First Practice Session: 1:36.973, Position: 7, Laps: 26
Second Practice Session: 1:36.037, Position: 5, Laps: 29
“Formula One is where I always want to be so it’s nice to spend my birthday here. I can enjoy some birthday cake because it’s so hot at Sepang I’ll lose the kilos anyway. Both sessions were pretty good. The first practice you just had to build up to it, especially with the new tarmac, you have to get to grips with the car. I enjoyed the new surface, it seemed to have quite a bit more grip. Before, in Malaysia, we seemed to struggle with traction but the changes they have made here appear to have helped. I also think it is a lot more fun to drive. Our short runs need to get a bit better but the long runs are looking strong. The pace on the soft tyre felt decent, I feel like that tyre has potential on a long run and it allowed me to throw the car into the corners like I wanted to. It’s hard to tell where other drivers are on the first day but Sebastian (Vettel) looks strong, so we need to improve our short run in order to be competitive.”
First Practice Session: 1:36.753, Position: 6, Laps: 27
Second Practice Session: 1:36.337, Position: 8, Laps: 30
“The new asphalt is good, it gives a bit more grip which is always fun, though I don’t think I found as much grip as the others. We still have to find a little bit of time on both low and high fuel. We didn’t really find a big gain with the soft tyre on low fuel, so that’s one thing we want to address. We’ll do a bit of work tonight and definitely make some improvements for tomorrow. The last corner is not the most attractive on the calendar but it’s challenging so I guess that’s positive. If you take the inside it sort of washes you away with the negative banking, and if you go around the outside you end up doing a lot more distance, so it’s about trying to find a good compromise and making it mistake free. Track temperature was, I think, recorded at 61 degrees, I’ve never heard a number that high before. It was pretty warm and toasty out there. I think Sunday will be good fun, we just have to keep hydrated and it should be a good challenge.”
Happy birthday, Max
Today, Max Verstappen celebrates his 19th birthday. Yep, he’s 19. Now, most people in the paddock have t-shirts older than that and therefore we understand that a few of you might be getting a bit forgetful in your old age (in Max’s mind old is probably anyone past 25), so here are a few reminders of things that were happening on and around September 30, 1997.
1. Newspapers around the world were reporting the death of Roy Lichtenstein, the artist whose classic paintings of comic strips were a defining factor in the Pop Art movement that exploded in the 1960s.
2. Bloomberg News was reporting the exciting news that Netscape had unveiled a new internet browser to go head-to-head with Microsoft’s just-released Internet Explorer 4. Yes, it was when people still used Internet Explorer and when Netscape was a name people knew. The USP of Netscape’s Communicator was that it let users view and display Web pages while sharing documents, e-mail and calendar schedules with co-workers.
2. The LA Times was lamenting the fact that across 191 countries in existence at the time there were just four female heads of state and that a dinner of female foreign ministers from around the world hosted by then US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had just eight guests. With characteristic Finnish matter-of-factness the country’s then Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen said: “The number of [female] foreign ministers is growing, but the line in the women’s toilet is still not too long.” Of course as we now live in much more enlightened times things have moved on since then, right? Well, yes and no. The increase has been huge, 550 per cent, but from the 195 countries now in existence there are still just 22 female national leaders. There’s progress for you.
3. Music sales monitoring company SoundScan was reporting that Elton John’s charity recording ‘Candle in the Wind 1997’, the song he had sung at the funeral for Diana, Princess of Wales in early September, had sold an estimated 2.8 million copies in the U.S. in a single week, four times more than any one-week total since SoundScan had begun monitoring U.S. sales six years earlier.
4. In sport, Manchester United were preparing for their October 1st Champions League meeting with Italian giants Juventus. Ryan Giggs ushered in a new era for the British club when the winger burst past a couple of defenders in the dying moments of the game before smashing the ball past Juventus goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi to seal a famous 3-2 win. The win was especially significant as the English team had been easily beaten by La Vecchia Signora the year before.
5. Following the Luxembourg Grand Prix (at Germany’s Nurburgring on September 28), heavy rumours suggested that a young Spanish charger named Pedro de la Rosa, who had just won the Formula Nippon title, would be making his F1 debut in 1998 with Minardi. It didn’t happen but the Spaniard did join the grid in 1999, making his GP debut at the Australian Grand Prix with Arrows.
And finally…
Just to make you feel really old, Max is officially younger than this weekend’s race. While the Malaysian Grand Prix made its calendar debut in 1999, the development of the Sepang International Circuit and the Malaysian government’s plans for F1 were announced as far back as September 1996.