F1 confirms the last Malaysian GP to be held in October

Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg of Germany steers his car during the first practice session for the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix. (Joshua Paul/AP)

SHANGHAI — The Malaysian Grand Prix will hold its final edition on Oct. 1, bringing an end to one of the longest-running Formula One races in Asia after struggling in recent years to attract fans and local television viewers.

The announcement, which was made Friday by F1 officials at the Chinese Grand Prix and the Malaysian government, had been anticipated after the country’s sports minister indicated late last year that the race’s contract would not be renewed when it expires in 2018.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Friday the government had decided to pull out of F1 because of the high cost of staging the event and declining ticket sales and tourism figures.

"Hosting the F1 has helped promote the country as a destination for international sports and tourism. However, it’s time for the government to assess the F1 race due to the changes since we first hosted the race in 1999," Najib said in a statement.

Competition from other races in Asia has taken a toll on the Malaysian GP. In his statement, Najib noted that when the race was first held at Sepang International Circuit nearly two decades ago, there was only one other Asian country on the F1 calendar, Japan.

Now, six Asian countries host F1 races, including nearby Singapore, which has one of the most popular races, run at night through the city streets.

"It's always sad to say goodbye to a member of the Formula One family," Sean Bratches, F1 managing director for commercial operations, said in Shanghai. "Malaysian Formula One fans have proven themselves to be some of the most passionate supporters."

Malaysia's withdrawal from F1 comes at a time when the sport is making a push to increase its presence in North America. F1 returned to the United States in 2012 with a race in Austin, Texas, and Bratches said at the Australian Grand Prix last month that the U.S. market would continue to be a focus for the sport.

The French Grand Prix will also return to the F1 calendar in 2018 after a 10-year absence.

Although Malaysia will no longer host a race after this year, its state oil company, Petronas, will continue to sponsor the Mercedes team, the prime minister said in his statement.