When In Manila believes that no sport in the world combines money, speed and noise better than Formula 1, or affectionately called F1 by it legions of fans. The top teams each spend in excess of US$250 million for their two cars to participate in this year’s 19 races.
The Malaysia F1 Grand Prix was the year’s second race and is held at the 5.5 kilometre Sepang International Circuit. This circuit is liked by drivers for the long straights that allow them to reach speeds of 300 kilometres per hour, but is equally disliked due to the heat and humidity that causes temperatures to reach 50 degrees Celsius in their cockpits.
The fastest way to the Circuit from Kuala Lumpur is with a train/bus transport package. This 90 minute journey includes the train from Sentral station to Kuala Lumpur International Airport and from there by bus to the circuit.
There are plenty of activities on offer – including racing go-karts or being a passenger in a rally car – all for no charge. In addition, the free after race concert for grandstand ticket holders was Guns N’ Roses, whose ripping guitar solos and Axl’s typical foul language attracted many people.
The spectator areas were a sea of colour as fans gather from across the world and some will go to elaborate lengths to support their favourite F1 driver or team. Ferrari fans are easily identified by their red flags, red shirts and red caps, whereas Finnish fans travel in numbers to support their drivers who have had much F1 success.
Ticket choice is the key for an enjoyable day. The Malaysia F1 Grand Prix has the cheapest F1 tickets in the world, with only 60 Malaysian Ringgits allowing you access to the grassed area. However, I preferred the upper tier in the covered southern grandstand with a reserved seat and video screen. These tickets cost considerably more (773 Malaysian Ringgits) but are only half the price of some tickets on the home straight and offer better value.
Despite the colour and free activities, the main attraction is the racing – especially the F1 cars – it is almost impossible to convey their ear-splitting noise and incredible speed. When all 22 cars power past you during the opening lap, the screaming engines are so loud that the solid grandstand vibrates, your body shudders, your ears hurt and your head feels like it is spinning. It is no surprise that earplugs or headphones are essential items for any race.
The race was run and won in controversial circumstances, with current champion Sebastian Vettel ignoring team orders to overtake his team mate, Australian Mark Webber, to secure victory. For those F1 fans lucky to be in Sepang, they, like When In Manila, will be eager to return to the Malaysia F1 Grand Prix next year.
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