2016 Malaysian Grand Prix – preview
THE DRIVERS ON: THE CIRCUIT
"I’m looking forward to heading back to Malaysia after 18 months since the last race there. It’ll be interesting to see how the cars cope on the newly-resurfaced track, and I imagine the weather conditions will be different from our last visit. Still, we expect it to be a tough race in the heat and humidity, but there’s a good combination of slow and high-speed corners and fast straights, so it has a little bit of everything.
"It tests every part of the package, and the driver too, so hopefully there’ll be some close racing and an entertaining weekend for the fans."
"Sepang is becoming a modern classic – although it’s a relatively new circuit, it’s one of those tracks that drivers enjoy going back to. The conditions are like nothing else we experience, the circuit is quite technical and fun to drive, and the atmosphere is always great. Although it’s traditionally seen as a high-speed circuit which isn’t usually something that our package favours, we do have a good car under braking which is necessary to handle the tight corners after the long, fast straights."
|2015 winner||Sebastian Vettel, 56 laps, 1:41:05.793s|
|2015 pole position||Lewis Hamilton, 1m49.834s|
|2015 fastest lap||Nico Rosberg, 1m42.062s (lap 43)|
|Name||Sepang International Circuit|
|Circuit length||5.543km/3.444 miles|
|Distance to Turn One||600m/0.373 miles|
|Longest straight||920m/0.572 miles, on the approach to Turn 15|
|Top speed||330km/h/205mph, on the approach to Turn 15|
|Pitlane length||420m/0.261 miles, estimated time loss 24s|
|Full throttle||65 per cent, with the longest period of full throttle being 12s|
|DRS zones||Two, on the approaches to Turns One and 15|
|Key corner||Turn 14, a tightening, understeer-inducing right-hander that loads up the outside tyres. It’s important to get the car into the apex and get the power down early because the longest straight on the lap follows, along which there is the second DRS zone
|Fastest corner||260km/h (162mph), Turn Five|
|Slowest corner||70km/h (43mph), Turn Two|
|Major changes for 2016||The circuit has been re-surfaced since last year and more than half of the corners have new kerbs and improved drainage. The camber at Turn Nine has been altered, and, most significantly, Turn 15 has been re-profiled to make it slower, in an effort to encourage overtaking|
|Fuel consumption||1.79 per lap, which is average|
|ERS demands||Low. There are several slow corners, out of which electrical power has an impact on acceleration, but there are eight significant braking events around the lap where energy can be recovered|
|Brake wear||Medium. Only 15 per cent of the lap is spent braking|
|Gear changes||57 per lap/3,192 per race|
Sepang was the first F1 track to be designed by Hermann Tilke, whose company has helped to design 11 of the 21 circuits on this year’s calendar. Sepang was opened in March 1999 and it hosted its first grand prix later that year, since when it has been a permanent fixture in F1. This year the race is taking place in October, for the first time since 2000.
What makes the track unique:
It has an interesting mix of medium and high-speed corners, but the biggest single challenge for the teams is cooling. The ambient temperature rarely drops below 30 degrees at this time of year, which places added pressure on the cooling of the power unit in particular.
Medium. The circuit has been re-surfaced this year, so grip levels will depend on how the asphalt has cured since it was laid six months ago. The fast corners have high levels of grip due to the aerodynamic downforce created by the cars, but the new surface will be the biggest single factor influencing grip levels.
Good. This is a modern racetrack, with excellent run-off areas. There are more gravel traps than asphalt run-off areas because they are the preferred safety option for bike racing, which also takes place at Sepang.
Watch out for…:
The rain – and when it rains in this part of the world, it usually pours. In 2009 the race had to be stopped after 31 laps due to a flooded racetrack and the later-than-normal start time of 3pm leaves the race vulnerable to a late-afternoon thunderstorm.
|Start time||15:00hrs local/08:00hrs BST|
|Race distance||56 laps (full world championship points will be awarded after 75 per cent distance/42 laps)|
|Safety Car likelihood||Low. There is only a 20 per cent chance of a Safety Car|
|When to press record||The start. It’s a long drag to the first corner, which is a slow 180-degree right-hander, immediately followed by a left-hander. There’s always a good scrap through this section on lap one, with the outside line through Turn One sometimes proving to be the more successful|
|Don’t put the kettle
|Vettel won last year’s race on a two-stop strategy, while Hamilton and Rosberg stopped three times en route to second and third places. The addition of the Soft tyre to this year’s compound list is likely to increase the number of stops, with most drivers trying to complete the race distance on three stops. Expect pitlane action on or around laps 10, 25 and 40|
|Weather conditions now||29 degrees|
|Race forecast||31 degrees|
|Tyre choices||Soft/Medium/Hard, a combination that has only been used twice before this year, at Barcelona and Silverstone|
First Malaysian Grand Prix:
There is no official slogan, but the construction of Sepang International Circuit coincided with the launch of ‘Vision 2020’, a development programme intended to accelerate Malaysia’s drive towards industrialisation.
