Formula 1: Grand Prix diary GP Malaysia 2017

F1 diary GP Malaysia 2017
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M alaysia was a Grand Prix with obstacles. Two days before we left, I broke my little toe on my left foot. The mishap should occupy me for five weeks. I only walked the long distances in the Sepang paddock with a limp. When Toto Wolff sees me on Friday, he insists that team doctor Luc investigate the damage. It confirms what I already know without a doctor. The toe is broken and there is not much you can do other than fix it with tape.

But first we had to arrive in Malaysia. Our journey takes us via Vienna and Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur. There the usual chaos at the baggage carousel. It takes forever again until colleague Tobias Grüner and I have our suitcases and the rental car. But we know: It would be the last time.

Final in Malaysia

The F1 circus stopped in Malaysia for the last time.

I never was a big fan of this race. And I've seen all 19 since debuting in 1999. The track is okay, maybe the best modern retort course. But somehow the race has always lacked the atmosphere over the years. The published audience numbers were all cheekily lied. Last time the grandstands were full for the first time. Although I can't imagine the specified 56,000 spectators even with a lot of imagination.

The conditions in Malaysia have changed. The current government has nothing to do with motorsport anymore. She no longer wants to subsidize the insane prices that Formula 1 management is calling for. When we say goodbye, there is even something like a bad mood. The organizer declares that he doesn't even want the Grand Prix for free. MotoGP offers more for less money.

The new formula1 boss Chase Carey counters: 'There are other locations in Asia.' That sounds like a final divorce. As I said, I am not sad. Even the 40-minute drive from the hotel to the racetrack and back pissed me off. Somehow it's our own fault. We have never changed hotels in all these years out of convenience.

New toll system causes trouble

The toll system is new. So far we always had to shell out 5.40 Malaysian ringgits per trip, which is just over one euro. I will never understand why the toll stations don't collect round sums. After all, you paid cash. I like that. I don't really like all the electronic stuff with cards and machines.

Of all things, there is a nasty surprise when we leave. We have to buy a toll card and load it up enough to make ends meet for five days. Colleague Tobias Grüner from the younger generation is immediately enthusiastic. I less. Tobi triumphs because in the days that followed long queues formed at the remaining toll booths, but that's only because everyone has their card topped up individually, which means long discussions and waiting times at the counter.

The big issue in the paddock was the resignation of FIA technical director Marcin Budkowski. It was rumored that he would join a team. But to which one? On Thursday all pavilions were checked out. The half-hearted denial came from Renault. When the other teams set up an emergency meeting at Williams, it was clear that the Pole, who lives in Paris, would be hiring with the French. The competition was not very enthusiastic.

The technology is on strike at Ferrari

On the race track, a hot three-way battle between Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull awaited us. Mercedes is indisposed on Friday. The Ferraris fly. They really want to make up for the setback in Singapore. Team boss Maurizio Arrivabene is already building: 'If we are lucky enough to win this World Cup at the end, we deserve it.'

When the mechanics look into the air, we manage to take this photo of the Ferrari innards.

He will be unlucky, not lucky. It's already possible on SaturdayCome on. Sebastian Vettel's engine has to be out after the third training session, as in Barcelona and Baku. The fourth engine went on strike after 7 kilometers in Q1. No boost pressure builds up. A crack in the air collector is to blame. It's new because Ferrari has rebuilt the cooling system and the airbox to get more horsepower out of the engine.

For Vettel this means: No lap time, start from the very back. Ferrari has to use drive unit number 5. At least Vettel now has enough engine components in the pool. After all, Kimi Räikkönen is second on the grid. Only beaten by Lewis Hamilton, who cannot explain how he puts his stubborn Silver Arrow on pole position.

Explosive photos on the grid

The two Red Bulls drive in the orbit of the favorites, a little closer than usual. Nobody sees them as serious candidates for victory yet. But the drama at Ferrari continues on Sunday. Räikkönen reports loss of boost pressure on the way to the launch site. In front of everyone, Ferrari has to open the engine cover. The maximum penalty for all secrecy.

For the first time you can see the engine lying open. What does engine mean? The V6 cannot be recognized at all because of all the cables, wires, heat shields and electronics boxes. While the mechanics are desperately looking for the fault at 32 degrees Celsius, the photographers and TV cameramen relentlessly point their lenses at the inside of the Ferrari.

Mercedes engineers are also watching with interest. They later tell us that the Ferrari six-cylinder is even better packed in the car than its own engine. Tobi takes the best photos of all. Of course, the mechanics try to block the photographer's view as much as possible, but when the Malaysian Air Force fighter jets thunder across the square, all Italians look at the sky. And for a brief moment the view of the heart /lung machine is clear. Despite all the efforts, Raikkonen has to watch. The red series of bankruptcies continues.

Hamilton winning streak ends

Jerry André
After crossing the finish line, a crash Sebastian Vettel in Lance Stroll's Williams. Pascal Wehrlein has to play the taxi driver.

In the race, it quickly becomes clear that Red Bull has the best car. Max Verstappen brakes Lewis Hamilton after three laps and drives up and away. Daniel Ricciardo is third after a mediocre start. He fends off the attack by Vettel, who rummages through the whole field at record speed, but has to save a lot of fuel in the end.

Ferrari only remains to realize: with a normal starting position we would have won. The fact that Vettel collides with Stroll in the run-out lap and his Ferrari comes to a standstill as a tricycle tops the breakdown weekend. Red Bull now has a winning car. We only find out why four weeks later. An invisible mechanical change makes the aerodynamic platform work better.

It will be another long night for us. When we finally get to the hotel, it is already one in the morning. Fortunately, there is also a rice kitchen across the street that serves food half the night. However, we have to buy the beer from the 7 Eleven supermarket next door and deposit it under the table. Many restaurants in the predominantly Muslim country save themselves the alcohol license.

The nasty surprise comes when I return to the hotel room. My computer has water damage. It cannot be brought to life on Monday either. I have to borrow my colleague Gruner's iPad. Unfortunately, these things are not built for my fingers. It takes me twice as long for each story as usual.

In the afternoon we are filming our next episode of “Formula Schmidt” at the hotel pool. Looks a bit like vacation. But why shouldn't those who stayed at home be jealous? You wouldn't be if you knew our program. Apart from the half hour for the video, we sit in the hotel room and write all day. Because we want to keep Tuesday free for the flight to Japan and the evening in Tokyo.


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