Sepang: Heat, humidity and horsepower…

Sepang: Heat, humidity and horsepower…

20 March 2013 – Kimi Räikkönen’s victory in Australia certainly turned a few heads, with the Finn delivering a master class amid a plethora of questions about the pecking order. Five teams all capable of winning races? Not quite, but we’re still in line for a thriller of a Formula 1 season. And now, with the paddock rolling on to a hot and humid Malaysia, we should get an even clearer picture of the performance ladder.

Räikkönen was back to his best in Melbourne. Although Lotus found itself a little off the pace in qualifying, the situation changed on Sunday afternoon. The E20's impressive tyre management has clearly carried over to 2013, with the E21 showing even stronger capabilities in this area. While Räikkönen’s rivals were struggling to cope with three stops, he made a two-stop plan work and enjoyed ‘one of the easiest victories’ of his Formula 1 career. An ominous message for his rivals, perhaps?

Rain: a constant threat
Well, this is where it gets interesting. In theory, Malaysia’s baking heat should accentuate the advantage Lotus holds in terms of tyre degradation. If you were to place a bet, the Enstone team would be a wise choice in anybody’s eyes at this moment in time, but there’s one element that can change everything during the annual visit to Malaysia. Rain.

Let’s travel back 12 months. Fernando Alonso struggles to ninth on the grid in a troublesome Ferrari, 1.3 seconds adrift of pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton. Fast forward 24 hours and the unpredictable weather kicks in, with the Spaniard taking full advantage by storming to victory. We could see some real surprises if the heavens open again on race day.

One team banking on this factor is McLaren. While the likes of Räikkönen, Alonso and reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel got their title bids off to a strong start, the Woking-based squad is in a less-than-ideal position. I will put my hands up. I was definitely too positive about the team’s chances ahead of the season opener, but their struggles have even surprised former driver Lewis Hamilton, who played a key role in the development of the MP4-28 until he signed his Mercedes contract in September.

Jenson Button, who took home just two points in Australia, said of the situation: "I don’t think we can expect an improvement in our fortunes, but the thing about Malaysia is that it can be so unpredictable. We saw that last year, when Fernando won, and we know that the unpredictable weather can make it a lottery for everyone." If any team can transform a struggling car into a winner, it’s McLaren. Remember 2009?

Another outfit hoping for a vast improvement in performance is Williams. While Force India surged ahead in the expected midfield battle with a double points finish in Melbourne, the Grove-based team endured a Q1 exit and a one-car, non-points result. During practice it evaluated two aero packages, but clearly took the wrong direction. Ahead of Malaysia, Technical Director Mike Coughlan says a better setup route has been discovered with a view to scoring points. Only time will tell on that one.

Bianchi was an unsung hero on Melbourne's streets
A little further back, one of the most impressive Melbourne performances came from Jules Bianchi. The Marussia driver was in a class of his own compared to his direct rivals, finishing on the same lap as Williams man Valtteri Bottas and Sauber’s Esteban Gutiérrez plus a full tour ahead of Caterham pilot Charles Pic. In addition, the Frenchman posted the 11th fastest lap of the race, albeit on a late stint with the Super Soft tyres. It’s certainly an encouraging sign for Marussia as it bids to steal tenth place back.

In all areas of the grid, we have a fascinating Formula 1 campaign on our hands. Will Vettel, Alonso and Räikkönen be the trio at the top of the standings once again? Can Webber and Massa get back on terms with their team-mates? Is McLaren able to right the wrongs of its MP4-28 and join the lead battle? Will Force India keep Sauber and Williams at bay? And, is Marussia in with a genuine shot of casting Caterham aside? We will be one step closer to finding answers to all of these questions in Malaysia.

There are also two DRS zones at the venue for the first time... I can’t wait.

Mike Seymour
GPUpdate.net Editor

related

Comments

Latest News
Full
Compact

  1. Monday 8 February 2016

  2. Video of the Day: Palmer on F1 debut 05:26

    Video of the Day: Palmer on F1 debut

    Jolyon Palmer talks about his upcoming rookie Formula 1 season with the Renault works outfit.

