F1 Preview: 2017 Malaysian Grand Prix

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When Formula 1 first visited Malaysia back in 1999, the penultimate round of the season proved to be a memorable one at the shiny, new Sepang International Circuit.

McLaren’s Mika Hakkinen arrived in Malaysia leading the championship chase, with Eddie Irvine snapping at his heels in pursuit of Ferrari’s first world title for a considerable amount of time.

Fast forward 18 years, and there are some similarities to be drawn in the title fight currently ongoing. This time it is Lewis Hamilton – like Hakkinen, powered by a Mercedes engine – who leads the title race, with Sebastian Vettel trying to keep up and give Ferrari its first title in almost a decade.

After a dramatic swing last time out in Singapore, the final running of the Malaysian Grand Prix is set to be hugely important in the title race.

Let us hope that, unlike 1999, things are not settled off-track and there are no barge board dramas… (more on that later).

2017 Malaysian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Can Hamilton put the title in his hands?

With six rounds to go, the championship battle between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel is far from over, yet there could be a key mathematical swing in Malaysia this weekend.

Hamilton sits 28 points clear in the drivers’ championship following his surprise Singapore win and Vettel’s zero score, meaning that with one more win, he can mathematically take the title out of his rival’s hands – just as Nico Rosberg did to him one year ago at Suzuka.

Victory for Hamilton in Malaysia with Vettel second would see him sit 35 points clear with five races to go. With a gap of seven points between P1 and P2 for each race, were Vettel to win the remaining five rounds with Hamilton second each time, the pair would finish tied on points. Vettel would, however, take the title on race wins, 9-8.

Such has been the momentum swing from circuit to circuit and the strength of Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, it seems unlikely Hamilton and Vettel could finish one-two at all of the remaining races. It is a big assumption to make.

But the key for Hamilton would be the security offered by a points lead of, say, 38 points, were he to win in Malaysia and Vettel finish third. Then he would know what pressure would lay on Vettel, who is without a win since Hungary.

One year on from the retirement that killed Hamilton’s hopes of a fourth title, the Briton has the chance in Malaysia to balance things out and put himself in a position where he can define his own destiny.

Sainz, Palmer, Vandoorne look to keep Singapore momentum going

While Singapore proved to be a low point for Vettel and Ferrari thanks to the first-corner clash, three of F1’s young midfield chargers left Marina Bay on a high after recording their best finishes in the sport.

Just 48 hours after being confirmed as a Renault driver for 2018, Sainz took an excellent P4 for Toro Rosso, becoming just the third man in the team’s history to finish so highly, following Vettel and Max Verstappen.

Palmer did a terrific job to ease some of the pressure on his shoulders by taking sixth, marking his first points of the season, while Vandoorne was seventh for McLaren, giving the British team some comfort after Fernando Alonso’s cruel, early knockout.

All three will now head to Malaysia keen to keep the momentum going, although there will surely be varying targets.

For Sainz, the aim will be to lead F1’s midfield once again, while Palmer will simply want to consolidate his Singapore display and continue to sell himself to possible suitors for 2018 (which, ultimately, are looking more and more likely to have to come from outside F1).

As for Vandoorne? Honda has made no secret of the challenge it faces at Sepang, a power-hungry circuit. So a repeat of his charge to seventh in perhaps unlikely lacking some divine intervention. That said, his near-miss of the points in Monza could offer some hope of another top-10 finish.

Gasly ready to impress in long-awaited F1 debut

Just days after strengthening his bid for the Super Formula title in Japan, Pierre Gasly was given the news he has been waiting a few years for: he will finally make his F1 debut in Malaysia.

In a bid to evaluate Gasly for a full-season Toro Rosso seat, Red Bull has opted to call the Frenchman up early to its B-team in place of Daniil Kvyat, who will be benched for the next two races.

Gasly had been tipped to replace Sainz had the Spaniard made an early move to Renault, as craved by the French manufacturer, only for Palmer to dig in his heels on his contract to see out the rest of the season.

