Memory lane: 19 years of the Malaysian Grand Prix

Maurice's Memories: Malaysian Grand Prix (2:31)

Maurice Hamilton recalls a special day for Fernando Alonso back in 2003. (2:31)

SEPANG, Malaysia -- Since 1999 the Malaysian Grand Prix has been a staple on the Formula One calendar and an event which has become famous for its unpredictable, tropical weather.

It is not uncommon for the Sepang International Circuit, situated to the south of Kuala Lumpur, to experience monsoonal rain coupled with severe humidity one minute and muggy, dry conditions the next.

The Malaysian climate has made for some exciting races over the years but, 2017 marks the 19th and final race at Sepang with confirmation coming earlier in the year that a new contract had not been agreed to by the Malaysian government.

As we gear up for the final race in Malaysia, ESPN decided to look back on five of its most memorable races.

5 - 1999 - DEBUT DRAMA

The very first edition of the Malaysian Grand Prix was an epic war of attrition with only eleven drivers making it through to the checkered flag. The race was also Michael Schumacher's comeback event after he'd recovered from a broken leg sustained at the British Grand Prix earlier in the year.

The German looked in a league of his own all weekend and made a brilliant start from pole to lead teammate Eddie Irvine on the opening lap. But when Irvine began to struggle for pace on lap four, Schumacher slowed and dropped behind in an attempt to back up the field and release his teammate.

Mika Hakkinen and McLaren tried desperately to jump Schumacher during the first round of stops but Ferrari had them covered and held second place. Irvine would go on to claim victory -- the fourth of his season and career -- with Schumacher taking second.

Immediately after the race, both Ferraris were disqualified for a technical breach. However, the team later appealed the decision and it was subsequently overturned.


Intermittent rain in the build up to the 2012 Malaysian Grand Prix made for an absolutely thrilling and unpredictable race.

Everyone but HRT opted to start on intermediate tyres but it was Sergio Perez's call to pit for full wets at the end of the opening lap which turned out to be a masterstroke and triggered a chain reaction down the pitlane.

Rain intensified and by lap nine the race had been red flagged due to poor visibility. When racing got back underway, many drivers opted to switch back to intermediates as the downpour had eased. Perez continue to show superb pace, making his way up to second place behind Fernando Alonso.

On lap 40, Perez pitted for slick tyres as the track had almost fully dried and set out to catch Alonso. The Mexican closed to within a second of the lead before his Sauber team reminded him how important it was to hold onto P2. Seconds later Perez ran wide on the exit of Turn 14, allowing Alonso to streak away again and claim victory.

Five years on and that race was still Perez's best chance of a Formula One win. Who knows what would have happened if that radio message didn't come through.

3 - 2003 - A DOUBLE F1 FIRST

It was a day of firsts at Sepang in 2003 with modern day greats Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen both benefiting from a spate of issues in what was arguably the race of the season.

There was drama right from the get-go with Giancarlo Fisichella reversing on the grid before Michael Schumacher collided with Jarno Trulli into Turn 1. David Coulthard, who had been running in P2, was then forced into retirement on lap two with an electrical failure.

Alonso had started on pole for Renault and managed to hold his position amidst the chaos but Raikkonen took advantage and jumped from seventh up to P2.

The Finn, who was running a higher fuel load, was then able to stay out much longer than Alonso and when he re-joined after his first stop he was in the lead. Raikkonen streaked clear at the head of the field, eventually claiming his first race win by a whopping 40s margin.

Alonso would hold on for third in what was the Spaniard's first podium in Formula One.

2 - 2013 - THE MULTI 21 SAGA

If there was anything left of the Sebastian Vettel-Mark Webber relationship at the beginning of 2013, it had completely fallen apart by the conclusion of the second race of the season in Malaysia.

The Australian had emerged in the lead after the first round of pitstops and with his teammate in P2 -- who had been given clear instruction to hold position -- he looked set to control the race to the checkered flag.

However, Vettel was in no mood to concede and instead the Red Bulls raced side-by-side for two epic laps before eventually the German took the lead, one he would never relinquish.

Emotions were on full display in the cool-down room post race when a furious Webber quizzed Vettel on what is now the infamous Multi 21 saga. Many also questioned Vettel's character after he had blatantly defied team orders.

Nevertheless, the German would have the last laugh in 2013 as he won a record-equalling nine straight races to close out the season and his fourth world title.


With 91 victories and seven world championships, it's fair to say Michael Schumacher achieved it all in Formula One and his victory at the Malaysian GP in 2001 was certainly among his most stunning accomplishments.

After getting away well and leading from pole position, Schumacher, along with teammate Rubens Barrichello, hit trouble on lap three as heavy rain started to fall. Both Ferraris went off track allowing Jarno Trulli to take the lead as Schumacher fell to fourth.

A Safety Car was soon deployed as visibility become non-existent and both Ferraris decided to pit. However, a painfully slow stop for Barrichello meant Schumacher lost over a minute in the pitlane before returning to the track in 11th.

Schumacher quickly passed his teammate and in the space of six laps had remarkably moved himself back into the lead after a series of stunning and brave overtakes. He would go on to win as Barrichello fought back to second.

As a sidenote, if you've ever wondered where Max Verstappen gets his wet weather prowess from then watch this race. Father, Jos, produced a drive for the ages where he was able to move from 18th to sixth on the opening lap. He battled hard with Mika Hakkinen in the tricky conditions before eventually finishing in P7.