Paddock Postcard from Sepang 25 Mar 2012
Although the quick turnaround between the Australian and Malaysian rounds precluded too many extra-curricular activities pre-Sepang, there were several worthy of mention.
On Thursday, two of the grids French contingent, Toro Rossos Jean-Eric Vergne and Lotuss Romain Grosjean, braved the Kuala Lumpur heat to play an energetic game of boules with Georgie Thompson of British F1 broadcasters Sky TV.
On a more sombre note, Ferraris Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa took time out to pay tribute to Marco Simoncelli, who died in last Octobers MotoGP event at the Sepang International Circuit. Standing at the corner where Simoncelli crashed, Alonso and Massa remembered the rising Italian star with a pit board reading Sic, always with us.
From now on, coming here will never be the same again as it will always make one think of Marco, said Alonso. I think the Ferrari family and all Italians who love sport and motorcycling will remember him always. His death was something one could never have expected. We will remember him always and he will always be a hero to us.
Massa added: We wanted to go to Turn 11 to pay a tribute to Marcos memory. I think it was the least we could do for him, for his family and for all his fans. I think that all weekend long, we will drive here with thoughts of Marco.
On Friday night there was drama for Lotus when a fire, thought to have been caused by a fridge blowing a fuse, wreaked havoc in their hospitality unit. Mercifully no-one was present at the time, though the team did lose catering equipment, food and drink and driver Kimi Raikkonens spare helmet in the blaze. They were also forced to relocate to the other end of the paddock, near Marussia.
Former Grand Prix winner Johnny Herbert is again the FIA driver steward in Malaysia, while other familiar racing figures in the paddock have included Sir Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Marc Surer and Mika Salo. Hollywood actor Owen Wilson also made an appearance on the grid.
On track, Brazilian Luiz Razia scored a dominant victory in Saturdays GP2 feature race, making a better start than poleman Davide Valsecchi who ultimately finished second. It was Razia's first win since the sprint race at Monza in 2009, and Arden's first since the 2010 series opener.
Razia had no problems all the way through even when Valsecchi got his second wind in the final stages and closed the gap to five seconds in his DAMS car. The Italian had to fight past title favourite Fabio Leimer of Racing Engineering and Stefano Coletti of Coloni after his poor start, and in those final stages was the fastest man on the track.
And it was a good day for Carlins Max Chilton, the British driver having his best-ever GP2 showing to finish on the podium after snatching third place during the pit stops and then fending off Leimer to the flag.
On Sunday, Lotuss James Calado dominated the second Sepang race from pole position on the reversed grid to claim his first proper GP2 victory. Calado, who won a non-championship event in Abu Dhabi last year, led home team mate Esteban Gutierrez, DAMS driver Felipe Nasr and Caterham's Giedo Van Der Garde. Razia, Leimer, Chilton and Nathanael Berthon claimed the final points. Razia now leads the standings on 31 points, seven ahead of Valsecchi, whilst Calado is third.
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