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 30 March 2015

  2. 01:23

    Championship standings after Malaysia

    F1
  3. Sunday 29 March 2015

  4. Montoya outduels Power to take St. Pete victory 23:16

    Montoya outduels Power to take St. Pete victory

    Juan Pablo Montoya held off teammate and polesitter Will Power to win the season opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg…

    Indy
  5. Pedrosa reveals arm injury, considering future 22:30

    Pedrosa reveals arm injury, considering future

    Honda's Dani Pedrosa says he is considering his options after revealing that he has been suffering with an arm problem for over…

    MotoGP
  6. Rossi beats Dovizioso in Qatar thriller 19:51

    Rossi beats Dovizioso in Qatar thriller

    Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi claimed victory in the opening round of the MotoGP season in Qatar as he beat Ducati's Andrea…

    MotoGP
  7. Video: Will Power's record St. Pete lap 17:06

    Video: Will Power's record St. Pete lap

    Enjoy Will Power's record pole-winning lap for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

    Indy
  8. 16:02

    Latest F1 photos: Sunday at Sepang

    F1
  9. Räikkönen achieves 'maximum' after puncture 15:20

    Räikkönen achieves 'maximum' after puncture

    Kimi Räikkönen says fourth position was the best result possible after he sustained a puncture during the early stages of the…

    F1
  10. McLaren drivers say pace 'a nice surprise' 13:41

    McLaren drivers say pace 'a nice surprise'

    Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button say that McLaren-Honda's raw pace during the Malaysian Grand Prix came as "a nice…

    F1
  11. Verstappen delighted with maiden points 12:59

    Verstappen delighted with maiden points

    Toro Rosso rookie Max Verstappen expressed his satisfaction after becoming the youngest ever points scorer in Formula 1…

    F1
  12. Ferrari Chairman hails 'incredibly hard work' 12:44

    Ferrari Chairman hails 'incredibly hard work'

    Sergio Marchionne praised the "incredibly hard work" of his Ferrari team after Sebastian Vettel took victory in the Malaysian…

    F1
  13. Kvyat: Hülkenberg clash a racing incident 12:12

    Kvyat: Hülkenberg clash a racing incident

    Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat played down his contact with Force India rival Nico Hülkenberg during the Malaysian Grand Prix, which…

    F1
  14. Brake issues hampers Maldonado at Sepang 12:09

    Brake issues hampers Maldonado at Sepang

    Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado was forced to retire from the Malaysian Grand Prix with a brake issue, as his and the squad's…

    F1
  15. Rosberg wants improved communication 12:05

    Rosberg wants improved communication

    Nico Rosberg has urged Mercedes to improve communication after he came home a distant third in the Malaysian Grand…

    F1
  16. Merhi elated by maiden Formula 1 finish 11:54

    Merhi elated by maiden Formula 1 finish

    Formula 1 debutant Roberto Merhi expressed his joy after he was able to finish his first ever race in the sport as he came home…

    F1
  17. Hamilton: Ferrari too fast for us today 11:42

    Hamilton: Ferrari too fast for us today

    Lewis Hamilton has admitted that Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari were simply "too fast" to deal with during the Malaysian Grand…

    F1
  18. Sepang extends Formula 1 deal to 2018 11:22

    Sepang extends Formula 1 deal to 2018

    Sepang will continue to play host to the Malaysian Grand Prix after organisers agreed a new deal to remain on the Formula 1…

    F1
  19. Vettel 'speechless' after first Ferrari win 11:16

    Vettel 'speechless' after first Ferrari win

    Sebastian Vettel said claiming his first victory for Ferrari during Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix initially left him lost for…

    F1
  20. 09:59

    In full: Malaysian Grand Prix race result

    F1
  21. Vettel breaks Mercedes run with Sepang win 09:54

    Vettel breaks Mercedes run with Sepang win

    Sebastian Vettel claimed his first victory for Ferrari as the team pulled off a two-stop strategy to beat Mercedes, which had…

    F1
  22. 07:46

    Follow the Malaysian Grand Prix live!

