There have been no major changes to the circuit configuration since the first Malaysian Grand Prix. The quickest lap last weekend, set by Nico Rosberg during the final practice session, was the slowest F1 has gone at the circuit since the inaugural race in 1999.
Had qualifying been run in dry conditions it’s likely Rosberg would have been quicker, based on the normal track evolution at Sepang.
But he would not have found the six seconds which separated his best time and the quickest ever lap of the track, Fernando Alonso’s 1’32.582 set in his V10-engined Renault in 2005.
There are signs the current cars are already getting quicker. Last weekend’s fastest lap was 2.9 seconds of the 2013 pace – half a second closer than the cars were in Australia.
And the teams are expected to find a lot more time. Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery suggested they could gain up to four seconds over the course of the year.
As was the case in Australia, the cars are significantly quicker in terms of straight-line speed this year – up by more than 16kph in the speed trap.
The slower speeds at intermediate two, which is positioned shortly after turn 11, reveals how the cars are carrying less speed out of corners but accelerating more quickly when they get onto the straights:
The next race is in Bahrain where the teams tested extensively pre-season. The fastest lap of the test, set by Felipe Massa, was within a second of last year’s pole position time.
However Massa did that lap on super-soft tyres, which will not be available this weekend. The teams will be able to use the soft tyres, which are likely to be around a second slower per lap.
Update: This article has been revised to correct an error – the 2014 lap time was quicker than that set at the first race.
2014 Malaysian Grand Prix
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- F1 lap times in Malaysia slowest since first race
- Malaysian Grand Prix fails to excite
- 2014 Malaysian Grand Prix fans’ video gallery
- 2014 Malaysian Grand Prix team radio transcript
Image © Daimler/Hoch Zwei