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

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

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

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2010 Malaysian Grand Prix

Image (C) BMW ag