Monday, April 6, 2009

My maiden F1 experience at Sepang

It was Thursday night when my phone beeped with a new SMS received. It was from my youngest brother, telling me that he still had tickets to the F1 race in Sepang on that Sunday. His company QuestNet happened to be one of the sponsors so they had many tickets to the Mall to be sold at a very cheap price. I only found out about it 1 week ago, but it was already after the closing deadline to order. I was kept in the waiting list for the whole week until Thursday night, that is. After reading the SMS, I got all excited and called my brother to confirm. Even informed a few other friends about the good deal but I guess it was just too rushed a decision and those who really planned on going already bought their tickets. So it was just me. I was planning to join my brother and his gang on Sunday.

It . was . a . mistake.

Let me tell you why.

When I told some friends about me going to the race, they asked me to bring umbrella and sunblock along, for fear of getting sunburn! I even went to the extent of purchasing a new pair of sunglasses as well, just to be safe. I ended up well-prepared:
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun block lotion
  • Novel
  • Ipod
  • Umbrella
  • Water
  • Mobile phone
  • Camera
  • Purse
Everything in the list fit into my big black bag. It was so heavy, but I didn't mind, because I knew they were all necessary items. So on that fateful Sunday, I decided to take the SkyBus from One Utama to Sepang, at the cost of RM15. I think the price was really reasonable, considering that they would ferry you to the entrance and you don't have to pay for parking (RM50!). Also, the frequency was 30 minutes once, so it was not too bad. I was at 1U with my friend for lunch first, then went to take the bus at 2.30pm. The race was going to start at 5pm, so I thought 2.5 hours gave me plenty of time to reach there. Boy, was I wrong!

The whole journey was smooth, until after the toll exit at Sepang. It was at 3.40pm that time, and in front of my eyes lay the LONGEST ever jam I saw! It was terrifying! Endless and endless rows of cars in front. And at that point, I just started hoping and praying that we would still reach in time for the starting. No such luck. The jam was so terrible that even traffic polices were unable to control the vehicles. There was an emergency lane on the left and once in a while, we heard traffic police coming with VIP cars following at the back. And that was when we also saw some other cars following them from behind, to take advantage of the special treatment! Later on, when the lane was clear, more and more cars were more daring to drive on the emergency lane, even though the traffic police was just standing right there! The funny part was, when the cars reached the traffic police standing at the emergency lane, they would swerve in to the main road, but just after they passed the traffic police, they would slip back in to the emergency lane! So you can imagine they were sort of just AVOIDING the guy on the road like he was any other guy! The traffic police couldn't do anything to stop them. It was just too hectic and people were getting impatient when the time was nearing 5pm.

After being stuck in the jam for a good 2 hours (just at the Sepang area, mind you), we finally reached the entrance of Sepang International Circuit at 5.30pm! Luckily my seat was located at the first drop-off point, so I went down the bus and called my brother immediately. I had to meet him to get my ticket, you see. My seat was at the Citrine area, at the Mall.

Seat viewer
Sepang F1 seat map

I went to the 3rd station to view, because I didn't want to waste any more time walking in further!

Seat viewer
Citrine seats at the Mall

I had to wait for my brother at the Gate entrance number 5. I realized there were many other people who were late as well, due to the massive jam. The queue was quite long, but thank God it moved very fast. Everyone was just impatient and running towards their seats!

Gate 5 entrance to Citrine

I was just standing near the queue while waiting for my brother to come out. I could already hear the vroom vroom sounds of the F1 cars at the point and they were deafening!

Queue to enter

This picture was taken after passing the Gate 5 entrance. The building on the right consitutes the Mall area. The upper tier tickets are more expensive, costing more than RM800. The lower tier ones are RM500 or so (my ticket). My brother's gang was way in front, and I told him I didn't want to go so far and waste my time walking! So I went into one of the nearer platforms to see the race alone.

Long walk towards the Mall

It was already at Lap 17 when I reached!
Already Lap 17!

Now that I realized that they didn't really check my ticket once I passed the Gate entry, I should have walked up to the upper tier for a better view! :P But I didn't because I'm a good law-abiding person. *cough*

Entrance to Citrine seats

So I went into the lower tier and found a nice spot to sit. This was my view and I saw many people sitting opposite at various Hill Stands.

The crowd at the Hillstand

My view

Once I was at my seat, the sounds were even more deafening than before. Even the ear buds I had didn't help much! Seriously I could feel even my bag vibrating whenever a car passed by. I was at one point worried that my camera lenses would break too! :P

Cars from near

The cars were supposed to go at a speed of about 284km/h at this stretch, even my camera couldn't capture the cars properly. They were passing by faster than my shutter speed!

Faster than my shutter speed

The good thing about the Mall area the roof on top that kept us shaded from the rain and sun. Which meant I didn't even have to use my sunblock lotion! *wasted*

Protected from rain and shine

Even worse, after about 10 minutes, I realized the dark clouds were coming nearer and nearer. Now I didn't even have to use my newly bought sun glasses. Another item wasted. But thank goodness I brought my umbrella with me. At least that didn't go to waste.

Dark clouds nearer

I thought that coming car looked like a Ferrari (my favourite team). :)

What's that car?

And look at this one. Orange coloured? Can you guess what team this car was from?

Orange car?

And this one was most definitely a Ferrari. Can't miss the glorious red shade even from afar. :P Too bad they didn't win anything. Next race my friend. :) And look! The clouds were getting even nearer. In fact, this was the last picture I took before I escaped out.

Dark clouds - is that a Ferrari?

