Malaysian Grand Prix: Rain, ice cream and capsule hotels - will the race be missed?

Formula 1
The Malaysian Grand Prix will be missing from the F1 calendar from 2018

Goodbye, Malaysian Grand Prix. From 2018 it will be no more.

After 19 years on the Formula 1 calendar, the Sepang International Circuit will host the race for the final time this October.

From torrential rain, quarrelling team-mates and ice cream-eating Formula 1 drivers, the Malaysian Grand Prix has seen it all, but will it truly be missed?

Declining attendances, poor location, but great circuit

Formula 1
Crowds have dwindled in Malaysia over the years, with last year's raceday attendance 80,000

When the Sepang International Circuit made its debut on the Formula 1 calendar back in 1999, curiosity drew in the crowds, with it being the first race in Asia outside calendar stalwart Japan.

But over the years, races in China and Singapore were added to the schedule. China has the larger population pool and Singapore has the glamour. Malaysia simply struggled to compete.

"Foreign visitors are down because people can choose Singapore, China, Middle East," Malaysian sports minister Khairy Jamaluddin tweeted last year.external-link "Returns are not as big."

Its location didn't help its cause. Malaysia's capital city, Kuala Lumpur, is around 60 miles away and the highway to the track from the city can get very busy with commuters.

The alternative to braving the traffic is to stay close to the circuit, but doing so denies the visitor a chance to make the most of their time in the country.

The Sepang International Circuit is located close to Malaysia's main airport, where capsule hotels and takeaway fast food burgers are pretty much the only option for the tourist on a budget.

Capsule Hotel
Those keen to avoid the drive from Kuala Lumpur to the track could end up staying in the nearby airport's capsule hotel - a bit like this one in Tokyo

But, forgetting about the logistics, the circuit itself is a great one.

It was the first of the modern, Hermann Tilke-designed F1 circuits - and comfortably one of the German designer's best - and offered a real test for both man and machine. The unpredictable weather and the chaos that often ensued made for many a memorable race.

"It was one of the great circuits," said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, whose team share a sponsor with the race. "For us emotionally it is a bit tough to overcome that it is going because it is a 'home' grand prix."

Memorable Malaysia moments

Thanks for the memories, Malaysia, of which there have been a few - on and off the track...

Kimi's ice cream and Button wins - 2009

Malaysian Grand Prix
The rain can arrive at any moment in Malaysia, providing an additional strategic headache for teams

In 2009, Kimi Raikkonen helped speed up the popularisation of internet memes with antics at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

A heavy mid-race downpour resulted in the race being stopped and, while the rest of drivers waited patiently to see if it would pass and the race would restart, Raikkonen had clearly had enough. He leapt out of his car, slapped on a pair of shorts and grabbed an ice cream.

Kimi Raikkonen
What to do when torrential rain has stopped the racing? Have an ice cream, of course
Ice Cream
When Kimi Raikkonen moved to Lotus a few years later, he bought members of the media ice creams in Malaysia

Ultimately the grand prix had to be abandoned because of the weather. Jenson Button, who would go on to win the World Championship that year, had been leading at the time and was declared winner.

If the sight of Raikkonen in his shorts mid-race wasn't shocking enough, team personnel had a genuine fear of being electrocuted handling the sensitive electrical parts of the cars during heavy rain.

"I'll never forget 2009," said Williams' chief technical officer Paddy Lowe. "It was the first year with KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) and we were still learning our way around the high voltage in those systems. Then we had this race where the cars were literally swimming through inches of water.

"I remember a Ferrari was abandoned and no-one dared touch it."

'Multi 21, Seb, multi 21' - 2013

Red Bull

The moment when the simmering tension between then Red Bull team-mates Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber exploded.

The two were involved in a thrilling battle late on in the race, almost colliding as they fought wheel-to-wheel before Vettel passed Webber to take victory, ignoring instructions to stay behind the Australian.

In the drivers' room after the race, Webber confronted Vettel, saying "multi 21, Seb, multi 21" - a coded team order for Webber (car number two) to finish ahead of Vettel (car number one).

Webber then added in a frosty podium interview: "In the end Seb made his own decisions today and will have protection as usual, and that's the way it goes."


Schumacher's comeback and a controversial outcome - 1999

Formula 1
Eddie Irvine crossing the finish line to take victory at the inaugural Malaysian Grand Prix

After breaking his leg in a crash at the 1999 British Grand Prix, Michael Schumacher made his comeback in Malaysia later that year.

Schumacher came back not only fit, but also in fine form and, after dominating qualifying to take pole position, he stormed away at the start of the race.

It was a flex of muscles rather an attempt to win because fellow Ferrari driver, Eddie Irvine, was locked in a tense title battle with Mika Hakkinen at the time and Schumacher decided to help out his team-mate, slowing to let the Northern Irishman pass and take victory.

The weekend ended in controversy, however, as a row over bargeboards saw Ferrari disqualified, although their one-two was reinstated on appeal a week later.

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