The last time I was in Sepang for the Malaysian GP, they canceled the whole damn thing after a few laps. Yup, that was in 2009 when Jenson Button was declared the winner of the "twilight race" that saw heavy rain and dark skies stopping the race with a lot more laps to go. People booed and threw stuff everywhere in disgust; so no, that wasn't such a great day out.
I'd be lying if I said I was not worried about this year's race meeting with the same fate. The weather's been extremely erratic in this country off late, and while a little bit of rain would certainly make the race much more exciting, a mini hurricane would mean another total washout and unruly behaviour from the stands.
Whatever it was, armed with a Diamond Grandstand ticket courtesy of Petronas, and given to me by a colleague, I was pumped up for a good race. The 2012 season has shown that it won't be another Red Bull year and I'm more than ecstatic that the Ice Man Kimi Raikkonen is back on the grid.
My friends and I left USJ at around 1.30pm, but guess what? None of us had a parking sticker. No matter, I told my peeps, they usually sell it on race day after the roundabout near the Sepang mosque. But as it turned out, there's no such thing this time around. So we had to make one big round around the circuit and finally found a spot at Bay 14. From there, we took two shuttle buses up to the main grandstand.
I was also told that SIC had hired 3 "weather consultants" to make sure it was a dry race, but whaddyaknow, this was what greeted us when we got there!
I must say that it didn't feel as crowded in the mall area as compared to the few times I was there. A daily reported that the 3-day total attendance was close to 120k people, but I'm not sure if race day's attendance touched the 100k mark. It certainly didn't feel like it.
And yes, as it took us a while just to find parking space, we were left with only a few minutes to roam around the mall area after getting in. My mission was simple: buy myself a Kimi Raikkonen merchandise. ANY type of merchandise. But I was told everything was sold out since yesterday! Boohoo.
Then I got to the stand, and as the cars were being prepped on the grid, I could feel raindrops falling on my spf30-protected skin. A few minutes later, full-blown rain came down. Bomoh schmomoh, huh?
I won't go too much into the race save to say that it was indeed a scintillating one, especially during the first part which saw drivers trying to figure out what sort of grip they had with some inevitably spinning.
And of course there was a sense of deja vu when the race was red-flagged after a mere 7 laps. That gave me a chance to go and get the free sandwich from Petronas and switch seats to the lower terrace, but the look of concern was written all over the faces of the spectators. I myself had to rely on twitter for updates, and when it was announced that the race would re-start at 5.15pm, I knew we didn't have to throw any tantrum this time around. Haha.
After the restart, Jenson Button got ahead of Hamilton but got bumped down again after an accident. Suddenly it was Alonso leading while Raikkonen was holding his own in 6th, and later on, 5th position. The surprise of the day was of course Sauber's Sergio Perez who came THIS close to winning it all, but his inexperience proved to be his undoing, and so he had to settle for 2nd while Alonso took the highest step on the podium. For the full report, click HERE .
It was close to 7pm when it ended, and the sights around the circuit was simply breathtaking.
Overall, a great day out at the race it was! But no, I won't go into the whole hell of going home with long queues for the shuttle buses and massive congestion for kms and kms. I'll just save the rant for another day....