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F1 party arrives in mourning Malaysia

2014-03-27 08:42


BUSINESS AS USUAL: Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton attends the 2014 Laureus World Sports Awards on March 26 in mourning Kuala Lumpur. Image: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - The world of Formula 1 is descending on Kuala Lumpur for the often dramatic Malaysian GP with excitement around the Sepang circuit unusually muted as the country mourns the disappearance of Air Malaysia flight MH370.

The Sepang circuit is close to Kuala Lumpur's international airport from which the plane carrying 239 passengers and crew departed 18 days earlier and has since become "home" for many associated with the story.

Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak said earlier this week that the Beijing-bound flight had crashed into the way-southern Indian Ocean with a search for debris ongoing some 2500km south-west of Perth in Western Australia.


While the Laureus sports awards in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday (March 26) opted to scale down their week of events in response to Najib's announcementF1has continued as normal for the 16th Malaysian GP. That meant Chinese relatives of the missing passengers were had to change hotels to make way for those involved in the glamour sport, which started its 2014 season in Australia two weeks ago..

The drivers have been quick to offer their support and Lewis Hamilton also has a "#PrayForMH370" message on the side of his Mercedes car this week. He will be hoping it will be on display for all 56 laps of Sunday's race - he manage only three in Melbourne.

The season-opening race was won by his team mate Nico Rosberg after the German overtook Hamilton before the first turn and eased to the chequered flag.

Mercedes appears to have been quickest in adapting to the new V6 turbocharged hybrid engines that have levelled the playing field after years of Red Bull dominance but Merc remains wary of being labelled championship favourite.

Mercedes executive director Paddy Lowe said: "While we were pleased to come away from Melbourne with a win, we were also left with plenty to think about. As is to be expected with such new technology, we are learning more about the car with every lap.

"This inevitably brings more problems to the surface, all of which require careful management. Our priority hasbeen to arrive in Malaysia in better shape mechanically than when we left Australia."


One driver in great need of major progress is four-times defending F1 champion Sebastian Vettel. He didn't finish in Melbourne after reliability issues just a few laps into the race dashed his hopes of a 10th race win in a row.

Vettel's pre-season had been struck by big question marks overRed Bull's Renault-powered cars but the German saw a few shoots of optimism ahead of the Malaysian race, which he won in controversial style in 2013 after defying team orders.

Vettel won 13 of 2013's 19 races. He said: "We still have a lot of work to do with the cars but it was encouraging to see that our pace was better than expected in Australia. I hope we can build on that and start collecting some strong points in the next two races."

His new team mate Daniel Ricciardo thought he had sealed a brilliant second on his Red Bull debut at his home GP but he was disqualified by race organisers for allegedly breaking fuel-flow rules. Red Bull has appealed against the decision; the verdict is due after Bahrain's race in the Manama desert.


McLaren's Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen was promoted to second with team mate Jenson Button joining him on the podium in a bright start to the season for the team that had a 2013 to forget.

However, the Briton said the car lacked race pace to challenge for victory on the notoriously quick Sepang circuit here where afternoon thunderstorms are again predicted, which could play havoc on the undulating track.

Button said: "Even if we don't yet have the pace to take the fight to the front runners we should have a car that's decent in every sector, one with which we'll be able to hustle through the race."

Stay with Wheels24 for the 2014 Malaysian GP this weekend.

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