Thursday, 28 March 2013

Petronas Formula 1 Grand Prix 2013

All I need to enter. Ticket and ear plugs.
Two more days to the biggest motorsport event in the world at Sepang and I was still without any complimentary tickets, like I normally got the previous years. But a phone call from Natasha of Tourism Malaysia last Thursday afternoon brought cheers to me as I was told to collect my complimentary ticket at counter 6 at the main Ticket Counter on Saturday. Here I come again, Sepang F1!

Tens of thousands of spectators thronged the Sepang International Circuit on Race Day.
A full size replica of a Mercedes Petronas F1 car on display at the Petronas Pavilion.
Since this was my 6th time coming to watch the F1 in Sepang, I think I’ve figured out some do’s and donts quite instintively. Number one on the list is to go there with a full stomach. And I  mean really full! The reason is simple. There’ll be a lot of walking (which will sap your energy) and the food is very expensive. So, I stopped by the Petron station at the Elite highway, stuffed myself with four pieces of sandwiches and continued my journey to Sepang.

The young were not missing the chance to catch the action.
The scorching hot Sunday morning did not deter the tens of thousands of visitors to come in droves to the F1 circuit, located about 40 kms from the Kuala Lumpur city centre. The thunderous sound of the racing cars was getting more and more deafening by now but I was already prepared with ear-plugs which I just bought at a hefty RM15 from an entreprising peddlar near the car park. After collecting my ticket from Mr Razaidi of Tourism Malaysia, I went pass the main gate and to the open area near the main entrance and took some time to linger around with the crowd. There were booths selling souvenir programmes book, marlboro merchandise, food and ice-creams (oh… and it was Magnum ice-cream), and at least a dozen more selling all kinds of F1 merchandise. There were also pavilions by Petronas and Tourism Malaysia as well as some games arcades. I managed to get myself an F1 t-shirt (one of the cheapest) at RM39 at the SIC official merchandise shop.

Among the sea of people at the main entrance pavilion were Hollywood actress Teri Hatcher(of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and Desperate Housewives fame), Pearl Harbour star Josh Hartnett and fashion mogul Kimora Lee Simmons. I couldn’t get near them as the crowd around them was already so cramped, but I could clearly see pretty Kimora towering among her fans. 

The F1 Merchandise booths doing brisk business.
View of the Corporate Platform grandstand.
I then proceeded Gate K1 where the Gold grandstand is, which has the spectacular view of the first and second corner. It was already halfway through the Formula BMW Asia when I finally got to my seat. It was followed by The Porsche Carrera Cup Asia about an hour later and subsequently the Malaysian Super Series, where spectators were entertained by supercars in the likes of Lamborghini, McLaren, Ferrari, Audi R8, Aston Martin and Porsche.

I had a chance to talk to a few foreign spectators in between the support races (normally on my way to or from the toilet), and one of them was Australian Rob Kirwan who was on his fifth visit this year. Rob, who came with a friend Damien were seen carrying inflatable kangaroos on their way to their seats. “Its so much cheaper coming here compared to going to Melbourne to watch the F1. And being able to visit other places in Malaysia with the extra saving is a big bonus” he added. Ryan, a young American from Nebraska who was sitting next to me said that he was not planning to watch the F1 when he came backpacking to Malaysia a week ago, but when he got to know about the race and after looking at the ticket price, he never bothered to have a second thought. “It was so cheap! Back in the US, you pay double the amount to watch the race sitting on the grass” exclaimed the Mark Webber fan.

The real supercars in action.
At the grid, minutes before the warm up lap.
The highlight of the event started at 1500 after a short downpour. The Red Bull team made it clear from the start that they were the team to be reckoned with when their two drivers, Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber dominated most of the race, with some pressure from Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg of Team Mercedes Petronas. The 56 lap race ended with Sebastian Vettel crossing the line just ahead of his teammate Webber after a gruelling wheel-to-wheel race to the chequered flag followed by Hamilton and Rosberg. The other 'local' team, Team Lotus didn’t fare too badly, finishing 6th and 7th respectively. 

Kimi Raikonnen in a Lotus Renault machine.
Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton at the Press Conference. 
The F1 race is always full of pure excitement, thrills and drama but this time around there was a bit of comedy errors added when Lewis Hamilton mistakenly pulled his Mercedes car into former team McLaren’s pit area. In another incident, Team Toro Rosso, in their haste after leaving their pit lane, get both cars banged against each other with one of them skewed sideways across the Caterham pit stall. The team was later imposed a US10,000 fine after stewards ruled their maneuvres were unsafe.

By the time the the drivers get to the podium to receive their trophies, I was already scrambling to get out of the grandstand. Its going to be hell if I waited just a little bit longer, as I anticipated the traffic out there would be very heavily congested. I had planned to go to one of the Rest & Relax area by the highway, get myself a long cold shower and come back to Sepang for the F1 Guns N' Roses concert. Free admission for ticket holders like me! As for the GnR concert that night, let me describe it to you very briefly. “It was highly explosive!”

Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal of Guns N' Roses wowing the crowd with his magnificent guitar works.

For more information on Sepang International Circuit and Tourism Malaysia, please visit:

Note: Some of the photos above are courtesy of SIC. 

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