To date, the Malaysian Grand Prix has been held on fourteen occasions between 1999 and 2012, and there have been some absolutely cracking races held the Sepang International Circuit.
So which are the best? Samuel McCrossen picks his favourite ten…
10. 2011: ‘It’s Going to be a Rough Ride’
For Sebastian Vettel’s competition that is. A week after dominating the Australian Grand Prix, the new world Champion Vettel stormed to victory in the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix from pole position ahead of Jenson Button in his McLaren. Pretty run of the mill stuff for the 2011 season really. I have to be honest, it wasn’t a very good grand prix at all, but when you only have 14 to pick from…
The race was more memorable however; for the trials of the Lotus Renault team. Nick Heidfeld in his second grand prix for the team, after replacing the injured Robert Kubica, finished in a sensational third position, while teammate Vitaly Petrov guaranteed his spot on sports highlights reels for the next 10 years, by launching his Lotus Renault into the air after running off the circuit at turn eight.
9. 2007: ‘There’s something brewing’
Why was this race memorable? Probably for what happened for the remainder of the season. Fernando Alonso in his second race for McLaren lead home his rookie teammate Lewis Hamilton in happier times before things went sour between the two only a few races later.
After Kimi Räikkönen won on his debut for Ferrari in Australia, the Malaysian Grand Prix confirmed the McLaren team as the Scuderia’s most likely 2007 title rival. Räikkönen brought his Ferrari home in third place.
The race is also memorable for Hamilton making pole-sitter Felipe Massa look a right twit after he attempted to pass Hamilton in the same corner on three consecutive laps, each time making a meal of the move and allowing Hamilton to casually retake the position.
8. 2006: ‘Bravo Fisico’
Just over a year after taking his second Formula 1 victory at the 2005 Australian Grand Prix, Giancarlo Fisichella finally broke through for his third and final grand prix win.
It was a popular victory for the little Italian as he led home his teammate Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. The race also marked the first one-two finish for Renault since the 1982 French Grand Prix.
7. 1999: ‘Yes he is! No’s he’s not…’
In the midst of a fierce battle for the championship between Mika Häkkinen and Eddie Irvine, Michael Schumacher returned to the scene at the inaugural Malaysian Grand Prix after sitting six races with a broken leg he sustained during the British Grand Prix.
Schumi did it perfectly by taking an amazing pole position and then letting Irvine through into the lead in the early stages of the race and holding up the McLarens of David Coulthard and Mika Häkkinen in the process. Ferrari scored a 1-2 finish ahead of Häkkinen in third.
Just hours after the race, however, the Ferraris were disqualified by the FIA for a technical infringement and Häkkinen was awarded the race victory and the Drivers’ Championship title. The Finn did not celebrate yet though, as Ferrari appealed the decision – and won. The championship therefore went down to the final race of the season in Japan where Mika walked away with the crown, and Ferrari with the Constructors’ Championship.
6. 2005: ‘There’s something in the water’
And Fisichella must have been drinking it. A year before storming to victory in the 2006 Malyasian Grand Prix, Fisichella was battling Mark Webber for third place in the 2005 edition of the race. After being overtaken by Webber down the back straight, Fisi tried a desperate move into the final corner, lost control of his vehicle, and slid into the Australian, taking the both out of the race. He then looked a right fool by trying to blame Webber for the accident.
For the record, the race was won by Fernando Alonso taking his second career victory for Renault. He was followed home by Jarno Trulli and Nick Heidfeld.
5. 2002: ‘The struggle for power’
Early in 2002, Williams driver Juan Pablo Montoya was trying his best to establish himself over Michael Schumacher as the man to beat in F1, and things got messy at the start of the 2002 race when Schumacher drove into the Colombian at the first corner, causing both to come in to the pits for repairs.
Unbelievably, the Malaysian stewards penalised Montoya for the accident and handed him a drive through penalty. As a measure of how bad the penalty was, Schumacher admitted his extreme surprise after the race that the decision had been handed down.
One man who was not shedding any tears about the accident was Ralf Schumacher, who cruised to his fourth career victory ahead of Montoya and Michael Schumacher who both managed to come through the field to finish on the podium.
4. 2001: ‘How is that possible?’
Michael Schumacher was wining everything at the start of 2001, however it was impossible to believe he could win the 2001 Malaysian Grand Prix after he drove into a gravel trap and fell near to the back of the field when the heavens opened on lap 3 of the race.
In pouring rain, all teams except Ferrari opted for full wet tyre, while Schumacher and teammate Rubens Barrichello opted for intermediates. Then came a remarkable recovery with the Ferraris tearing through the field to again lead the race on Lap 15! Schumacher eventually took the victory from teammate Barrichello and brother Ralf Schumacher in the Williams.
3. 2003: ‘Kimi’s first win’
It is always memorable when a driver wins his first grand prix, and the 2003 Malaysian Grand Prix was no exception, as Kimi Räikkönen in the recycled 2002 McLaren chalked up an easy victory in the race, winning by over 40 seconds. He was followed home by Rubens Barrichello in the Ferrari, and another young man chasing his first victory at the time – Fernando Alonso.
2. 2009: ‘When it rains, it pours’
For Jenson Button that is. The 2009 Malaysian Grand Prix is remembered as being the first Grand Prix since the 1991 Australian Grand Prix to be abandoned because of bad weather, this time after a typical Malaysian downpour meant the race had to be stopped on lap 31.
At that point in time Button in his Brawn GP car was leading and was therefore awarded the race victory and half the points he normally would collect, given that the race had not yet reached half-distance.
Timo Glock was second when the race was stopped, but due to the race positions reverting to two laps before the end (as is the rule when a race is red flagged), his compatriot Nick Heidfeld in the BMW was given second ahead of Glock’s Toyota.
Otherwise, the race was an unfortunate end for Mark Webber, who had been in contention for the victory but had pitted only a few laps before for wet tyres.
And what else is the race known for? The world’s media getting the wrong end of the (ice cream) stick, when Kimi Räikkönen was seen getting an ice cream during the suspension period due to a KERS failure on his car.
For Jenson Button, however, the win marked his third grand prix victory, and his second in succession, after driving for nine years prior for only one victory.
1. 2012: ‘One of the best races you’ll see’
Malaysia and downpours go hand in hand and it’s one on the variables that makes the Malaysian Grand Prix always worth watching. Just fifteen minutes into the 2012 race (and after not having a drop of rain for a whole week) the heavens opened like an elephant’s bowels and the race had to be stopped with Fernando Alonso, in possibly the slowest Ferrari ever, an unlikely leader.
On the restart, Sergio Perez in his Sauber came from nowhere to challenge Alonso for the victory, falling just short in the final stages when he ran wide on a drying track to lose any chance of a maiden win. It was an unlikely winner pursued by an unlikely… pursuant.
Otherwise we had Jenson Button running into a backmarker and losing his front wing, Romain Grosjean taking out Michael Schumacher on the opening lap, and Sebastian Vettel driving his car into Narain Kathikeyan, and then trying to blame him for it!