An event which has become something of a modern classic, this weekend, the Malaysian Grand Prix will host its eighteenth Formula One event at the Sepang International Circuit. A combination of an overtake-inducing track layout combined with a temperamental weather system have resulted in many classic moments since it’s first event back in 1999. We take a look at the ten most memorable Malaysian Grands Prix.
10) 2006 Malaysian Grand Prix – Giancarlo Fisichella’s Final Win
In a career that had seen a lot of misfortune, everything went right for Fisichella at Sepang in 2006. He secured pole position, made strong start and executed a two-stop strategy perfectly to finish ahead of team-mate Fernando Alonso and claim what would turn out to be his third-and-final victory in the sport.
Surprisingly, this was Renault’s only 1-2 finish during their very competitive 2005-2006 seasons.
9) 2010 Malaysian Grand Prix – Lotus and Virgin Racing stun Ferrari and McLaren
The 2010 race weekend will perhaps be best remembered for it’s dramatic qualifying hour. With both Ferrari and McLaren expecting the wet circuit to dry out over the course of the session, they opted to remain in the pits until the later part of Q1.
However, with every other team setting ‘banker’ laps, unexpected rain fell, and Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton were all unable to set times quick enough to progress. Jenson Button did progress, but ended Q1 beached in the gravel trap. All four drivers were out-qualified by Heikki Kovalainen and Timo Glock of Lotus Racing and Virgin Racing respectively. The two teams were only in their third race having joined the grid at the start of the season.
8) 1999 Malaysian Grand Prix – Schumacher aids Irvine’s title challenge
The inaugural Malaysian Grand Prix was won in dominant fashion by the two Ferrari’s, with Michael Schumacher playing the team game and handing the race lead to championship contending team-mate Eddie Irvine. With championship rival Mika Hakkinen of McLaren finishing third, the title fight would go to the last race at Suzuka, Japan.
The Ferrari’s were initially disqualified after the race for having illegal barge boards. This post-race decision looked to have handed Hakkinen the championship, but an appeal by Ferrari was successful and the showdown went to Japan.
7) 2009 Malaysian Grand Prix – Button wins shortened race
Despite losing the lead at the start of the race to the lighter-fuelled Nico Rosberg (Williams) and Jarno Trulli (Toyota) as well as the KERS-equipped Renault of Fernando Alonso, Button was able to regain the lead by staying on-circuit for longer and overtaking via the first round of pit stops.
However, just after the half way point, very heavy rain hit the circuit, forcing drivers onto the ‘full wet’ tyres. With cars spinning off, the safety car was deployed, but with the cars continuing to struggle in the “undriveable” conditions, the race was red flagged after 33 laps, and eventually the result was declared.
Button was declared the winner ahead of Nick Heidfeld (BMW Sauber) and Timo Glock (Toyota) and half points were awarded.
6) 2015 Malaysian Grand Prix – Ferrari and Vettel stun Mercedes
In a season that was threatening to become centred around the Mercedes team, Ferrari offered hope of a two-team contest early in the year. After racing in between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in the opening stages of the race, a safety car period gave Ferrari the chance to try an alternate strategy.
With Hamilton and Rosberg pitting along with most of the field, Vettel stayed out to take the race lead. The laps after the restart saw Vettel’s lead increase to ten seconds over Hamilton. A two-stop strategy allowed the Ferrari driver to stay ahead of the three-stopping Mercedes and take the Scuderia’s first win for almost two years.
5) 2001 Malaysian Grand Prix – Ferrari fight back after disastrous opening laps
In the opening couple of laps, Ferrari were firm favourites to claim a third successive victory at Sepang when Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello maintained their qualifying positions to put Ferrari in first and second.
However, an oil spill from the British American Racing car of Olivier Panis was enough to send both Ferrari’s off the track at the same corner. They fell outside the top six. When a heavy rain shower came moments later, pit stop delays resulted in them falling to tenth and eleventh.
Fortunately for the Scuderia, a decision to equip the cars with intermediate tyres – as opposed to the full wets used by everybody else – proved fruitful. When the safety car came in, the Ferrari’s began to gain places and take the lead as the track dried. This strategy call proved pivotal in what turned out to be comfortable victory for Schumacher, with team-mate Barrichello second.
4) 2003 Malaysian Grand Prix – Raikkonen’s first win, Alonso’s first podium
Back in the days when drivers qualified with their race fuel, McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen started the 2003 Malaysian Grand Prix with a heavier fuel load and from seventh on the grid. Avoiding the first-lap tangle between Jarno Trulli (Renault) and Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), Raikkonen was running in second place by the end of lap three, helped partly by the retirement of his team-mate David Coulthard.
Initially running second to the lighter-fuelled Fernando Alonso, he was able to take the lead from the Renault driver after the first round of pit stops.
From there, the Finn was able to take a commanding maiden victory ahead of Ferrari’s Rubens Barrichello, with Alonso taking his first podium finish of his career.
3) 2002 Malaysian Grand Prix – Schumacher and Montoya collide at turn one
Turn one of the Sepang circuit has become a key place for overtakes and incidents, with the later witnessed at the 2002 event when rivals Schumacher and Montoya came together.
With Schumacher defending pole position, a challenging Montoya attempted to overtake around the outside of turn one. However, an understeering Ferrari slid into the side of the Williams and caused damage to both cars, leaving both of them needing repairs.
This left the race down to their team-mates Rubens Barrichello and Ralf Schumacher, but with second Ferrari retiring on lap 39, Schumacher Jnr. was able to claim his fourth career victory. Montoya and Michael Schumacher recovered to take second and third, thanks to late suspension troubles for Renault’s Jenson Button.
2) 2012 Malaysian Grand Prix – Alonso wins against the odds
Once again wet weather played havoc with the teams and drivers in Malaysia, with the race being red-flagged on lap ten, with pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton having lead the opening laps.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez’s Ferrari-powered Sauber had managed to climb up into the top five when the red flags were shown, and headed the field when McLaren were slow in changing Hamilton’s tyres when the call for intermediates was made.
Towards the end of the race, Perez (who was also a member of the Ferrari young driver academy at the time) reeled in Alonso to set up a tense final few laps. However, when Perez made a mistake on the drying track, Alonso was able to claim Ferrari’s first win of the season. The victory came as a complete surprise, given the poor performance witnessed at the start of the season.
1) 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix – ‘Multi-21’
The 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix is best remembered by the coded message sent by Red Bull Racing to Sebastian Vettel during the race; Multi-21.
With Vettel chasing down race-leading team-mate Mark Webber in the closing stages of the race, the team issued that very message to discreetly instruct the driver that they didn’t want to see any racing between their two cars. Fortunately for the viewers, Vettel ignored.
The pair were dicing for two laps before Vettel finally overtook, and he went on to claim the victory. Lewis Hamilton took third ahead of his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg, who was forced to follow a similar instruction not to pass the Briton, much to his annoyance.
In a frosty post-race cool-down room, Webber simply uttered the words his team-mate was supposed to obey; “Multi-21, Seb. Multi-21.”