Yes the race was two weeks ago but I’ve been so busy that I’ve completely forgotten to post this up until now.
When I heard this year’s F1 Malaysia Grand Prix would be the last one at Sepang, I knew I had to make the trip up north one last time. My feelings aside about the country, Sepang is one of the better circuits I’ve been to, it’s got so many good spots around the circuit and you get to see the cars a lot longer than what you normally would like for those street circuits in Singapore and Melbourne.
So two weeks after the Singapore Grand Prix, and the first wet night race for F1 too, I was off to Malaysia and like always, took the early morning flight on the Friday itself. I got to Kuala Lumpur with plenty of time to just stroll to the bus that takes us to the circuit. And of course the driver lost his way trying to get to the circuit so we reached there while it was drizzling. Thanks man.
For FP1 I found a neat spot right in front of the Haas pit garage with a good view of the Renault, Toro Rosso and McLaren garages too. But that was all I got to see for a bit as the rain got heavier and that delayed FP1 by 30 minutes. Still, it’s not always you get to see the driver walking around their pit garages and talking to their guys up close, or in my case, with the aid of my camera.
It was pretty cool to see the drivers just before they got into the cars and getting out of pit-lane and even seeing a few pit-stops practices. That’s one of the best bits about the Sepang race weekend, it’s free seating anywhere on Friday, including the main grandstand. So of course I took the chance to walk around a bit. Not so much for FP1 due to the rain though.
For FP2 I did walk around. Instead of seeing the pit-lane opposite me, I was seeing Turns 9 and 10 and the backstraight. After the first few minutes I went over to the tower to get the best views of the car and then came the bad news. Seems like I wasn’t the only one with that idea as the whole top deck of the tower was packed with people. I had a hard time just trying to get a picture of any of the cars around the sea of people. I did get some good shots after all. And once again it was a shortened session due to the Grosjean crash.
I got to Sepang a little later than usual on Saturday and I realised it was a mistake. I had completely forgotten that Sepang did do those F1 forums witht he drivers so I missed that one. I will say that Liberty Media have done a great job making the fan experience even better off track, there were a lot of activities you could do in the F1 fan village, from the gaming zone to the pit-stop challenge to even a trampoline bit while waving the flag!
I got the same tickets as I did last time I was in Sepang at the K1 Grandstand but this time it was free seating, no seat numbers allocation, nothing! And when I got to the grandstand, the first 6 blocks were full! Not ideal at all. But since it was FP3, I went all the way to the end of the grandstand to see the view from in front of Turn 3 and some bits of 1, 2, 4 and 5. The middle bit is still much better.
So that’s where I was for qualifying and also because the superscreen was there so we could at least follow what was happening on track. Turned out to be a good spot for taking some pictures too actually. Anytime a Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull drivers came out, they had the loudest cheers. So imagine the reaction from the fans when Vettel never came back out for Q1. I had a good laugh, more bad luck for Ferrari. I’m all for that.
Not much else happened in Q2 and Q3, Lewis Hamilton took pole ahead of Kimi Raikkonen with both Red Bulls on row 2. The travel back was a nightmare though, we were stuck in traffic for what feels like forever. You’d think that it wouldn’t take long to get from Sepang to KLIA, since they’re just opposite one another, yet it took us almost an hour to get there. Not much else I need to say here.
Raceday Sunday and guess what, I got there just as the driver’s parade ended. Yup, that damn traffic again. And once again the first few blocks were full so I ended up sitting almost the same area as the day before but this time in the 2nd row because I realised I could get a clear view of the cars for my pics even from there so why not get closer? And no-one will block me right? Not quite.
The race was pretty good from my point of view. Kimi Raikkonen never started the race so even more bad luck for Ferrari so more joy for me. The race start was clean, Hamilton lead and Bottas almost got 2nd but Verstappen held on. Then on Lap 4, in came the move from Max Verstappen to take the lead from Hamilton and the fans went nuts (as did I)! That was good stuff. A few laps later, Ricciardo had another great overtaking move to get 3rd from Bottas. Good day for Red Bull!
I got to see a lot of close racing from my area since turn 1 was the hardest braking point on the circuit. And yes I did see a few incidents and spins that happened right in front of me. The Sainz-Ocon incident and Palmer-Magnussen incident happened at Turn 1. It’s not everyday you see two racing cars spinning around in front of you. I also saw the Alonso-Magnussen shuffle happening, that was a close one.
Verstappen ended up winning the race, only his 2nd win in F1 and a day after his 20th birthday too. Hamilton finished 2nd and Ricciardo just held off Vettel at the end to make it two Red Bull cars on the podium, that’s a good day in my view. And then Vettel had just three wheels, he collided with Stroll after the race! Haha! Vandoorne had his best race with 7th so another good day for McLaren so more good news for me. Not a bad last race for F1 in Sepang, I will miss watching racing there. The three times I’ve been there, it was always good. We need more circuits like these in F1 and less street circuits with restricted views.