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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.

F1 tests: Mercedes innovates with wheel adjustment system

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MONTMELÓ, Spain — Veteran Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time on the second day of Formula One preseason testing on Thursday, but Mercedes still garnered more attention by introducing an innovative wheel adjustment system.

On-board footage showed defending champion Lewis Hamilton pulling the steering wheel back and forth on the front straight to apparently change the angle of the front wheels on his Mercedes car.

The team stayed tight-lipped about the car’s new feature but guaranteed it was “safe” and “legal.”

“I probably won’t shed a great deal more light than what you saw on the TV but yeah we have a system in the car, it’s a novel idea,” team technical director James Allison told F1 TV. ”We’ve got a name for it, it’s called DAS, if you’re interested, and it just introduces an extra dimension for the steering, for the driver, which we hope will be useful during the year. But precisely how we use it and why we use it, that’s something we will keep to ourselves.”

Allison said governing body FIA knew in advance that the team was introducing the new system.

“It’s something we’ve been talking to them (about) for some time,” he said. “The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems and we’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements. I’m pleased we got it on the car, it seems to be useful, and we’ll see over the coming days how it benefits us.”

Hamilton said he was still trying to get used to the system, but praised the team for coming up with the innovation.

“I’ve only had one morning on (it, so) I don’t really have a lot to talk about with it. We’re trying to get on top of it, understand it, but safety-wise no problem today and the FIA are OK with the project.

“For me it’s really encouraging to see that my team is continuing to innovate and stay ahead of the game, and I think that’s down to the great minds in the team and so hopefully that’ll work to our benefit.”

Hamilton led the time charts on Wednesday but was only ninth-fastest on Thursday.

MORE: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas fastest in Day 1 of F1 practice
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The 40-year-old Raikkonen, who has a chance this season to break the record for most race starts in F1, was fastest with a time of 1 minute, 17.091 seconds in his Alfa Romea. He was 0.2 seconds quicker than Sergio Pérez with Racing Point. Daniel Ricciardo of Renault was third.

Raikkonen caused a red flag near the end of the afternoon session when his car stopped on the track with an apparent mechanical issue. The Finnish driver had spun earlier in the session, as did Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, Romain Grosjean of Haas and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, formerly known as Toro Rosso.

Grosjean had the most laps among the 13 drivers who went to the track on Thursday, with 158.

Bottas was the slowest driver of the day, while Sebastian Vettel was sixth-fastest with Ferrari.

Pérez had set the quickest time in the morning session. The Mexican driver had been third fastest on Wednesday, behind Hamilton and Bottas.

Drivers will be back on the track on Friday to close out the first week of testing. Teams will have another three days to test next week.

Preseason testing has been reduced from eight to six days to help compensate for the record 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam Grand Prix and the return of the Dutch GP. Midseason testing also has been eliminated.

The season opens on March 15 at the Australian GP.

The Barcelona-Catalunya track will host the Spanish GP on May 10.