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The Unofficial F1 World Tour 2010 - Part 2 - Alex Snell continues to follow Formula One around the globe

Published by Alex J Snell

Following on from the first part of Alex's unofficial tour, we're looking at the next couple of races - Malaysia and China. Don't forget you can follow Alex's Twitter account to stay right up to date, and see more posts and pictures on his travel blog.

Race 3 - Malaysia

I've managed to crawl for cover under the shade of the nearest tree, so figured I'd take this opportunity to jot a few words down. I know it's stating the obvious - but crikey it's hot here! I was only standing still for about 2 mins out in the open before the sweat was streaming down me like Niagara falls!

I've been lucky enough to have spotted a few drivers since I've been on this trek, and up until today I'd not pestered them for autographs, or tried to approach them when they're not 'at work' shall we say.

But every time I just let them walk on by without doing anything I couldn't help thinking I'd missed an opportunity, and ended up slightly regretting it. So today when I saw Jenson I thought sod it! Unfortunately though this ended up with me shouting his name across the packed mall, which not only was embarrassing for me (and him I'd guess, although he did smile & give me a cheers - top bloke!) but ironically it ended up with me regretting having pestered him! So I guess you're damned if you do, and damned if you don't!

Alex meets Jarno Trulli at a Lotus PR Event.
Credit: Alex J Snell

As per my usual routine I popped into the internet room to quickly check Twitter. I'm so glad I did!

Turns out Heikki Kovalainen had just posted to say he was on his way to the Hard Rock Cafe for a Lotus PR event. So a quick check of the map, one stop along the monorail, and I was there! As were Jarno, Heikki, the Lotus Team, and even Eddie Jordan - result! They were showing off their simulator and you could win free tickets if you posted the quickest time, I didn't have a go though.

Red Bull catch a lift back to the pitlane.
Credit: Alex J Snell

It's now the lull in between 1st and 2nd practice (the McLarens were quickest if you're interested). I thought I'd grab the chance to put down my thoughts on the circuit - seriously impressive!

It's been purpose built to provide great viewing and it delivers! The main and back straights are back to back, and situated in the centre of a giant landscaped bowl. Meaning that practically wherever you sit you're guaranteed to be able to see the cars in full view for near-on a third of the lap - coming from Albert Park this is a whole different experience. You can see so much of the track at once it's almost difficult to focus on one car alone!

The great thing about today is that you're free to sit in any grandstand, so if you ever go on a Friday, make sure you have a look from the top the tower at the hairpin. Not only do feel as if your almost on top of the cars, but the noise reverberates around the stand to create an amazing assault on the senses!

A scattering of fans watch the Malaysian Grand Prix from the banking.
Credit: Alex J Snell

What happened to the rain? We waited, waited, and waited, but it never came! As for the race, hee, hee - get in Vettel! Even his harshest critics can't say that he didn't deserve that after reliability robbed him of the last two races. I've got to be honest though, for the last ten laps I had everything crossed hoping that a) his car didn't break, and b) that it didn't start raining! Seeing him cruise by on the slow down lap along with all the other drivers was superb. Being up in the stands meant that you felt as if you were almost on top of the cars, and the drivers really made an effort to slow down and show the fans their appreciation. Which was good to see after the non-existent parade lap.

Race 4 - China

Today the track action got underway, so my first challenge of the day was to make my way to the circuit. Luckily enough this was considerably simpler than I'd feared, turns out there is a direct metro line which takes you right to the front gate (line 11 if you ever go), and it runs through the station by my hotel - complete fluke result!

The circuit itself is impressive, but without being inspiring. The F1 village is a tad on the small side, a few stalls, a Mercedes display, and a small stage for the cheerleaders and 'in-house' band to strut their stuff. Other than that it's a pretty barren place, and only a couple of Porsche Supercup races to make up the numbers.

But on the positive side the view from my seat (the hairpin at the end of the back straight) is superb. I can see the entire length of the back straight as the cars thunder down towards the hairpin, and then as they lock a brake upon entry, or get a little tail-happy on exit - great stuff!

Sébastien Buemi's Toro Rosso returns to the pit lane with a few less pieces than it left with.
Credit: Alex J Snell

I was hoping sitting here would deliver a little action, and today didn't disappoint. You've all undoubtedly seen the pictures by now of Buemi's front suspension 'collapsing' - well that was directly in front of me! It's not until you see an accident with your own eyes that you can appreciate the immense forces and energies involved. Once the wheels had broken free they quite simply accelerated as if possessed. One slammed into the perimeter fence as Buemi snow-ploughed his way to a safe halt in the kitty litter. But the other one, that one didn't hit the fence. It bounded over the fence with alarming ease and momentum - cue fleeing crowds and panicked spectators! Thankfully none were struck by this seemingly unstoppable missile, as it flew off the grassy banks and out of view - much to the relief of those in it's path!

After picking up my jaw from the floor I made a quick dash around to the GA area and across to the wreckage of Buemi's Torro Rosso. I managed to get some good shots of the leftovers, and was reminded once again how impressive the 'survival cell' on modern day F1 cars actually is.

Once they'd taken the wreck away I decided to see where the errant wheel had got to. Climbing the grassy hill to it's peak for a better vantage I could see that around 200 metres in front of me were a couple of police cars parked up by the side of the highway. As I moved closer I could make out the shape of the tyre, flanked by a few rather confused looking members of the public, and Shanghai's finest. With my paparazzi hat on I again got a little jog on (knackering work this lark I tell you!) out of the circuit and along the highway. I made it just in time to take a few snaps before the police took the tyre away. I thought it odd that it was the police and not the track marshals, and also amusing as they unsuccessfully attempted to fit it into the boot of their car, ha!

A rear view of the massive Shanghai grandstands.
Credit: Alex J Snell

I've got my feet up back at the hotel now and I'm reflecting on a day of real contrasts. It dawned on me this morning as I was making my way to the track just how little evidence of the race there was around Shanghai, you could easily never even realise it was on. The more I thought about it in fact, the more I began to realise that the people of Shanghai seem to almost resent the hassle of the F1 circus, rather than embracing the event, such as they do in Melbourne for example.

As I've said I'd plumped for the hairpin grandstand to be sure of some action, and this afternoon it delivered more than I could have ever hoped for! We had Schumi and Hammy duelling it out, Alonso showing Massa no mercy into the pit entry, Button out-braking himself with only a couple of laps to go, and countless other battles throughout the entire field. On almost every lap at least one driver had some kind of moment, ran wide, lunged hopefully down the inside, or simply completely misjudged the corner altogether.

For all the faults that this venue may well have, today, at that corner, all was forgiven.

Stay tuned for the next chapter in Alex's adventure, and check out more great pictures on his Flickr account.

All content in the series The Unofficial F1 World Tour 2010