Malaysia bids farewell to Formula 1 after nearly two decades
17 October 1999 was a red-hot day at Sepang. Not only did Malaysia’s freshly opened 5.5km flagship international circuit bask in the tropical sun, it also took on the glowing exhausts of 22 Formula 1 cars for the first time. It was an inaugural race to remember, headlined by the last minute return of Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher after an injury-driven hiatus of over three months, a non-start by Prost-Peugeot’s Jarno Trulli and an epic battle for the podium between the Ferrari and McLaren-Mercedes teams!
After 56 laps and 310km of neck-and-neck racing, Ferrari prevailed with a one-two finish. Despite being the fastest on the track, Schumacher moved aside to clear teammate Eddie Irvine’s path to victory and the top spot in the Drivers’ Championship, which was also eyed by McLaren-Mercedes’ Mika Hakkinen who had to settle for third place as the chequered flag waved. It was a historic grand prix that would call for an annual pilgrimage by the top motorsport teams to the first Asian F1 track outside Japan.