F1: Malaysian Grand Prix preview

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarFriday, April 3rd, 2009

 
 

It’s hard to get one’s mind onto the racing when the press are camped outside the Sepang paddock media centre like a pack of Romans at the circus in the later period of the Empire.

But we’re going to have to try, so here goes.

The biggest issue facing the teams this weekend – on the racetrack, at least – is the weather. A few days ago the Malaysian monsoon season arrived in force, rather earlier than is convenient for the F1 roadshow.

For a while it looked like the entire race may be under threat from torrential rain. At time of writing, practice has gone off OK but the BBC Weather Centre is forecasting heavy showers for the whole weekend.

So that should be interesting.

At least two drivers have expressed concerns about the safety issues surrounding “twilight” races timed for the convenience of European television viewers.

Heat and humidity are also a major problem with Sebastian Vettel making perhaps the most widely-reported remark on the subject: “The heat in Malaysia is always a surprise, even if you’re here for a couple of days before you jump in the car.

“It’s very hot with the suit and everything and, no matter how much you prepare, the first outing is always a bad surprise – but, you quickly adapt.

“Every time you come in to the box it’s like you’ve been in the shower. Fortunately I’ve got a bag with dry ice in it, which I put next to my balls, so at least they stay nice and cool!”

Yes, well, thanks for that, Sebastian. The word is, we believe, “oversharing”. Still, it’s good to know at least one driver will have his thinking apparatus in good condition for the race.

In terms of cars everyone is agog to see whether Brawn GP are – to coin a popular phrase – all fur coat and no knickers. In other words, will the so-far-amazing BGP 001 continue to have the pace and reliability to top the timesheets? Or will the cracks begin to show?

Other questions include whether McLaren has made any progress at all with the aerodynamics on its underdeveloped MP4-24, and would the real Ferrari please stand up, after the Italian outfit barely bothered to show up in Australia.

BMW and Red Bull will also be ones to watch after Sebastian Vettel wrung a superb performance out of his Adrian Newey-designed RB5 in Melbourne before flinging it all away in the final laps. Robert Kubica’s BMW – on a significantly different setup to colleague Nick Heidfeld – also lost a points-paying place in the same crash.

The Sepang circuit is Hermann Tilke-designed, 3.5-mile affair with lots and lots of room for overtaking. Malaysia, for those wanting to do their sums about the times of various events, is currently seven hours ahead of the UK.

Lots of potential, in other words, for on-track excitement. If only we get the chance to concentrate on it.

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