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2013 Formula 1 Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix: Quotes

660   //    22 Mar 2013, 14:50 IST

Following Kimi Raikkonen’s victory at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, the 2013 Formula One championship fires up again this weekend as the series prepares for round two, the Malaysian Grand Prix.

And fiery is perhaps the appropriate adjective for this race. High temperatures are the order of the day at Sepang Circuit and this race is a true test of man and machine.

For the drivers, there’s the struggle to cope with soaring in-car temperatures and the battle to stay hydrated throughout the 56-lap long race. For the machinery, this weekend is about dealing with tough conditions for engines and tyres. The heat and Sepang’s abrasive track surface makes tyre wear a major consideration, while a number of high-speed corners places the tyres under severe lateral loads. Keeping rubber ‘alive’ here is a difficult task.

In terms of engines, the heat and the fact that a significant part of the lap here is run at full throttle means powerplants are heavily stressed. Maximising cooling is imperative and teams often open supplementary cooling vents in bodywork to facilitate this.

And then, there’s the rain. Heavy downpours are a frequent occurrence and the possibility of torrential rain adds an extra air of unpredictability to the season’s second race.

The 2012 race was a case in point. The race started wet and as the rain intensified running was suspended on lap nine. When the action resumed it was Fernando Alonso who took the lead. In a dramatic final third, the Ferrari driver was chased to the chequered flag by Sergio Perez. The Mexican was unable to pass, but claimed his first podium finish with second place, ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

Punishing conditions, an exciting circuit layout and unpredictable weather conditions mean a grand prix at Sepang is rarely dull and this weekend should be no exception.

From the unexpectedly cool conditions of Melbourne, the Formula One paddock moves quickly to the heat and humidity of Kuala Lumpur this weekend and the 2013 Formula 1 Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix. Those involved discuss their prospects for the Sepang race…

Malaysian GP 2013 Preview Quotes:

Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari team principal “The first Grand Prix weekend of the season in Australia was a positive one for us as we had previously stated that our objective was to finish on the podium and that target was achieved. We have witnessed a weekend that was very unusual, with qualifying on Saturday and Sunday delivering a snapshot of the order that proved to be completely different come Sunday evening after the race. But, it was important to see both our drivers deliver strong performances, as it provides a great basis on which we can build a competitive season and I’m pleased for both of them. Seeing Ferrari heading the Constructors’ Championship is a great reward for the people who have been working so hard, both here at the track and back home in Maranello. But it’s only the first step in a very long season and now is the time to analyse and evaluate all the data from Melbourne in order to be immediately ready for this coming weekend in Malaysia.

Sepang is a very different track and our plan is to make the most of the package that we have. We need to wait and see how our car will behave in what is a totally different environment: the track will make different demands on the cars to the ones we experienced in Australia, with a change in track surface and the unique weather conditions, very hot and humid, will also impact on everyone’s performance this weekend. We know what is required here and we will need the usual compromise in terms of downforce levels to deal with both the tighter section and the two long fast straights.”

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull 2012 Qualifying – 6th, 2012 Race – 11th “(Sepang is) an interesting track. After the first section, Turns 5, 6, 7 and 8 are very quick and fun. Turns 11 and 14 are similar – it’s difficult to find the apex of those on every lap, especially as the tyres become worn. It’s a very rewarding circuit for a driver to win at, as it’s such a tough challenge with the heat and high-speed corners. It’s rewarding, as it shows you have prepared well over the winter, so I guess my favourite memories are winning in 2010 and 2011. My tip for keeping cool in Malaysia? Don’t stress, because you can’t run away from the heat…”

Mark Webber, Red Bull 2012 Qualifying – 4th, 2012 Race – 4th “My favourite part of the Sepang Circuit is the second to last corner because it’s very tricky to get right, but I’ve always enjoyed driving it. I’m looking forward to getting back on track again so soon after the first race and really getting the season underway. My tip for keeping cool in Malaysia? Drink a lot of water, wear light clothes and of course stay in the air-con as much as you can – although that’s not something that helps much when we’re driving! It’s important to acclimatise as much as possible.”