    F1
  3. Sunday 7 February 2016

  4. Vasseur not fussed by F1 inexperience 14:26

    Vasseur not fussed by F1 inexperience

    Newly appointed Renault Racing Director Frédéric Vasseur says that his lack of experience in Formula 1 will not be a hindrance…

    F1
  5. Video: Buenos Aires ePrix highlights 11:22

    Video: Buenos Aires ePrix highlights

    Watch highlights from the fourth round of the 2015/16 Formula E season around the streets of Buenos Aires.

    FE
  6. Riders face sanctions for PR absences 10:22

    Riders face sanctions for PR absences

    MotoGP riders could face sporting penalties if they fail to participate in promotional events in 2016, the sport's Grand Prix…

    MotoGP
  7. Rossi positive over 2016 Manor prospects 09:12

    Rossi positive over 2016 Manor prospects

    Alexander Rossi says he remains positive that he can conclude a deal to remain in Formula 1 with the Mercedes-powered Manor team…

    F1
  8. Video of the Day: Magnussen back in F1 05:22

    Video of the Day: Magnussen back in F1

    Kevin Magnussen discusses his last-minute Formula 1 return with the revived Renault works team.

    F1
  9. Saturday 6 February 2016

  10. 19:58

    Formula E photos: Saturday at Buenos Aires

    FE
  11. Bird takes stunning Buenos Aires victory 19:57

    Bird takes stunning Buenos Aires victory

    Sam Bird controlled proceedings in Buenos Aires as he resisted a late attack from Sébastien Buemi to collect his first victory…

    FE
  12. Prost rules out F1 role with Renault 14:20

    Prost rules out F1 role with Renault

    Four-time World Champion Alain Prost has ruled out taking on a role with the Renault Formula 1 team as it prepares to return to…

    F1
  13. Profile: Renault Sport Academy members 11:02

    Profile: Renault Sport Academy members

    Amid its official launch earlier this week, Renault confirmed the return of its Driver Academy, which intends to unearth the…

    F1
  14. In photos: Kubica's Formula 1 career 09:02

    In photos: Kubica's Formula 1 career

    Five years ago today Robert Kubica suffered serious injuries which truncated his Formula 1 career. While he has returned to…

    F1
  15. Video of the Day: Making a street race 05:06

    Video of the Day: Making a street race

    Formula E highlights the preparation required for a street race ahead of Saturday's Buenos Aires ePrix.

    FE
  16. Friday 5 February 2016

  17. 19:11

    Book F1 tickets and join the action live!

    F1
  18. Renault pays tribute to axed Maldonado 19:05

    Renault pays tribute to axed Maldonado

    Renault has paid tribute to Pastor Maldonado, thanking him for "two years of loyal service", after the Venezuelan lost his seat…

    F1
  19. Video: Renault's 115 years of passion 16:22

    Video: Renault's 115 years of passion

    Renault marks its works Formula 1 return with this reflection on its 115-year involvement in motorsport.

    F1
  20. Booth, Lowdon enter WEC as Manor 15:23

    Booth, Lowdon enter WEC as Manor

    John Booth and Graeme Lowdon have announced that they are to enter the 2016 World Endurance Championship, in the LMP2 category…

    Misc
  21. MotoGP to introduce stewards' panel 14:08

    MotoGP to introduce stewards' panel

    MotoGP is set to introduce a dedicated stewards' panel to make calls on rider actions, following the controversial incident…

    MotoGP
  22. Hill: Rosberg to be stronger in 2016 13:08

    Hill: Rosberg to be stronger in 2016

    Damon Hill reckons the disappointment of finishing championship runner-up over the past two seasons will make Nico Rosberg a…

    F1
  23. Vasseur thanks Mercedes for Ocon deal 12:02

    Vasseur thanks Mercedes for Ocon deal

    Renault's new Racing Director, Frédéric Vasseur, has thanked Mercedes for allowing affiliated driver Esteban Ocon to join the…

    F1
  24. Video: Stoll on Renault's new chapter 11:02

    Video: Stoll on Renault's new chapter

    Renault Sport President Jérôme Stoll overviews the French manufacturer's latest motorsport era.

