“Thank you to the fans here in Malaysia, I’ll miss racing at this great circuit,” Lewis Hamilton said after finishing second in his 11th Malaysian Grand Prix, the one that looks set to go down in history as the last. That’s because from 2018, Sepang drops off the Formula One calendar due to poor interest and rising costs, and in Max Verstappen’s victory on Sunday, it certainly went out with a bang.
But why is it going out at all? In its 18-year history among the F1 circus, Sepang has never been short on drama, and as modern race tracks go it is one of the more exciting given its vast width and overtaking opportunities. If anything sums up why Malaysia has proven such a fan favourite for those watching abroad, it’s in the fact that this was one of few grand prix this season decided by an on-track overtake. Who’d have thought?
And what an overtake it was. The sight of a Red Bull darting down the inside of a Mercedes – not just any Mercedes but that of world champion-elect Lewis Hamilton – is not a common one these days, yet Verstappen showed whatever experience he has in his 20 years to spot that the Siler Arrow was struggling for traction and dive up the inside of turn one to snatch a lead that he would not relinquish.
Malaysian Grand Prix in pictures
Behind Verstappen, there was action aplenty, as Sebastian Vettel charged through the field from last to fourth and the midfield pack jostled for position until the very last lap. Heck, even the chequered flag didn’t end the drama, as Vettel and the Williams of Lance Stroll collided, wrecking the former’s Ferrari while leaving him facing a five-place grid penalty in Japan if he needs to change his gearbox. How’s your luck, Seb?
But behind all of this is a track that has not been tinkered with since it arrived on the scene bar one or two modifications in lengthening or sharpening corners, and it’ll be a true shame to lose such a venue when other circuits…