    F1
  23. Dennis hopeful of European turning point 07:32

    Dennis hopeful of European turning point

    Ron Dennis is optimistic that McLaren-Honda will find itself in a much stronger position when the Formula 1 paddock arrives in…

    F1
  24. Stevens unable to race amid technical trouble 07:18

    Stevens unable to race amid technical trouble

    Will Stevens is unable to start this afternoon's Malaysian Grand Prix, with Manor Marussia failing to resolve the technical…

    F1
  25. 06:32

    Revised starting grid for the Malaysian GP

    F1
  26. Video of the Day: Backstage with Sauber 04:22

    Video of the Day: Backstage with Sauber

    Go behind-the-scenes during Sauber's pre-season filming day at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

    F1
  27. Saturday 28 March 2015

  28. Power starts title defence with pole, track record 21:47

    Power starts title defence with pole, track record

    Will Power stormed to pole for the season-opening round of the Verizon IndyCar Series on Saturday, setting a new track record in…

    Indy
  29. Dovizioso takes pole for Ducati in Qatar 18:21

    Dovizioso takes pole for Ducati in Qatar

    Andrea Dovizioso emphasised Ducati's progress over the winter as he claimed the third pole position of his MotoGP career at the…

    MotoGP
  30. 18:17

    Latest F1 photos: Saturday at Sepang

    F1
  31. Massa frustrated by Williams' wet pace 18:14

    Massa frustrated by Williams' wet pace

    Felipe Massa expressed his frustration that Williams is still "too slow" in wet conditions, after a rain-hit qualifying session…

    F1
  32. Montagny suspended by FIA until end of 2016 16:36

    Montagny suspended by FIA until end of 2016

    Franck Montagny has been suspended by the FIA's Anti-Doping Committee until December 2016, after he tested positive for…

    Misc
  33. Ricciardo: Fourth a 'good result' for Red Bull 14:00

    Ricciardo: Fourth a 'good result' for Red Bull

    Daniel Ricciardo was pleased with Red Bull's performance during qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix after a difficult…

    F1
  34. Formula E unveils shortened Monaco layout 13:20

    Formula E unveils shortened Monaco layout

    Organisers of the Monaco ePrix have unveiled the layout for the race which will take place on May 9. The 12-turn 2.76km…

    FE
  35. Rosberg 'annoyed' by qualifying display 12:46

    Rosberg 'annoyed' by qualifying display

    Nico Rosberg has conceded that he "didn't drive well enough" during Saturday's rain-hit qualifying session for the Malaysian…

    F1
  36. Verstappen happy with first Q3 appearance 12:43

    Verstappen happy with first Q3 appearance

    Max Verstappen declared himself happy after he equalled father Jos' best Formula 1 qualifying performance by setting the sixth…

    F1
  37. Vettel reckons Sepang victory is possible 12:29

    Vettel reckons Sepang victory is possible

    Sebastian Vettel believes that he can fight for victory in the Malaysian Grand Prix, after securing a place on the front row of…

    F1
  38. Grosjean dropped two places for pit infringement 11:59

    Grosjean dropped two places for pit infringement

    Lotus driver Romain Grosjean has been handed a two-place grid penalty for a pit lane infringement during Saturday's qualifying…

    F1
  39. Both Manor Marussia drivers allowed to race 11:46

    Both Manor Marussia drivers allowed to race

    Manor Marussia's Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens have been granted permission to race in the Malaysian Grand Prix, despite…

    F1
  40. Hamilton relieved to make first lap count 11:41

    Hamilton relieved to make first lap count

    Lewis Hamilton spoke of his relief after his first timed lap in the top 10 shootout in Malaysia proved marginally fast enough…

    F1
  41. 10:38

    Malaysian Grand Prix: Qualifying results

    F1
  42. Hamilton grabs pole in rain-hit qualifying 10:37

    Hamilton grabs pole in rain-hit qualifying

    Lewis Hamilton took his second successive pole position during a rain-hit qualifying session for the Malaysian Grand Prix…

    F1
  43. Button hails 'massive step' with Honda engine 10:17

    Button hails 'massive step' with Honda engine

    Jenson Button says McLaren engine supplier Honda has taken a "massive step" in the right direction at the Malaysian Grand…

    F1
more news