Experiencing Formula One close up
The closest most local fans of Formula One racing ever get to an actual race is watching it on television. But this reporter was one of a lucky few to be invited to the practice sessions ahead of last week's Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang, outside Kuala Lumpur.
Watching an F1 Grand Prix on television is exciting enough, but nothing beats being there to witness the teams close up as they go through their paces in the lead- up to race day.
For the motor racing enthusiast, the roar of the finely tuned engines and the smell of the high-octane fuel is simply heaven.
Watching the pit crew and technical teams perform their tasks with the utmost precision and professionalism through the practice sessions is a joy.
The visit to the Sepang circuit began with entry to the Formula One Paddock Club, an air-conditioned lounge where VIP guests can watch the race while enjoying gourmet food.
After this we were led on a pit-lane walk. This gave us the chance to experience life in the pits close up.
The Malaysian Grand Prix was the second race of the 18-race season. Italian Giancarlo Fisichella, driving for Renault, won the race, with team-mate Fernando Alonso and Briton Jenson Button of Honda coming second and third, respectively.
The season began at the Bahrain International Circuit on March 12.
The third race this year will be at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne next weekend.
Spaniard Alonso currently tops the standings with 18 points, followed by German Michael Schumacher of Ferrari, and Button, both on 11 points. Fisichella is in fourth spot on 10 points, with Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya of the McLaren-Mercedes in fifth on nine points.
In the Williams team lounge, Austrian Alex Wurz, the team's third driver, gave his prediction on who would win the race while the No-1 and No-2 drivers - rising German star Nico Rosberg and Australian Mark Webber - were in the garage preparing for their practice session.
While both drivers did well and qualified in good grid positions, they withdrew during the race due to technical problems.
"I didn't have such a good
start in the race in Sepang and made a bit of a mistake, probably because of concentrating too much on Mark. I thought he was the only guy I was fighting with into the first corner and in the end it hurt both of us, as Alonso went past the two of us in one go," Rosberg said on the Williams website.
The trip to the Sepang circuit was sponsored by Philips Shavers, who also sponsor the Williams team.
Philips said it expected its one-year partnership with Williams to boost sales, particularly as an estimated 162 million people worldwide are said to watch each F1 race.