Charles Pic, Caterham 2012 Qualifying – 22nd, 2012 Race – 20th “Malaysia will be the first Caterham F1 Team home race for me and I’m looking forward to what will be a very busy week, but one where I think we’ll see a lot of support and a Grand Prix that really pushes the physical preparations we’ve done over the winter. We have quite a few events that we’re doing in the build-up to the race itself and it’ll be great to meet the Malaysian fans, but once we’re in the car it’s back to work in one of the toughest challenges we have all year. The heat and the humidity make driving 56 laps on Sunday pretty difficult.”

Giedo van der Garde, Caterham 2012 Qualifying – n/a, 2012 Race – n/a “After Sunday I went straight to Malaysia as it’s important to start adjusting to the heat. I raced in GP2 there last year but F1 is a big step up in terms of the physical and mental preparations you need to make so my trainer Carlos and I have a busy program planned to make sure I’m ready for every session in the car. Hydration is particularly important in that preparation and I’ll be building up the amount of liquids I take on board throughout the week to around six litres on race day, as well as spending as much time as possible outside and away from air-con so I can acclimatise quickly.

On track Sepang gives us an interesting challenge. We haven’t seen track temperatures in pre-season or in Australia close to what we’ll have this week and as the circuit evolves quite a bit over the weekend managing degradation levels from Friday through to Sunday will be critical, but we saw in Australia that our car performed well on the primes so we’ll look to build on that this weekend. The cars run pretty high downforce levels at Sepang and that helps throughout the lap, but one of the key areas we’ll work on in the practice sessions will be maximising our pace in the really quick corners. Something the engineers have told me is that since the team came into the sport in 2010 their cars have always performed better in hot temperatures, Tony has said before it’s because the team has a Malaysian heart, so let’s see if that continues this year!”

Remi Taffin, Renault Sport F1 head of track operations “The 5.543km circuit is a challenge for the engine as a high percentage of the lap is spent at full throttle, plus there are two long straights of just under a kilometre each. On each of these straights the engine is at full throttle for over 10 seconds, thus requiring strong acceleration and top speed. The two straights however run in opposing directions, which we need to take into account when selecting seventh gear – if the wind is blowing down one straight, the acceleration can be compromised on the other one if the gear ratios are not correct. There are also tight mid to low speed corners so the engine needs to be responsive on the apex and exit of turns. In particular, the first corner complex requires good stability under braking and response on pick-up as it leads onto a long, curved straight. Engineers will try to deliver the correct amount of overrun support here to help the driver on turn in so this exit is not compromised. Of course the main characteristic of Sepang is the high ambient humidity. Even if the rain stays away, the high water content in the air displaces the oxygen available to burn, which slows the combustion process and reduces engine power output. If it rains – as we’ve seen every year so far – the challenge is to set the parameters to reduce power loss while still providing enough grip.

Renault engineers will set the pedal maps appropriately for wet conditions to help the driver better modulate the torque application and will then monitor the on-car torque sensor to ensure the engine is always providing the torque requested. This is particularly important in the quick turns, and particularly the back section from turns 9 to 13. Allied to the difficulty of the track, there is the challenge of how to manage the engine pool at the start of the season. Basically in Melbourne, we introduce the first engine with the aim to use it the entire weekend. Coming into Sepang, there are two options: either keep the first engine for the second consecutive entire weekend and have an engine with up to 1,600km at the end of the Sepang race, or introduce a second (fresh) engine for Saturday and Sunday in Sepang to avoid high mileage at the end of the race here. The second option gives us more flexibility to use the first engine as a Friday engine for longer. We know there will be mix of strategies at Sepang and this will give a bit of information on how teams evaluate this topic.”

Paul di Resta, Force India 2012 Qualifying – 14th, 2012 Race – 7th “You never know what to expect in Malaysia! It could rain, or it could be dry. Temperatures are going to be high, degradation is going to be high, but I think our car is going to suit the warm weather. We’ve had a reasonably strong performance for the last couple of years in Malaysia, so I think we should go there feeling quite optimistic. We have a few days to conquer the jet lag and hopefully be fighting fit. I think it is probably one of the most complete tracks of the season. It was the very first of the new generation tracks and it has nice flowing sections, some slow bits, as well as high-speed chicanes. I think it’s one of the better tracks on the calendar. Along with the next one in Shanghai, it’s one of the tracks I enjoy.”

