The average Formula One fan loves stats, and Badger is no exception to that rule. So, to get the pre-Malaysian Grand Prix week started properly, we’ve been looking at some statistics for the Sepang-based race as it prepares for its 13th running this coming Sunday.
We kick off with the most appearances award, which is shared by F1 veterans Rubens Barrichello and Jarno Trulli, both of whom have entered all 12 previous Malaysian Grand Prix. But we’re sure you don’t need reminding, dear reader, that Jarno’s Prost suffered engine problems before the start of the 1999 event and that, as such, the Italian didn’t make it to the grid. Therefore Rubens stands alone on the most Malaysian Grand Prix started. Jenson Button joins Trulli on 11 starts, the Brit’s only absence having been in 1999 when he was still a relatively unknown Formula Three driver, rather than the shampoo-advertising multi-millionaire he is today.
As is the case for several current F1 circuits, Michael Schumacher holds the record for most Malaysian Grand Prix victories. The German has three Sepang wins to his name, having triumphed there in 2000, 2001 and 2004, and also holds the record for most pole positions with five.
But arguably his finest weekend there was in 1999, when he returned from a broken leg to take pole by nearly a second before handing the race win to title-contending team-mate Eddie Irvine. See, Michael’s not all bad.
Next up, with two wins apiece, are Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and soon-to-be NASCAR Truck racer Kimi Räikkönen. Alonso could therefore level with Schumacher on Malaysian victories this weekend, assuming that the Red Bulls both break down and Ferrari find about half a second in qualifying. Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel are the two other former winners set to contest Sunday’s race, having triumphed in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
From those who know how to win this race to those who’ve never even competed in it before. Four drivers will contest their maiden Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday, though none of them are flying in to the unknown. Williams’ Venezuelan novice Pastor Maldonado raced at Sepang during the 2008-2009 GP2 Asia campaign, taking a runner-up finish to Vitaly Petrov in the sprint race. In that same event Sauber’s Sergio Perez was sixth, whilst Virgin’s Jerome d’Ambrosio had started that weekend’s feature race from pole. But, alas, it all went wrong thereafter as Jerome suffered pre-race transmission problems that prevented him making the start. Paul di Resta meanwhile has not raced at Sepang but did run FP1 there for Force India last season, meaning he too will be familiar with the circuit.
There have been a few notable firsts at Sepang. 2003 saw a maiden pole for Fernando Alonso and a first Formula One victory for Kimi Raikkonen; Heikki Kovalainen recorded his first F1 point at the circuit in 2007 before making it to the podium for the first time in McLaren colours there a year later; Jenson Button scored his first F1 podium there in 2004, the same weekend that Mark Webber took his and the Jaguar team’s first front-row. The race was also the scene of Alonso’s first win as a McLaren driver, as he lead team-mate Lewis Hamilton in a one-two finish four years ago.
The longest Malaysian Grand to date was in 2001, when Michael Schumacher crossed the line for victory after 1 hour 47 minutes and 34.801 seconds. That race was held up by a safety car period following one of those biblical downpours Malaysia is famous for.
It was the same sort of weather, albeit to a greater degree, that led to the 2009 event being the shortest Malaysian Grand Prix, with proceedings halted after 55 minutes and 30.622 seconds of racing. Jenson Button took victory that day, becoming the first man to win a grand prix that failed to make 75% distance since Ayrton Senna at the Australian GP of 1991. The 2009 race also represents Nick Heidfeld’s most recent trip to an F1 podium, the German having finished as runner-up that day aboard his BMW-Sauber.
We’ve merely scratched the surface here, but ultimately life is too short to work out more in-depth stats like ‘total distance covered at Sepang’ or ‘number of sandwiches eaten in the hospitality tents.’ Hopefully this quick overview of the race has whet your appetite for Sunday’s grand prix. Oh, and speaking of wet, it probably will be, won’t it?