As the paddock went about its usual work on the opening day of a grand prix weekend at Sepang on Thursday, there was also time for reflection as several drivers made poignant trips to the circuit’s turn 11 to pay tribute to Italian rider Marco Simoncelli, who was killed at the corner during the MotoGP race there last October.
The Italian was considered one of the most exciting and charismatic riders on two wheels but his life was tragically cut short at the age of 24 when during the penultimate round of the MotoGP season in Malaysia he died following a horrific accident in which he fell from his bike and was hit by two other riders, which knocked his crash helmet off.
As an iconic star of Italian motorsport, his death was felt deeply at Ferrari and on Thursday Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa went down to turn 11 to pay their respects to Simoncelli, while Red Bull’s Mark Webber also made his own private trip to the corner.
The two Ferrari drivers and their respective team members posed for a picture with a pit board displaying the number 58 the Italian carried on his Honda and the message ‘sempre con noi’ which translates as ‘forever with us’.
Speaking in the Thursday press conference, Alonso said: “We did one picture this afternoon, Felipe and me and members of the team in Turn 11, where the accident happened and I think that will be the memory for him, and the whole Ferrari family and the Italian people will remember him always and that’s the most important thing.” Some of the Spaniard’s key career milestones have come at Sepang – first pole and podium finish in 2003 – and he has twice won the race, but he admits that “at the same time, after the accident of Marco last year racing here will be always sad, a little bit, knowing that one of our colleagues died here. It will be always difficult to race.”
Massa is hoping he can deliver a good performance this weekend in order to pay a fitting tribute to Simoncelli: “What happened last October was a tragic accident and I think around the world, not just in Italy, his loss was felt,” stated Felipe. “However, we are here to race and to do our job and this is not the only race track where bad things have happened. If possible it would be nice to think that, on Sunday, I could have a good race in his memory.”