Adrian Sutil, Force India 2012 Qualifying – n/a, 2012 Race – n/a “I finished fifth in Malaysia in 2010, so I have some good memories. It’s not my favourite track, but it depends on the car. If the car is quick and stable, you enjoy it more, but sometimes you really struggle with the balance, and then it’s a real challenge – the corners are so long, you need a lot of aerodynamic grip. It’s a track I like to drive, but it’s not like a Monaco or a Spa. I don’t really know what effect the high temperatures will have because we haven’t had them during testing. I think the weather in Australia suited us quite well, so let’s see how Malaysia is.”

Vijay Mallya, Force India team principal “The first back-to-back races of the season mean we are already heading to Malaysia for the second round of the Championship. We have scored points in Sepang the last three times we raced there, including a double-points finish last year, and I believe we can build on the early-season momentum to bring home a valuable result. Last weekend’s race in Melbourne was a great demonstration of how far the team has come lately: to race against the established front-runners on merit shows the quality of our car, of our driver line-up and of the work everyone in the team is producing every day, whether at the factory or at the circuit.

We have led the last two races and hopefully soon we will have a special result to repay all that effort. With improved results come increased responsibilities: the whole world of Formula One – our rivals, the media and the fans – now look at Sahara Force India as a competitor for points at every race. It is our duty to sustain this scrutiny by going out every day and performing to our best to keep challenging the top teams in the world. The 2013 championship is just at the beginning, and it is important not to get carried away with enthusiasm: we will need to channel this positive energy into consistently good performances and continue to improve. We are on a good road, and we must all keep progressing.”

Pastor Maldonado, Williams 2012 Qualifying – 11th, 2012 Race – 19th “Malaysia is one of my favourite circuits and it’s also one of the most challenging, testing your skill and concentration towards the end of the race as the heat takes its toll on you physically. The weather conditions can change in an instant and in the last couple of years the weather has gone from 40 degree heat to thunderstorms and heavy rain, with extreme changes in track temperature as well. I had a disappointing Australian Grand Prix and the car isn’t quite where we hoped it would be, but we will be working hard to unlock the potential that we saw in testing.”

Valtteri Bottas, Williams 2012 Qualifying – n/a, 2012 Race – n/a “Malaysia is a big test for the drivers and the weather conditions are always tricky to deal with. Last year was very difficult because we had hot humid track temperatures combined with a series of rain showers. The fast corners in the second sector of the track are the most challenging because it’s really hot for the tyres and in these high temperatures you need to be careful not to degrade them too quickly. I learnt a lot from my first Grand Prix in Australia and whilst we weren’t as competitive as we had hoped, the fact that I brought the car home safely in my first race is a positive I can take away and we will now be looking to improve on our performance for this race.”

Mike Coughlan, Williams technical director “Following a difficult opening to the season in Australia, the team has regrouped and been working hard to solve the problems we encountered last weekend. We have a good idea where to focus our efforts and learnt a lot in Melbourne which we will implement in Malaysia to continue working to improve the performance of the FW35 throughout Friday testing and into the weekend. The Sepang circuit is a technical challenge which is always quite hard on tyres. The high ambient temperatures and humidity also make it a tough race for the drivers, with the weather also playing its part with late afternoon showers common and forecast over the weekend. Our aim is to move forward from where we were last weekend, with a view to end the race with both cars in points-scoring positions.”

