Will Brawn dominate again in Sepang? (Malaysian Grand Prix preview)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Rubens Barrichello aims to go one better in the Malaysian Grand Prix
Rubens Barrichello aims to go one better in the Malaysian Grand Prix

Brawn GP locked out the front row, led every lap and finished one-two in Melbourne. Can anyone stop them in Sepang?

It’s a totally different circuit in a punishing climate – and we just might in for some rain as well.


Tyres played a big role in Melbourne as teams struggled to make the super soft compound tyres last.

Sepang is harder on tyres than Melbourne, so this weekend the teams will be using the hard and soft tyres. Last year the two tyre compounds were hard and medium, so those soft tyres could prove problematic.

But rain has been forecast for the Malaysian Grand Prix, in which case the teams will be reaching for the intermediate and wet tyres.


At Melbourne Ferrari, Renault and McLaren were all KERS-equipped, as was Nick Heidfeld’s BMW. It’s likely that we’ll see the same seven using KERS again, as Sepang offers a greater opportunity for them to get a benefit from it: Melbourne’s longest flat-out section is just 735m long, Sepang offers an extra 100m (and this is still far shorter than what we’ll see at other tracks later in the year).

KERS seemed to offer some help to the drivers that had it at Melbourne. Lewis Hamilton was jabbing his KERS button to pick off rivals early in the race, and Timo Glock complained that he couldn’t get past Fernando Alonso as the Renault driver used his to out-accelerate the Toyota. Williams’ Sam Michael is convinced the technology offers a benefit, and wants their electro-mechanical system on the car as soon as possible.

But Ferrari reported they were struggling with increased tyre wear as a consequence of their drivers using KERS, particularly early in the race when they were on super-soft tyres.

However there is a disadvantage to running KERS in Malaysia – cooling is critical in the humid heat of Sepang, and KERS demands extra heat rejection.

Can anyone catch Brawn?

Nico Rosberg’s Williams may have been fastest in all three practice sessions at Malaysia, but when the business end of the weekend arrived Brawn were uncatchable.

Interestingly although Rubens Barrichello was the fastest of the two BGP001s in Q2 (by 0.072s), he had more fuel on board in Q3. Perhaps he wanted to run a longer first stint so his final stint on the unfavourable super-softs would be shorter? Regardless, Sepang may bring us the Brawn-vs-Brawn battle at the front we didn’t get at Melbourne because Barrichello fluffed his start.

Brawn’s rivals’ best hope of victory are either that the pair tangle or that the punishing Malaysian heat breaks their cars. Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull kept in sight of Button’s car at Melbourne, but the mid-race safety car period diminished their lead over the pack and made Brawn’s margin of victory far smaller than it might have been.

I expect Ferrari to bounce back from their woeful start to the season – much as they did last year – and could even be Brawn’s closest challengers.

Drivers to watch

Kimi Raikkonen – Started his comeback from a disappointing 2008 by being out-qualified by his team mate and crashing. Cannot afford to let that become a habit. Sepang has played to his strengths in the past and he took Massa to the cleaners here last year. Badly needs a repeat performance this time around.

Jarno Trulli – One of my picks from last week, he drove a magnificent race from the back last week and would have been on the podium but for a late error and a penalty. Should get the result he needs this weekend.

Sebastian Vettel – The man who came the closest to taking the fight to Brawn for most of the first race. But he spoiled what would have been a fine debut for Red Bull with a late clash with Robert Kubica. Can he make up for it this weekend?

Robert Kubica – Spent much of practice looking and sounding very unhappy with his F1.09, but produced the goods in qualifying and the race. Perhaps being KERS-free isn’t so bad?

Essential links for the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend

We’ll be live blogging all five sessions of the Malaysian Grand Prix. Keep an eye on the site for more information – here’s details on how to subscribe: Get the latest from F1 Fanatic

96 comments on “Will Brawn dominate again in Sepang? (Malaysian Grand Prix preview)”

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  1. I think RBR will be on the podium this race, along with toyota

  2. How well will work the KERS in the wet? I think not so effective as in dry conditions

    1. Agreed. Surely if Ferrari were having problems with KERS hurting the tyres, it would have a bigger negative effect with the wet tyres, even at higher speeds. Malaysia in the wet is not a place where they’d need or want a sudden burst of power. Lots of swapping ends, I would think!

  3. Has there ever been a wet race at Sepang since F1 has raced there?

  4. Eduardo Colombi
    1st April 2009, 3:04

    The race starts at 5pm, in local time, so if the rain comes the visibility will be really affected adding the low quantity of natural light the gp can be finished befor the drivers complete the 56 laps.

