2008 Malaysian GP preview: rain & road

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

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.