The Malaysian Grand Prix has been on the Formula One calendar since 1999, where the mix of extreme weather conditions and high temperatures create exciting and trilling races.
The Malaysian GP is held on the Sepang International Circuit, a track created by German designer Hermann Tilke. You have probably guessed that the circuit is situated in Sepang, near the countries capital of Kuala Lumpur.
Tilke has subsequently designed other Asian F1 circuits including Shanghai and the Buddh International circuit in India. The Malaysian track was his first Formula 1 project and, despite more recent tracks being criticised, is a well-loved layout.
Construction on the circuit started in November 1997, and the circuit officially opened on the 7th March 1999. Despite its slightly older age, the track boasts some modern and world class facilities including kart and motorcross facilities. Along with F1, the track also holds MotoGP and GT events.
Sepang Circuit: home of the Malaysian GP
The humid temperatures are more of a challenge than the circuit itself, but that by no means makes it easy to drive. An average lap of the track takes 1 minute 37 seconds, and begins on an unusually wide and long start-finish straight.
One main feature of the track is the big back straight grandstand, which also runs on to the pit straight. From the elevated viewpoint, fans can see the last 45 seconds or so of the lap from turn 8 to turn 14. It is a unique feature which makes it a perfect spot for F1 viewing.
The long run to turn 1 is to help cars spread out and separate for the tight right which makes up the first turn. The corner is low speed and is quite long, before the drivers change direction quickly for the left hand turn 2. Turn 3 is a full throttle right, before a short straight. This leads the cars on to the 90 degree right that makes turn 4, before the challenging turn 5 and 6 chicane which requires lots of grip and down force.
After another short straight, turn 7 and 8 makes a long right where cars hit the apex of turn 7 and try to take as much speed through the next corner, before another straight. The track then tightens and turns left for turn 9, which is one of the best overtaking places.
Turn 10 is a flat out right, before another tighter right which leads the cars on to the high speed turn 12.
One of Tilke’s finest corners is the long, never ending turn 13 which twists right and tightens on the exit. We saw Sergio Perez make a mistake here while trying to close in eventual winner Fernando Alonso during this year’s race.
Next up is a long straight lined with large grandstands, before the final corner. This is a tight hairpin which is a great overtaking place, before the cars re-join the start/finish straight.
F1 Malaysia Highlights
There have been a number of memorable races on the track. The inaugural Grand Prix saw the return of Michael Schumacher after breaking his leg earlier in the season. He dominated the weekend but gave the win to team mate Irvine, who was battling for the title. However, both Ferrari’s were disqualified for technical infringements, before later being reinstated.
The Malaysian climate also throws up a few challenging obstacles, such as torrential rain. The 2001 event was a wash out after a rain storm on lap 3. This caused numerous retirements and even saw both Ferrari cars spin off simultaneously, but they recovered to score a 1-2 after the circuit dried out.
The 2009 round was even red flagged due to the torrential conditions, bought on by the late start time to suit European viewers. Jenson Button, the eventual 2009 world champion, drove a controlled race when others faltered, taking 5 points for the win. This was due to only 31 of the required 42 laps being completed, 42 laps being 75% of the race and where full points are awarded.
Sebastian Vettel won the 2010 and 2011 rounds, while 2012 was clinched by Fernando Alonso after a thrilling battle with the Sauber of Serio Perez, who was racing in just his 2nd full season in the sport. Perez kept the 2 time world champion on his toes but a late race mistake eased the pressure. Perez was up there after an inspired strategy to change to the full wet tyres after a conditions intensified early on.
Malaysia has some great viewing spots and the race always throws up a surprise, but the culture and tourism in Malaysia is also strong. The scenery is stunning, with notable places to visit being the east coast islands of Pulau Redang, Perhentian, Kapas or Tioman. You can also visit the picturesque Mount Kinabalu, but if culture is what you want visit during the festivals like the Hari Merdeka or “Malaysia Day” in August and September respectively. If you want to go shopping or visit the country’s finest restaurants visit the country’s capital of Kuala Lumpur.