Good old memories
DESIGNED by Hermann Tilke, the state-ofthe-art Sepang International Circuit hosted its first Formula 1 race on Oct 17, 1999. Malaysia thus became the second Asian country after Japan to host an F1 race. The race captured worldwide attention as it saw the return of German Michael Schumacher for Ferrari after he broke his leg earlier in the season.
It turned out to be a controversial race as Schumacher slowed down twice, blocking McLaren’s Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard to allow Ferrari teammate Eddie Irvine to take the chequered flag.
The drama did not end there as the race results were overturned. The two Ferraris were disqualified for an infringement in their cars’ barge boards. Hakkinen was declared the winner. Ferrari appealed against the decision in court and their 1-2 finish was reinstated. Hakkinen, however, went on to win the world title at the end of the season.
IT WAS the only time Malaysia hosted the final race of the season. Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher had the honour of winning from pole position as McLaren’s defending world champion Mika Hakkinen was penalised for a jump start.
Earlier, Schumacher had wrapped up the world drivers’ title at the penultimate round in Suzuka, Japan. But it was still party time for Ferrari as they clinched the constructors’ title at Sepang. The Prancing Horse crew and personnel all donned red wigs provided by the circuit staff to celebrate their triumph. It was a treat for the 88,000 at the race.
It was also the final race for Englishman Johnny Herbert, who drove for JaguarCosworth. Herbert’s 160th race, however, ended in disappointment. He retired after crashing his car following a suspension failure.
FINN Kimi Raikkonen showed his prowess by bagging his first F1 win in Malaysia. Fernando Alonso of Renault grabbed his first pole in Malaysia, but the 22-year-old Raikkonen was the man of the race. He started seventh on the grid, but drove like a veteran to finish nearly 40 seconds ahead of second-placed Rubens Barrichello of Ferrari.
“Even if I never win again, I’ve had this day,” enthused Raikkonen.
It was a start to a successful career for Raikkonen as he went on to win the world title in 2007.
FERNANDO Alonso secured his first win in Malaysia. It was also his first triumph of the season.
Starting from pole position, the Spaniard finished the race 20 seconds ahead of Italian Jarno Trulli. Alonso went on to become the first-ever Spaniard to lead the world championship before eventually being crowned champion at the end of the season.
Trulli had no reason to be disappointed as his second placing was Toyota’s first-ever podium finish in F1. German Nick Heidfeld, driving for Williams, was third.
It was a disappointing outing for Ferrari as their remarkable run of 22 consecutive podium finishes – which started at the 2003 Italian Grand Prix — came to an end at Sepang. The race also marked Rubens Barrichello’s 200th grand prix for Ferrari.
THUNDERSTORM caused the scheduled 56-lap race to be stopped after 31 laps. Brawn’s Jenson Button, who started from pole position, was declared the winner. As the race did not reach the required 75% distance as per regulations or 42 laps, only half points were awarded to the top eight finishers.
Button’s victory in Malaysia and the Australian Grand Prix also made Brawn the first team since Alfa Romeo in 1950 to win the opening two grands prix of the season.
Briton Button went on to become the world champion for the first time.
REIGNING world champion Sebastian Vettel again emerged triumphant for Red BullRenault
after starting from pole position.
Jenson Button finished second in a McLaren while Nick Heidfeld completed the podium for Renault in third place. Vettel went on to retain his world title.
Spectators continue to flock the circuit – with more than 100,000 turning up.
The circuit too continued to evolve – providing entertainment, including the Adventure Zone that has flying fox, bumper orb and wall climbing, and a mobile pool for the water zorbing activity.
There was also a free pit walkabout for schoolchildren, while the post-race concert featured South Korean heartthrob Rain.
Great job: The Ferrari crew cheering for Eddie Irvine after he crossed the finish line at the 1999 Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix. — AP
Party time: Michael Schumacher, wearing a wig provided by SIC staff, celebrating his Malaysian Open win in 2000. — DIGITAL IMAGE
Wet: Heavy rain caused the Malaysian Grand Prix in 2009 to be stopped after 31 laps.
I’m No. 1: Sebastian Vettel emerged triumphant for Red Bull after starting from pole position in the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix. — AP
Sepang delight: Brawn driver Jenson Button of Britain pumping his fist in delight after grabbing pole for the 2009 Malaysian Grand Prix. He went on to win the race as well the world title at the end of the season. — AP
Class act: Spaniard Fernando Alonso acknowledging the cheers from the crowd after winning the 2005 Malaysian Grand Prix.