Formula One goes to some amazing venues. Monaco. Singapore. Austin. Montreal. Japan. Brazil. But ask any of the drivers which are up there in terms of physically demanding races, and they all put the Malaysian Grand Prix as one of the toughest. But forget the drivers, the photographers have to endure the conditions too! Oppressive heat. Torrential rain. Blinding sun. More heat and yet still more rain! It’s tough for everyone out there.
Why? It’s pretty simple. The humidity. Take one gaze at the track temperature tv screens around the media center and you’ll be filled with an impressed sense of “WOW. That’s hot.” Walk outside, and every moment you spend in the equatorial sun, you’ll be feverishly wiping the sweat off of your brow just so that water doesn’t fill your eyes and block your vision. 70%, 80% 99%. We saw it all. And to make it worse, the rain is unpredictable at best. It doesn’t come in like a normal storm front. It bubbles up, quickly and without warning, and dumps inches of water in a short period of time, and then disappears as quickly as it came, and is replaced once again by oppressive heat.
But that’s what makes F1 special. The cars are as extreme as the jet lag we endure at these far away locations. The drivers are the best of the best. Everyone in the paddock is there, because they do what it takes to be at the top. Malaysia just pushes everyone to their limit, and maybe a little bit beyond.
As speculated in pre-season testing, Mercedes’ factory team is the class of the field with more than enough pace in hand it seems. Their complicated power unit, which is arguably one of the better looking cars and sounding engines in the Formula One circus, has power to spare and seems to be the most reliable of the 3 different power unit manufacturers. So at this moment, and with two wins (as of Malaysia 2014) for the silver arrows from two races in 2014, the championship seems to be theirs to lose. But we have yet to see the true pace of Mclaren, Ferrari or Newey’s gorgeous looking Red Bull.
So what has 2014 taught us so far? Those that were fast, are still fast. Those with resources still have the advantage, and that the changed face of Formula One is certainly something to get used to, both audibly and visually.
So here is my challenge to all fans of the sport around the globe. Whether you love the new regulations, or hate them. I challenge you to go face your opinions in person. Formula One never was as impressive on TV as it is in person. The sights, smells and assault on the senses are something that your Sony widescreen cannot bring you, and never will. Find the GP closest to you, buy a three day ticket, and go see it for yourself. If after you spend the weekend in the grandstands, and you still love it or hate it, at least you can speak with authority and from experience about what it was like for you, in person, as a fan of the sport.
As always, thanks to James, Russ, Laurent, Andy, Crispen, Road and Track, Blackbird, TK, Richard and mostly to the incredibly friendly Malaysian people, circuit staff and marshals who through a hard time, came to work every day with a smile and were always helpful.