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. Saturday 25 April 2015

  2. Daly gets Schmidt seat for Indianapolis 14:29

    Daly gets Schmidt seat for Indianapolis

    Conor Daly will make a return to the Indianapolis 500 this year after signing a deal to race for Schmidt Peterson…

    Indy
  3. 14:20

    Latest FR3.5 photos: Saturday at Aragón

    FR 3.5
  4. Rowland wins FR3.5 opener at Aragón 14:18

    Rowland wins FR3.5 opener at Aragón

    Oliver Rowland claimed victory in the opening Formula Renault 3.5 race of the year at MotorLand Aragón despite not leading a…

    FR 3.5
  5. Hamilton named wealthiest UK sportsman 09:05

    Hamilton named wealthiest UK sportsman

    World Champion Lewis Hamilton has been named as the wealthiest sportsman in Britain in the Sunday Times Sport Rich List. The…

    F1
  6. Video of the Day: Alonso on F1 journey 05:16

    Video of the Day: Alonso on F1 journey

    McLaren-Honda driver Fernando Alonso discusses his Formula 1 journey with the BBC.

    F1
  7. Friday 24 April 2015

  8. 17:02

    Book F1 tickets and join the action live!

    F1
  9. Force India: Let teams choose tyre compounds 16:37

    Force India: Let teams choose tyre compounds

    Force India's Chief Operating Officer, Otmar Szafnauer, has suggested that teams should be allowed to select their two preferred…

    F1
  10. Video: Tour of Monaco with Sam Bird 15:37

    Video: Tour of Monaco with Sam Bird

    Sam Bird takes you through a lap of Monaco ahead of the upcoming ePrix in the principality on May 9.

    FE
  11. Van der Garde's manager downplays Manor talk 14:05

    Van der Garde's manager downplays Manor talk

    Giedo van der Garde's management team has played down talk of a return to Formula 1 with Manor Marussia, insisting that although…

    F1
  12. Marko: Ricciardo of same calibre as Vettel 11:35

    Marko: Ricciardo of same calibre as Vettel

    Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko has backed Daniel Ricciardo to lead the team's recovery, claiming that he is of the same calibre…

    F1
  13. Regalia, Comtec split after three days 10:22

    Regalia, Comtec split after three days

    Comtec Racing has been left without any drivers for the opening round of the Formula Renault 3.5 season, after its recent deal…

    FR 3.5
  14. Video of the Day: Sauber's ReSTART - Part 2 05:12

    Video of the Day: Sauber's ReSTART - Part 2

    Marcus Ericsson gets to know Sauber in the second part of the team's special inside documentary.

    F1
  15. Thursday 23 April 2015

  16. Verstappen eager for swift points return 18:03

    Verstappen eager for swift points return

    Max Verstappen is keen to return to the points when Formula 1 arrives in Europe next month. The Toro Rosso rookie scored his…

    F1
  17. Lotus invites fans to Brands filming day 17:30

    Lotus invites fans to Brands filming day

    Lotus has invited fans to watch from the trackside at its Brands Hatch filming event on Monday. Race drivers Romain Grosjean…

    F1
  18. Horner: No short-term fixes for Red Bull 14:11

    Horner: No short-term fixes for Red Bull

    Christian Horner has conceded that there will be no short-term fixes for Red Bull this season, as the squad continues to…

    F1
  19. Vettel becomes ADAC Formula 4 patron 12:18

    Vettel becomes ADAC Formula 4 patron

    Four-time Formula 1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel has been announced as a patron of the ADAC automobile club's new Formula 4…

    F1
  20. 10:41

    Photos: Red Bull's show run in Vienna

    F1
  21. Video: Ricciardo demos F1 car in Austria 10:36

    Video: Ricciardo demos F1 car in Austria

    Watch as Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo showcases the team's RB8 on the streets of Vienna, Austria.

    F1
  22. González set for IndyCar debut with Coyne 09:50

    González set for IndyCar debut with Coyne

    Ex-Formula 1 test driver Rodolfo González will make his IndyCar debut with Dale Coyne Racing at this weekend's Barber…

    Indy
  23. Video of the Day: Sauber's 'Ask the Driver' 05:06

    Video of the Day: Sauber's 'Ask the Driver'

    Sauber drivers Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr answer questions posed by fans of the team.

