Playing with the petrolheads (a weekend at the Malaysian F1)

11 Apr

Since moving to Singapore I have discovered quite a few things about myself that I didn’t know: I actually like avocados, contrary to popular belief I won’t go into complete meltdown being away from home (though it is hard), and most surprisingly of all I quite like Formula 1 racing. Admittedly, my introduction to F1 was at the uber-cool, visually stunning Singapore Night Race in 2010. If you can’t get excited watching very fast, very expensive cars race against a glittering city skyline backdrop at night then it probably isn’t a sport for you. Singapore was so much more than the race alone – converting the roads that are at the heart of the city into a super-slick race track means the whole country gets bitten with a bit of F1 fever. Even the cake shops get in on the action…

Croissant to go

So, when friends suggested to Mister Noodle and me that we travel with them to Kuala Lumpur this weekend for the Malaysian Grand Prix we jumped at the chance. Living in Singapore we are incredibly spoilt for travel – so many destinations are only a short flight away and at just under an hour Kuala Lumpur is the closest. We flew out Friday night and were back home by 11pm again on Sunday.

Unlike Singapore, the Malaysian Grand Prix takes place at a dedicated track – Sepang International Circuit – just outside the city. As first time visitors we opted to stay at an out-of-town hotel, situated between the track and the airport. In hindsight we probably should have just plumped for a city hotel as the nightlife of Putrajaya was a little limited (with the exception of the mass karaoke session being conducted in Chinese right below our hotel restaurant on the Friday night) and the hotel a little, um, odd.  By the end of the weekend it felt a bit like staying in the middle of a resort designed by a group of Disney artists, tasked with conveying the theme of Aladdin  by using a visual game of consequences – no one seemed to know what the other had designed until it was all built. However, as we were travelling with the same friends who got to experience our weird CNY break with us, we felt things were looking up: we had moved on from surroundings whose only distinguishing feature was a burnt-out warehouse to a backdrop that was more industrial estate chic (lots of pruned trees surrounded by concrete). We did, however, get the opportunity to sample a bit of KL during the day on Saturday taking in, amongst other sites, the iconic Petronas Towers.

Petronas Towers, KL

So, to the race itself. We got 3 day passes and went to both the qualifiers and the race. We opted for hillside ‘seats’ which basically involved staking your claim to a bit of grass on the hillside by the track and not moving. By the Sunday race, after 2 days in 30 odd degree heat, and a few Saturday night tipples, it also afforded the luxury of being able to lay down. Albeit this involved lying down on the flattened cardboard boxes our friends ingeniously snaffled from a local supermarket. As we arrived at the track on Sunday, so did a great contingent from Lotus, each driving an Elise, with the odd Aston Martin thrown in for good measure. Inevitably our arrival, documented below, cut slightly less of a dash and did not demand the road being blocked by the police in quite the same way:

Make way, 'Team Cardboard' have arrived

In many respects Sepang didn’t have the glamour quota of Singapore and there were a few things that left a little to be desired – the on site food, facilities and general organisation (there was a complete lack of queues – something so hard for a Brit to deal with at any public event). Still, we had a great time. Sepang was much more about the racing and having enjoyed this experience, albeit in a different way to the Singapore Grand Prix, I think I may be slightly more than just a fair-weather F1 fan. I am already getting excited at the prospect of Singapore in September and to demonstrate why, I turn to the wonderful BBC who put together this spine-tingling promo for the 2010 qualifiers:

Hopefully by September my F1 knowledge will have increased enough that I feel confident writing a post about the actual race. At present my knowledge extends to knowing who won yesterday (Vettel), that one Brit was happy (Button) and one was…um…not (Hamilton), and that everyone was hoping for a bit of rain as the going gets really tough at Sepang when it is slippery.

PS: One other thing I discovered about myself whilst in Malaysia – opting for the Sunday morning lie-in isn’t necessarily the right thing to do. According to my friend I missed the opportunity of seeing the entire Toro Rosso team (comprising 40 young Italian men), who were staying at our hotel, getting ready to leave for the track on Sunday morning. Hey ho, some you win, some you snooze!

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2 Responses to “Playing with the petrolheads (a weekend at the Malaysian F1)”

  1. Flora April 11, 2011 at 11:48 pm #

    What a fun weekend! Thanks for letting us join you to hang out on Saturday. Jeff is very impressed with Mr. Noodle’s impressions of Brick Top from “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.”

    By the way, we saw that Lotus group drive out as we were heading to the hotel from the race, and they had a police escort through the traffic.

    • singapore noodle April 12, 2011 at 12:00 am #

      It was great. I am so glad we were able to meet up on Saturday. Thanks for bringing the water! Who needs 24 hour nightlife when you have good company?!

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