After 19 years, Sepang International Circuit bids farewell to Formula One. Ahead of the final Malaysian GP, we take a look back at some of the most unforgettable moments to take place at the Malaysian circuit.
1999: Ferrari gets into trouble
The inaugural Malaysian Grand Prix in 1999 was dramatic not least because it was the penultimate race of the 1999 Formula One season.
After four months out of the championship due to a leg injury sustained during the British GP, Ferrari numero uno driver Michael Schumacher makes an impressive comeback in qualifying, ahead of colourful teammate Eddie Irvine by almost a whole second. That's like dog years in F1 qualifying.
But the German gives way to Irvine who's only two points behind championship leader, McLaren’s Mika Häkkinen. Irvine wins for the Italian team and celebrations ensue... But it doesn’t end there. Both Ferraris are disqualified for illegal bodywork and their points taken away.
Ferrari appeals in court, and the points are reinstated before the final championship showdown in Suzuka. Häkkinen wins! And he's crowned 1999 World Champion. But the drama was all at Sepang.
2001: Into the storm
It's 2001! Will it be a memorable victory for Ferrari that makes up for 1999? All hell breaks loose when storm clouds gathered over the Sepang skies shed their load typhoonically. Michael Schumacher and teammate Rubens Barrichello spin off the gravel! Is it caused by an oil leak from Olivier Panis’ retired BAR Honda? Terrible!
The safety car is deployed as the heavens take umbrage, and the entire grid of buzzing fizzing cars is forced to pit. The two Ferraris are stranded for almost a minute! The team decides to go on intermediate tyres... The gods approve, the rain eases on lap 10. Barichello and Schumacher rejoin the grid in 10th and 11th positions respectively but power through to a 1–2 victory! Intermediate tyres were an inspired choice! Will they have to go to court again to secure their points!? Nah. David Coulthard comes third in his McLaren.
2009: “Iceman” cools down
A mega thunderstorm halts the 2009 Malaysian Grand Prix halfway! The race is red flagged on lap 31. The drivers wait twitching in the pits, busting to get the show back on the road. But Ferrari's Kimi Räikkönen walks out of the pits, changes into dry clothes and bides his time with a Magnum Classic, creating an internet meme still shared to this very day. Jenson Button of Brawn Mercedes is crowned winner.
2013: The Multi 21 controversy
The sight of the two Red Bulls battling head-to-head is a spectacle to behold, and it's not at all friendly between teammates Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. Vettel has ignored team orders via Multi 21, a coded radio message, to not overtake Webber after the Australian was released from the pits. The German aggressively strikes past and clinches the title from his fair dinkum Aussie teammate!
Vettel appears contrite at the press conference: “I made a mistake, I’m not proud that I made it. If I had the chance to do it again, I would do it differently but it doesn’t count now…” Doesn't count? Yes, right! Tensions between the two drivers simmer long after the race is over and Webber retires from Formula One. Oh dear. Sepang has more drama than Shakespear's Globe!
2016: Engine woes for Hamilton and the “budgie” incident
Forty-one laps into the race! We're more than halfway to the finish line... Race leader Lewis Hamilton comes on the Mercedes team radio: “Oh, no, no!” he cries! The Brit suffers an engine failure. Kaput. No more race for you. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen cruise to Red Bull's first 1–2 victory in years while Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg comes third, en route to becoming the 2016 World Champion. Ricciardo celebrates on the podium with his (in)famous “shoey” ritual and a group of overjoyed Australian fans join in by stripping down to their undies which bear the colours of the Malaysian flag… They are surrounded by Malaysian police and arrested! Kena masuk lokap, as we say in Malaysia.
1999: Top Gear checks out the new state-of-the-art Malaysian race circuit
It’s not technically a Grand Prix moment, but this clip from an old episode of Top Gear featuring Tiff Needell checking out a brand spanking new Sepang circuit in a Proton Satria GTi will surely bring a tear to racing fans. A cult Proton car! When did that last happen...
The 2017 Malaysian Grand Prix takes place on 29 September to 1 October 2017. For further information, click here.