    F1
  24. Wednesday 22 April 2015

  25. De Vries eyes McLaren seat for 2017 20:59

    De Vries eyes McLaren seat for 2017

    McLaren young driver Nyck de Vries has set his sights on securing a race seat with the Honda-powered Formula 1 outfit for the…

    F1
  26. Video: Formula E – the season so far 14:32

    Video: Formula E – the season so far

    Relive the first half of the inaugural Formula E season, which produced six different winners in six races.

    FE
  27. Pirelli confirms tyres for next four races 12:39

    Pirelli confirms tyres for next four races

    Formula 1 tyre supplier Pirelli has named its compound nominations for the upcoming Spanish, Monaco, Canadian and Austrian…

    F1
  28. Pedrosa 'responding well' after surgery 11:33

    Pedrosa 'responding well' after surgery

    Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa says he is "responding well" after undergoing surgery for his persistent arm pump issues earlier…

    MotoGP
  29. 10:04

    Gallery: Best photos from the Bahrain GP

    F1
  30. Mark Sutton: Story Behind the Shot - Bahrain 09:14

    Mark Sutton: Story Behind the Shot - Bahrain

    Especially for lovers of motorsport photography, GPUpdate.net's race-by-race series, Story Behind the Shot, continues throughout…

    F1
  31. Video of the Day: Nico Rosberg's Bahrain blog 05:04

    Video of the Day: Nico Rosberg's Bahrain blog

    Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg answers questions posed by fans in his usual post-race video blog.

    F1
  32. Tuesday 21 April 2015

  33. Regalia switches to Comtec for FR3.5 opener 16:18

    Regalia switches to Comtec for FR3.5 opener

    Facu Regalia has confirmed that he will drive for Comtec Racing at this weekend's Formula Renault 3.5 Series opener at MotorLand…

    FR 3.5
  34. Video: Grand Prix of Long Beach highlights 14:09

    Video: Grand Prix of Long Beach highlights

    Watch the highlights from the third round of the IndyCar season at Long Beach, won by Scott Dixon.

    Indy
  35. Ecclestone casts further doubt on Monza 13:40

    Ecclestone casts further doubt on Monza

    Formula 1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone says that the future of Monza on the calendar remains uncertain, with its current deal expiring…

    F1
  36. Video: Ayrton Senna's first Formula 1 win 10:40

    Video: Ayrton Senna's first Formula 1 win

    Today marks 30 years since Ayrton Senna's maiden Formula 1 victory, when he dominated proceedings at a rain-soaked Estoril…

    F1
  37. Feature: Bahrain GP's key questions 10:12

    Feature: Bahrain GP's key questions

    In the build up to the Bahrain Grand Prix, GPUpdate.net posed five key questions and contemplated the potential outcomes.…

    F1
  38. Renault confident over permanent fixes 09:12

    Renault confident over permanent fixes

    Renault Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul says that the company will use the three week gap before the Spanish Grand Prix to…

    F1
  39. Video of the Day: Ecclestone on Formula 1 05:34

    Video of the Day: Ecclestone on Formula 1

    F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone discusses the current state of the sport with the BBC F1's Eddie Jordan.

    F1
  40. Monday 20 April 2015

  41. Bahrain Grand Prix: Winners and Losers 16:32

    Bahrain Grand Prix: Winners and Losers

    Lewis Hamilton claimed his third win of the year while Kimi Räikkönen took advantage of Nico Rosberg's late brake issue to…

    F1
  42. Manor Marussia 'proud' of flyaway efforts 13:18

    Manor Marussia 'proud' of flyaway efforts

    Manor Marussia team boss John Booth says the outfit can feel "justifiably proud" of its efforts over the opening four flyaway…

    F1
  43. Ricciardo onto fourth engine after failure 11:32

    Ricciardo onto fourth engine after failure

    Daniel Ricciardo will move onto his fourth power unit at next month's Spanish Grand Prix, after his dramatic final lap failure…

    F1
  44. Rossi wanted longer fight with Márquez 10:12

    Rossi wanted longer fight with Márquez

    Valentino Rossi says he was disappointed not to take his battle for victory with Marc Márquez in Argentina onto the final lap…

    MotoGP
  45. Arrivabene: Räikkönen back on form 09:42

    Arrivabene: Räikkönen back on form

    Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene declared that Kimi Räikkönen is officially back on form after his Bahrain Grand Prix…

    F1
more news