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus 2012 Qualifying – 5th, 2012 Race – 5th “Malaysia has been good and bad for me in the past; I’ve had a few bad races there but I’ve also won three times at the circuit including my first Grand Prix victory so it’s nice to go back to where it all began with my first win. For sure I will always remember that my first win came in the Malaysian Grand Prix in 2003. I would not say that circuit is more important for me – it’s not that special for me – but it’s quite a nice place to race at. I like it and the challenge is always at the highest level in the beginning of the year in the heat. It’s also one of those circuits where it usually rains sometime during the weekend. So you have to plan the programme with that possibility, too. It’s a difference place, it’s going to be much hotter there so it’s very difficult to say how the cars will feel, who will be fastest after having just one race. I think we have to do two or three races before we really know who is where and what’s going to happen. It’s probably going to rain again in Malaysia at some point but it will be a different circuit, different conditions. Our car worked well in Australia at least and usually – at least last year – in hot conditions it’s been good for us so hopefully it will turn out to be a good weekend.”

Romain Grosjean, Lotus 2012 Qualifying – 7th, 2012 Race – DNF “Sepang is probably my favourite track of the whole season. I first raced there in 2008 as part of the GP2 Asia Series and I really loved the circuit. It’s nice and wide, with fast flowing corners and a lot of undulation which makes it great fun to drive. The last corner is a tricky one, but I enjoy everything about racing there. Well, maybe not the heat and humidity, but at the end of the day it’s just another challenge for the drivers! I’m really looking forward to it. Clearly Kimi’s car worked very well in Australia and the fact that mine felt good at times over the weekend gives us a clear target for where we want to get the setup and a guide of what the car is capable of. I want to be scoring 25 points in a Grand Prix for the team. I’m working closely with my engineers to understand exactly what is required to ensure the E21 is at its best for me. Knowing that we’re very close to getting the car where I want it is certainly promising. I’m having a very short break between Australia and Malaysia to let me recharge my batteries so that I’ll arrive in Sepang fresh and ready to deliver my best on track.”

Eric Boullier, Lotus team principal “In Australia we didn’t have a normal weekend and I’m not sure that everyone got the chance to put the right set up on their cars – especially for the race. So let’s see in Malaysia if we have a normal weekend. That will be the test. I’m sure it’s going to be a little bit tougher for us, but I’m sure we’ll put in another very strong performance. We have some new developments, which is good news, and the hot temperature should help us to do an even better job.”

James Allison, Lotus technical director “Albert Park is not an average F1 track. It has a lot of similar, medium speed corners, but not very much from the high and low speed ends of the spectrum. Also, the race was conducted in cooler than expected conditions. When it is cool, tyre wear is dominated by graining. We were able to make the car work in these conditions, but it remains to be seen whether we can do the same when the wear mechanism shifts to traditional high temperature degradation. One thing we can be sure of is that Malaysia will deliver high temperature degradation in spades. We haven’t seen anything other than good long run pace from the E21 so far, but we will have a much clearer idea of where things stand after second Free Practice on Friday. We feel optimistic but it’s still very early and anything can happen. We have an experimental exhaust and bodywork combination, and a new front wing to try out (in Malaysia). However, with tyre performance likely to play a critical part in the weekend, we will need to be careful not to get overly distracted trying out new parts at the expense of finding a good setup to make sure that we are using the tyres well. We will be aiming to keep the momentum up and hoping that we can repeat Kimi’s fantastic performance again this weekend with both cars.”

Jenson Button, McLaren 2012 Qualifying – 2nd, 2012 Race – 14th “Australia was obviously a tough weekend and, despite getting the maximum out of the car, it’s still clearly not where we want to be. There’s a lot of work to be done but we all know that this team won’t stop working until they get it right. For this weekend, I don’t think we can expect an improvement in our fortunes, but the thing about Malaysia is that it can be so unpredictable – particularly with the later start time on Sunday afternoon, which tends to see late-afternoon showers fall. We saw that last year, when Fernando won, and we know that the unpredictable weather can make it a lottery for everyone. That’s something that could play into our hands – I do enjoy driving in changeable conditions, and would love the challenge of being able to run competitively in a car that we all know is not quite capable of challenging for victories yet.” Sergio Perez, McLaren 2012 Qualifying – 10th, 2012 Race – 2nd “Last weekend’s race was a difficult one for everybody on the team, but it’s shown us exactly what we need to do to close down the gap to the leaders. This weekend in Malaysia will be about trying to maximise the package we have while knowing that it’s not going to be enough to allow us to fight for overall victory. Still, we know what we have to do – and I know that everybody within the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team will be working incredibly hard to bring performance to the car. That may not happen in Malaysia, as it’s so soon after the Australian Grand Prix, but we know it’ll start coming soon. For me, Sepang holds many happy memories – I had one of the best races of my career there last year where I was able to push Fernando for victory until the closing laps. It’s a fantastic circuit, really fast and demanding. It would be great to pull off another unexpected result for the team this year.”

Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal “Clearly, our performance in Australia last weekend was not up to our high expectations – and we have been working tirelessly to bring additional performance to MP4-28. But the short turnaround between rounds one and two of the championship means that we’ll arrive in Malaysia with less scope to improve our fortunes. This weekend, however, will provide us with additional opportunities to understand our car’s behaviour and to increase our understanding of the package. Nonetheless, the Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix brings its own unique challenges; it’s one of the most physically demanding races of the year – for both the drivers and their machinery – and the race will be tough for all competitors. Both Jenson and Checo have gone well at this circuit in the past, and both put in excellent performances throughout the weekend in Australia, so I’m sure they’ll once again be pushing the car to its limit.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes 2012 Qualifying – 1st, 2012 Race – 3rd “Malaysia is a beautiful country with great weather and great fans who are always so supportive, I’m really looking forward to seeing them. This weekend feels a little like a home race for the team with all of the activities for our title partner Petronas. I’m really looking forward to having my first visit to the top of the famous Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday before the weekend gets underway. Sepang is a fantastic circuit and one where I haven’t managed to win before. My favourite part of the track is probably turns five and six but it’s always an exciting challenge here with the heat and humidity. I’m very proud of the work that the team have done so far and I know that the guys are pushing hard back in the UK to bring more performance to the car. I hope we can have a positive weekend here and build on the progress that we made in Melbourne and on what we learned from that race.”

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes 2012 Qualifying – 8th, 2012 Race – 13th “Sepang is one of my favourite tracks on the Formula One calendar. The layout has a little bit of everything with the slow and fast corners making a nice mix. For our team, the Malaysian Grand Prix is also one of our home races as we’re racing in the country of our partner Petronas, and it’s always a busy and exciting weekend. Sepang holds some great memories for me as I achieved my first podium for Mercedes here at the start of the 2010 season. The conditions this weekend will be much hotter than in Australia so it will be a good test to see how the cars perform in such a different environment and how we can adapt to that. It often rains heavily and from my experience with the performance of the car in the rain in Melbourne, wet conditions would certainly be welcomed by me!”

Ross Brawn, Mercedes team principal “The first race of the season provided some very encouraging signs for the team; our car performed well and seemed to be competitive in all of the conditions that the Melbourne weather gave us. However, we didn’t quite find the correct balance for the race which compromised our ability to maximise the starting positions of Lewis and Nico. With the second race in Malaysia following this weekend, we’re looking forward to the opportunity to put that right. Malaysia is one of the most special races of the season for our team and it’s a real honour to be celebrating the 15th anniversary of Formula One in the country with our title partner Petronas. We all hope to put on a good show this weekend for the Malaysian fans.”

Toto Wolff, Mercedes team executive director “The challenge of Sepang will be completely different to what we saw in Melbourne last Sunday. Temperatures are guaranteed to be high and the circuit has many long, sweeping corners that demand consistent aerodynamic performance. All the teams are in a learning process with the new Pirelli tyres, as we saw last weekend with drivers in the same team delivering very different results. Our car showed some good potential at times in Australia and both Lewis and Nico performed strongly in all conditions. So our engineering focus is on improving the base performance and correcting our weaknesses, especially in terms of reliability. Of course, the Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix is also a home race for our Mercedes AMG Petronas team and our long-term title partner. They have supported this race, the sport and our team over many years and we are looking forward to a busy promotional schedule in the next days with the team and drivers. But for all of us, the most important thing is to deliver on the track on Sunday afternoon and that is what we are working hard to do.”