The opportunity is a big one for Gasly. A near-three-year win drought raised concerns over his ability, and Red Bull chiefs were apparently disappointed he did not win the GP2 title by a greater margin last year.

But his form in Super Formula has been sparkling of late. The series is not an easy one to pick up and master, yet he has done so well, meaning he will head to the season finale at Suzuka in three weeks’ time just half a point shy of the leader.

F1 will be the focus this weekend, and while this opportunity is perhaps unexpected, there will be a significant amount of pressure that comes with it, requiring Gasly to impress.

Farewell, Malaysia

Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix will be a poignant one as F1 bids farewell to one of its original flyaway races, with the event being scrapped for 2018 and beyond.

Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit was the first ‘Tilkedrome’, designed by esteemed track designer Hermann Tilke, to appear on the calendar, and was the first signal of the expansion into Asia that would follow.

18 years later, F1 has visited Bahrain, China, Singapore, Korea and Abu Dhabi, gaining a real foothold in the region that even the loss of Malaysia should not dent too badly.

That said, this is a race that holds many fond memories for F1. From Multi 21 in 2013 to the washout of 2009, or Fernando Alonso’s first pole and Kimi Raikkonen’s first win in 2003, or the downpour and Ferrari fightback of 2001 – and, most infamously, the race where this article started in 1999, that originally saw both Irvine and Michael Schumacher thrown out of a technical irregularity that temporarily settled the championship.

In the end, the decision was appealed and reversed, although Irvine would end up losing the drivers’ title to Hakkinen at Suzuka. But it nevertheless marked a memorable start for F1 in Malaysia.

The decision to cut the race is understandable, given the dwindling attendances and escalating costs that have put pressure on the organizers, but that will not stop them seeing F1 off with an event to remember.

Thanks for the memories, Malaysia. We hope to meet again someday.

2017 Malaysian Grand Prix – Facts and Figures

Track: Sepang International Circuit
Corners: 15
Lap Record: Juan Pablo Montoya 1:34.223 (2004)
Tire Compounds: Super-Soft/Soft/Medium
2016 Winner: Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull)
2016 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:32.850
2016 Fastest Lap: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:36.424
DRS Zone: T15 to T1, T14 to T15

2017 Malaysian Grand Prix – TV/Stream Times

World of Outlaws release 2023 Sprint Car Series schedule

2023 Outlaws Sprint schedule
World of Outlaws

The 2023 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series schedule features 87 races, almost identical to the last year’s number, to be contested at 36 venues across 19 states. With cancelations for mostly weather, they closed out this year’s calendar on November 5 with 69 events in the books. Carson Macedo won a series high 11 races.

In 2022, David Gravel chased Brad Sweet into the three-race finale on the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway in one of the most hotly contested championships in Outlaws history. Sweet emerged victorious for the fourth straight year.

For the 19th consecutive season, the Outlaws Sprints will begin their season at Volusia Speedway Park for the DIRTcar Nationals from Feb. 9-11 and will return March 5-6 for another two-day show before hitting the road with a three-track swing into Pennsylvania to take on the Posse.

MORE: 2023 World of Outlaws Late Model Schedule

“Every year we continue to build the best schedule we can for drivers and fans across the country,” said World of Outlaws CEO Brian Carter is a series release. “I’m excited for the journey we’ve put together, which includes the biggest races in Sprint Car racing, our new Spring Swing through Pennsylvania, the thrill of combining the World of Outlaws and ‘Bike Week’ and so much more.”

Some tracks returning from hiatus and one brand new course include 81 Speedway in Park City, Kans. in April and again in October, Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon City, Ill. in April, Ogilvie (Minn.) Raceway in June and BAPS Motor Speedway in York Haven, Penn.

BAPS hosts its first race in more than 30 years when the track was known as Susquehanna Speedway. This midweek show will give the local Pennsylvania Posse 14 attempts to beat the traveling Outlaws.

