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Previewing the 2015 F1 Malaysia Grand Prix

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Previewing the 2015 Petronas Grand Prix of Malaysia: Racing at the Tropical Paradise

The Grand Prix of Malaysia

The 2015 Formula 1 Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix will begin this weekend at the Sepang International Circuit, situated around 60 kilometers from the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. This will be the 17th time that the Malaysian Grand Prix is being held, and as ever, Sepang is the venue for it. Malaysia will mark the second round of the recently shortened 19 race-calendar of the 2015 Formula 1 season. The Malaysian round also marks the first, out of the six Asian races in store for us this year.

The characteristics of the Sepang International Circuit:

The 5.543 kilometers (3.444 miles) long Sepang circuit was designed by Hermann Tilke and was officially opened for racing in the year 1999. The track consists of 15 turns, and is generally regarded as a challenging circuit for both, the drivers and also for their cars.

The circuit has many fast corners, some sweeping bends and many notable lengthy stretches. But, the track has two extremely long straights, the start finish line and the back straight, and these 2 stretches act as the two DRS zones for the circuit. The first and the third sectors of the whole track are quite fast in general, as they feature the two long straights, but the middle sector is technical and twisty in nature.

The track surface of the circuit is also smooth in most places; however there might a bit of dust off the racing line. But, that said, the track is full of overtaking spots, as it has many prominent heavy braking points.

Also, the track is flowing and quick in nature; hence overtaking is encouraged by that fact too. Besides, the Sepang’s track width is extremely wide in general; hence overtaking is felicitated by that. All the drivers will also have to negotiate few bumps on the asphalt, particularly between turns one and two, and also between turns twelve and thirteen.

The Sepang Track’s layout

The tire and pit strategy:

Just like the last two years, Pirelli are once again destined to bring in the Orange marked hard tires and the White band medium tires to Sepang this weekend. Although, a threat of rain in the afternoons cannot be ruled out during the weekend, hence the intermediates and wet tires can make an appearance too. 

In terms of strategy, all the teams went in for a conservative 3 stopper last year, however Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg did use the 2-stop to perfection, in order to come home in a solid 5th position. So, do not be surprised if most of the teams stick to a 2-stopper for this Sunday’s race, which will be run over the distance of 56-laps.

The Qualifying Format:

Last time around in Australia, thanks to the no show of Marussia-Manor, the FIA had to exclude the 4 slowest cars each from the first two parts of qualifying. And, if Manor finally manages to run both their cars this weekend, that tally will become 5 each for Q1 and Q2.

However, regardless of what Manor do, we’ll once again see an exciting top 10 shootout at the final part of qualifying on Saturday in Sepang.  

If Manor race this weekend, the grid will be worth 20 cars, two up, from Melbourne’s tally of 18.

The Driver changes for 2015 Malaysia Grand Prix:

The 2015 Malaysian Race will mark the Grand Prix comeback of Fernando Alonso to the McLaren Team. The Spaniard was set to make his re-debut, at McLaren, in Australia. But, because of the injuries he sustained from his pre-season testing crash at Barcelona; the 2005-06 World Champion was declared unfit to race at Albert Park.

This means, Alonso for the first time, will take to the track in a Honda powered car this weekend. Sadly, this would mean, McLaren reserve driver Kevin Magnussen will step down to his support role again, after deputizing for Alonso in Australia. 

In other good news, Williams’s Valtteri Bottas has also been granted a green light to get back to the cockpit of the FW 37. The Finn could not compete in the actual race at Australia, a fortnight ago; because of a back problem he suffered after qualifying at Albert Park.

The current Form Book:

Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton in particular, would like to carry their momentum from Australia to Sepang, and once, like last year, will want the top prize at the Malaysian Grand Prix. However, that said, we can still expect a few skirmishes between the current World Champion and teammate Nico Rosberg, especially in qualifying. Meanwhile, both Williams and Ferrari will once again try to challenge Mercedes, but the silver spoon is the realistic prize both teams are actually aiming for.

Red Bull will look to put Albert Park behind, and start afresh from Malaysia. While, in the midfield, teams like Lotus, Force India, Toro Rosso, and the surprise package Sauber, will all look to score some serious points this weekend.

At the back, expect McLaren-Honda to get closer to the midfield pack, although even getting closer will be a huge challenge for the beleaguered team. Finally, Marussia-Manor would just love to make their official 2015 debut at Sepang.

World Champion Hamilton would like to repeat his 2014 victory at Sepang

Last 5 Winners of the Malaysia Grand Prix:

Year

Driver (Nationality)

Team Name

2014

Lewis Hamilton (United Kingdom)

Mercedes

2013

Sebastian Vettel (Germany)

Red Bull Racing

2012

Fernando Alonso (Spain)

Ferrari

2011

Sebastian Vettel (Germany)

Red Bull Racing

2010

Sebastian Vettel (Germany)

Red Bull Racing


The Current Team and Driver records at the Malaysia Grand Prix;

Most Wins (Drivers) at the Malaysia Grand Prix

Number of Wins

Driver (Nationality)

Team(s) and year of win

3

Fernando Alonso (Spain)

Renault (2005), McLaren (2007), Ferrari (2012)

3

Sebastian Vettel (Germany)

Red Bull (2010, 2011, 2013)

2

Kimi Raikkonen (Finland)

McLaren (2003), Ferrari (2008)

1

Jenson Button (United Kingdom)

Brawn (2009)

1

Lewis Hamilton (United Kingdom)

Mercedes (2014)


Most Wins (as a team) at the Malaysia Grand Prix

Number of Wins

Team Name

Years

6

Ferrari

1999, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2008, 2012

3

Red Bull

2010, 2011, 2013

2

McLaren

2003, 2007

Note: Only F1 world championship races counted, minimum 2 wins listed.

The Malaysia Grand Prix was called the Malaysian Grand Prix before the year 2011

Renault Wins in 2005 and 2006 not included as the team is now Lotus.

Track Record:

2014 Pole Time: Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes 1:59.431 (Rain Affected Qualifying)

2014 Fastest Lap Time: Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes 1:43.066

Lap Record: Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams 1:34.223 (Year 2004)                


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