2012 Malaysian Grand Prix
Table of Contents
A regular fixture on the Formula 1 calendar since 1999, the Sepang circuit was the first of the government-funded, Hermann Tilke-designed venues that now prevail in the sport.
Several high-speed changes of direction, coupled with long straights and tight hairpins, make the 5.543km track a thorough workout. Good car balance is vital and it’s no coincidence that the winner of the Malaysian Grand Prix has gone on to win the world title for the past three seasons.
The heat and humidity of the tropics add another dimension to this race. Blistering track and ambient temperatures make it hard on tyres, tough on drivers and one of the most physically difficult races for all F1 personnel.
|Race distance||56 laps (192.879 miles / 310.408kms)|
|Start time||16:00 (local)/08:00 (GMT)|
|Circuit length||5.543km/3.444 miles|
|2011 winner||Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing) 56 laps in 1hr 37m 39.382s (190.699km/h)|
|2011 pole||Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing) 1m34.870s (210.338km/h)|
||Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams FW26) 1m34.223s (211.782km/h)|
|McLaren at the Malaysian Grand Prix|
|Wins||2 (2003, 2007)|
|Fastest laps||4 (2000, ’01, ’05, ’07)|
Car 3: Jenson Button
Age 32 (January 19 1980)
Victory in Australia was the best possible way to start the season – how do you feel going in to Malaysia?
“Calm, refreshed and feeling extremely positive. After the race, people asked me if we’d expected to demonstrate the pace that we did in Australia, and I tell them that it was unexpected. Of course, we’d done our sums after winter testing, but you can never be certain whether another team is running with high-fuel or hiding their true pace. So to come away from race one with such a positive result – Vodafone McLaren Mercedes took pole, fastest lap and the victory – is a huge relief for the organisation.
“But it’s also incredibly motivating: we know we have a great car but we’re not going to sit still with it. We have ambitious plans to develop the car and I know that everybody back at Woking is working hard to bring new components to the track, and that all our mechanics and engineers are flat-out to ensure that we maximise the package that we have this weekend. I think everybody knows that we are a relentless organisation; we can develop a car as well – if not better than – any other team. The difference this year is that we’ve started with a winning package; the challenge will be to maintain that, and I know that’s something we’re all really looking forward to doing.”
You won Malaysia in 2009, and you finished second here last year – is it a circuit you like?
“It is. It’s 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. If the car’s working against you, then it becomes painful, but when it’s all switched on, it’s just a great, great circuit to drive.
“I think we’ve got a car that really works well in the high-speed stuff – we saw that throughout winter testing. So I think the challenge this weekend will be to find the right balance – at this stage in the year, you’re still learning about the car and how to get the best from it. But I think the engineers understand how our car is strong – I know they’re really looking forward to extracting the maximum from it in Sepang this weekend.”
Your victory in Australia was relatively unflustered, are you expecting a stronger challenge this weekend?
“As we said repeatedly throughout last year, and we saw time and again with Sebastian [Vettel], if you can qualify strongly and get away cleanly then it’s much easier to control the field, to race cleanly and to get a representative result.
“I think the race showed that there are several top teams in Formula 1, and I think we can expect them to be fighting for victory in Malaysia. Both Red Bull drivers were very quick in the race, and I think we can expect further strong challenges from Mercedes AMG and Lotus this weekend.
“Of course, we’re not relaxing – and we go to Malaysia ready for a strong fight.”
Car 4: Lewis Hamilton
Age 27 (January 7 1985)
After Australia, you said you weren’t sure how you’d lost pace relative to Jenson: do you now understand that, and does that put you in a good position for Malaysia?
“Yeah, after the race in Australia, it was difficult to understand exactly what happened. I was generally happy with the car all weekend, but just lacked a bit of pace compared to Jenson in the race. Afterwards, I sat down with my engineers and we went through all the data. There was a small issue with the clutch at the start: it wasn’t my fault, but we now understand and know how to improve in the future. My race pace was pretty much identical to Jenson’s, but he was able to switch the tyres on extremely well, which explains how he was able to pull a gap so quickly at the start and also after the restart.
“It’s encouraging and reassuring to understand the reasons for our race pace in Australia, and it puts me in a really positive frame of mind for the race in Malaysia. Plus, it always helps to be back in the car only five days after the last grand prix – you move on so quickly.”
You’ve never won in Malaysia – does that make you more intent to tick it off your list?
“It’s never really something you’re particularly conscious of during the race weekend, but I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’d love to win a grand prix at every circuit I race at. You’re right, I’ve not won at Sepang before, but I’ve had some good races here – and I’d like to put the record straight with a victory this weekend.
