SEPANG — As teams, big and small fight for the crown and precious championship points at the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix today, a smaller but more important battle is under way in the pit — a war amongst bomoh hujan, or rain shamans.
Other than multi-million dollar machines and systems, quick cars, hardworking support staff, tyre choices and ultra-competitive drivers, teams know how important it is to have weather on their side. While sunny and hot days are optimum for a quick laptime, the occasional rain also helps when situations warrant it, hence some team bosses who know better have included these weather-manipulating experts in their payroll.
“Oh yes, we’ve hired Pak Salim, from Kuala Selangor to help us with the rain,” said Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes, Lotus Racing team principal. “He’s quite well-known in the area for his prowess. My neighbour used him to avert rain during his daughter’s wedding last year, and even though the whole of Kuala Selangor was drenched in thrunderstorm, our housing area was dry as a bone. Amazing.”
New entry Lotus, whose cars aren’t as quick as the more established machines of Ferrari, McLaren, Red Bull, Mercedes and Renault, depend on outside factors such as wet weather to have a chance at securing any points this season. While consistently beating the other new teams such as rival Virgin Racing, Lotus cars, piloted by Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli, have not had the capability to give a serious challenge in the race.
“Well, it can only be expected, really. It’s our first year,” said Fernandes. “I’m completely happy to beat the other new teams, and am proud of my guys who have shown such great effort to come up with the machines in such a short time. But as you can see, a little rain can help too.”
Fernandes explained that while the other drivers struggle in the rain, his team has had ample time to get accustomed to driving on slippery, wet tarmac. So that is why the bomoh hujan is now part of the team strategy.
“We’re a Malaysian team-lah. We’ve gotten Jarno and Heiki to get used to our weather — hot one minute, pouring another. While sporadic showers here and there will drive the likes of Alonso and Hamilton crazy, my guys are lovin’ it. I’ve gotten Pak Salim to hold off the rainclouds at certain laps, and bring on the thunderstorm on some others, to fit our racing strategy. Heh, you’ll be seeing some funny Europeans spinning around today, while our Malaysia-Boleh machines cruising to the championship points through all the chaos,” said Fernandes, gleefully.
Meanwhile, a check with the Mercedes team, which is sponsored by Petronas, revealed that they have also engaged in the services of a rain shaman.
“Yes, we’ve realised the importance of a bormoh hoojan,” said team principal Ross Brawn. “Micheal (Schumacher) had insisted that we engaged one, especially for the Malaysian GP. He told me that while he may be the rainmeister, it helps to only have rain when we need it, and not when we’re on full slicks (dry tyres).”
Brawn refused to reveal who their rain shaman was, but a source within the team said that it was Wak Karim Seman, from Taiping, who is a regular amongst wedding planners in Perak.
“Taiping, as you know, is the wettest part of Malaysia,” said the source, who didn’t want to be named. “So you know this guy knows what he’s doing, keeping rain away when people want to have their outdoor kenduri.”
The source also said that the team is well aware of Pak Salim and Lotus Racing’s plans to utilise his skills.
“We’re not alone. I hear a few other teams have also hired rain doctors and shamans to protect themselves against Pak Salim. Some brought all the way from South America. But as for us, we’re ready for his tricks. He may be big in Kuala Selangor, but this is not Kuala Selangor. Let’s see if his rainclouds will stand against the power of Wak Karim’s Baling Baju Atas Bumbung magic. We’ll see.”