Wednesday March 14th, 2001
By Patrick Chalmers
Malaysia have a raw deal in being forced to stage two Formula One races in six months, triple world champion Jackie Stewart said on Tuesday.
Preparations for Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix, the season's second race, have been hit by poor ticket demand and a row over plans to delay domestic TV cover by several hours to boost race attendance.
"I do not think it's at all fair on Malaysia to have it within six months of the last one, particularly in a country where it's not yet a fully-developed sport," Stewart said.
Only 30 percent of tickets have been sold for the race in contrast with last October, when Malaysia staged the last race of the 2000 season. Seventy percent of tickets had gone two weeks before the event, which was attended by nearly 88,000 fans.
Stewart, a non-executive director with the Jaguar racing team, said ticket sales in Britain suffered in much the same way when it staged both the British and European races in one season.
"Our attendances were very negatively affected. It's not something that anyone would want to have," Stewart added.
A newcomer to the Formula One fold in 1999, Malaysia has been pushed to the beginning of the calendar, with Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone giving Japan's Suzuka the coveted final spot for the 2001 season on October 14.
Earlier this month, race organisers dropped plans for a live domestic television broadcast of the March 18 event in response to the poor ticket sales.