“I think we go into the weekend feeling pretty optimistic because Sepang is quite a high-speed circuit and our car has usually gone well in the high-speed stuff during winter testing. Sepang will also be a test because of the high temperatures, but we’ve traditionally been able to manage the cooling on our car quite well, so I don’t think that will be too much of a concern.
“Physically, it’s always a tough race, but we’re improving the organisation in every area, and I think we’ve taken some interesting steps this year to ensure the whole team will be better prepared for the heat and humidity.”
Will we get a clearer picture of overall pace this weekend?
“Clearly, we’re very encouraged by our pace, both in qualifying and in the race, and I’d like to think we can continue that at Malaysia this weekend. I think both Mercedes AMG and Red Bull Racing have performance up their sleeves, and they’ll both be very fast in qualifying and the race. As far as Vodafone McLaren Mercedes is concerned, it’s nice to be the hunted rather than the hunter, which has been the case in the past few seasons.
“But I know how well our team can respond – the result in Australia will only double everyone’s resolve. The development race has already started and we’ll be pushing like crazy to stay at the front. I think Malaysia will add detail to the overall picture, but it’s the pace of development – between ourselves, Red Bull, Mercedes, Lotus and Ferrari – that will define the course of the season.”
Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
“Everybody within Vodafone McLaren Mercedes was tremendously buoyed by our performance in Melbourne last weekend. As we all know, a Formula 1 winter is incredibly tense as it’s almost impossible to know if the targets you’ve set internally will set the standard or leave you wanting.
“Happily, we were delighted to discover that MP4-27 has been successfully developed into a race-winning package – and that’s a source of huge pleasure, and huge relief, for the whole team.
“Of course, nobody sits still in Formula 1 and we head to Malaysia mindful that we’ll once again receive a stern challenge from our closest rivals – most notably Red Bull Racing and Mercedes AMG, both of whom will have points to prove this weekend.
“Sepang was one of the original ‘new world’ Formula 1 circuits and one that triggered the sport’s global expansion into Asia at the start of the millennium. I’m pleased that it remains a mainstay of the calendar, but also that it has developed a character and history of its own. It’s an extremely demanding circuit – on both the cars and the drivers – and a real challenge.
“We’ve enjoyed some highs and lows here, but I think we’re all looking forward to understanding how this unique season will continue to unwind this weekend.”
How McLaren defined seven days in the history of the Malaysian Grand Prix
1. October 17 1999
Mika Hakkinen finishes third in the inaugural Malaysian Grand Prix, frustrated by Ferrari’s bid to keep Eddie Irvine in the title hunt by using Michael Schumacher to control the race. Mika wraps up the title two weeks later in Suzuka.
2. October 22 2000
A brilliant race by David Coulthard sees him finish second, just 0.7s behind Michael Schumacher. Mika finishes fourth, sealing McLaren’s second place in the constructors’ championship.
3. March 23 2003
Kimi Raikkonen’s first win in Formula 1. The youngster charges from seventh on the grid to win by a mighty 39s from Ferrari’s Rubens Barrichello – it is the first of the Finn’s 18 grand prix wins.
4. March 20 2005
McLaren don’t win this race, but the pace of Raikkonen’s MP4-20 is astounding. After suffering a mid-race puncture, he blasts back through the field to finish ninth, setting fastest lap.
5. April 8 2007
Fernando Alonso’s first win for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. He leads home Lewis Hamilton in a dominant one-two for the team. It’s a great race for Lewis too, who outfoxes Felipe Massa in a tense early battle and sets his first fastest lap in F1.
6. April 5 2009
Light rain starts to fall on lap 22 and the subsequent deluge results in the race being stopped on lap 31. It isn’t re-started due to failing light, so half-points are awarded. Lewis is the first Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver home in seventh place.
7. April 10 2011
Jenson Button starts fourth and, exhibiting the maturity and long-sightedness that is to define his season, looks after his tyres to take a tenacious runner-up position – his first podium of the year.