Jules Bianchi, Marussia 2012 Qualifying – n/a, 2012 Race – n/a “It has been nice to take a couple of days in Australia to really absorb the experience of my first Formula One race last weekend. There were quite a lot of new things to be faced with, including driving a race of that distance for the first time and bringing together everything that I had learned in the days before. This week I have had the chance to think everything through – what I have learned and where I need to go from here. I had a good debrief with my engineering team and I feel very comfortable, so now I start to think about Malaysia. I’ve done some work in the simulator and I think Sepang is a circuit I’m going to enjoy. I know the challenge it brings in terms of the heat and humidity, so I’m prepared for that. Although my debut went well, there are some areas that I need to work on and where I can improve – as you would expect – so this race we will have a little more time and experience to think about what we need to do to keep pushing forward. I’m hoping for another good performance in the race on Sunday of course.”

Max Chilton, Marussia 2012 Qualifying – n/a, 2012 Race – n/a “With my debut Grand Prix done and dusted, it’s time to start thinking about Round 2 in Malaysia this weekend and what we can do to build the momentum. We have shown how close we are to the midfield, so getting within striking distance of that pack is our next target and that is what I’m focusing on. It has been good to take the time to think about my first race, but with the next one coming round so quickly it’s all about moving ahead. It was my first time racing at Albert Park but Sepang is a track I know well and have raced at a few times so, to some extent, that helps in getting up to speed much more quickly and being able to focus on car set-up instead. After such a positive start to the season and an obviously competitive car, I can’t wait for the next opportunity to drive it this weekend.”

John Booth, Marussia team principal “The out-of-the-box reliability and performance of the MR02 has been very pleasing to see, especially as the car is quite a significant evolution of the MR01 and we have had to make the necessary modifications to accommodate KERS for this season. Having said that, one race does not make a season and we will need to work hard, particularly in these early races, to continue to take the fight to the midfield, which we have shown to be a target realistically within reach. Up and down the field, every team will be aiming to make progress and keep developing their package, so we need to maintain our current momentum. Given the tight turnaround between these two races, there won’t be any significant changes to the car. Instead, we’ll be able to look at optimising the set-up for this circuit and gathering more data to send back home in real-time, so our technical team can start working on the next batch of developments for Rounds 3 and 4. This weekend is a tough one for team and drivers given the challenges posed by the heat and humidity, but we’re hopeful of a similarly positive showing on the racetrack.”

Nico Hulkenberg, Sauber 2012 Qualifying – 16th, 2012 Race – 9th “Compared to Melbourne, the track in Malaysia has different characteristics. It’s a fast track with long high-speed corners, which should suit our car well. For the drivers Malaysia is always a challenge because of the high temperatures and the humidity. Lastly there is always a chance of rain, which can be interesting, especially at the start of the race.”

Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber 2012 Qualifying – n/a, 2012 Race – n/a “With the experience of an entire race in Melbourne, I can now look at where I can improve as a driver and where we can improve as a team. Sepang is a good track, which I know from GP2. Now I’m looking forward to driving the track in a Formula One car.”

Tom McCullough, Sauber head of track engineering “The Sepang circuit is a medium to high-speed one, and we look forward to seeing how the C32 performs there. The circuit is technically challenging as there are also two long straights that require an efficient car and also several low-speed corners. The circuit’s characteristics and typically high temperatures are also a real challenge for the tyres, which is why Pirelli will bring the medium and hard compounds. The weather can also play a significant part during the race weekend as late afternoon rain showers are common. Our target for the race is to finish with both cars in the points.”

Pirelli Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director “We would describe Sepang as genuinely ‘extreme’: both in terms of weather and track surface. This means that it is one of the most demanding weekends for our tyres that we experience all year. For the first time we see our new orange hard compound in competition, with this colour chosen to make it more easy to distinguish from the white medium on television. The nomination we have for Malaysia is the same as last year, but the compounds themselves offer more performance and deliberately increased degradation this season, Last year three stops proved to be the winning strategy in a mixed wet and dry race, with a thrilling finish between Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez that was all about tyres. We’d expect three stops again but once more it’s likely to be weather that dominates the action. Even when it isn’t raining, the drivers can expect humidity in the region of 80 percent and ambient temperatures of more than 30 degrees centigrade.”

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