After a short break after round one in Australia, Formula One returns this week for the second round of the 2014 F1 World Championship in Sepang for the Malaysian Grand Prix.
The Australian Grand Prix proved to be a great teaser for the season ahead, promoting new stars of the sport and showing how winter testing form was not enough to predict the finishing order. Sepang, being much hotter temperarture-wise, however, provides a very different environment to Albert Park and you will likely see a very different race as machinery and drivers are pushed to their limits in the heat.
First off, Sepang will push F1’s new power units to extremes. The Malaysian Grand Prix has the potential to be the hottest race of the year and with around two-thirds of the lap being run at full-throttle, cooling performance is expected to big a big factor in the race.
Added to that are the traditional challenges of racing at Sepang. While visually dominated by the long pit and back straights, Sepang has great variety, with a twisting middle sector and several high-speed corners requiring a relatively high level of downforce. It also demands excellent traction, with speed onto the straights being a key factor in setting a good lap time.[youtube id=”RpTuEgbzrTA” width=”633″ height=”356″]
Tires have a tendency to dictate performance at the Malaysian Grand Prix. Pirelli, as is now customary, will bring its two hardest compounds to the circuit but wear rates are still expected to be high. Of course in Malaysia the ever-present threat of rain means the Intermediate and Wet tires could also see some use. The forecast is for thunderstorms across all three days, though recent history suggests the rain is as likely to bracket the sessions as it is to fall during them. [youtube id=”HETsUIcRLGo” width=”633″ height=”356″]
Three drivers have each won the Grand Prix three times: Michael Schumacher (2000, ’01, ’04), Fernando Alonso (2005, ’07, ’12) and Sebastian Vettel (2010, ’11, ’13). Will we see Alonso or Vettel break out of the pack this weekend? Vettel won last year’s race under heavy scrutiny for defying team orders. With Mark Weber retired, chances are that he won’t have that problem this year.