Our Formula 1 scribe previews this Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix, which is being raced at the Sepang International Circuit.
This weekend we travel from Beautiful Singapore, where drivers just had a tough race with accidents and mechanical problems aplenty, to Kuala Lumpur for the Malaysian Grand Prix. Drivers will be looking forward to really stretching their cars after the confines of Singapore. It is once again going to be a very physically demanding race as the weather conditions are extremely unpredictable, with torrential downpours capable of bucketing down at any moment. And extreme heat and humidity, which really put the driver’s endurance levels to the test. The track provides ample opportunity to score points and has a few good overtaking points, but this may all come to nothing if the weather doesn’t play ball.
The Singapore Grand Prix is known for always featuring a safety car. The drivers threw caution to the wind very early on in Singapore. Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz collided with Force India’s Nico Hülkenberg. This collision sending Hulkenberg into the wall minus a wheel and some bodywork and probably a head full of rage at being taken out this early. The safety car quickly came out of its hiding place and led the field for three laps. He then ducked into the pits so abruptly that a track marshal was still retrieving debris as race leader Nico Rosberg immediately powered down the front straight.
Luckily Rosberg avoided the pedestrian (who must have been unpleasantly surprised by the fact that he was now caught on a track with lots of speeding cars) on his way to a two-second lead over Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull, Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes-AMG Petronas, and Ferrari driver Kimi Räikkönen. On Lap eight, of the 61-lap race, Mercedes engineers gave a warning to the Mercedes boys, Rosberg and Hamilton about brake management. Rosberg shrugged it off and had no trouble until the waning laps of the race, his teammate inadvertently the cause.
Räikkönen got ahead of Hamilton on Lap 33 while Hamilton nursed his car. Trying to get Hamilton back in front of the Ferrari, Mercedes pitted Hamilton on lap 46 and also ordered him to turn his engine up. Ferrari debated and worried for a lap about whether to bring Räikkönen in; finally issuing an order to pit at the last second.
The Finn emerged behind Hamilton, however not everything was hunky dory as executing the trick to get Hamilton back into third gave Ricciardo some much-needed breathing room in second place. Red Bull brought Ricciardo in on lap 48 for a set of super soft Pirellis. Returning to the track 25 seconds behind Rosberg. Ricciardo cut from one to four seconds out of that gap on every lap. By Lap 59 the Aussie was little more than a second behind the German, which must have been making him sweat.
Had the race gone three more laps, Ricciardo might have pulled off the victory. This time, however, Rosberg stayed in front to win his third race in a row and his first victory in Singapore. Ricciardo and Hamilton completed the podium; Räikkönen claimed fourth.
Sebastian Vettel managed to scrape into an incredible fifth place after starting last. Max Verstappen, having lost places at the start due to wheelspin again, recovered for sixth. Fernando Alonso made the most of the drama bringing his McLaren home in seventh, ahead of Sergio Perez in the lone remaining Force India. A resurgent Daniil Kvyat in the Toro Rosso finished ninth while Kevin Magnussen secured Renault’s second points finish of the season.
To Win outright
Lewis Hamilton 1/1 | Nico Rosberg 27/20 | Daniel Ricciardio 11/1 | Sebastian Vettel 12/1 | Max Verstappen 14/1 | Kimi Raikkonen 28/1 | Sergio Perez 300/1 | Nico Hulkenberg 300/1
The Sepang Grand Prix is known as being the longest race of the year. With unpredictable weather conditions which often result in thunderstorms that make the already difficult track slick to drive on, this race is sure to be a doozy. With drivers racing 56 laps over a circuit length of 5.543km the total race distance is 310.408km of pure sweat and exhaust fumes. The track has 15 corners on it, with many of them being quite gentle turns. The long flat straights ensure drivers can overtake and keep the speed on. However, just when you think it’s safe the track will throw an incredibly sharp 90 degree turn at you, like the turn at corner 4, or corner 9.
The first DRS detection zone is between the gentle corners of 12 and 13 and as drivers round the 14th corner they hit a long straight which is the first DRS activation zone. Once they have rounded the 15th corner they are almost immediately hit with DRS activation zone 2 which ends just before they take corner number one.
Weather conditions here are known as being treacherous for the drivers and their cars with extreme heat and thunderstorms putting them through their paces. The weather for this weekend at the moment (may be subject to change) is looking rainy and humid. With the humidity factor reaching 66% for Friday and Saturday and 67% on race day. While the precipitation is around the 60% for Friday and 50% the rest of the weekend. Rain is predicted and we will probably see quite a wet track.
Fastest Qualifier: Lewis Hamilton 1/1
Hamilton will be wanting to start in a pole position for this race, as he needs a victory having fallen behind in points. Hopefully, he can repeat last year’s performance on the qualifying track when he claimed a pole position from Sebastian Vettel in a rain-soaked and dramatic Q3.
To Win Outright: Nico Rosberg 27/20
Nico has been having a string of good luck lately, winning his third race in a row in Singapore. He should come into this one full of confidence. He has had the upper hand on his teammate in recent months and I reckon that is set to continue in Malaysia.
Podium Finish: Daniel Ricciardo 66/100
Looking at how Ricciardo performed in Singapore, nearly snatching the victory right out of Rosberg’s hands, he is going to want to repeat that. So assuming his car holds up, this driver definitely has the skill to grab a podium finish.