Second Race of the season is what ideally is a proper season opener for many, It is one of the amazing circuits of the season, while there has been a lot of talk to improve the facilities of the circuit or the proposals to make it a night race, The Track has never been criticized. Sepang has a lot of history right from its inaugural race which saw both the Ferrari’s suspended due to technical irregularities or 2001 rainstorm that created havoc or even the late start in 2009 that resulted in race being suspended due to severe rain
“The track is beautiful to drive on; you really get to feel the sensation of a Formula One car” - Mark Webber
“The Malaysia Circuit is actually more difficult than it seems. It has big run off areas and a broad track, meaning it appears easy, but it's not.” - Sebastian Vettel
“Sepang is more of a high-speed circuit (than Melbourne), there are some fantastic sweeping corners here and, if the car’s working properly, it’s a real joy to drive. It’s one of the toughest circuits on the calendar because there’s a real range of corners, cambers, a couple of blind apexes and a little bit of gradient.” - Jenson Button
“I really love the circuit. It’s nice and wide, with fast flowing corners and a lot of undulation which makes it great fun to drive. The last corner is a tricky one,” - Romain Grosjean
“Sepang was one of the original ‘new world’ Formula One circuits and one that triggered the sport’s global expansion into Asia at the start of the millennium” - Martin Whitmarsh
With the praises on the circuit are on one side, The fear of facing the heat and the high humidity levels is a factor to reckon with for many.
“The obvious challenge facing everyone in Malaysia is how you cope with the heat.” - Mark Smith
“This is one of the hardest races for the team and the car as it is one of the hottest and most humid on the calendar. It will be a tough test for all of us” - Timo Glock
“It is a very tough track, very physical and the heat is a big issue in Malaysia. It will be important to get acclimated to the heat ahead of the weekend” - Bruno Senna
Most of the drivers work on the improving their fitness level over the course of the winter and for them Sepang is a test to see whether they have passed or failed in their fitness level expectations
McLaren proved a team to beat in Melboune and going by the Records, Sepang will certainly suit the characteristics of their car. While Jenson Button will be looking forward to keep the momentum he had at Melboune, Lewis will be all ready to prove his mettle. If everything goes well, A 1-2 for Mclaren is a likely bet.
Massa and Ferrari will be ready to see through the litmus test, The Qualifying in Melbourne was a low key affair to Ferrari and while Alonso’s fifth in the race can be a trump card. The Team at Ferrari knows there is a lot of work ahead and for them Sepang is a crucial race as it will determine the Team’s place in the pecking order, The Team has high amount of degradation and if the weather conditions are dry and normal, the high levels of temperature will surely dethrone the Ferrari and will be a dampener for any levels of performance boost that they will be expecting, Massa will be getting a new chassis in a bid to identify and solve the questions that was raised at Melbourne that included excessive tyre wear and pace difference off his teammate. A Top 8 finish in the race is what Ferrari should be looking at, Anything above that will come as a blessing in disguise
Lotus having set off some hype in the paddock during the pre season testing will be hoping to live up to the expectations.
“Malaysia is quite an aerodynamically demanding track and the Lotus looks good in that area” - Mark Webber
Kimi Raikkonen will be hoping for a better Qualifying Performance while Romian Grosjean would be keen to move on from his race debacle last week.
Eric Boullier has indicated that E20 should be competitive here and he feels the low tyre degradation will aid its cause.
“We think that the E20 should be competitive there. One of its bigger assets is very low tyre degradation. Considering the very hot conditions in Malaysia, this can only be a help” - Eric Boullier
Can Lotus upset the defending champions Red Bull and this year’s Title Favourite McLaren? We think the answer is ‘YES’
Vettel says that finding the ideal setup at Sepang requires lots of skill as there are two straights of almost a kilometre and the fast flowing corners would require some amount of downforce. Red Bull as many would speculate would go with the different strategy that would put them on Top in the middle sector, a place where both Mclaren and Mercedes would be defenseless. Webber looked strong and was close to his teammate and this weekend he would be hoping to go a step higher. A Win for the defending champs will be highly unlikely this time around.
One of the few teams to enjoy multiple home races in a season, Caterham would be hoping for improvement in terms of reliability. Having made a step up in their performance, they were amused by not getting a chance to finish in the opening race due to reliability issues, Although the midpack teams have made a step forward, Caterham are closer to them ever before. Heikki would be hoping to get into Q2, but it should be noted that he is carrying a penalty this weekend while Vitaly would be working on to getting accustomed in his new place.
Mercedes have long been stressing on the fact there car is not worth the hype, Their DRS which is coupled with F-Duct is a talking point in the paddock and the long straights in Sepang will add more fuel to story as there would be some more worried faces in the paddock, But Mercedes seems to have everything this season but their biggest concern should be the car itself, The W03 seems to suffers from higher amount of degradation and they should hope that this will not stand in there way to a long due podium finish
Force India coming to this race will have some off track worrying issues, They come off with just a point in Melbourne but should be hoping that VJM05 does well here. The amazingly close mid-field is a cause of of concern for the entire mid field pack as they know even small mistakes will be a key to scoring or losing few points, Paul di Resta should be hoping for improved qualifying while Hulkenberg will be doing all he can to collect more mileage
Sauber was the lucky team in the mid-field pack, They went with different strategy among others in the pack but both Kobayashi and Perez did well to back the Team, Considering how soft the Sauber is on the Tyres, Sepang should aid the team in scoring more points.
Williams were very unlucky, The results in Melboune don’t seem to support the cause and is not the reflection of where they stand. Maldonado believes they are not far off from Mclaren or Red Bull while stressing on the point that they are ahead of teams like Force India, Ferrari and Sauber. 10 points in Melboune as everyones knows is more then what they have done entire season in 2011. All Williams need is a bit of luck to flow their way.
"We were very close to (Red Bull's) Mark Webber in the first and second stints. I think we are faster than Ferrari, Sauber and Force India." - Pastor Maldonado
Nothing would delight a team then two match teammates, Vergne and Ricciardo took it all down to the last lap in Melbourne and it was Ricciardo who looked slightly just a few tenths stronger then his teammate in both qualifying and race.
Is the race experience of Ricciardo proving to be his trump card?
The bigger question for Toro Rosso will be to see what went wrong at Melbourne, Is that really where Toro Rosso stand? Have their nearest rivals made some huge march forward? This week will be a key for many answers that the sister Red Bull team would want
Marussia has really made a step forward compared to last year, but again this season they are behind their nearest rival, The question would be for how long?
The Technical reshuffle at Marussia worked in their favour. The Team has definitely made wonderful job compared to HRT having started off exactly in a similar fashion.
Luis Perez-Sala have admitted their season really starts in China, Sepang will add more woes to the struggling HRT Team as the weather conditions won’t be in their favor. The main objective of HRT drivers will be to put in more timed laps.
The bottom line is clear, Isn’t it?
If the weather is not to be blamed, Then this week, we will get a idea of the true pecking order,
Will the Tamed Ferrari add more insult to the injury?
Will the Mercedes get its long due podium?
Can the Red Bull beat the Ferrari?
The Answers to these questions are not far off!