At 10-years old, the Hermann Tilke-designed Sepang circuit has blossomed into a sassy young adult.
The overcast race-day sky complemented the bright green grasses of the track as well as the roomy expanses of the spectator lawns. The track itself has a rolling, casual out-for-an-extreme-Sunday-drive feel to it, with plenty of breathing room for drivers.
It looks good, and it looks safe.
The ad banners festooned about the track beckoned us to "Visit Malaysia," but as alluring as the track is, the much talked about 100-degree heat and 85 percent humidity had me feeling just right in the 39-degree nippy springtime of Seattle, draped in several layers of fleece.
The bonus feature of this race was that both McLaren drivers were served five-spot penalties on the starting grid for driving unusually slow on their way in from qualifying. Heikki Kovalainen and points leader Lewis Hamilton accepted their punishment for possibly impeding other drivers who were still on their hot laps.
This shift in position put Toyota's Jarno Trulli third on the grid which gave him an opportunity to break his streak of 50 consecutive podiumless races. He instead finished fourth nearly 46 seconds behind race winner Kimi Räikkönen.
In spite of the grid penalty, Kovalainen managed to secure a spot on the podium in third place. It's plain to see that Kovalainen is thriving with the McLaren team and his driving displays an empowerment that complements his new-found confidence. He should do very well this season.
Robert Kubica earned a career-best result in Sepang with a second-place finish, 19.5 seconds behind Räikkönen's Ferrari.
Räikkönen drove brilliantly, snagging first place and a total of 11 championship points. He started second on the grid behind his teammate Felipe Massa, and for 30 laps it seemed that he was just waiting for that moment of opportunity to burst past Massa for the lead. That moment was served to Kimi on a shiny plate in lap 31 when Massa (who the announcers like to refer to as "Phil") proved unable to hold his Ferrari on the track. He spun-out, beached the car in a gravel trap and retired.
Räikkönen certainly seemed to enjoy his comfortable lead, but paid some kind of price with a cornea full of alcohol during the champagne-spraying portion of the closing ceremonies.
Nick Heidfeld, driving for BMW Sauber, finished in sixth place and posted the fastest lap time at 1:35.366.
Next we race at another Hermann Tilke creation, the Bahrain International circuit in Sakhir. The brave can watch it live PST at 3:00am, April 6th on Speed TV.