Rain. That’s the one abiding thought that comes into my head when I think of the Malaysian Grand Prix. It shouldn’t do – there have been plenty of dry races since it’s inuagral event in 1999 – but it’s the unnerving memory that when it does rain there, it pretty much stops play.
2012 was a prime example of that. The shower at the start led to a red flag and the debut of “insta-gazebos”, a new gadget from the teams, to help keep the car and driver dry during the delay. After 51 minutes it got going again, and Sergio Perez stunned many by not only finishing 2nd, but was unlucky not to take Sauber’s first ever victory as an independant team.
How all three drivers on the the podium that day would wish for the same this time around. Fernando Alonso would want that first victory of the year to get a head start over Red Bull; Perez would lift the spirits of everyone at McLaren if he could haul the MP4-28 to a podium; and no-one would be smiling more than Lewis Hamilton if he could repeat the 3rd place he managed 12 months ago. What was a non-plus result then would be further justification of switching to Mercedes now.
It will ultimately boil down to overall stamina througout each cars components; tyes, engines, drivers.
The split in what the different teams can get from the Pirellis is quite obvious – Red Bull and Mercedes are better getting temperatures up over one lap, while Lotus and Ferrari are easier on their rubber over a longer distance. Two are fast one Saturday, two on Sunday.
Then there’s the case of the humidy and temperature that will play havoc with the engines. It’s the first real test for them in this condition, and it can be a real car killer if there’s a chink of fragility. As for the drivers themselves, all those hours in the gym throughout winter were building up to this.
The one variable that all teams can’t control might just be the one that defines Sunday’s race though; a simple case of luck.
The Malaysian Grand Prix Stats
- Lap 5.543km
- Race Laps 56
- Race Distance 310.408km
- Lap Record 1:34.223 (Juan Pablo Montoya, 2004)
- 2012 Podium 1. Fernando Alonso 2. Sergio Perez 3. Lewis Hamilton