Malaysian's F1 heritage:
The country’s first association with F1 came via the national oil company, which started sponsoring Sauber in 1995. Four years and $150m later, the first Malaysian Grand Prix was staged at Sepang, which has been the race’s home for 18 consecutive seasons. There has been one Malaysian driver, Alex Yoong, who raced for Minardi in 2001.
Smallest winning margin:
0.732s, in 2000. Michael Schumacher and Mika Häkkinen lined up on the front row, but it was the McLaren duo of Mika and David Coulthard that ran 1-2 at the end of lap one. Mika was later penalised for jumping the start, handing the lead to David. But a driving error by the Scotsman handed Schumacher the lead, which he was never to lose. The gap between them was less than 1s for the last 12 laps of the race.
With two grands prix tracks in the region, in Singapore and at Sepang, F1 has a solid foothold in South East Asia. But Malaysia’s prowess as a sporting nation has grown steadily since it hosted the Commonwealth Games in 1998, and this year it came home with five medals from the Rio Olympic Games.
Did you know?
At 310.408kms/192.879 miles, the Malaysian Grand Prix is the longest race of the season in terms of distance.
McLaren has won the Malaysian Grand Prix twice, most recently in 2007.
Michael, aged 38, from Kuala Lumpur, asks: “I’ve been a massive McLaren fan, ever since Kimi Räikkönen won at Sepang in 2003. Please can you tell me what the team has been doing since the Singapore Grand Prix last week; have you spent any time in Kuala Lumpur?”
McLaren’s answer: “Our freight was transported the 200 miles from Singapore to Sepang by road. All 11 teams made the journey together, which created an impressive convoy of lorries. As for personnel, a few people stayed in Asia after Singapore, but the majority returned to Woking, where work on next year’s MP4-32 continues.”
THE DRIVERS ON: THE EVENT
“The Malaysian Grand Prix is always a fun event and among the drivers’ favourites on the calendar. There’s great food, lively fans and good racing so I hope we can put up a strong fight there. I’ve won this race three times before so I have happy memories, and we’ll be aiming to continue the momentum from the past couple of races and get a strong result there again this year.”
"We always think of Singapore being tough because it’s the longest race of the year, but Malaysia will almost certainly be the hottest race on the calendar. Not only that, but the humidity is immense and the cockpit reaches very high temperatures.
"As drivers, we’re all well equipped for these conditions as part of our training, but it does take its toll by the end of the weekend. You definitely need to be in peak physical fitness to cope with the heat. I’m ready and excited to get out there and start my 300th grand prix, and hopefully have better luck than I did in Singapore.”
HEAR FROM THE MANAGEMENT
McLaren-Honda Racing Director
“The challenge at this circuit is to maintain good balance throughout the long straights, big stops and sweeping corners, all while taking the tough and often changeable conditions into account. After a recent run of mixed fortunes on one side of the garage, our aim for the remaining races has to be to iron out reliability niggles and finish with both cars.
“Since the inaugural Malaysian Grand Prix at this circuit in 1999, Sepang has become a popular venue for drivers and fans alike. There have been a number of memorable races there and thanks to the climate and the nature of the technical layout, it often produces unpredictable results. There are good overtaking opportunities to be had and ample run-off, which once again promises interesting racing.
“The Sepang circuit poses a tough technical challenge for our mechanics and engineers, who have to strike a delicate compromise between efficient cooling, aerodynamic performance and balance, so Friday running will be important initially in order to assess the impact of the new track surface on the car and the re-profiling of some corners – particularly Turn 15. If we can achieve reliability on both sides of the garage, I’m hopeful for a positive weekend. We’ve proved recently that our package is a firm contender in the midfield pack and we have the potential to finish ahead of some strong teams, so we’ll keep fighting to maintain our position and move closer to the front of the grid.
“Finally, I’d like to congratulate Jenson on his 300th grand prix start – a spectacular achievement for a great world champion, and we look forward to celebrating this incredible milestone with him and the team this weekend.”
Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer
“The Malaysian Grand Prix will no doubt be another hot and humid battle to be fought amongst the drivers. The changeable conditions mean it will be tricky to find a good balance with the car, and the rain can of course give us an added challenge. The circuit in Sepang is an undulating mix of long straights and sweeping corners, which all make for an exciting race with lots of good overtaking battles. We are not 100 per cent certain if we will install any power unit updates for this race, but we’ll look to make our final decision at the track based on the balance of performance and reliability.
“More importantly, this will be a race to celebrate as Jenson makes his 300th grand prix start, which is an incredible milestone and achievement in such a demanding sport. We’re lucky to have two world champion drivers in the team with such experience, and hope that we can finish with a strong result for everyone in the team.”