The Malaysian Grand Prix is back with a flourish! Title sponsor Petronas had set up an elaborate series of events leading up to the race, the highlights being a demo run of a Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula 1 car along the streets of Kuala Lumpur by Malaysian racing prodigy Jazeman Jaafar and a meet and greet session with the team’s race drivers in KLCC.
Malaysian motorsport ace Jazeman Jaafar was handed the driving duties, giving him his first taste of a Formula 1 car, in front of his home crowd at that. The local hero lit up the 2012 Mercedes GP race car’s tyres into smoke and the crowd with excitement as he took the 2013-liveried W03, complete with the Sepang-specific Primax branding to its absolute limit in front of the iconic Petronas Twin Towers.
Petronas Talent Development driver and British F3 winner Jazeman Jaafar shared the driving seat with Sam Bird, Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team’s development driver. The Brit carried out preliminary installation laps on two separate occasions, warming up the W03 and the crowd for the main event.
It rained heavily at 2.00pm, just in time for Bird’s first reconnaissance lap. Huge puddles of standing water had developed, and with the rain still coming down hard, he gingerly went round the closed loop. Slowly and carefully, but out in the rain he was. The Australian Grand Prix’s rain-interrupted Saturday qualifying sessions had nothing on KL’s torrential downpour!
The roads had dried up considerably by the time Jazeman took the wheels at ten past six, and the spectators too had grown to line the entire stretch of closed roads, all full of high expectations. He didn’t disappoint.
Five laps around Jalan Ampang and Jalan P. Ramlee was all it took to have the hoard of spectators in awe. With the 2.4 litre V8 Mercedes AMG engine giving all its got, howling away as Jazeman left no air underneath his throttle pedal, the entire KLCC area was given a rude but glorious awakening. The ground underneath Zouk Club had never been shaken this hard before.
A couple of smoky doughnuts were thrown in for good measure too, with Jazeman confidently executing the manoeuvre with millimetres to spare at each side of the narrow road. Quite amazing really, considering it was his first time in a bona fide Formula 1 car. To say that he looked at home behind the wheel would be an understatement.
“I loved every minute of the demo run”, said the 20-year old. “Although the confines of the demonstration area didn’t allow me to get up to racing speed, I was still able to sample the sheer power, responsiveness and amazing braking of the F1 car. With the green light to smoke the tyres, rev the engine and perform a few doughnuts I think the crowd were given a spectacle to remember and I won’t forget their reaction with the huge applause I received.”
“Being part of this demo run has been the highlight of my year so far,” he continues. “I’ve always believed that I’d drive an F1 car and today I achieved it; it certainly lived up to my expectations and has given me a taster of its capabilities. It’s whetted my appetite for more and now I’m hoping that I’ll be driving it on a circuit in the coming years. Before that time can come I need to continue with my racing education, gain more experience and focus on my own racing programme, as I move up to Formula Renault 3.5, a series which is another step nearer my F1 goal.”
Jazeman Jaafar’s maiden F1 run was the main attraction of the day, but it wasn’t to be the only enthrallment of the Sunday. Far from it. Petronas brought its entire fleet of racing machines, from the Japanese Super Taikyu-winning Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 to two-wheeled racing wonders from the CubPrix to MotoGP’s Moto2 championships.
Closer to race day, Petronas also organised an exclusive Meet the Fans session with the two Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team’s racing drivers, race winner Nico Rosberg and 2008 World Champion Lewis Hamilton. It may have been a short session but the fans absolutely loved it. Some had waited in line for seven hours to have the privilege of greeting their racing idols first!
The two race drivers were asked to autograph a huge amount of memorabilia, including replica helmets, Mercedes car models, iPads and MacBooks (!) and even a hand drawn sketch of Hamilton himself, which he was certainly amused by.
New to the team and experiencing Malaysia as a ‘home’ event for the first time, Hamilton appeared all fresh, tattooed up (who’s to guess he wasn’t allowed to do that in McLaren?) and gleeful when addressing the crowd, saying he’s hoping for a better result this weekend to continue his good start to the season. Nico Rosberg is still chasing his first finish of the year, yet with his legions of fans in Malaysia he’ll be trying his very best in Sepang come race day.
Come race day, they both accomplished their goals. Hamilton climbed on the podium in only his second race for the Mercedes AMG Petronas team, with his teammate tucked in right behind him in fourth. The two drivers even diced it up with the race leaders mid way through the race, signaling that the W04 has got serious potential and race wins for Mercedes and Petronas through this year no longer looks like a far-fetched dream.
The fifteenth installment of the Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix have come and left, but it sure has left a big impression among Malaysians of greener things to come, both from the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One team and local hope Jazeman Jaafar.