Malaysia will need some 15 to 20 years before local talent is set to re-enter the highest stage of international open-wheeled racing that is Formula 1, said Sepang International Circuit (SIC) CEO Azhan Shafriman Hanif, in reference to the country’s only racer to have competed in Formula 1 so far, Alex Yoong.

The aim of placing a driver in Formula 1 is not a short-term project, Azhan said, while noting that in terms of racer development, there is a tendency to push a racer to climb from one category of racing to the next in a hurry, though instead time should be given for the racers to hone their skills in every code they enter, the CEO of SIC said, as reported by Harian Metro.

Every time a racer takes part in Formula 4, F3, F2 and ultimately F1, substantial financial support is required, said Azhan. “In short, the development of Formula 1 drivers will need the support of private and government firms,” he said. To this end, SIC under his leadership will work toward ensuring that talent development for four-wheel racing will not fall behind that of motorcycle racing.

What is the outlook for hosting Formula 1 races in Malaysia again in the future, following its last running in the 2017 season? According to the boss of SIC himself, the organisation is yet to have a clear view.

“If one day Formula 1 is interested in making a return to racing in Malaysia and the offer is attractive and right for consideration, then (SIC) will discuss the matter with the government. This is because the fees for hosting Formula 1 are very high compared to the fees for MotoGP, and the decision for whether or not Formula 1 returns to Malaysia should be made holistically,” said Azhan.

Beyond the pinnacle of open-wheeled racing, Malaysia has numerous other racing drivers in different categories, not least of them multiple championship-winning driver Karamjit Singh who has won titles in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship and the Production Car World Championship.

More recently, Malaysia also has younger talent such as Mitchell Cheah who raced in the World Touring Car Championship (WTCR) for Team Engstler, while Fariqe Hairuman won the TCR Spa 500 with the Cupra Leon TCR of Viper Niza Racing in the Pro-Am class in 2019. Viper Niza Racing fielded an all-Malaysian entry of drivers that year, where Fariqe was joined by Melvin Moh and Dominic Ang in the team owned by Malaysian entrepreneur Douglas Khoo.

In sports car racing, Ang won the overall title in the ST-1 class of the 2011 Super Taikyu series in Japan with the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 of Petronas Syntium Team, alongside teammates Nobuteru Taniguchi and Masataka Yanagida, and the Malaysian would go on to make it three consecutive Super Taikyu victories with two more title wins in 2012 and 2013.