reporters when making the announcement at the Finance Ministry that leading corporate figures such as Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes, Datuk Kamarudin Meranun and S.M Nasarudin S.M Nasimuddin were also involved in the initiative.
“This is the Malaysian team. The car was designed at the SIC, manufactured at the SIC, tested at the SIC and the car is Malaysian-made. Even the pit stop team consists of Malaysians,” he said.
He said the 1Malaysia Team would identify a suitable Malaysian driver, adding that the project could lift the country’s image in the international arena. Najib said the FIA had received Malaysia’s application to participate in the World F1 Championship next year.
Asked on the budget and the total investment by the government, Najib said: “The Malaysian government’s investment is through Proton”.
Najib said the project was not a waste because it would provide a strong marketing element to the country when it competed in the F1 championship.
“If we want to export the Proton, we must ensure that the brand is strong. There is a strong element of marketing.
It is not merely a sporting activity because there is an element of marketing for Proton and Malaysia while at the same time, the Air Asia and Naza brand names can be popularised,” he said.
According to a press release issued by a local public relations company for the 1Malaysia F1 Team, the national team will be based at SIC. Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and Universiti Petronas as well as Composite Technology Research Malaysia (CTRM), a leading local composite manufacturing expert, have already been engaged to participate in the project.
The statement said the national F1 team would integrate the Malaysian technical and pit crew totaling 200 people to be managed by one of Formula One’s most respected technical director, Mike Gascoyne.
He had already recruited a core team of international experts with proven record in the various engineering, design and manufacturing disciplines needed to ensure that the 1Malaysia F1 team was of international standard, readiness and capable of competing with the world’s greatest drivers.
Currently, six local and international drivers have been shortlisted for evaluation and the team is expected to announce its two drivers by end of next month.
The statement quoted Najib as saying that the country’s participation in Formula One with the national team had far reaching objectives, mainly the advancement of the country’s automotive industry development from the technological aspect including initiatives in green technology.
“By establishing our racing centre within the country, we hope to also attract more foreign investments and the best technical minds which, in turn, will spur the growth of our automotive industry where we hope to see more R&D into lighter, safer and more cost-effective cars,” he said.
“We further anticipate higher commitment by organisations and attendance by individuals during the F1 Petronas Malaysian GP which will be coupled with increased tourism related returns,” Najib said.
He said by creating a national F1 team, the country was taking its motor sports to its pinnacle, thus ensuring its place in this internationally embraced sports that had scaled the heights of entertainment.
The 1Malaysia F1 Team takes its name from the “1Malaysia – People First, Performance Now” policy mooted by Najib in June this year as the unifying foundation for all Malaysians to come together in celebrating its cooperation among it multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious society for the betterment of the nation.
Petronas, the national oil giant, has also made advancement in this arena via its sponsorship of the BMW-Sauber Team for the last four years.
The setting up of the national team is a natural progression to increase the country’s returns from investment in Formula One.