PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia will have its own team in Formula One next year.
A Lotus-powered racing team, to be called the 1Malaysia F1 team, will take on giants like Ferrari, McLaren-Mercedes and Renault in the premier motorsports event next year.
The team will join Force India-Mercedes as Asia’s representatives in F1, along with old-timers like Toyota.
The International Automobile Federation (FIA) has accepted Malaysia’s bid to enter the 2010 and future Formula One World Championships, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced yesterday.
F1 foray: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak receiving a model of the Malaysian F1 car at the Finance Ministry in Putrajaya.
The 1Malaysia F1 team will be a partnership between the Govern-ment and the private sector, including investors led by Datuk Kamarudin Meranun (AirAsia Deputy CEO), Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes (AirAsia CEO) and SM Nasaruddin SM Nasimuddin (Naza Group CEO).
The Malaysian-owned team will also mark the return of Proton-owned Lotus, the prestigious constructors who left F1 in 1994.
Najib, who made the announcement at the Ministry of Finance yesterday, said the team would be based at the Sepang International Circuit, making it the first to be located outside Europe.
“This is where the cars will be designed, manufactured and tested. It will be ‘Made-in-Malaysia, by Malaysians’ and of course, the pit-stops will be run by Malay-sians,” he said.
“This is a meaningful development and I hope that it will further raise our country’s profile on the world stage.”
The team will have a Malaysian technical and pit crew, totalling some 200 people, to be managed by former Renault technical director Mike Gascoyne.
Najib added that the team hoped to announce its two drivers by Oct 31.
“Currently, six local and international drivers have been shortlisted for evaluation,” he said.
“Our F1 team will also have technical experts from outside Malaysia to ensure that we are ready to compete on the world’s most prestigious racing stage.”
Malaysia hosted its first F1 race in 1999 at the Sepang F1 Circuit and Alex Yoong was the first Malaysian to race in the championships in 2001 and 2002 for Minardi.
The Prime Minister had earlier launched the exchange programme between employees from the government and government-linked companies (GLCs) as part of the Government-GLCs Cross-Fertilisation Programme.
He handed letters-of-trust to 47 government and GLC staff taking part in the programme.