The Malaysian Grand Prix was relocated for the 2016 Formula 1 season. One of the season-opening flyaway races for most of its existence, the race at the Sepang circuit was moved back to a September-October date, forming, along with Singapore and Japan, a late-season Asian flyaway block, which remains in place for the 2017 season. The first two Malaysian Grands Prix, held in 1999 and 2000, were also October races, and respectively the penultimate and final races of their season. It is a good example of how the calendar has expanded in a decade and a half: there are now five grands prix following the trip to Malaysia.
Located only 350km (217 miles) from the equator, moving from a spring to autumn date doesn’t greatly affect the ambient conditions for the race: temperatures, humidity and average rainfall are much the same for October as they are for March. Sepang will provide a venue that is hot, fast, tough on tyres and with a very strong possibility of rain.
While the long back and pit straights dominate the aerial view of Sepang, it’s the middle sector where much of the work gets done with some high speed turns that require stiff suspension. This is encouraged by the low and gentle kerbs around the circuit, which allow the car to run very low.
Fernando is a three-time winner at Sepang, with this figure including his first McLaren victory back in 2007.
How McLaren defined seven days in the history of the Malaysian Grand Prix
October 17 1999
Mika Hakkinen finishes third in the inaugural Malaysian Grand Prix, frustrated by Ferrari’s bid to keep Eddie Irvine in the title hunt by using Michael Schumacher to control the race. Mika wraps up the title two weeks later in Suzuka.
October 22 2000
A brilliant race by David Coulthard sees him finish second, just 0.7s behind Michael Schumacher. Mika finishes fourth, sealing McLaren’s second place in the constructors’ championship.
March 23 2003
Kimi Raikkonen’s first win in Formula 1. The youngster charges from seventh on the grid to win by a mighty 39s from Ferrari’s Rubens Barrichello – it is the first of the Finn’s 18 grand prix wins.
March 20 2005
McLaren don’t win this race, but the pace of Raikkonen’s MP4-20 is astounding. After suffering a mid-race puncture, he blasts back through the field to finish ninth, setting fastest lap.
April 8 2007
Fernando Alonso’s first win for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. He leads home Lewis Hamilton in a dominant one-two for the team. It’s a great race for Lewis too, who outfoxes Felipe Massa in a tense early battle and sets his first fastest lap in F1.
April 5 2009
Light rain starts to fall on lap 22 and the subsequent deluge results in the race being stopped on lap 31. It isn’t re-started due to failing light, so half-points are awarded. Lewis is the first Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver home in seventh place.
April 10 2011
Jenson Button starts fourth and, exhibiting the maturity and long-sightedness that is to define his season, looks after his tyres to take a tenacious runner-up position – his first podium of the year.