2014 Malaysian Grand Prix: Weekend Preview

The second race of the season is always an exciting one – After the thrilling opening round, the pecking order can often be established and the title favourites can often begin to emerge. We have been forced to wait even longer for round two this season, as Australia and Malaysia were not back to back opening rounds for the first time since 2006. However, with a number of on-going story-lines prompting intense debate, the time has flown by. So, who is looking good heading to Malaysia and who is on for a rough ride at Sepang?

Image Credit: Eriang87 (via Wikimedia Commons)

The Facts…

  • The Sepang International Circuit staged its first race in 1999, won by Ferrari’s Eddie Irvine. 
  • The circuit features 15 corners, (5 left handers and 10 right handers,) and is clockwise in direction. 
  • In 2009, the race was red flagged by the infamous Malaysian monsoons, with half points being awarded when a restart was not possible. Jenson Button won the race.
  • Of the 15 races, 8 have been won from Pole Position
  • Alex Yoong is the only Malaysian driver to take part in his home race. He competed with Minardi in 2002, yet failed to finish after a gearbox failure.

Rewind 12 Months…

An unbelievable Malaysian Grand Prix, described by David Croft as a “high speed game of chess” concluded in controversial fashion, as the Multi-21 fiasco tore Red Bull apart. Sebastian Vettel managed to take the win, at the expense of teammate Mark Webber, who had been told that his position was safe from Vettel behind. Subsequently, the Aussie turned the engine down and preserved the tyres, only to find that Sebastian was taking matters into his own hands. The total disregard for team orders meant that Vettel managed to fight his way past a furious Webber, however, his 27th career win was certainly an unsavoury one. 

Renault Braced For More Issues

“After a difficult race in Australia we are really looking forward to Malaysia,” Renault’s head of trackside operations, Remi Taffin, is quoted by ESPN as saying. All things considered, Australia was not as bed as it could have been for the French manufacturer. Daniel Ricciardo, (albeit illegally) finished in a strong P2 in the Renault powered Red Bull and the Toro Rosso team enjoyed one of their best weekends in their short history, with Jean Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat finishing P8 and P9. However, with both Lotus’ and Caterham’s failing to finish along with Sebastian Vettel, it was far from ideal. For the engine manufacturer who have one the last four World Championships, it was nothing short of disastrous. However, with the winter tribulations taken into consideration, Renault’s day in Melbourne went as well as could be expected.
However, this weekend will be the real test, not only for Renault, but for all the engine suppliers. With Malaysia typically being the most humid race of the season, the powertrains will suffer a real test – Bahrain was hot, yet the added humidity will cause increased headaches, (pardon the pun.) Taffin is evidently looking forward to this weekend, as it will demonstrate progress after their long and arduous winter.
“Sepang is one of the circuits whose technical requirements will change under the new regulations,” Taffin continued. “In the V8 era the circuit sat towards the middle of the table for the challenge it posed for engines but now it will be one of the toughest races of the year.”

Thunderstorms Forecast

Do we really expect anything else when Formula One visits Malaysia. The venue is notorious for the monsoon conditions which have frequently caused chaos in the past. Notable occasions include the freak storm in 2001, which caught a number of drivers out, including Ruberns Barrichello and eventual winner Michael Schumacher. In 2009, Jenson Button claimed one of the most bizarre victories ever, as the Brit claimed half points, after the race was red flagged and concluded prior to the 75% distance completed. While 2013 was a dry race, 2012 was another race that was red flagged due to an impromptu storm. However, it was soon back under-way, with Fernando Alonso taking a surprise victory.
While tomorrow should get under-way in dry conditions for FP1, heavy rain showers are expected for FP2. However, Saturday is meant to be an entirely wet affair, with rain anticipated for both FP3, with the heaviest rain predicted to fall in Qualifying. On Sunday, thunderstorms are anticipated in the morning, yet these are expected to clear by lights out. It wouldn’t be the Malaysian Grand Prix without a spot of precipitation, now would it.

Tributes to MH370

Malaysia has been a country heavily in the news of late, after the tragic disappearance of flight MH370. Teams will be paying tributes this weekend to the families who have suffered the most arduous of months. MH370 and the families effected will be in everyone’s thoughts this weekend.

Prediction Corner

After my successful race winner prediction in Australia, the pressure is on to make it two from two in 2014. However, with the tough conditions naturally adding a challenge in Malaysia, (and possibility of rain,) predicting a winner is yet again a difficult task. With Mercedes proving that their W05 is the ace in the pack, I predict a British win in the form of Lewis Hamilton. It could well be a second win for Nico Rosberg, but for the sake of the championship, a Hamilton win would be surly be welcomed. In what is likely to be a wet Qualifying session, Pole Position could go to anyone.         

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