Mar 26, 2014, 9:57 AM EDT
Often one of the hottest Grands Prix, the Malaysian Grand Prix is an early-season challenge and massive departure from the season-opener in Australia.
Unlike the concrete confines of the city park circuit in Melbourne, the Sepang International Circuit is the first of the year’s Hermann Tilke-designed circuits, a track with unlimited runoff, long straights into tight hairpins, and a series of sweeping mid-gear corners.
The test at Sepang is to master all of them while the ambient temperature hovers in the 90-degree Fahrenheit mark, with track temperatures anywhere from 130 to 140 degrees.
This week is no different. Ambient temperatures are expected in the low 90s and there’s a 60 percent chance of rain for both Saturday and Sunday.
Some surprises have popped up in the races where rain has interrupted the heat flow. The race began in mixed conditions last year and caught Fernando Alonso out, but Alonso was able to take an at the time mid-pack Ferrari to a win here in the rain in 2012 by holding off a charging Sergio Perez in his Sauber.
Jenson Button’s 2009 win in Malaysia came when the race was cut short by rain, and awarded half points.
Every year in the last five but Alonso’s triumph in 2012 has seen the eventual World Champion win this race – besides Button in ’09, Sebastian Vettel has had the race his way in all of 2010, 2011 and most recently and controversially, last year in the infamous “Multi 21” scandal with Red Bull teammate Mark Webber.
But prior to that this race featured a wild card of different winners.
Vettel’s 2010 win made it five different winners in as many years, with five different teams. Button’s Brawn-Mercedes (2009), Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari (2008), Alonso’s McLaren-Mercedes (2007) and Giancarlo Fisichella’s Renault (2006) were previous winners of the event before then.
Alonso’s 2005 win, then with Renault, propelled his first championship charge. Raikkonen won his first career Grand Prix with McLaren in 2003. Michael (2004, 2001, 2000) and Ralf Schumacher (2002) and Eddie Irvine (1999) can also count themselves as Malaysian GP winners.
Taking all that into account, Malaysia this time around is not the easiest to predict.
Yes, Vettel has scored three of the last four wins at this circuit but the Red Bull is not the car of choice at the moment – strange as that is to write. But a Vettel win now would probably rank with his initial Grand Prix victory, 2008 at Monza with Toro Rosso, on the surprise scale.
Mercedes may have the car to beat but neither Lewis Hamilton nor Nico Rosberg have won at its sponsor’s home Grand Prix.
McLaren? They haven’t won since Button triumphed at the 2012 curtain-closer in Sao Paulo, and a Kevin Magnussen victory this early in his career would certainly be something to remember.
What about Ferrari? Six times a winner here but a 2014 victory for either of Fernando or Kimi would fall along the lines of Alonso’s 2012 win, in a case of man overachieving in his machine. Their pace seems slightly suspect in comparison to the Mercedes-powered cars.
And what of the sleepers, a Williams or a Force India for instance? Williams showed it had the chops at Melbourne and Felipe Massa will no doubt be keen to avenge his first lap disaster Down Under, while Valtteri Bottas looks to build on his storming driver. Force India’s Perez and Nico Hulkenberg are definite points contenders with perhaps more to gain from a strong qualifying effort.
Like at Melbourne, we don’t have a great idea of who will win for the first of the new car/new era races at a Tilke-designed track. And that should only add to the intrigue of this week in Malaysia.
You can see the Malaysian Grand Prix this weekend on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra at 2:00 a.m. ET (FP2, Friday 3/28), 4:00 a.m. ET (qualifying, Saturday 3/29) and the race 3:30 a.m. ET (Sunday 3/30).
Sep 5, 2015, 7:45 AM EDT
Lewis Hamilton goes in search of his 11th pole position of the 2015 season at Monza on Saturday.
Sep 5, 2015, 6:07 AM EDT
Hamilton leads the way from Vettel and Rosberg in final practice at Monza.
Sep 5, 2015, 4:45 AM EDT
Lewis Hamilton bids to complete a clean sweep of practice sessions on Saturday morning at Monza.
Sep 4, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
Gasly storms to pole ahead of Mitch Evans and Stoffel Vandoorne as American driver Alexander Rossi struggles to P10 on the grid.
Sep 4, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT
Ecclestone backs Vettel to win a fifth world championship during his time with Ferrari.
Sep 4, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
After being the enemy for the Ferrari fans in the past at Monza, Vettel will now carry their hopes of a home win on his shoulders.
Sep 4, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT
Despite finishing well clear of the chasing pack on Friday in practice, Hamilton believes he can go faster still.
Sep 4, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button among those running with a sticker paying tribute to Wilson on their helmets at Monza.
Sep 4, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT
IndyCar’s season recap airs tonight at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
Sep 4, 2015, 10:59 AM EDT
Will Buxton brings you the latest news, interviews and insight from the paddock ahead of this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.
Sep 4, 2015, 10:26 AM EDT
F1 drivers react to idea of closed cockpits possibly being introduced down the road.
Sep 4, 2015, 10:11 AM EDT
Will Buxton and Jason Swales head to Silverstone to give you a behind-the-scenes look at the British Grand Prix in the latest episode of Off The Grid.
Sep 4, 2015, 9:58 AM EDT
First round of funeral details for Justin Wilson have been confirmed.
Sep 4, 2015, 9:31 AM EDT
Mercedes romps to another one-two finish in FP2 as the rest of the field is left trailing behind.
Sep 4, 2015, 8:45 AM EDT
Jota Sport confirms it will expand its LMP2 programme for 2016 to compete in the full WEC season.
Sep 4, 2015, 7:45 AM EDT
Lewis Hamilton will be hoping to double up in FP2 after topping first practice on Friday morning.
Sep 4, 2015, 5:31 AM EDT
Hamilton finishes half a second clear of Rosberg to top FP1 on Friday.
Sep 4, 2015, 3:45 AM EDT
The Italian GP weekend kicks off with FP1 at 4am ET on Friday.
Sep 3, 2015, 6:55 PM EDT
Here’s all the information you need to know about this weekend’s 61st annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in suburban Indianapolis:
- WATCH LIVE: Italian GP qualifying on NBCSN and Live Extra from 8am ET 0
- Hamilton completes practice clean sweep at Monza 0
- F1 Paddock Pass: Italian Grand Prix (VIDEO) 0
- Off The Grid: Silverstone preview (premieres 9/6 on NBCSN) 0
- Hamilton quickest again in second Italian GP practice 2
- Hamilton leads Mercedes one-two in Italian GP FP1 1
- NHRA: All you need to know about the 61st U.S. Nationals 1