I left about half an hour later at 6.05pm, merely to avoid the rain and the possible jam. I also had to rush back to PJ in time to be able to make it to Subang airport for my flight at 9.20pm. Which meant I needed to reach the airport at 8.45pm the latest. And judging from the crazy jam going to Sepang, I didn't want to take any chances. Hence, I left earlier.

I asked Saucer to fetch me from Sepang (he was at Cyberjaya that evening) at 6+pm. The worst part was, the rain came mercilessly at 6+pm onwards! It was so very heavy and there were lightning and thunder every few minutes. Scary. And since Saucer didn't have a car park sticker (which cost RM50, by the way), he couldn't enter the Sepang circuit. So I had to walk out all the way to the main road, under the heavy rain and thunderstorm, all the while hoping that the lightning didn't strike me.

It was quite a long walk, and I thanked God for the umbrella I brought along with me. On the way walking out, I called up Saucer, only to find out that he was stuck in traffic jam this time! *sigh* During the 20 minutes or half an hour that I walked out, he only managed to move a mere 400m, with another 5.5km to go. *cry* It was really stressful. I was worried over and over again if I would miss my flight back to Penang.

Another problem for me was I didn't know where to wait for Saucer! Since the roads were all so jammed and he couldn't enter, I had to find a proper landmark to wait for him. Don't forget there were so many entry points and car parks surrounding the Sepang circuit. So you can imagine me heaving a sigh of relief when I saw a Petronas station from afar. That would be the perfect pick-up point! So I smsed Saucer and with his GPS, he managed to track the station down. And I continued walking and walking under the heavy rain and thunder. I swear I saw a lightning so huge it scared the hell out of me.

Before long, I reached the roadside just in front of Petronas station. Horror of all horrors, Saucer smsed me this time saying that his mobile phone would be out of battery soon! *gasp* That would be the worst thing that could happen at that point! So I tried to avoid calling him and sent him messages instead, detailing the exact location of where I was, right in front of a string of red shuttle buses, next to the Petronas station. Thankfully, I saw his car at about 7pm. I could hear myself saying "Thank God" aloud at that time.

The ride back was fortunately not jammed at all. I suppose many people were still at the circuit watching, hence the route going back wasn't packed. I managed to reach the PJ area at 7.40pm and even had time to have dinner before leaving for the Subang airport. It was seriously a crazy and rushed experience. To know that I paid for a ticket only to watch for 30 minutes! All in the name of sports.

I guess if you ask me again, I don't think I'll ever attend another F1 race again. Not when I have to catch a flight home on the same night! It would have been much better if I had left for Sepang in the morning instead of the afternoon. Well, too little too late now. Saucer was complaining all the way back home, and I don't blame him. It was all because of me that he had to endure a painstaking journey to and from Sepang, in the heavy rain. *sigh* So sorry. :(

Anyway, all is good now. I promised Saucer never to attend these crowded events anymore in the future, unless I find my own transport back!


khengsiong said...

It looks like bad economy is no deterrence to F1 fans.

But this year the race was abandoned after 32 laps because of the thunderstorm. Maybe next year we'll see smaller crowd.

Raynebow said...

Woww...what an eventful F1 for you! I heard the jam was reallyyyy horrendous...but good thing u still made yr flight back to Penang!

foongpc said...

haha! Looks like your adventure at Sepang is more interesting than the F1 race itself!

I have never attended F1 before and don't think I ever will. Cos I hate traffic jams and I don't like crowds. Furthermore, I prefer to see the race from the comfort of my own home : )

And after reading what you wrote, that sort of sealed it for me. Haha!

Wow! Walking in the open with thunder and lightning is seriously very dangerous. Lucky nothing happened to you! : )

Bamboo said...

Eh? There's no screen tv like those in stadiums one kah? So, you can only see whatever cars that passed in front of you only loh. Like that no fun ler. Anyway, the sun, rain, car jam, burning rubber smell, ear splitting car racing sound is deterrent enough for me to not go to these events! :P

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, poor thing dear. really no tv or screen mer?

soo sean said...

Look like Saucer really do not like crowded events. I think the worst part is the traffic jam.

ck lam said...

At least you still managed to get there even though it's already way passed the starting time. Really is an eye opener for everyone.

zewt said...

such a joke... the weather... i wonder if the FIA will blacklist malaysia.

Borneo Falcon said...

I watch the race on TV with some very interesting overtaking by the cars. Too bad it was red flagged.

iamthewitch said...

khengsiong: Yea, I think the economy didn't really affect F1 fans at all!

Raynebow: I know! It was so scary and rushed. The jam was the worst ever!

foongpc: Haha... I think I won't ever go to another one anymore, after my excruciating experience. :P Yea, I think I'm lucky with the thunderstorms... *phew*

Bamboo: Eh, there's a big screen TV showing what they would show on air. It's shown in picture #8, with the caption: "The crowd at the Hillstand". Yea, I don't think you would enjoy attending F1 race. :P

iamdoryfish: There was! Refer my comment to Bamboo. :)

soo sean: Yea, he doesn't. I don't either. Wasted 2 hours just at Sepang itself was really terrible!

ck lam: I guess it was better than nothing, CK. :)

zewt: Haha... I wonder too! They knew very well of the weather and they still wanted to go ahead with the race at that time, when they could have started it at 2pm as usual. *sigh* All in the name of viewership.

Borneo Falcon: Well at least you managed to see overtaking of cars. :P Haha..

Bearer of Light said...

I have been here and watched a few races... I like the back area as oppose to the pit lane side because Sepang is done in such way, you can see almost 60% of the track from the other side to the pit lane.. Excellent and one of my favorite tracks !!

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