    F1
  25. Bell: Enstone 'starved of resources' 10:32

    Bell: Enstone 'starved of resources'

    Bob Bell says he is excited to play a role in the latest Renault works Formula 1 team, as he returns to an Enstone factory that…

    F1
  26. Kobayashi takes Wurz's Toyota WEC seat 09:13

    Kobayashi takes Wurz's Toyota WEC seat

    Kamui Kobayashi has taken Alexander Wurz's Toyota LMP1 seat for the 2016 World Endurance Championship season, after the…

    Misc
  27. Video of the Day: Argentinian racing legends 05:26

    Video of the Day: Argentinian racing legends

    Ahead of this weekend's Buenos Aires ePrix, Formula E looks at the greatest Argentinian racers.

    Misc
  28. Thursday 4 February 2016

  29. News on Schumacher's health 'not good' 16:58

    News on Schumacher's health 'not good'

    News on the health of seven-time Formula 1 World Champion Michael Schumacher is "not good", his former Ferrari boss Luca di…

    F1
  30. Ex-Ferrari engineer Dyer joins Renault 15:50

    Ex-Ferrari engineer Dyer joins Renault

    Former Ferrari chief engineer Chris Dyer has joined the recruiting Renault works team as Head of Vehicle Performance Group, the…

    F1
  31. Nato completes Racing Engineering line-up 14:08

    Nato completes Racing Engineering line-up

    Norman Nato has joined Racing Engineering for the 2016 GP2 season, completing the team's line-up. French racer Nato, 23, made…

    GP2
  32. Palmer: 'Immense potential' at Renault 13:36

    Palmer: 'Immense potential' at Renault

    Jolyon Palmer says that he sees "immense potential" at Renault in the coming seasons, as the French manufacturer embarks on its…

    F1
  33. Video: Bell on Renault technical role 12:02

    Video: Bell on Renault technical role

    Bob Bell discusses his new role as Renault's Chief Technical Officer as the 2016 season approaches.

    F1
  34. Stoner surprised himself with test mileage 10:31

    Stoner surprised himself with test mileage

    Casey Stoner has admitted that he surprised himself with the amount of mileage he was able to complete at this week's opening…

    MotoGP
  35. Lorenzo praises Michelin after first test 10:00

    Lorenzo praises Michelin after first test

    Reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo has praised new MotoGP tyre supplier Michelin for the apparent improvements it has made to…

    MotoGP
  36. F1 set to scrap power unit token system 09:37

    F1 set to scrap power unit token system

    Formula 1 is set to scrap its controversial power unit token development system from the 2017 season, in the wake of recent…

    F1
  37. Head protection given green light for 2017 09:22

    Head protection given green light for 2017

    Formula 1 chiefs are reportedly planning to introduce driver head protection for the 2017 season, following the latest round of…

    F1
  38. Vasseur confident over Renault drivers 07:25

    Vasseur confident over Renault drivers

    Renault's Racing Director, Frédéric Vasseur, has backed Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer to live up to the expectations of…

    F1
  39. Video of the Day: Abiteboul on Renault return 05:22

    Video of the Day: Abiteboul on Renault return

    Renault's Managing Director, Cyril Abiteboul, discusses the manufacturer's full-scale return to Formula 1.

    F1
  40. Wednesday 3 February 2016

  41. Toro Rosso STR11 passes crash tests 16:43

    Toro Rosso STR11 passes crash tests

    Toro Rosso has confirmed that its 2016 challenger, the Ferrari-powered STR11, has passed the FIA's mandatory crash tests…

    F1
  42. Jordá to stay on with Renault in 2016 16:29

    Jordá to stay on with Renault in 2016

    Carmen Jordá will play a role in Renault's new works Formula 1 team, the French manufacturer has confirmed, though her official…

    F1
  43. Video: Renault's works F1 team launch 16:12

    Video: Renault's works F1 team launch

    Relive the full presentation as Renault launches its Formula 1 programme for 2016 and beyond.

    F1
  44. Renault realistic over 2016 prospects 15:06

    Renault realistic over 2016 prospects

    Renault has vowed to stay realistic over its chances for the upcoming season, with the French manufacturer aware that it will…

    F1
  45. Magnussen 'can't believe' Renault chance 14:25

    Magnussen 'can't believe' Renault chance

    Kevin Magnussen says he "can't believe" that he will be racing for Renault in 2016 after concluding a last-minute deal with the…

    F1
  46. Rowland heads Renault Sport Academy 14:04

    Rowland heads Renault Sport Academy

    Reigning Formula Renault 3.5 champion Oliver Rowland will head Renault's new young driver scheme in 2016, as it plots its return…

    F1
more news