Last weekend sees the second Grand Prix of the F1 season take place at the Sepang International Circuit in Kuala Lumpur as the teams go head to head in the next instalment of the F1 season, the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Last time out in Melbourne, it was Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg who was smiling after he took first place from Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo with Kevin Magnussen of McLaren a hugely impressive third in his first ever F1 race.
However, immediately following the race, Ricciardo’s delight at finishing second on the podium in his home Grand Prix was tempered when due to exceeding the legal fuel flow rate, his Red Bull car had passed beyond the legal limits imposed by FIA and as such, Ricciardo was disqualified, promoting Magnussen into second and McLaren team mate Jenson Button into third.
Red Bull have since appealed the decision, an appeal which will be heard in early April, so we go into the second race of the season only sure that the 25 points Nico Rosberg secured for Mercedes are for certain and the other points award may yet change, depending on the outcome of Red Bull’s appeal.
It was a generally miserable weekend for Red Bull, Ricciardo’s fuel issue and World Champion Sebastian Vettel withdrawing from the race after three laps seeing them end the first race of the season without a point – for the time being.
Lewis Hamilton also had a shocker with his engine causing him problems and leading him to withdraw after just two laps, while both Lotus had issues with their ERS, making a miserable weekend for Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado.
So heading into Malaysia, there is still a great deal for some of the world’s most prominent teams to improve upon ahead of this race weekend at Sepang.
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Malaysian Grand Prix – history
The first F1 Malaysian Grand Prix was held in 1999, when Eddie Irvine was the surprise winner for Ferrari. Over the years, Michael Schumacher won the race three times for Ferrari, while Kimi Raikkonen (2008) and Fernando Alonso (2012) have also won for the prancing horse team.
It’s not been a happy huntring ground for McLaren, their last win coming back in 2007 when Fernando Alonso won the second of his three wins (each with a different team) at the circuit.
In recent years, Red Bull have dominated the race with Sebastian Vettel winning in 2010, 2011 and 2013. Indeed last year, Vettel and Webber finished in a 1-2 for the Championship winning team.
Other winners at the circuit include Giancarlo Fisichella who won for Renault in 2006, Ralf Schumacher who won for Williams BMW in 2002 and Jenson Button who won for Brawn-Mercedes in 2009.
Malaysian Grand Prix – the track
Sepang is thought to be one of the toughest tests for a F1 driver over the course of the season. The track has come in for criticism from drivers for being too bumpy, which is partly due to the track being built on a reclaimed swamp, which has caused small sections of the track to sink, producing a pock-marked, uneven circuit.
In addition, the surrounding area of the Grand Prix is said to look a little shabby at times, which F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone markedly pointed out back in 2007. Although since then, Sepang’s owners have made improvements to the track and its surrounding area.
On Sunday, the drivers will complete 56 laps of the 3.444 mile circuit for a total race length of 192.8 miles.
One of the signature features of the track are its high speed sweeping turns, as well as two long straights (Penang and Kuala Lumpur Straights) as well as some testing corners including the Pangkor Laur Chicane straight after the start/finish straight and where many cars have come to grief in the race on the opening lap.
In addition to testing track conditions, the local weather can play havoc with the race. Temperatures are always high, but its late afternoon start time can mean that heavy rain and thunderstorms can roll in and turn the race from a dry race, into a wet one, in the space of a few seconds.
Malaysian Grand Prix – build up
With many teams and drivers having much to prove ahead of the race, in the two weeks since the opening Grand Prix in Melbourne, all teams have been hard at work refining their cars.
After a dismal first weekend of the season, World Champion Sebastian Vettel has declared himself satisfied with the progress made on his Red Bull car ahead of the race, while McLaren have also been pushing their vehicles aggressively to give drivers Button and Magnusson a car to challenge Mercedes.
Ferrari too, who also suffered a disappointing first weekend have been trying to bridge the gap between themselves and Mercedes at the top of the leaderboard.
With better things too expected from Lotus, Sauber and Williams, who looked promising especially under Finnish driver Valeri Bottas in Melbourne, it promises to be an exciting weekend of racing.
Malaysia Grand Prix – the tips
With so many variables heading into the race, it is hard to pick a definitive winner for this race.
Have McLaren ironed out the issues with Lewis Hamilton’s car? Will Nico Rosberg make it a double-victory opening to the season?
Have Red Bull got Sebastian Vettel in a position to challenge? Will Ferrari bridge the gap between themselves and Mercedes?
Given their past history at the event and their reputation for technical excellence, Red Bull look a wise pick here. And at best odds of around 5/1 with a host of bookmakers, I’m backing Sebastian Vettel to bounce back from a miserable Melbourne to win in Malaysia.
A great bet
If you are looking for another good bet for the weekend, then the fastest lap bet is always a good market. In testing Lewis Hamilton has been setting a fierce pace and he should last longer than the three laps he managed in Melbourne.
I fancy the British driver to set a blistering early pace and to earn the fastest lap in the race, a bet which is available at best odds of 3/1 with Ladbrokes at present.