March 17, 2005

Cool way to kick off world’s hottest race

KUALA LUMPUR: The cool ambience of an “ice castle” at the Mandarin Oriental provided an alluring and dazzling backdrop to a star-studded event that featured the country’s Who's Who last night, to kick off the world's hottest race.

The Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix Ice Gala 2005 also saw team drivers and principals mingling with high society for the perfect lead up to this weekend's race at the Sepang F1 Circuit.

Twinkling crystal fairy light bulbs greeted the glittering parade of guests, led by Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Syed Putra Jamalullail and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Fauziah Tengku Abdul Rashid.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his wife Datin Seri Endon Mahmood received the royal couple when they arrived at 9pm.

Other guests started arriving as early as 7pm dressed to the nines, with the women setting a glamorous tone as they strolled in with their designer outfits and jewellery. Not to be outdone, the men wore their best tuxedos and suits to match their partners.

Among the crowd's favourites were former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali. Their son, Sepang International Circuit chairman Datuk Mokhzani Mahathir, played the perfect host with his wife Datin Mastisa Hani Mohamed Abid.

Abdullah's children, Nori and husband Khairy Jamaluddin, Kamaluddin and his wife Azrene were also present.

The spotlight, however, were on the F1 drivers, who included seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher and team mate Rubens Barrichello.

Others were Sauber Petronas drivers Jacques Villeneuve and Felipe Massa, Williams' Nick Heidfeld and Mark Webber, Jordan's Narain Karthikeyan and Minardi drivers Christijan Albers and Patrick Friesacher.

Schumacher looked relaxed in his suit with a dark brown shirt and tie while Barichello wore a tuxedo.

Villeneuve, Massa and Heidfeld chose to wear batik while Webber wore a suit.

Malaysia's Bond girl Datuk Michelle Yeoh looked radiant in a Bernard Chandran haute couture light green gown while Baywatch actress Carmen Electra wore a light green designer outfit.

International artistes Black Eyed Peas, Back Street Boys and Boyz II Men wore suits while the usually outrageously dressed Bai Ling was clad in a pink dress with a sequined top and a flowing skirt.

Also among the celebrities were kung-fu action star Jackie Chan, street magician David Blaine and local stars Soong Ai Ling and Camelia.

The hues of silver, blue and white as well as black drapes on the sidewalls and ceiling gave a haunting atmosphere of a magical wintry night.

Chandeliers that glowed with crystal white and ice blue lighting and a magnificent winter garden with towering tree trunks added to the charm.

Outside the ballroom, the organisers displayed F1 memorabilia that went up for auction, with proceeds going to the Force of Nature Foundation to help tsunami victims.

Grammy award winning singer Diana Krall and Malaysian Idol Jaclyn Victor provided the entertainment for the evening.

Tourism Minister Datuk Dr Michael Leo Toyad in his speech said it was the most glamorous event before Sunday's race.

He added that international sports events like the F1 contributed to the tourism growth in the country and gave Malaysia an opportunity to acquire the necessary expertise.