|Sepang International Circuit Specifications|
|Pit straight length:||927m|
|Race length:||56 laps/310km|
|Number of corners:||15|
|Longest section at full throttle:||11.0s/927m|
|Full throttle:||67% of lap|
|Gearchanges per lap:||57|
|Average ambient temperature:||34°C|
|Average track temperature:||40°C|
|Weather:||Hot, humid, chance of rain|
|Circuit type:||Permanent grand prix facility|
|Landscape:||Palm oil plantations, Selangor|
|1||4||Lewis Hamilton||Vodafone McLaren Mercedes||1:38.021||19|
|2||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:38.535||0.514||21|
|6||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:39.092||1.071||20|
|8||11||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:39.298||1.277||23|
|9||3||Jenson Button||Vodafone McLaren Mercedes||1:39.323||1.302||15|
|10||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:39.440||1.419||19|
|24||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||1:45.528||7.507||18|
|1||4||Lewis Hamilton||Vodafone McLaren Mercedes||1:38.172||28|
|3||3||Jenson Button||Vodafone McLaren Mercedes||1:38.535||0.363||30|
|7||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:39.133||0.961||29|
|10||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:39.402||1.230||25|
|12||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:39.464||1.292||26|
|13||11||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:39.625||1.453||20|
|24||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||1:43.823||5.651||22|
Sepang, Friday March 23
P1 programme 19 laps 1m38.021s 1st
P2 programme 28 laps 1m38.172s 1st
“It’s been a good day for me. We’ve made a few changes to the balance of the car since the last race and I’m much happier – but we’ll still be making changes to improve our long-run pace, which can always be better.
“I’m working as hard as I can to have as good a qualifying set-up as my race set-up and I think we’ve got a bit more of an understanding of how the car works on heavy fuel. I went wide a couple of times on my long run in P2, and looking after the tyres will be a tough call in the race – so it’s all about finding the right balance.
“Around here, overtaking will be a little more possible than in Melbourne. Nevertheless, starting from the front will still be the best position for the race, and that’s what I’ll be going for tomorrow.
“We’ve got to keep pushing, stay hydrated and remain focused – there’s a lot of hard work ahead.”
P1 programme 15 laps 1m39.323s (+1.302s) 9th
P2 programme 30 laps 1m38.535s (+0.363s) 3rd
“The morning was a little frustrating: we had an oil leak which cut my session short, but it didn’t really matter as the track was still dirty.
“In the afternoon, I did some positive running on both tyre compounds – I think we have a good understanding of the tyre. But it’s going to be tough on both compounds around here with all the humidity and the heat. I think the race will be tough for all of us – unless the circuit improves a great deal, there’s going to be quite a few stops on Sunday!
“We want a good race car, but the aim for tomorrow is pole – you make your life a lot easier if you start from pole position, so we’re putting a lot of work into single-lap performance.”
Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
“I think Mercedes AMG look very strong and I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Red Bull Racing just yet – as usual, we expect them to be competitive. However, we weren’t too displeased with today’s running – relative performance doesn’t look too different from what we saw in Melbourne.
“We feel reasonably competitive – our car seems to respond well to changes and it’s predictable, too. Both Jenson and Lewis found the car to be generally consistent despite the gusty conditions, but Sepang is a much more challenging circuit than Albert Park so we’ll carry on working to improve the balance for qualifying tomorrow.
“I think we’re in for an exciting championship – a number of teams look extremely competitive and we’re going to have another close race this weekend.”
|2||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:37.320||0.443||15|
|3||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:37.338||0.461||12|
|6||3||Jenson Button||Vodafone McLaren Mercedes||1:37.404||0.527||12|
|9||4||Lewis Hamilton||Vodafone McLaren Mercedes||1:37.776||0.899||8|
|14||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:38.285||1.408||16|
|17||11||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:38.794||1.917||18|
|23||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||1:42.464||5.587||14|
149th pole for McLaren
70th pole for McLaren-Mercedes
24th pole for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
21st pole for Lewis
2nd front-row lock-out of 2012
1st pole for Lewis in Malaysia
9th 1m37.776s 8 laps
Q1 6th 1m37.813s (on Primes)
Q2 5th 1m37.106s (on Options)
Q3 1st overall 1m36.219s (on Options)
“Qualifying is an intense experience and, as drivers, we all put a huge amount of pressure on ourselves, but it’s probably the part of the race weekend I most enjoy.
“On my quickest lap in Q3, I lost a little time in the final corner– maybe a tenth and a half – so it’s massively encouraging to still be in the position I’m in. It’s great for the team to have another one-two, too: that’s a huge achievement from everybody, but we just need to make sure we keep pushing because the guys behind us won’t give up.
“Tomorrow, there’s a long haul down to Turn One, but I’ll be making sure to get a good launch and stay ahead cleanly. Anyway, the key will be to look after your tyres in the race – they’ll have a tough time, especially on 150kg of fuel. But we’ve hopefully got a car that has better race pace than it does qualifying pace.
“It’s been a good weekend for the team so far, but we’ll keep pushing massively for another strong result tomorrow.”
6th 1m37.404s (+0.527s) 12 laps
Q1 3rd 1m37.575s (on Primes)
Q2 2nd 1m36.928s (on Options)
Q3 2nd overall 1m36.368s (on Options)
“Qualifying has been pretty good to me in the last two races. We’ve worked well as a team, and it’s always nice when your engineer cues up on the radio at the end of Q3 and you can hear all the mechanics in the background cheering.