  5. Rain plus KERS weight means an even greater advantage for the non-KERS double diffuser teams. But, you have to believe that the new more skittish cars will bring the great rain drivers to the fore. If there is much wet-dry transition conditions, look for Alonso and Hamilton to do something special. Vettel may shock the Brawns too.

  6. yes, the first race in malaysia was a washout

    1. Sounds like it mate.

      Can’t see it to be real…the obvious give away is the last paragraph!!..hahahaha..

      Good One F1 Live

    2. Haha! Was waiting for some news like that to pop up today – thought the Red Bulletin might be the first I have to admit… Nice one F1-live

    3. So much for thinking he’ll never give up, he’s found a far more efficient solution now.

  7. Bollywood Bub
    1st April 2009, 11:06

    Hey on F1 live they’re reporting that Hamilton has just switched to Brawn for the remainder of the season, effective from the Malaysian GP onwards. Obviously, someone will have to go.

    I think the prediction is a no brainer now.

  8. i also saw the last paragraph that’s why i put it up here.

    1. Bollywood Bub
      1st April 2009, 11:26

      oops, should have read it first. looks real, though I couldn’t quite believe it even as i read it. Can we assume a straight McLaren – Brawn driver swap? Or maybe Bruno Senna’s on his way to McLaren as we speak.

  9. I think Brawn GP are implementing the same Q rule as Mclaren did a couple of years ago, to ensure equality between the drivers.

    I correctly guessed that Button was going to be 1 to 2 laps lighter in Q3. You have a British owner (Brawn), a British co-owner (Brunson) and a British driver. Who do you think was going to be favored for pole in the teams maiden event ?

    Now I think it is Rubens’ turn to go into Q3 lighter. He is genuinely quicker than Button, as became abandantly obvious in Melbourne through practice and Q, and of course throughout last year in equal cars.

  10. …or it’s a fairly awful attempt at an April Fool’s joke.

  11. If it rains, I would not be surprised to see Alonso and Lewis on the podium … and Massa with yet another DNF.

    And I must say for the Nth time: Webber just can’t get away from trouble (crashing during the first lap).

    If it somehow stays dry, it should be 2 for 2 for Brawn (likely with Rubens ahead of Button). The white-yellow cars were saving the engine during the 3rd stint, no doubt about it. There is more speed in the brawn car than what was shown in Melbourne … KERS or no KERS.

  12. I still think Brawn GP are the fastest cars by about 0.3sec.
    If it rains,watch out for Vettel and Sutil.
    I have this feeling that we may have a big surprise winner on Sunday.
    Is Buemi good in wet conditions?

  13. What do we think qualifying time will be (fastest in 3rd qualifying)? In Ozz Jenson was a good 0.5/0.6 secs quicker than last year… will the others catch up or will JB get evn quicker?

  14. It looks likely to rain so i think Brawn GP will have a hard weekend to repeat Australia, but i think its more suitable for Hamilton

  15. Here’s a few points Guys,

    – Brawn is a NEW NEW NEW team with a NEW CAR that’s 3 weeks old – so the Team ( Ross )will be saying ( even after testing )- the best we can hope for is top 6 qualifying and a the very very very very best is a top 6 finish – but any new team thats 3 weeks old will shout at drivers just to get cars home for Sponsors, and data so that they can improve the car. Therefore drivers were told to get cars home and I can bet Ross shouted at JB to KEEP out of trouble. Branson was happy he got the show started with Qualifying – The winning was just a bonus for him – ( winning – if it happens its easy but shows a superb car )

    – Now – Any good car is a good car from day one. It responds to any changes you make in a known way and therefore its all mega simple – Brawn has been – mega quick – therefore complete car is good car – diffuser will give a little bit more downforce but not heaps –

    – Best looking ( FOR HANDLING ) cars on the track were the Brawns – but to be truthful – Jenson never pushed it – never saw a twitch or any understeer. So heaps to come plus, plus, plus, plus, plus ITS GOOD to Tyres – therefore will be good on a number of surfaces.

    – KERS will be a factor – every team needs one right NOW.( getting good handling and tyre wear is just time)

    – When you stand in pouring rain getting totally soaked and revel at a proper Rain Master then its the same – they lap anything up to 5 seconds a lap faster than other drivers with ANY car and they look smooth, easy and seem to have the best handling car out there. So bring on a Rain Master……

    – Mercedes has a problem because it really needs more sponsorship on the Brawn, because no guarantees McLaren will be good this year.

    – FIA will probably ban diffuser to even the ball park and screw with lower teams hard work.


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