Sepang set for battle of the rain masters (2010 Malaysian Grand Prix preview)

A downpour brought out the red flags in Sepang last year

A downpour brought out the red flags in Sepang last year

Last year’s Malaysian Grand Prix was abandoned after heavy rain made racing impossible. More rain is expected throughout the weekend at Sepang this year.

Whatever the weather Sebastian Vettel will be hungry for victory after leading but losing in the last two races. Can he finally win one this weekend?

First of the fast tracks

After two stop-start circuits, Sepang is the first track the teams race at this year which makes big demands of their cars’ aerodynamic efficiency – how much downforce they can generate in the high-speed corners without losing speed down the straights.

McLaren’s F-duct should come into its own here, allowing the team to run more wing for the corners but stall their rear wing on the straights for greater straight-line speed. This has been one of their strengths so far this season as the speed trap figures from the first two races show:

Bahrain

Driver Team Top speed
Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 314.8kph
Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 313.2kph
Nico H???lkenberg Williams-Cosworth 313.1kph

Australia

Driver Team Top speed
Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 310.3kph
Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 305.0kph
Fernando Alonso Ferrari 303.0kph

However Red Bull enjoyed the quickest times through sector three in Bahrain, which features more of the kind of long, fast corners similar to several of those at Sepang. This was also a strength of their RB5 last year
That, combined with their rumoured ride height control system should give them an edge. Whether their cars can make it to the finish is another matter.

Eyes on the skies

The weather in Malaysia makes it a tough place to go racing at the best of times, with high air temperatures and suffocating humidity. The latter makes it harder for sweat to evaporate, meaning drivers have to go to great lengths to keep their body temperatures under control.

Car cooling is even more difficult this year because of the refuelling ban, as they no longer get a dose of fresh, cool fuel twice per race.

But they won’t just have the heat to contend with this year. The teams will be dodging thunderstorms all weekend which could disrupt practice and turn qualifying into a lottery.

The race starts one hour earlier than last year, so hopefully the teams won’t face running out of daylight in which to complete the race as happened last time. But we know when it rains at Sepang it tends to be a torrential downpour rather than a light sprinkling, so anything could happen.

Read more: More rain expected at Sepang

Drivers to watch

Four driver to keep an eye on this weekend. Name your top picks in the comments.

Michael Schumacher – Looked to have narrowed the gap to his team mate at Australia, then had his front wing knocked off at the first corner. With a wet track to play with, could we see a return to form for Schumacher in Sepang?

Sebastian Vettel – Should have two wins to his name already and lost both through no fault of his own. Wet weekends are his forte.

Adrian Sutil – Another driver who’s looked quicker than his team mate and needs to turn around his luck and get a result. Handy in the wet – when he keeps his car on the track.

Lewis Hamilton – Had his problems on and off the track in Australia.

And possibly Fairuz Fauzy too. There are reports the Lotus third driver will make a one-off appearance for the team in the first free practice session. I’ve approached Lotus for a confirmation but haven’t had one yet.

Paul di Resta will once again be driving for Force India, this time in place of Vitantonio Liuzzi in practice one.

The Malaysian Grand Prix on F1 Fanatic

Join us for live blogging during all the practice sessions for the Malaysian Grand Prix, plus qualifying and the race itself. Times here: Malaysian Grand Prix live TV times

Before the race weekend starts look out for our unofficial race programme with quick links to all the important information.

We’ll have analysis of the times during Friday practice and extensive coverage of qualifying and the race.

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2010 Malaysian Grand Prix

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85 comments on Sepang set for battle of the rain masters (2010 Malaysian Grand Prix preview)

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  1. 1)This is it Schumi! Go and drive like in old times! Its your big chance! Im with you forever!
    2) So this is debut for Fauzy. He will drive in race someday…
    3)Can Sutil finally score points?
    4)Can Vettel finally score podium?
    5)Is Massa really so bad in rain?
    6)Kubica goes mad again?

    • David A said on 31st March 2010, 17:23

      5) You may have missed the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2008.

      • That was brilliant race for my second favourite after Schumi, but how many times has he spinned? I think more then Webber, Vettel, Kimi, Rosberg or Glock

        • steph90 said on 31st March 2010, 17:43

          Nurburgring 07 massa was great and China last year. Silverstone was bad and made worse by bad strategy but it isn’t the be all and end all of his wet weather talent.

          • Ok, hope u re right and Massa will get podium

          • Ratboy said on 31st March 2010, 17:54

            Like Steph said one race doesnt define wether Massa is good or bad in the wet, Hamilton in china 07 wasnt good but people have forgotten about it, and im sure there were a few wet races early in M Schumachers career which he’d happily forget.

