Malaysian Formula 1 Grand Prix
Every year, the fastest drivers in the world visit Malaysia to compete in the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix.
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The Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix has been a core part of the Formula One racing schedule since its inaugural race in 1999. The race takes place at the Sepang International Circuit, just an hour away from the nation's capital, Kuala Lumpur. The race was part of the country's ambitious plans to promote Malaysia in the global arena. The circuit, which was built specifically for Formula One racing, was designed by German designer Hermann Tilke, and officially opened on March 9, 1999.
The Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix is one of the fastest races in the entire Formula One season. With two straights that offer ample opportunities for overtaking, and 14 turns along the 5.5 kilometre track, the course tests a driver's skills and determination as they strive to complete 56 laps ahead of everyone and emerge as the year's champion. Weather has always been a factor in the race, and tire selection is tricky as heavy rains can abate as quickly as they start.
Thousands of racing aficionados flock to Malaysia from across the world to be part of the race every year. The race is a major event on the country's tourism calendar and other minor events tied to the race are held in conjunction leading up to the actual race day. Fans, both local and foreign, show up in force during the three days of the race, all decked out in their favourite team colours. The air is festive on race day, as banners and flags vie for attention amidst a sea of umbrellas in the fields surrounding the track, sheltering the fans from the tropical heat and sudden rains.
The inaugural race in 1999 was also the most notable race to date for the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix, with Ferrari completing a 1-2 finish. It was the second last race of the 1999 season, and was critical to the Driver's Championship title that year. The race was dominated by Michael Schumacher, who was finally racing after recoving from a broken leg in the British Grand Prix earlier that season. His dominance during the race allowed his team mate, Eddie Irvine, who was still in contention for the driver's title, to win the race.
Both Ferraris, however, were subsequently disqualified due to a technical irregularity, giving Mika Hakkinen of Mercedes an insurmountable lead in the driver's title race. An appeal by the Ferrari team against the decision was successful, and the results were reinstated. The driver's title was decided at the final race of the season, the Japanese Grand Prix, where Mika Hakkinen emerged victorious.
The lap record for the race is currently 1:34.223, set by Juan Pablo Montoya in 2004. Michael Schumacher has won the most number of races here, emerging victorious in 2000, 2001 and 2004.
The past winners of the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix are listed below.
1999 - Eddie Irvine of Ferrari
2000 - Michael Schumacher of Ferrari
2001 - Michael Schumacher of Ferrari
2002 - Ralf Schumacher of Williams-BMW
2003 - Kimi Räikkönen of McLaren-Mercedes
2004 - Michael Schumacher of Ferrari
2005 - Fernando Alonso of Renault
2006 - Giancarlo Fisichella of Renault
2007 - Fernando Alonso of McLaren-Mercedes
2008 - Kimi Räikkönen of Ferrari
2009 - Jenson Button of Brawn-Mercedes
2010 - Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull-Renault