Raikkonen lives up to his nickname, 2003
Ron Dennis is not a man prone to public displays of emotion, but the McLaren chief admitted to having to fight back the tears after seeing Kimi Raikkonen storm from seventh on the grid to his maiden victory at Sepang in ’03. "I can't tell you how important it is for a driver to win his first Grand Prix and how much weight it takes off their shoulders," Dennis said. "He really deserves it - it was a faultless drive.” The Iceman had arrived - and in some style.
Schumacher obliterates rivals in qualifying comeback, 1999
If there were ever doubts that the broken leg sustained by Michael Schumacher at the start of the ’99 British Grand Prix might affect his speed, they were well and truly blown out of the water on his return to competitive action in Malaysia less than 100 days later. On F1’s first trip to Sepang, the German proved head and shoulders above his rivals, cruising to pole on the new circuit by a full 0.947s -comfortably the biggest margin of the year. “I couldn't have dreamt of coming back like this a month ago,” admitted Schumacher of the stunning lap. “We expected to be strong here but to be one second ahead is clearly surprising. We are back with a bang!” He would have won the race too, had he not willingly sacrificed his own chances for those of championship-chasing team mate Eddie Irvine.
Perez takes the fight to Alonso, 2012
As a spectacle, the 2012 Malaysian Grand Prix had it all - changeable weather, red flags, a long delay and a sensational climax brought to life by two unlikely contenders. By rights, Fernando Alonso’s victory from eighth on the grid in the unfancied Ferrari should have been the story of the day, but it was the man who started and finished just behind him - Sauber’s Sergio Perez - who ended up stealing the show for his stunning attack of the Spaniard. "I knew I had to be quick to overtake him as I had a lot of degradation in the tyres," said Perez, who recorded Mexico’s first podium since 1971. "I was looking for a way to get him and then I ran a bit wide and touched the wet kerb and was lucky to not go off. Even so, it has been a great day for the team.”
Vettel opens Ferrari account in style, 2015
“Ferrari is back!” was the cry over team radio as Sebastian Vettel clinched the Scuderia’s first victory in nearly two years at Malaysia in 2015. But in a very real sense it wasn’t just Ferrari that were back - Vettel was back too. The four-time world champion had failed to register a victory in a difficult final season with Red Bull in 2014, and yet here he was in just his second race for the Prancing Horse, confidently seeing off the challenge of the all-conquering Mercedes team with a superb strategy call. “Today is such a special day for me,” said an emotional Vettel afterwards. “I don't really know what to say, I am speechless. It's not only one childhood dream that comes true, it seems to be many dreams together.”
Team orders fall on deaf ears as Vettel defeats Webber, 2013
“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…” Race winner Sebastian Vettel was full of contrition in the post-race press conference at Sepang in 2013, but for the man sitting next to him - Red Bull team mate Mark Webber - the words meant little. Only moments earlier, Vettel had ruthlessly attacked and passed Webber in an excruciatingly tight battle for the lead, despite having been told clearly by his team - via the now infamous ‘multi 21’ radio message - to hold station behind the Australian. “In the end Seb made his own decisions today and will have protection [from the team],” said a seething Webber on the podium. “That’s the way it goes”.
Storms can’t rain on Button’s victory parade, 2009
It’s not unusual to see torrential downpours in Malaysia - in fact they’re expected. But so much rain fell during the 2009 race that officials had no choice but to red flag proceedings with just 31 of the scheduled 56 laps complete. It was at this point that Kimi Raikkonen, his car unwell, famously retreated to the Ferrari hospitality area and pulled out a choc ice as the rest of the field, including erstwhile race leader Jenson Button, waited for further news on the grid under hastily erected canopies. Eventually, it was decided that the race couldn’t be restarted, leaving Button to pick up the winner’s trophy, but (as less than 75% of the race had been completed) just five world championship points - only the fifth time in history half points had been awarded.
Petrov takes to the air, 2011
Sometimes a small mistake can have dramatic consequences, as Renault’s Vitaly Petrov proved in the 2011 race at Sepang when, running in a strong eighth place, the Russian slid wide on marbles at Turn 8. "I decided to come back to the track,” explained Petrov, “and I knew it was a big kerb, but I was not expecting such a big jump. I was not expecting to fly like that." But fly he did - several metres in fact - before crashing back down to earth with such force that his steering column broke. "I was lucky because my car continued to go straight rather than left or right,” he continued. “Otherwise, you can imagine if the car goes to the right I would have crashed twice as hard, so I think I was a little lucky..."
Hamilton profits as Mercedes put the brakes on Rosberg, 2013
Red Bull weren’t the only team facing a team management headache in the 2013 race at Sepang - right behind them Mercedes were involved in a similarly heated back-and-forth over team orders with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Hamilton had challenged the Red Bulls early in the race, but fuel and tyre concerns meant the Briton had to slow down, allowing his team mate to close in. But despite his superior speed, Mercedes chief Ross Brawn firmly refused the German’s request to pass, preferring to err on the side of caution and collect maximum points. "If I'm honest I feel Nico should be standing here - he had the better pace through the race," said a magnanimous Hamilton after collecting his first podium for the Silver Arrows. "Would I let him past in the future? I probably would." Famous last words, Lewis…
Fisichella tangle costs Webber podium shot, 2005
He’d go on to stand on an F1 podium 42 times, but back in early 2005 Mark Webber was still in search of his first rostrum finish - and when the Australian homed in on the ailing Renault of third-placed Giancarlo Fisichella late in the 2005 race at Sepang, it looked like he might be about to take it. The Italian, however, had other ideas… "His car was finished,” said Webber. “It was a low percentage move considering he was in so much trouble. I'm very disappointed. I passed him and he tried to pass me again on the dirty side with absolutely no grip. He braked and surprise, surprise he lost control and we made contact. I respect Giancarlo a lot - he's a good driver and he doesn't do that every weekend, but if I wasn't there he'd have lost the car anyway…”
Contact leaves Alonso on a wing and a prayer, 2013
To pit or not to pit, that was the question facing Fernando Alonso and Ferrari on the first lap of the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix, the Spaniard having sustained front-end damage after nosing into the rear of Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull at the start. “[The damage] didn’t seem to be too bad and so, together with the team, we decided to keep going,” Alonso would later explain. It would prove a catastrophic error. Only a few hundred metres after eschewing the pit lane in favour of the race track, the Spaniard’s front wing cried enough and split from its moorings, burying itself under the Ferrari’s tyres and sending a powerless Alonso into the gravel. “If we’d stopped immediately and then again on lap 3 or 4 to fit dry tyres, we would have dropped too far back and definitely lost the chance to finish up the front,” said Alonso. “It’s easy to criticise this decision, but at the time it seemed like the right one...”