            At least Massa hasnt retired from a wet race like Prost did in Aus 1989 (I think maybe wrong)

          • People forget Kimi had a shocker in that race too, Massa isn’t as bad a wet weather driver as people think. He has put in some good performances but that one race will curse him forever.

          • yeah, but even driving sauber, he didnt make any good races in rain. I know that Sauber was not so good car, but look what Vettel has done with Toro Rosso in Monza and Fuji(?) until crash

          • PatrickL said on 31st March 2010, 22:00

            Bob,
            That 2008 Torro Rosso and the Red Bull were great in the rain. There was only one non Newey car in the top 4 after qualifying.

            People forget that the car determines most of the handling and thus wet weather performance.

            For instance, when Schumacher was driving a Benetton he wasn’t impressive in the rain at all. Many accidents. Alesi was great in the rain in his Ferrari. Then they switched teams and all of a sudden Schumacher was a rain master and Alesi not so much anymore.

          • Icthyes said on 1st April 2010, 0:51

            Ratboy, Hamilton drove very well in the rain in China 07, building a comfortable lead. It was when it dried that everything went wrong! And ironically, the first and biggest of McLaren’s strategy blunders with Hamilton…

          • Icthyes said on 1st April 2010, 0:57

            I think two things define wet-weather ability:

            1) Staying on the road in the position your car normally is. Massa’s proved that.

            2) Punching above your weight/crushing everyone in the rain. Massa hinted at this in China 09, though everyone seems to forget he was on a different strategy and as high up as he was because of it.

            Hopefully Massa will do well if it rains and surprise a lot of people!

        • Untitled258 said on 31st March 2010, 21:21

          I seem to remember a certain Mr Hamilton so called master in the wet, spinning about 5 times in the rain in China09, if the car doesnt work in the rain, there is not much the driver can do, if Kimi was spinning at silverstone too, which i remember him doing around woodcote a couple of times, then there must of been a problem with the car set up.

          Other then GB08 i have no idea when Massa was poor in the rain.

          • ashes1991 said on 31st March 2010, 21:26

            Sutil has already scored points, he got fourth place at Monza in 2009.

          • I only remember seeing Lewis spinning twice in China last year.

          • PJA said on 1st April 2010, 9:41

            I don’t think Massa has any real problems in the rain, and agree that the car needs to be suited to the wet.

            At Silverstone 2008 Massa was spinning off while loosing places and being slow, while at China 2009 Hamilton was spinning while pushing and overtaking others, which I think is why the two races are viewed differently.

          • Fred-o said on 1st April 2010, 19:29

            Itchyes, Massa was on a one-stopper in China in 2009. He could have made it from 13th or what it was to the podium. That is skill.

    • Cyclops said on 31st March 2010, 22:11

      6) define mad, please

      • mad-crazy
        he was crazy last GP, I mean he drove like a god. with so bad car (relative to big4) he achieved 2nd place! Its brilliant!

      • Jarred Walmsley said on 31st March 2010, 22:22

        ashes1991, I think Keith is refferring to 2010 when he is talking about Sutil’s lack of points

        • ashes1991 said on 31st March 2010, 23:57

          Well Massa hasn’t driven bad in the rain this year…

          • Harvs said on 1st April 2010, 5:16

            well massa hasnt won a wet race yet, brazil 08 wasnt a wet race, 90% of the laps were dry. and the two cars behind him were not in a hundred years ever going to challenge him for the lead because they wanted him to be champion

          • David A said on 1st April 2010, 15:47

            To be honest, it was a race with changing conditions, Massa kept his cool on a wet and dry track, rain affected the grip levels for a good deal of the race, and Massa drove admirably. He won in the wet, what else could you want?

  2. Look what I found http://www.met.gov.my/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=675&Itemid=1749 . Looks like Malaysia doesnt like to change wether forecast, so they have one for all week :D

  3. Joshy said on 31st March 2010, 17:51

    Where can I put in my predictions for this race?

  4. Are the cars this year faster than ever? There was a track record in Melbourne I think.

  5. Keith, you probably meant that Red Bull was the fastest in sector 3 at Melbourne, not Bahrain.

  6. samakafuzzy said on 31st March 2010, 18:43

    No, he meant Bahrain, as both Bahrain’s Sector 3 and Sepang’s sector 3 feature very long straights. Melbourne doesn’t have a long straight like those 2 trcks!

