2008 Malaysian GP preview: rain & road

Rubens Barrichello, Michael Schumacher, Sepang, 2001, 470150

The prospects of a wet Malaysian Grand Prix are growing every day. And the new surface at Sepang will make the race even harder to predict.

A wet Malaysian Grand Prix?

It’s looking a distinct possibility at the moment. The Malaysian government’s weather website warns of thunderstorms during the afternoon on all three days of the Grand Prix weekend. It has rained on the past two days.

This weather radar shows how much heavy rain is in the area – you have to zoom in a bit to find Sepang, which is to the south of Kuala Lampur. They predict a 60% chance of rain on each of the days the F1 cars are on track.

I’ll be keeping an eye on the weather and if anything significant pops up I’ll post it on my Twitter feed which you can also view here. If anyone who reads this blog is in the region and has some local tips, please post it below.

The last wet Malaysian Grand Prix was in 2001 and, as we learned, extremely heavy rain can blow in at very short notice, and just as quickly dry up again.

What about the new track surface?

Sepang International Circuit, 2008 Malaysian Grand Prix

Sepang was entirely re-surfaced ten months ago. But there were complaints about the quality of the work so it was partly re-done in August last year at turns one, four, seven, eight, nine and part of 15.

It’s not been popular with everyone – the Moto GP riders found the new surface far more abrasive than before when they raced there following the second re-surfacing. The A1 Grand Prix teams reported no such problems but that series uses a hard specification tyre.

The F1 teams will have the two hardest options available to them – ‘medium’ and ‘hard’. Of course if it does rain and they switch to wet weather rubber they are no longer required to use both types of dry weather tyre.

The track also has new tarmac run-off areas at several corners, and the paddock area has had some new construction work.

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33 comments on 2008 Malaysian GP preview: rain & road

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  1. The Wolf has some interesting weather info in his latest post.  Not only is there a 90% chance of rain on the Sunday, the temperatures plummet below anything experienced on the practice and qualifying days.  That could throw a Spaniard in the works…

  2. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 19th March 2008, 21:22

    And Malaysia’s his neck of the woods as well. Very interesting…

  3. M Smith said on 19th March 2008, 21:44

    It would be great if we saw a wet Malaysian GP. First race without TC (for a long while) followed by first wet race without TC.
    This is shaping up to be a great season already!

  4. puddum ching said on 19th March 2008, 21:48

    whats sandbagging?

  5. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 19th March 2008, 21:54

    Pretending to have a slower car than you do in practice so you can surprise your opponents in the race.

  6. D Winn said on 19th March 2008, 22:32

    BBC weather says 5 days of heavy showers and 29C for Kuala Lumpur

  7. Robert McKay said on 19th March 2008, 22:48

    I think even light to medium rain without TC would present a formidable challenge, so if it rains heavily then I suspect literally anybody could win. Could be a cracker :-D

  8. Pink Peril said on 19th March 2008, 23:07

    If it does rain *rubbing hands with glee* could someone just keep Vettel away from Webber during the race?

  9. M Smith said on 19th March 2008, 23:14

    Or on that note: make sure Hamilton isn’t leading behind the safety car!

  10. Melanie said on 19th March 2008, 23:28

    Only 7 cars finished the last race, so how many cars will finish a wet race?

    The set up for race day might also present a problem, because teams are not allowed to change their set ups in parc ferme. Will they have to take a chance and use a wet set up in qualifying making them slower or will they go will a dry set up and risk racing like that? This is where the new qualifying rules might present the most problems.

  11. So what are you gonna do about Massa?

    Seriously, there shouldn’t be too much of a problem if it does rain, unless lakes are created on the circuit and even TC won’t help much in that situation.  Don’t forget that F1 drivers coped adequately in the wet without TC for fifty years before its advent.  There is no reason why the present crop shouldn’t be able to adapt.

    What you can expect to see is the rainmeisters emerge.  We know who was good with TC in the wet, but now we’ll see if it’s the same guys who cope best in the rain without TC.

    And before there is a chorus of "well they didn’t cope without TC in Melbourne", I’d ask just how many DNFs were actually caused by the lack of TC.  First corner accident?  Nope, that was over-exuberance by one guy (Piquet, according to Grand Prix dot com).  Massa?  Maybe, or maybe it was just Massa.  Kimi made a couple of errors, one of which he might have been saved from by TC.  Nakajima/Kubica?  Nah, that was just human error.

    It was purely coincidence that the first race without TC in a long time had so many retirements.

  12. Toncho said on 19th March 2008, 23:39

    Off topic, I read today at Gazzeta de lo Sport that Ferrari thinks there may be a problem of compatibility between the MCL ECU and the Ferrary systems… I am not an expert so can anyone advise if that may be possible?? Obviously is a pro-FE newspaper. Anyway, I think i read somewere there were three posible supliers: MCL systems, Magneti Minarelli (provider of ferrari) and a third one. I reckon the FIA should have pick an independent one to avoid possible advantages.

  13. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 19th March 2008, 23:43

    If there was a fundamental compatibility problem it surely would have come to light earlier? MES won the contract to build the ECUs a year and a half ago.

  14. Melanie said on 19th March 2008, 23:55

    The final specification (MES’s upgrade to the ECU firmware) of the ECU was at the beginning of March, not long before the Australian GP (two weeks), and apparently it was changed because of the "problems" that Honda has identified.

    Toyota has also stated that their problem from the Australian GP are related to the integration of the ECU.

    It might mean that Ferrari didn’t have enough time to fully understand, and change according to the new specifications.

  15. If that is the case, why did the problem only kick in during the last few laps of the race? I’d have thought that the incompatibility would have showed up the first couple of times some suitable conditions arose (e.g. pit stops, Safety Car procedures). I suspect that this incompatibility may in fact be that the Ferrari engine is incompatible with a multiple-race regulation more than anything else.

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