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OPINION: Going To Malaysia

Late last year I had the privilege of attending the Malaysian grand prix.

By the end of the 2017 season I will have been consumed by and have watched sixteen years worth of Formula 1, and that without missing a single race. This majestic sport called Formula 1 has completely fascinated and captivated me unlike anything else ever has. It has been the most incredibly joyous and exhilarating journey of my life and I am happy in the knowledge and belief that my love and passion for Formula 1 shows no signs of dwindling.

It has, so far, been an epic journey, that has included the creation of countless wonderful memories. From seeing the very first edition of Talking F1 in print, to meeting so many fans of the sport, to starting a broadcasting career, to being humbled and tremendously honoured with recognition for doing what I love.

In all of this time, and before my journalistic career commenced, I had always dreamt about getting see my beloved Formula 1 live. Ironically, there are always two questions that I get asked, without fail. The first is always Why Formula 1? I usually smile and say: Why not? It’s the greatest sport in the world. It has everything you could ever want and I couldn’t imagine my life without it. That, and I genuinely just love sharing things that excite me in the hope that it will do the same for others. The second question I get asked, unfailingly, is how many races I’ve been to. My answer has always been that I haven’t been to any races but that it’s my great dream to do so. The good news is that a few months ago I had the opportunity and privilege to attend the Malaysia grand prix.

IMG_6187Before setting off for Malaysia friends and family had asked of my excitement level and what I thought my reaction would be to finally seeing F1 in the flesh. The truth is I didn’t think much about it. I was eerily calm about the prospect of this finally becoming a reality. But I knew it would be the moment of a lifetime and I knew it was going to blow my mind and induce one of those out-of-body experiences I’d heard so much about. As a topped the stairs at the K1 grandstand and came face-to-face with Turn One I finally, truly, understood what the word surreal really means. There were tears and shaking too, how could there not be? I have, quite literally, lived every second of Formula 1 in the last sixteen years.

What I learned about F1 sitting in that grandstand was that joy and love for the sport was genuinely rampant amongst everyone there. Naturally, I was over the moon in meeting fans from all corners of the globe and to have every conversation be F1-centric. I discussed everything from Ferrari’s future driver line-up with two local Malay gentlemen at Friday lunch, to surmising that Hamilton would probably snatch pole with a lovely couple from Nottingham, to how great the Australian Gp is to attend with huge Danny Ric fans who’d braved a 13 hour flight from Oz to cheer on their favourite driver.

Funnily, I was somehow still working as I was keeping the crowd in my immediate vicinity updated with what was going on with times, and other various issues. I had a good chuckle at the fact that even 13 000 km from home, where no one knew me, I was still working as an F1 correspondent; with great pleasure I might add.

IMG_6068In the flesh the 2017 F1 cars are even more striking and certainly louder than they sound on television. I also experienced that while they’re not winning titles Ferrari is easily the most widely supported team. Amongst the drivers it was Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen who evoked the biggest cheers from the crowd every time they ventured out onto track.

The biggest and most important thing I learned, or had re-established, is that F1 isn’t just a sport that people like to watch or attend every other weekend. Instead, it’s a passion, a religion of sorts that evokes great emotion and completely captures the attention of millions. This is the element that the circuit owner, the FIA, Liberty Media, teams, and fans should never lose sight of. At the end of the day Formula 1 for me, and so many others, is an experience that isn’t only seared into my brain but engraved in my heart.

About Natalie Le Clue

Natalie Le Clue is an F1 aficionado of the most dedicated vein. And, true to form for any F1-enamoured junkie, she readily admits to crying the first time she saw a F1 car, calling it an ‘overwhelming moment’. Natalie has won the 2010 gSport Woman In Media award, the 2015 Woman In Media Print award, and has been named as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in South African Sport by the Department of Sport and Recreation. Natalie is currently serving as SAfm's F1 correspondent. Follow Natalie on Twitter @nlc27

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