When the chequered flag falls on Sunday it’ll be a sad occasion in Sepang. The first race of F1’s ‘eastern expansion’, the nineteenth edition of the Malaysian Grand Prix will also be its last. Over the years it’s given us plenty of memories, so in honour of the final GP, here’s a look at some of the best.
1999 – Schumacher’s magnificent return from injury
Absent for six races after sustaining a broken leg at Silverstone, Michael Schumacher made it look like he never left in Malaysia. Immediately back on the pace, Schumi was at his dominant best on Saturday, qualifying 0.947s ahead of the next-best driver, his Ferrari teammate Eddie Irvine, and spent the Sunday dictating the race to ensure Irvine would regain the lead in the driver’s championship, playing the secondary role in the Scuderia’s 1-2.
2002 – Michael and Montoya clash hands Ralf the win
Qualifying first and second respectively, Michael Schumacher and Juan-Pablo Montoya were primed for a titanic clash in the race – albeit one they took a little too literally. Wheel-to-wheel down into the first corner, Montoya managed to edge ahead around the outside only to see Michael understeer into him and lose his front wing, for which the Colombian was handed a mystifying drive-through penalty which even Schumacher disagreed with. In their stead the fight was taken up by their teammates, Rubens Barrichello in the Ferrari leading Michael’s brother Ralf in the Williams. Ralf’s one-stop strategy put him ahead of the two-stopping Barrichello before the latter’s engine blew while closing, and the younger Schumacher was gifted just his fourth grand prix victory.
2003 – Kimi’s first win
Few drivers in F1 history have earned a following as large as Kimi Raikkonen’s, and for many it started right here in Sepang. Three years into his career the Finn was finally given a car equal to his talents, and made it count with a superb display that saw him manage his fuel and pace perfectly, finishing a comfortable 39.286s ahead of Ferrari’s Rubens Barrichello.
2009 – Iceman needs his ice cream
As popular for his performances on-track as his actions off, the 2009 Malaysian GP gave us the perfect example of the latter, as Raikkonen used the lap 31 red flag due to heavy rain as an excuse to change out of his overalls and pop out the back for an ice-cream. Even by Kimi’s standards it was an amusing move, and certainly not what you would’ve expected from one of the world’s then highest-paid sportsmen.
2012 – Alonso and Perez shine in the wet
An incredible race in an incredible season, the 2012 edition gave us two of the unlikeliest heroes. Having qualified ninth in a particularly underwhelming Ferrari, Alonso was given no chance to win before rain intervened, the race starting under wet conditions. The playing field levelled, Alonso was able to make his way to the front of the field by lap 16, and held a 7-second advantage over the successfully-gambling Perez by lap 30. Now on a drying track, the 21-year-old Perez started to reel-in Alonso in his Sauber, and would have had the lead if it were not for botching his overtake attempt with six laps to go. As such, Alonso held on for a remarkable victory, Perez nevertheless turning heads with his P2.
2013 – Multi 21
Having endured a contentious relationship since joining forces in 2009, Sebastian Vettel’s decision to defy team orders and overtake Mark Webber for the win was the culmination in a long-running series of controversies. Leading out of the final pit-stop, Webber had been assured his #2 car would not be passed by Vettel’s #1 car, but the German had other ideas, despite the pleas of team principal Christian Horner to hold position. Unsurprisingly Webber was furious, confronting his teammate with the now-famous “Multi 21” phrase in the cool-down room, and alleging Vettel would “have protection, as always” in the podium interviews. Spicy stuff indeed.
2013 – Old habits die hard for Hamilton
A more light-hearted mishap in the 2013 race, Mercedes’ new boy Lewis Hamilton temporarily forgot what team he was driving for when he pulled into the pit box of old employers McLaren during a routine stop. Unfortunately for him, the mechanics weren’t willing to accommodate his request, sending the presumably red-faced Brit back on his way.
2016 – Hamilton’s championship goes up in smoke
Having already endured a tough run of reliability in 2016, Malaysia proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back in the Brit’s hunt for a three-peat. Leading comfortably with 16 laps remaining, the engine on Hamilton’s Mercedes imploded, handing Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo an improbable victory and completely changing the context of the championship. Had he taken the win, Hamilton would have left Malaysia 5 points ahead of teammate Nico Rosberg, instead, he left an ultimately-unassailable 23 points behind.
Big Question: What’s your most memorable moment of the Malaysian Grand Prix?