F1 party arrives in mourning Malaysia

Wed Mar 26, 2014 6:21am EDT
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By Patrick Johnston

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - The world of Formula One descends on Kuala Lumpur for the often dramatic Malaysian Grand Prix with excitement around the Sepang circuit unusually muted as the country mourns the disappearance of flight MH370.

The Sepang circuit is a stone's throw from Kuala Lumpur International Airport where the Malaysian Airlines flight carrying 239 passengers and crew departed 18 days ago and has since become the home for many associated with the story.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said earlier this week that the Beijing-bound flight had crashed into the southern Indian Ocean with a search for debris ongoing some 2,500 km (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth in Western Australia.

While the Laureus Sports Awards in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday opted to scale down their week of events in response to Najib's announcement, the Formula One party has continued as normal for the 16th staging of Malaysia's premier sporting event.

That meant Chinese relatives of the missing MH370 passengers were forced to change hotels to make way for those involved in the glamour sport, which started its new season in Australia two weeks ago.

The drivers have been quick to offer their support and Lewis Hamilton also has a "#PrayForMH370" message on the side of his Mercedes car this week and he will be hoping it is on display for the entire 56 laps of Sunday's race after only managing a brief three-lap run in Melbourne.

The season opening race was won by the Briton's team mate Nico Rosberg after the German overtook pole sitter Hamilton before the first turn and eased to the chequered flag.

Mercedes appear to have been quickest in adapting to the new V6 turbocharged hybrid engines that have leveled the playing field after years of Red Bull dominance but they remain wary of being labeled championship favorites.   Continued...