With its high humidity levels and unpredictable weather, the Malaysia Grand Prix is often one of the toughest of the season for the drivers. Get to know the Sepang International Circuit with Lights Out’s Ultimate Track Guide!


Constructed 1998
First F1 Race 1999
Track Length 3.444 miles
Number of Laps 56
Number of Turns 15
Most Poles Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton (5)
Most Wins Sebastian Vettel (4)

A SHORT HISTORY OF THE SEPANG INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT

Formula One’s story in Malaysia begins back in the mid 1990s. The country was undergoing a transition in order to become a fully industrialised nation. One of the most effective ways in which the government felt this could be done was through the automobile industry. At the same time, Formula One was looking to expand its market in Asia. Hence, a deal was struck for the Malaysian Grand Prix to come into existence. 

The circuit was built on an oil palm plantation, with nine million cubic metres of earth being removed during construction. 5,000 palm trees were planted in the area surrounding the track to maintain the area’s natural beauty. The track was the first designed by Hermann Tilke to be added to the F1 calendar and is considered by many as his best track. The Sepang International Circuit is technical and exciting. It demands the drivers’ attention with quick changes of direction. With its imposing grandstand and impressive facilities, the circuit raised the bar for race venues worldwide, fulfilling the brief which Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad had set when work began on the track. The track was opened by the Prime Minister on 9th March 1999. It took just fourteen months to build the circuit from scratch, which at that time was a new record.

Malaysian based oil and gas company Petronas have been pivotal in Malaysia’s F1 presence since 1999. The Petronas Towers dominate the Kuala Lumpur skyline, with the track situated thirty miles from the capital city. Petronas not only currently sponsor Mercedes but have also been the title sponsor of every F1 Grand Prix to be held at the circuit. The circuit has good transport links and is only a ten minute drive from the international airport.

The track has fifteen corners, which are referred to by number, although some do have names. Turn Four is called the Langkawi Curve, Turn Six is the Genting Curve, while Turn Fourteen is the Sunway Lagoon Corner. The width of the track here aids overtaking, as the drivers have a choice of lines to take into many of the corners.

The track has undergone few changes over the past two decades, though it was modified slightly for 2016. Changes in camber at some of the corners were made to aid overtaking, particularly into the final hairpin bend.

The Malaysia Grand Prix contract comes to an end in 2017 and it will not be renewed. A decline in ticket sales since the beginning of the Singapore Grand Prix – which takes place just 200 miles from the track – was one of the factors in the decision to end the running of the race. The Sepang International Circuit will remain open for other categories of motorsport.


FAST FACTS:

  • The fastest speed reached here is around 190mph at the end of the pit straight. The first turn following the pit straight is the slowest section of track, usually taken at around 60mph.
  • The track here is made of a special concoction of bitumen compound, which keeps the track smooth despite the climate and regular monsoons at the circuit.
  • There is space for 130,000 spectators at the Sepang International Circuit. 32,000 can fit in the main spectator grandstand on the pit straight.
  • Fernando Alonso is the only driver to win the Malaysia Grand Prix for three different teams. In 2005 he won with Renault, before taking a victory with McLaren in 2007 and finally fending off Sergio Perez in 2012 to win for Ferrari.
  • Ferrari have the most wins for a constructor here with seven. Their first came in 1999 and their last in 2015, when Sebastian Vettel took his maiden Ferrari victory.
  • In Qualifying here in 2010, Lotus and Virgin made it through to Q2 for the first time thanks to very wet weather conditions.
  • Alex Yoong is the only Malaysian driver to have started the Malaysia Grand Prix. He drove a good race in 2002 to reach fourteenth but was forced into retirement with gearbox issues.
  • The 2009 Malaysian Grand Prix is one of only five occasions when half points have been awarded due to the race reaching less than 75% of its scheduled distance.
  • The fastest ever lap of this track is a 1:32.582 recorded by Fernando Alonso in Qualifying for the Grand Prix in 2005.

POLE SITTERS AT SEPANG INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT

Michael Schumacher 5
Lewis Hamilton 5
Sebastian Vettel 2
Fernando Alonso 2
Felipe Massa 2
Mark Webber 1
Jenson Button 1
Giancarlo Fisichella 1

GRAND PRIX WINNERS AT SEPANG INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT

Year Winner Constructor
1999 Eddie Irvine Ferrari
2000 Michael Schumacher Ferrari
2001 Michael Schumacher Ferrari
2002 Ralf Schumacher Williams
2003 Kimi Raikkonen McLaren
2004 Michael Schumacher Ferrari
2005 Fernando Alonso Renault
2006 Giancarlo Fisichella Renault
2007 Fernando Alonso McLaren
2008 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
2009 Jenson Button Brawn GP
2010 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull
2011 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull
2012 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
2013 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull
2014 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2015 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
2016 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
2017 Max Verstappen Red Bull

Nicky Haldenby is a 23 year old Formula One blogger from Scarborough, England. Having grown up with F1 often on the TV on Sunday afternoons, Nicky has been following the sport avidly since 2006. He graduated from the University of Hull in 2015 with a First Class degree in English Language and Literature. He founded the Lights Out F1 Blog in March 2016. Nicky also writes for Badger GP.

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