“I was pretty happy with my quick lap but it’ll be a long, hot afternoon tomorrow so I’ll be working hard to ensure I’m properly prepared and hydrated for the race.
“This place is so physically tough – not just on the cars and drivers, but it’s tough on the mechanics too – they’re wearing fireproof racesuits during the pitstops, which people often forget, so hopefully they’re fit and ready for some strong pitstops tomorrow. For the strategists too, the heat and humidity are so high that you really don’t know how the tyres will work and what strategies will best play out in the race. We’ve really got to be on your toes.
“Anyway, the most important thing is that we’re on the front row. It’s a long race tomorrow – I think anybody in the top four has a chance of winning this race, but our long-run pace in practice was reasonably consistent and I think we’ve got a lot of confidence as a team in what we’re doing.”
Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
“Today was very close and very tough. Lewis did a fantastic first lap in Q3 and Jenson pulled it out of the bag at the very end of the session – both drivers did a fantastic job under huge pressure.
“Lewis could probably have found another tenth on his fastest run, but he wasn’t going to take any risks at the end. Jenson and Lewis are free to race into the first corner. After last weekend, I’m sure that Lewis will want to come out of the first corner in the lead, but it’s a long and difficult race ahead of both of them tomorrow.
“I’m proud of every person in the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team – the front row is a good place to be, but the odds are very finely stacked: we’ll have a fight on our hands tomorrow, that’s for sure.”
Fastest lap 1m41.539s (+0.817s, 6th)
Pitstops Three: laps 5, 14 and 41 (Inter-Full Wet-Inter-Op)
Points 30 (2nd)
“This was a tough but fascinating race – firstly, I want to offer my congratulations to Fernando [Alonso] and Sergio [Perez] – they both drove great races and did a fantastic job.
“It was pretty eventful race: it was difficult trying to judge the best time to change from Extreme Wets to Intermediates, and we were probably a little late on that – but that’s how it goes sometimes.
“Today wasn’t perfect – making the call for slicks is always a risk, and the others went a bit earlier than us. In general, we lost some time in the pitstops and I was pushed out of the fight somewhat. But, all in all, it’s been a positive weekend and I’m not too frustrated. My aim for this season was always to be consistent – I did it in 2007 so I’m trying to repeat that!
“A big thanks to Lucozade for doing such a great job with the new race hydration formulations this weekend – they’ve really made a difference in such a hot and humid climate. For me, the next races will be all about converting our really strong qualifying pace into equally strong race pace – that’s what I’ll be working in the few weeks ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix.”
Fastest lap 1m42.100s (+1.378s, 14th)
Pitstops Five: laps 4, 13, 15, 24 and 39 (Inter-Full Wet-Inter-Inter
(& front wing change)-Inter-Op)
2011 points 25 (3rd)
“Today was a pretty difficult day; pretty much everything that could have gone wrong in the race did go wrong. And that’s just one of those things – a lot of my issues were brought on when I wiped my front wing off at the start: I locked up the rears, couldn’t slow the car down and hit Karthikeyan, which was a bit frustrating. So I had to pit for a new nose, and that was pretty much it.
“And it’s always going to be tough when you’re down in 14th or 15th position. All the cars were so close and it was difficult to overtake, too. That made it very difficult.
“Big congratulation to Fernando, Sergio and Lewis, who scored more good points for the team – but it just wasn’t a good day for me today. The amazing thing is that I’m still third in the championship after not scoring any points!
“This wasn’t really the result I wanted – but, hey, chin up: we’ll move forwards and hopefully have a much better weekend in China!”
Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
“Today certainly wasn’t the day I was expecting! Firstly, this was a terrific race for Ferrari and a great result for Sauber – congratulations to both teams. It’s frustrating for us, as the race didn’t really go our way, but today’s result is great for the sport of Formula 1.
“For Jenson, it was simply a bad day in the office – losing a front wing in tricky conditions was always going to make it a hard afternoon for him.
“Lewis was somewhat unlucky, too: Ferrari’s ‘double-shuffle’ pitstop meant we were obliged to hold Lewis in his pitbox longer than we would have liked, but that’s motor racing. Nevertheless, he brought home some extremely valuable world championship points – his 15 points today consolidate Vodafone McLaren Mercedes’ position at the top of the constructors’ championship.
“Today’s conditions were always going to represent something of a roll of the dice. We didn’t quite manage everything today, and we’ll go back and analyse our performance, but in normal dry conditions we’ve shown that we’ve got decent pace. There’s a long season ahead, and with one victory and two strong podium positions, we can return to Europe extremely encouraged about the forthcoming races.”