Skip to content

Malaysian GP: A race of heat, rain, and the occasional surprise

Mar 26, 2014, 9:57 AM EDT

Australian F1 Grand Prix - Race Getty Images

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).

Latest Posts
  1. Drivers ponder why cars didn’t go airborne during the Indianapolis 500

    May 25, 2015, 5:40 PM EDT

    Juan Pablo Montoya, Will Power Juan Pablo Montoya, Will Power

    Runner-up Will Power said it’s as simple as making the cars slower.

  2. Juan Pablo Montoya feted by peers worldwide for Indy win

    May 25, 2015, 3:20 PM EDT

    Juan Pablo Montoya Juan Pablo Montoya

    After his second triumph in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, he is ovewhelmed by congratulatory messages.

  3. Montoya’s Indianapolis 500 win adds another storied chapter to the Roger Penske-Chip Ganassi rivalry

    May 25, 2015, 2:12 PM EDT

    Chip Ganassi, Roger Penske Chip Ganassi, Roger Penske

    They are the only car owners to win the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500 in the same season.

  4. WSR: Jaafar seizes championship lead with Monaco win

    May 25, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    © Renault Sport © Renault Sport

    The Mercedes-affiliated youngster clinches his first win of the season around the legendary streets of Monaco.

  5. WRC: Latvala claims first win of 2015 at Rally Portugal

    May 25, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    PORTO, PORTUGAL - MAY 24:
Jari Matti Latvala of Finland and Mikka Anttila of Finland compete in their Volkswagen Motorsport Volkswagen Polo R WRC during Day Three of the WRC Portugal on May 24, 2015 in Porto, Portugal.  (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images) Getty Images

    After a miserable run of form, Latvala finally climbs to the top step of the podium with a narrow win over Sebastien Ogier in Portugal.

  6. Indy 500 results: Andretti P6 in tough day for team; Hildebrand leads one-offs

    May 25, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT

    MAindy500 Getty Images

    Andretti ends sixth, best of the day for the defending Indy 500-winning team, while Hildebrand leads the one-off drivers.

  7. Grosjean hopes Verstappen learns from Monaco crash

    May 25, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT

    Lotus F1 Team's French driver  Romain Grosjean  drives at the Monaco street circuit in Monte-Carlo on May 24, 2015, during the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix. AFP PHOTO / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC        (Photo credit should read ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Running inside the top ten, Grosjean’s hopes of points were dashed on Sunday in Monaco when Max Verstappen crashed into him.

  8. Bell: “A wild Indy 500 without the finish we desired”

    May 25, 2015, 10:11 AM EDT

    Photo: DRR IndyCar Photo: DRR IndyCar

    Townsend Bell’s final blog for the Indianapolis 500 touches on family, meeting Jeff Gordon, and a crazy view from the driver’s seat.

  9. Raikkonen frustrated by poor qualifying form in 2015

    May 25, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

    xxxx during the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 24, 2015 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. Getty Images

    A sixth-place finish in Monaco disappoints Raikkonen, but he lays blame with his poor qualifying form.

  10. Pagenaud’s stellar month and best ever Indy 500 race to date ends P10

    May 25, 2015, 9:48 AM EDT

    PagsIndy500Final Getty Images

    One of Simon Pagenaud’s best oval races to date ends P10 after running top three most of race.

  11. Rosberg joins Hill, Prost and Senna as Monaco three-peat winners after gifted victory

    May 25, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 24:  Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP celebrates in parc ferme after winning the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 24, 2015 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The win may have come by accident, but Rosberg etched his place in F1 history on Sunday.

  12. Kvyat scores career-best result in Monaco after Ricciardo honors in-race agreement

    May 25, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 24:  Daniil Kvyat of Russia and Infiniti Red Bull Racing drives during the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 24, 2015 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The Red Bull boys finish fourth and fifth in Monaco to give the team something to smile about after a tough start to the season.

  13. Ryan: Juan Pablo Montoya comes full circle at Indianapolis

    May 24, 2015, 7:47 PM EDT

    150524-Juan-Pablo-Montoya Getty Images

    In his second win at the Brickyard, the Team Penske driver delivered a performance that embodies his style.

  14. Rahal once again leads Honda’s charge, banking another top-five in Indy 500

    May 24, 2015, 7:24 PM EDT

    RahalIMSp5 Getty Images

    Once again in 2015, it’s Graham Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing best of Honda’s brigade.

  15. Dixon leads most laps in Indy 500, 84, but ends unrepresentative fourth

    May 24, 2015, 7:12 PM EDT

    DixonIMSStop Getty Images

    A good, but not great day, occurs for Indianapolis 500 polesitter Scott Dixon.

  16. Kimball seizes his opportunity, ends third in Indy 500

    May 24, 2015, 6:30 PM EDT

    CK*3 Getty Images

    Kimball drives from 14th to third, a career-best in the Indianapolis 500.

  17. Montoya’s Indy 500 win extends his IndyCar points lead

    May 24, 2015, 5:30 PM EDT

    150524-Montoya Getty Images

    Montoya extends IndyCar points lead after Indianapolis 500.