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Aussies partying in skimpy briefs arrested at F1 in Malaysia

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CANBERRA, Australia (AP) Nine Australians, including a government adviser, have been arrested in Malaysia for stripping down to their briefs and drinking beer from shoes after Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo won the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix, officials said Tuesday.

Government officials confirmed that Jack Walker, adviser to Defense Industry Minister Chris Pyne, was among the men aged 25 to 29 who were arrested after they stripped down to Budgy Smuggler-brand swimsuits decorated with the Malaysian flag in full view of thousands of spectators at the Sepang race track Sunday.

Pyne’s office said the matter was being “handled appropriately” by the Australian High Commissioner in Malaysia.

“Until we have a clearer picture of the process at hand, it would be unwise to comment further,” a government statement said.

District police chief Abdul Aziz Ali said Tuesday that the men were being investigated for “intentional insult with intent to provoke a breach of peace” and public indecency.

He said police would submit a report to prosecutors, who will decide Thursday if the men will be charged. Abdul Aziz told the AP that the men face up to six months in jail, a fine or both if they are found guilty.

Sepang International Circuit chief executive Datuk Razlan Razali told the New Straits Times website the men deserved to be locked up and have action taken against them.

“This shows a huge lack of respect to us as Malaysians; this is stupid behavior from foreigners who have no sense of cultural sensitivity and respect,” he said.

“It embarrasses their own country as well – it gives Australians a bad name,” he said.

Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said the men’s decision to strip down was inappropriate and ill-advised.

“You’re in another nation, you’ve got to be careful in what you do,” Joyce told reporters in Canberra. “But I’m sure – well, I’m hoping – the Malaysians will understand that I don’t think there’s any real malice in it. Stupidity? Obviously. Malice? No.”

Treasurer Scott Morrison told Sydney Radio 2GB the arrests were a reminder for travelers to know local laws and respect them. The government already warns travelers that there are conservative standards of dress and behavior in many parts of Malaysia.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten declined to discuss Walker’s behavior, saying he did not want to jeopardize a complex situation.

“It’s incredibly serious when an Australian gets arrested overseas,” he told reporters.

Don Rothwell, an Australian National University expert on international law, doubted Malaysian authorities would treat the Australians harshly.

“The Malaysian government will be sure to make sure that its international reputation as a tourist destination for the Grand Prix is not too damaged,” Rothwell told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Associated Press writer Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, contributed to this report.

Lewis Hamilton aims to match Michael Schumacher’s F1 win record

Lewis Hamilton Schumacher record
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SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton has set many Formula One marks over the years, but few are as significant as the Michael Schumacher record he can match Sunday at the Russian Grand Prix.

Victory for Hamilton at the Sochi Olympic Park would see him draw level with Schumacher at 91 career victories, more than any other driver in the 70-year history of F1.

It also would increase Hamilton’s commanding 55-point lead over teammate Valtteri Bottas in the championship standings, putting him closer to a seventh world championship, matching another Schumacher record.

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History is on the side of Hamilton, who won Sept. 13 at Mugello. He’s won four of the six Russian races so far, and all six were won by Mercedes drivers. His closest challenger is likely to be Bottas, who beat Hamilton in the 2017 edition of the Russian Grand Prix.

Elsewhere in the championship hunt, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen’s season has gone up in smoke since his Aug. 9 victory at Silverstone. An overheating engine forced the Dutch driver out of the Sept. 6 race at Monza and then a similar problem struck just before the start at Mugello. Verstappen was far slower off the line than the cars around him and was struck by Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo.

That leaves Verstappen 80 points off Hamilton in the standings and a 25-point deficit to Bottas.

If Hamilton does win to tie Schumachher at Sochi, more fans will see it in person than any other race in a 2020 season mostly run before empty grandstands because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Organizers say the race weekend is sold out but haven’t given final ticket sales figures.

Race promoter Alexei Titov previously told Russian state TV that the stands would be at 50 percent of their capacity, which equates to around 30,000 spectators.

That’s far more than the previous season high of 3,000 fans for the most recent race, the Tuscan Grand Prix at the Mugello circuit.

Unlike at the last two races in Italy, there will be a full entertainment program on offer for fans with concerts featuring some of Russia’s most popular musicians.

Russian organizers say they’re taking precautions to keep fans safe and will have medical staff posted at checkpoints around the venue, and that spectators will have their temperature measured on entry.