It’s one of the most interesting looking grids we’ve seen in a while, so how are things going to pan out at the start of tomorrow’s Malaysian GP?
It’s clearly going to depend hugely on the weather, with a wet getaway certain to develop very differently to a dry one. And, being as the rain has fallen on Sepang everyday at around 4pm this week, and that tomorrow’s race gets underway at 4pm, we can guess that the track will be wet at the start. We don’t need expensive weather prediction technology here at Badger- this is common sense forecasting, folks. But, unlike Ferrari and McLaren, we accept that the weather does what it wants, not what we want it to, so it’s worth thinking about how a dry start would pan out as well.
So here’s the grid for tomorrow’s race. Get yourself familiar with it and then read on for Badger’s take on how the start might unfold.
If it’s wet we’ll start with the leader tiptoeing his way through turn 1 with decent visibility and the 23 cars behind him almost blinded by the spray. Polesitter Mark Webber will hope for a better start tomorrow than he got at this race 6 years ago, when having qualified his Jaguar a brilliant 2nd he made a hash of the start and dropped right down the order. Sebastien Vettel will look to follow him teammate down to the first corner, and a Red Bull one-two at the end of lap one is a real possibility.
The guys on the first few rows will have better visibility than those in the midfield, and there should be some cautious driving going on towards turn 1. With this in mind we shouldn’t automatically expect a pile-up, as the drivers will think better of making a do-or-die move at the start. Then again Kamui Kobayashi is on the grid this year…
And there are some inexperienced drivers spread across the pack too, with Hulkenberg 5th, Petrov 11th and Alguersuari 14th. And with Adrian Sutil- whose Force India seems to be a magnet for accidents- starting 4th it might be best to reserve judgment on what will happen in to turn 1.
What makes the start of tomorrow’s race particularly interesting is the grid position of four of the fastest cars in F1: Jenson Button is 17th; Fernando Alonso 19th; Lewis Hamilton 20th; and Felipe Massa 21st. In front of all of them are a host of midfield cars and back-markers Heikki Kovalainen and Timo Glock. How many places will these guys be able to make up at the start, and will they be able to come through in one piece? The answer to these questions could have a big impact on the race result.
If Glock and Kovalainen haven’t been passed by at least two of those guys in to turn one it’d be a surprise. Button should clear both, whilst the other three will fancy their chances of doing the same. Timo and Heikki will be focused on finishing the race tomorrow, not needlesly fighting cars they know are way quicker than theirs, and so probably wont put up too much of a fight.
The start should be exciting if the rain holds off too with the drivers likely to take more risks in to turn 1. Having four quick cars totally out of position means we could see a lot of dry weather passing in the opening stages. The Sepang circuit is wide with a few long straights, so overtaking wont be impossible. What will be really interesting to see is what happens when the McLarens and Ferraris reach the quicker midfield cars. The Force Indias, Williams and Renaults aren’t going to be easy to pass, and this will play in to the hands of both Red Bull and Mercedes.
But for all these predictions- well thought out as they are- the past has taught us that anything can happen at the start of a Formula One race, especially a wet one. If the heavens open, the form book goes out the window and the first lap is a trip in to the unknown for the drivers. And even if it doesn’t, the mixed-up nature of the grid should provide plenty of intrigue, both at the start and throughout the race. And that’s why tomorrow’s race promises to be very, very exciting. Remember folks, Formula 1 isn’t boring…
Of course, it’s not all about turn one either – there’s a whole host of corners to get through, it’s raining, the Sepang circuit will be even more of a challenge in wet conditions. Remind yourself of the layout with our handy map: