KUALA LUMPUR: The pin-up boys of F1 will hit the streets here from today to whip up the magic for the Petronas Malaysian F1 Grand Prix this weekend.
Excitement for the seventh edition of the Malaysian GP at the Sepang F1 Circuit has steadily built up following the season-opening Australian GP in Melbourne on March 6. This is indicated in the rising ticket sales.
But the arrival of the top F1 drivers has certainly generated more interest in the three-day event.
The teams' sponsors have lined up several promotional events for their drivers to meet the fans.
This season's championship contenders Renault have arranged for two autograph sessions today for their star drivers, Giancarlo Fisichella and Fernando Alonso.
Fisichella and Alonso will be attending the sessions together with test driver Franck Montagny at the KL Plaza (4pm) and Berjaya Times Square (5.30pm).
A local spokesman for Renault said that they had to arrange the sessions on popular demand from the fans following the team's outstanding performance in Melbourne.
Italian Fisichella led from start to finish to bag his second GP career win while Spaniard Alonso gave the team a double cheer with a third-place finish.
Renault go into the Malaysian GP with 16 points in the constructors' standings while defending champions Ferrari have eight points from Rubens Barrichello's runner-up finish in Melbourne.
BAR Honda's Takuma Sato will meet the fans at the Megamall in MidValley (4pm) and will be in attendance in another function at the Budaba Bar in Jalan P. Ramlee (5.30pm).
Toyota's Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli together with test driver Ricardo Zonta get into the act tomorrow – kicking off the Toyota Rev Party at the Dragon Bar in Sri Hartamas (6pm).
“Home” team Sauber Petronas have already started to make their rounds with Jacques Villeneuve and Felipe Massa entertaining thousands of Malaysians when they took the C24 F1 cars out for a spin around the vicinity of Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) on Sunday afternoon.
Yesterday, Villeneuve and Felipe were handed Proton Gen2 cars for them to use while they are here for the Malaysian Grand Prix.
The Sauber drivers have an autograph-signing session lined up for them at KLCC today (1.30pm).
Among the drivers expected to arrive today are Ferrari's seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher and the McLaren Mercedes drivers, Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen.
Schumacher has been soaking up the sun in Dungun and later in Langkawi while the McLaren boys have been acclimatising in Singapore.
Meanwhile, the Sepang track was a hive of activity yesterday with the teams' crew hard at work setting up their pits and to get the machines ready.
India's Narain Karthikeyan, who had been in the city since last week, also took time out to check out the track for the first time.
“All I have learnt about this track was from seeing the on-board footage film. Now, I can't wait to bring the car out this Friday. It looks challenging for a driver,” said the F1 rookie.