  7. I saw a few tweets from the F1 folk in KL, can’t remember who. They mentioned that the thunder, lightning and rain rolled in around 4pm yesterday. The race start time is 4pm (don’t know if this is different to last year) but I can’t imagine the race getting in before the storms roll up.

  8. F1 Outsider said on 31st March 2010, 19:39

    If I remember correctly Massa was pole position in 07 and 07 in Malaysia but lost both races due to mistakes. It’ll be interesting to see if he redeems himself this time at this track. He was progressing well last year in that dog of a car until the race was called. “Felipe baby stay cool” hahahaha that was great.

  9. BasCB said on 31st March 2010, 19:43

    Great quote from Brawn about Schumacher, I hope he can show some magic in a wet Sepang:

    “I’m a keen fisherman as you know and there’s this story about a guy who turned up at a trout stream and just started catching massive fish every cast and realised it wasn’t enjoyable anymore,” Brawn said in Melbourne.

    “The fun comes in the challenge; the fun comes in achieving something.

    Michael Schumacher will get more satisfaction in his comeback year from helping Mercedes get to the front of the field, than he would have done had he returned to Formula 1 with an all-conquering car.

    That is the view of the seven-time champion’s team boss and long-time colleague Ross Brawn, who reckons the German will achieve his ambition of enjoying his F1 return by playing a key role in improving his new team’s early-season form after it trailed its chief rivals in the first two rounds.

    “I’m a keen fisherman as you know and there’s this story about a guy who turned up at a trout stream and just started catching massive fish every cast and realised it wasn’t enjoyable anymore,” Brawn said in Melbourne.

    “The fun comes in the challenge; the fun comes in achieving something.

    “And I think if Michael just stepped into a car that was perfect and he ran away with the championship, I don’t think he would enjoy himself as much as he’s going to enjoy himself helping us put the team where we need to be.”

    http://www.itv-f1.com/news_article.aspx?id=48101

    • LewisC said on 31st March 2010, 23:15

      That’s all very well, but Schumacher didn’t retire after winning five titles on the bounce. He retired after losing two on the bounce.

  10. Is any malaysian here? Whats wether there?

  11. verstappen said on 31st March 2010, 21:27

    Just for fun I want the battle of the Germans for the podium this year: Schumi, Rosberg, Vettel and Sutil
    (Rosberg in the rain? No memories here)

  12. LeRoy said on 31st March 2010, 21:42

    Does Bernie’s pocket get bigger with a half an hour of European prime-time coverage? Or a full race in the morning?

    This track is one of my favorites, great driving track!

    • Untitled258 said on 31st March 2010, 22:02

      He can probably charge more for trackside sponsorship as its on at an hour which is more sociable for the main european market.

      I seem to remember reading that he, or FOM or someone does all the deals for trackside advertising at races, except he doesn’t own the rights for Monaco.

  13. Salty said on 31st March 2010, 22:47

    Schumacher in the rain? Yes, for sure, not many could match him, but the key for him this weekend will be to outperform Rosberg, the first podium can wait.

    Vettel in the rain, in Adrian’s lastest meisterwerk will be tough to hold onto IF he gets pole. But Vettel must be starting to feel the pressure of those two victories that just slipped through his fingers, added to which, the RB6 is not proving to be a Tonka toy right now.

    Adrian Sutil is quick. No doubts there. And no matter how much Jarno waves around his dossier of damnation, Brazil ’09 wasn’t the Force India driver’s fault. FI have turned out a very respectable chassis/aero package based on the first two races, and we all know the Mercedes engine is right up there. Damp track is not going to hold him back. Top 6 finish.

    Lewis is quicker than a very quick thing indeed. And yes, a wet track does tend to highlight is reactions and ability to control a car on the very edge. But Malaysia is better suited to his team mate’s more fluid (no pun indeeded) style. Close call, but…

    Outside bet? Barrichello making top 5.

    • Joey-Poey said on 31st March 2010, 23:29

      I hope you’re right on Barrichello. I’ll be very sad if this is his last year and this pattern continues

  14. Roberttty said on 31st March 2010, 23:36

    I’m in Malaysia this weekend and it’s raining every single afternn!

  15. Toby Bushby said on 1st April 2010, 0:50

    Keep an eye on Barrichello too. He seems to grasp the right strategy more often than not in true wet races. And I’ll also put in a word for Williams to step up a bit in Malaysia. The car seems to have very good aero efficiency, as has been shown by speed-trap times, plus they’ve admitted that they’re having problems getting the most out of the engine at the moment, which makes their straight line speed even more impressive. It seems that slow corners are their achilles heel this year, so a track like Malaysia may suit them, whereas Monaco may be a nightmare, unlike recent years.

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