Text: Alex Yoong / Photos: | posted March 23, 2012 08:22
2012 Malaysian Grand Prix
On the back of last weekend's Australian GP, there does not seem to be many changes in the pecking order from last year. We have RedBull and McLaren fighting for victories, Alonso in fifth with an uncompetitive car, Mercedes with tire wear issues, etc.
Not terribly exciting on the surface, but if you delve deeper into the times of all the teams, we actually get a good picture of how much closer the field has gotten.
In Q3, the top ten cars were separated by one second, which is unheard of for an opening race of the season. It really shows that with the rules remaining mostly stable, the mid field teams have come very well prepared for the start of 2012.
Historically these first fly away races do throw up some surprises before the circus heads back to Europe. But let's look at how the grid has stacked up.
We have the big 5 teams at the front with McLaren, Red Bull, Mercedes, Renault and Ferrari. Well, the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso at least. The midfield consists of Williams, Force India, Torro Rosso and Sauber. But in Australia, we saw 12 cars within a second, so that is very exciting because that means on a good day, a mid-field team will be up at the front.
So what will happen here in Malaysia for round 2 of the 2012 season? First of all, the race in Sepang is a completely different affair to Australia. While Melbourne was cool, Malaysia is going to be very hot, with teams working to cool their cars without disturbing the airflow around the sidepods and floor as little as possible to minimize the loss of downforce.
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. Red Bull were the quickest here last year, and nobody could keep up with them through the relatively high speed turns of 5, 6, 7 and 8. It will be interesting to see if they will still have that advantage. Something tells me they will not and I think we will see another 4 team scrap for pole position.