Day 223: Wheelnut And Axl

Sun. 24 March 2013

Jenson being pushed backHaving seen our excellent seats at the Sepang Circuit we are excited to get back to the circuit to watch the race. However as the start is not until 4pm and we are toying with staying to see at least some of the Guns N’ Roses concert afterwards we do not want to head out too early. We agree to catch the 11am bus to get there around drivers autograph signing time. The bus took a more direct route today, which was not as scenic and it was good to see there was a special bus and VIP lane to avoid any queues to get in as there was much more traffic around than yesterday.

Jenson and Sergio ready to sign autographsThe crowds were also much greater today and many were hanging around the entrance where the autograph signing was taking place. We squeezed our way in and by holding the camera high Dave could see what was going on and we had arrived at about the same time as Jenson and Sergio Perez sat down for their session. We were far too late to contemplate joining the queue to get any autographs and I am sure there would have been many disappointed spectators.

My freebie flagDave did sign up on Facebook to ‘like’ Petronas and got a lovely (not) turquoise flag to wave (the pole was confiscated when we went into the concert later but the silk fabric flag may make it home!) There was still plenty of time to look around at the team and official tat stands to see what the prices were like. We were tempted by Petronas tops at £20 but not the Ferrari ones at £90 and certainly not the Farewell To Michael, or the  I ❤ Schumacher shirts at any price.

All the drivers lined upAfter exploring all the display tents of old cars we made our way to our seats for the end of the GP2 race. We are grateful for our new headphones/ear defenders, as even the GP2 cars are extremely noisy, and it is good to hear the commentary clearly through them. I never knew there was an opening ceremony at a Grand Prix so it was a surprise when all these army guys ran out and performed a Hakka type display just by our grandstand.

BBC ready to rollThe drivers’ introductions were further away but we did manage a closer view as well as clearly hearing all the questions being asked by the local kids. There was always something going on to watch including demonstration wheel changes by the Red Bull team, perhaps the McLaren team should have been doing that too! Soon it was time to put the ear defenders back on as the cars started up and had a few practice runs around the track before lining up on the start grid. The details of the race will be known by most of our readers, thanks to the BBC so I will not bore you with the details.

Ready to goIt was great to be able to see all the action in the pit lane, of which there was much. Before the race we saw David Coulthard and Suzi Perry kicking their heels outside Raikkonen’s pit. We laughed at Lewis stopping at the wrong pit and nearly cried when Jenson was pushed back to his pit to have his wheel nut sorted. The wheel changes are (normally) so quick and slick with extra mechanics appearing from nowhere and quickly returning to their seats in the garage to watch the race on their TV screens, and there are so many people to watch going up and down the pit lane before the race.

Winner - VettelIn the final few laps we moved closer to the finish line to see end of the race and the presentations and interviews and stood behind the genuine seat holders for that section, along with many others who had moved along the grandstand. There were also many others outside the grandstand hoping for a view too.

Vettel and Hamilton having funThe whole experience was quite different to our trip to Spa with the boys ten years ago, and not just because there was no rolling start this time!! With the seats, commentary and big screen (and the time I invested yesterday with the programme to learn the team colours to give me more of a clue who was who), it was much easier to know what was going on and feel in the middle of the action. Also at Spa I remember getting absolutely soaked (right through to my knickers) in the pouring rain and spending ages in the coach park for our transfer to hit the road at the end of the day. We had a great day then and still talk about it.

Central MallAfter the race, there was a mass exodus to the exits which usually we would have joined (or tried to get ahead of). This time, however, we meandered the other way to grab a pizza for supper. It is quite a different experience not to rush off. There were many others also hanging around, some for a beer, others for the reduced price food or just generally waiting around.

View from top grandstandWe walked the other way from the exit to get a view of other parts of the track and climbed up to the grandstand seats right on the last hairpin bend. The views from there included much of the circuit and I hope they were not wasted on the corporate guests who sat there just for a freebie. Surprisingly, we were able to wander all around the grandstands without being stopped. There was also a group of locals walking up and down the rows looking for anything worthwhile left behind and they had half a dozen umbrellas. We had already found a large Petronas one which we are now carrying around in case we get caught in the rain again. I am not sure if it will fit in our bags to Borneo but we will see!

View from the grandstand behind usAs there was still an hour before the concert we sat and had a beer before joining the mass of spectators queuing to enter the concert ground. On making our way towards the stage we landed up about 20 rows away and sat to wait for the remaining 30 minutes to when the concert was due to start. Steve was not very complimentary of Guns N’ Roses at Reading festival a few years back when they were over an hour late onto the stage and we hoped they would not do the same here.

Guns N' Roses in actionTo our amazement they came on stage only seven minutes late without any preamble or support. The concert was due to go on until 11pm but we left after 45 minutes as we were not overly impressed. Dave said they were not the same without Slash and, according to Wikipedia, Axl Rose is the only remaining of the original line up.

Brightly lit towersAll the charter buses had left the coach park so there were just the service buses which were due to continue up until midnight. There was still quite a lot of traffic on the road and it was amusing to see a dignitary’s car with a four police motorcycle escort still having to join the queue at the motorway toll booth. Our bus left the circuit around 9:30. When we got off the bus at KLCC, the twin towers were all light up and looking quite ethereal against the cloudy night sky. After a brief stop to photograph them  we were back in the hotel before midnight in time for a late chat on Skype with Nick and Sue.

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