Heading into the second race of the season, the question must be asked – “How can we live up to the excitement of the season opener Down Under?”
We had everything from Kamui crashes, title favourite retirements, noise tantrum nonsense, and Red Bull peril.
Going into the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend however, the focus has shifted somewhat (as it tends to do in Malaysia) from the cars themselves, to the Sepang circuit itself.
Here at Badger, we’ve been looking at the top five factors to be wary of in Asia this weekend.
Tyre Deg. Yep, it’s back.
You all thought you’d seen the back of it, but after rumblings from the first two practice sessions, apparently not. Lewis Hamilton told Sky Sports that the track was ‘just too hot’ for the Pirellis. A glance at the race simulations on the medium compound tyre certainly suggests that Red Bull and Ferrari have made gains since Australia, with Mercedes, as in 2013, looking a little worse for wear in comparison.
The three-pointed-star have the out-and-out pace as demonstrated in qualifying, but can they go the tyrethreatened distance?
It wouldn’t be Sepang without the threat of rain, would it?
Memories back to the eventually abandoned 2009 race and the monsoon stricken 2000 race are ever prevalent when the sport shows up in Malaysia, and soon became a reality once again at the start of Q1.
In a fascinating way, we even saw the rare sight of a full wet tyre in its natural habitat on an open track, without the guidance of a safety car. The wonders never cease.
It’s hung over pre-season since the turn of the year, and in Australia many people’s fears were realised when Mercedes were at LEAST 0.8 of a second faster in race trim. OK, so Hamilton’s race ended before it really started, proving reliability clearly isn’t of the highest standards quite yet, but it’s a widely held notion that along with Williams, Mercedes are strong both in the reliability and speed departments.
In other news, we hope Toto Wolff will continue to utter those immortal words in that sweet sweet accent… ‘POWERTRAIN’.
With the Sepang circuit boasting two ma-hoosive straights, the powertrains are going to be putting in some serious work over the course of tomorrow’s race, and with varying degrees of success. Whilst reliability still lingers as the predominant fear, the figures through the speed traps are to become more and more the focus throughout the year as teams and fans alike concentrate more and more on lap time.
Thus far in Malaysia for example, the Mercedes-equipped cars have been at a significant advantage in a straight line, with figures in yesterday’s practice sessions showing them to have on average a 5kph benefit over, for example, the RB10s of Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo. That, with the two drag strips, contributes to a serious deficit of eight-tenths to a second on the straight and narrow. Ouch.
Second Time Lucky for Williams?
So again, as in Australia, the introduction of rain to qualifying has seemingly wiped out Williams promising pace in the dry, hinting that their quick-looking car is all POWER and not that much downforce.
Either way, should tomorrow’s race break the trend of the last two days at Sepang and remain dry, you’d have to expect Williams revival of the magnitude that Valtteri Bottas demonstrated two weeks ago.
Lets not forget that were it not for Kamui getting back into the swing of things and crashing into others (like the unfortunate Massa), and Bottas getting way too chummy with the wall on their first date, Williams were absolutely odds-on to grace the podium for the first time since Pastor Maldonado’s victory at the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix. So look out for a Martini-blessed charge.
Anyhow, Martini always has been better off dry, hasn’t it?