Ogilvie Speedway is completely new to the series and makes it the 224th different venue they will have challenged.

MORE: Brad Sweet protects his place in history

Notably missing from the calendar are Vado (N.M.) Speedway Park, Cotton Bowl Speedway in Paige, Texas, Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway and the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track.

In addition to the new spring Pennsylvania Swing, the second date at Volusia Speedway will coincide with Daytona Beach’s Bike Week and bring new eyes to the sport.

Knoxville Raceway adds another multi-night show to the calendar in April, giving this track eight sanctioned events in 2023.

And of course, there are plenty of mainstays and high dollar events, such as the Memorial Day Spectacular at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway, the 35th running of the Brad Doty Classic in July and the Labor Day Spectacular at Gray’s Harbor in Elma, Wash.

Several big paydays are on the line in 2023 including the 40th annual Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio paying $175,000 to the winner, the Huset’s High Bank Nationals’ $250,000-to-win finale and the grandaddy of them all, the 62nd Knoxville Nationals with a total purse exceeding $1 million.

2023 Outlaws Sprint Schedule

Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 9-11 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)

Sunday-Monday, March 5-6 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)
Friday-Saturday, March 10-11 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, March 17 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday, March 18 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday, March 24 – Talladega Short Track (Eastaboga, AL)
Saturday, March 25 – Magnolia Motor Speedway (Columbus, MS)
Friday, March 31-Saturday, April 1 – Devil’s Bowl Speedway (Mesquite, TX)

Friday, April 7 – US-36 Raceway (Osborn, MO)
Saturday, April 8 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, April 14-15 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Friday-Saturday, April 21-22 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday, April 28 – Tri-City Speedway (Granite City, IL)
Saturday, April 29 – Tri-State Speedway (Haubstadt, IN)

Friday-Saturday, May 5-6 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, May 10 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday-Saturday, May 12-13 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Friday, May 19 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Saturday, May 20 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, May 26-27 – Atomic Speedway (Chillicothe, OH)
Monday, May 29 – Lawrenceburg Speedway (Lawrenceburg, IN)

Friday, June 2 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, June 3 – Ogilvie Raceway (Ogilvie, MN)
Friday-Saturday, June 9-10 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday-Saturday, June 16-17 – Beaver Dam Raceway (Beaver Dam, WI)
Wednesday-Saturday, June 21-24 – Huset’s Speedway (Brandon, SD)
Friday, June 30-Saturday, July 1 – Cedar Lake Speedway (New Richmond, WI)

Friday, July 7 – 34 Raceway (West Burlington, IA)
Saturday, July 8 – Wilmot Raceway (Wilmot, WI)
Tuesday, July 11 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Friday-Saturday, July 14-15 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, July 19 – BAPS Motor Speedway (York Haven, PA)
Friday-Saturday, July 21-22 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday-Sunday, July 29-30 – Weedsport Speedway (Weedsport, NY)

Friday-Saturday, Aug. 4-5 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Wednesday-Saturday, Aug. 9-12 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 17-19 – Jackson Motorplex (Jackson, MN)
Friday, Aug. 25 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, Aug. 26 – Red River Valley Speedway (West Fargo, ND)
Thursday, Aug. 31-Saturday, September 2 – Skagit Speedway (Alger, WA)

Monday, Sept. 4 – Grays Harbor Raceway (Elma, WA)
Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 7-9 – Silver Dollar Speedway (Chico, CA)
Friday, Sept. 15 – Keller Auto Speedway (Hanford, CA)
Saturday, Sept. 16 – Placerville Speedway (Placerville, CA)
Friday, Sept. 22 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Saturday, Sept. 23 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, Sept. 29-30 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)

Friday-Saturday, Oct. 6-7 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, Oct. 13 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Saturday, Oct. 14 – Lakeside Speedway (Kansas City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, Oct. 20-21 – TBA

Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 1-4 – The Dirt Track at Charlotte (Concord, NC)