Welcome to the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix, sponsored by Petronas. Off the back of last weekend’s race at Albert Park, the Formula One fraternity heads to the Sepang circuit, outside of Kuala Lumpur, in the hope of rectifying their mistakes at Albert Park. Kimi Raikkonen and Lotus will be looking to fight for the top step again at Sepang and – if their tyre degradation rates are as strong here as in Melbourne – they’ll be in a good seat to try and do a repeat.
Previous winners of the Grand Prix include Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. As with Albert Park, all the drivers on the current grid who have won at this venue are also World Champions.
Pirelli have announced they will be supplying the medium and hard compound tyres for the weekend. Though the medium compound had its debut in Australia, this will be the first race weekend outing for the orange “hard” tyres.
These compounds were chosen for last year’s Malaysian Grand Prix and the most competitive strategy was a three-stopper.
Paul Hembery said about the weekend,
Last year three stops proved to be the winning strategy in a mixed wet and dry race, with a thrilling finish between Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez that was all about tyres. We’d expect three stops again but once more it’s likely to be weather that dominates the action. Even when it isn’t raining, the drivers can expect humidity in the region of 80% and ambient temperatures of more than 30 degrees centigrade.
Drag Reduction System
For the Malaysian Grand Prix, the two DRS zones available to the drivers throughout practice and qualifying, as well as selectively throughout the race, will be available on the front and back straights. See the image below for further clarification.
The team from Milton Keynes will be disappointed not to have come away from Melbourne with a victory under their belt. The team looked supreme in qualifying, but their degradation rates in the race left them fighting for the bottom place on the podium. Vettel will be hoping the warmer weather in Malaysia levels the playing field whilst Webber can only hope for a working ECU this time around.
Ferrari were happy with their performance on Sunday, their two drivers coming second and fourth in a car that they have admitted is not the fastest on the grid. Ferrari won’t be able to rely on their driver’s craftiness all season, th0ugh, and will need quick updates when they get to Europe. The Italian squad will be hoping the warmer conditions suit their needs more this time around.
Melbourne was a disaster for the English squad. Barely scraping into Q3, two points at the end of the race will not sit well with the board members in Woking. With few updates being brought out for any team for the ‘flyaway’ races, expect McLaren to struggle again in Sepang.
Off the back of a brilliant win, Lotus will be looking to repeat their performance this weekend. While Raikkonen made the victory look easy, Romain Grosjean went against his regular style and had a decidedly careful race. A single point compared to his team-mate’s 25 is not an acceptable result and the Frenchman will need to be much closer to Raikkonen’s performance in Malaysia. As for Kimi? He’ll not need any help performing a carbon-copy of his Australian success.
After a strong qualifying performance by Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes will be a little disappointed to have come away with only a fifth position to show for it. Reliability issues struck again in Melbourne and won’t help the team in their quest to fight at the front. This is their title sponsor’s race and there’ll be extra pressure on the silver cars in Kuala Lumpur. Neither Hamilton or Rosberg have won at this venue before – and it’s not looking likely they’ll do it this year.
Sauber had a disappointing race in Melbourne. Hulkenberg failed to start the event and Gutierrez had a very careful 58-lap run. The car made it to the chequered flag, but that’s not going to buy the team any favour with potential sponsors. Hulkenberg should be back behind the wheel for the green lights this time around and the team will need to act quickly to catch Force India’s ten-point lead.
Sutil showed the car had massive potential if the tyres could be conserved properly. His comeback race showed he had lost nothing in his year away from the sport and one can only expect he’ll do a repeat performance in Sepang. di Resta looked decidedly average compared to his team-mate in Melbourne, but he’ll be looking to reverse that order this weekend. With rain predicted all weekend long, this will be a good opportunity for Force India to jump a few places on the grid.
Williams struggled throughout the weekend in Australia. Maldonado claimed the car was “undrivable” and Bottas finished an anonymous 14th position. With the team demanding an investigation into the car’s sudden lack of competitiveness, the squad should climb further up the order come the European season. As for Malaysia, don’t expect miracles.
The STR duo showed the STR8 was no slouch on Saturday morning in the wet. On race day, Vergne was regularly fighting for points-paying positions while Ricciardo suffered mechanical woes for the whole event. With rain expected this weekend, don’t rule out the STR drivers causing an upset amongst the front-runners.
Caterham’s home race doesn’t look as if it’s going to provide any positive outcomes for the team. They look decidedly slower than Marussia and it won’t be easy to claw back the deficit they have started with. With Pic and van der Garde not looking particularly comfortable in the CT03, expect the team’s home race to be a trying affair.
Albert Park was a big step forward for Marussia. They qualified well ahead of Caterham and Bianchi secured the 11th-fastest lap of the race. They’re still well behind points-paying positions, but 2013 looks to be their best shot yet at getting a score on the board. With rain predicted for the weekend, one can never guess what could happen from the bottom of the order.
Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton)
Touch down Kuala Lumpur!! First time to the city, excited to be here!! pic.twitter.com/zpFSmfOXq7
Kimi Raikkonen (@KimiRaikkonen)
Good to be back.
Daniel Ricciardo (@DanielRicciardo)
Yesterday sucked pretty bad. Tyre blanket probs were the reason for poor first few laps. Like driving on ice. Then exhaust problem to end it.