Text: Alex Yoong / Photos: | posted March 22, 2013 17:37
F1 PETRONAS Malaysia Grand Prix
Well, the big question for this weekend is whether Lotus F1 can carry on from their win from the season opener in Australia. Key to this lies in their ability in being fast enough without wearing out their sensitive tyres. The team openly admits that over one lap, they are probably the fourth quickest team and in the heat of Malaysia, hope that treating their tyres kindly will give them an advantage over their opponents.
RedBull had a slightly higher tyre wear than EVERYONE had anticipated, but they were convinced that the tyre resilience was due to slightly lower temperature on Sunday in Australia. If correct, then RedBull will be the team to beat because their speed in the qualifying round was really impressive. I think that Sepang will suit their cars even better with its mix of long corners.
Ferrari should rejoice to their best start of the season in three years. Pace-wise, they are just behind RedBull and they have been a little kinder on their tyres too. If they can just find a bit more pace over one lap, they will be on the right track in the hunt for victory here.
Mercedes, however, gave a rather confusing performance. Their one lap pace was right there, with Nico Rosberg qualifying third in Melbourne. Their pace on the softer tyres was very impressive, but after that first pit-stop, you could see them putting pressure on the harder-compound tyres and they looked very much like the Mercedes of last year. It’s up to anyone to guess how Mercedes will perform this weekend, but rest assured, with Malaysian Petronas as their main sponsor, Mercedes will definitely garner a lot of support.
The rest of the midfield was a little more stretched out than I expected it to be, but I believe the sensitive tyres and cooler weather conditions caught the racers off-guard. In my opinion, best of the rest is still Mclaren although they were quite a bit slower than Force India in the race. Having said that, they won’t be challenging in front, but I do expect them to be the best of the rest.
What will happen here in Malaysia for round two of the 2013 season? First of all, the race in Sepang is a completely different affair compared to Australia. While it was colder in Melbourne, Malaysia on the other hand, is going to be scorching. The teams will be working hard to cool their cars by opening the side-pod openings. They will want to do this as little as possible to minimize the disturbances of airflow around the side-pods, hence, minimizing the loss of down-force.
Melbourne is a street track with short medium and slow speed corners. While Sepang is a track with a lot of long sweeping corners, with a good balance of high, medium and slow speed corners. That means cars with good aerodynamic grip and balance will go well. RedBull will be my favourites in qualifying but as we saw in Australia that will not count for much. It’s all about looking after the tyres, and Lotus did that the best of anyone.
It’s definitely going to be an interesting race to watch, especially now with the introduction of the award-winning SKY SPORTS F1 commentary team of Martin Brundle and David Croft, dishing out their expert comments and opinions this weekend. In addition, I also recommend fans to go check out our new F1 Companion Site that’s been designed to complement their F1 viewing experience with exclusive angles and driver information!
Catch Alex Yoong on STAR Sports’ coverage of this weekend’s F1 PETRONAS Malaysia Grand Prix on Formula Fridays, Race Day and Chequered Flag. Enhance your viewing experience like never before with the F1 Companion Site located at http://live.foxsportsasia.com/f1!