Friday, 23 March 2012

Malaysian Grand Prix Preview

After a dominant display by McLaren's Jenson Button in Melbourne, the F1 circus rolls on, in Kuala Lumpur for the 2012 Malaysia Grand Prix.

We move on in Formula One very quickly, and after such an enthralling opening weekend in Melbourne, we arrive in Malaysia. It is a back-to-back race, meaning there are just seven days in between the two Grands Prix, and the drivers and teams get only a very short break between the two races.

The two tracks are very different, with the exciting and fast moving Melboune followed up with the slow and very challenging Kuala Lumpur. One of the main reasons the track is so difficult is the weather. It is mighty hot in Malaysia, so much so that the drivers often look completely shattered after the race. Physically, it is the most difficult race to do - 58 laps in the company of an almost unbearable 37 degrees. And that's without abnormal weather. The climate is difficult, but it's even more difficult when it rains. Which it never does at the Malaysia Grand Prix. It doesn't so much rain, more buckets. As Sky F1 commentator Martin Brundle put it last season "drizzle is not a word I would imagine translates in Malaysia because it only rains in stair rods or not at all." So, to describe the weather as unpredictable would be something of an understatement. You can read my track guide from Tuesday here.

Hamilton and Alonso battle in 2011, with a nasty end
 Last season was a very interesting race, with a massive strategy battle going on. Sebastian Vettel was on pole, which in 2011 was a given, and led away well from the start. Vettel cruised to victory with a fine drive, and a great pass on Felipe Massa at Turn One putting him in prime position to win. Jenson Button was second after a great drive, which was his first podium of 2011, and set him on course for his best season of driving yet. But the real surprise was Nick Heidfeld. In the Renault car, he finished 3rd. We all knew the R31 was quick from Vitaly Petrov's podium in Australia, but we certainly didn't see Heidfeld following it up with another podium. He made an awesome start from sixth, and was into second place by Turn One. He hung on for a marvellous podium position. One of the main events of the race was the collision between Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. Battling for third place, they came together in a tangle.

In practice this morning, McLaren looked mighty fast. Lewis Hamilton topped both practice sessions, and the Woking team will be aiming to continue their form from Melbourne, where McLaren took both pole position and the win, albeit with different drivers. Mercedes also look very fast this weekend, and are a handy bet for pole. However, their race pace in Melbourne was poor, which is an area they will be hoping to improve upon. Red Bull look in some trouble, and weren't particularly fast in practice, but you can never rule them out, and Sebastian Vettel has won the last two Grands Prix in Malaysia. Lotus look very good, but after a gearbox change for Kimi Raikkonen, he will be taking a five place grid penalty. And Ferrari, they need a massive improvement. Alonso's drive in Melbourne was magic, but Massa's was tragic. He has a new chassis for the weekend, and desperately needs a result.

It promises to be another good race, as the Formula One season rolls on in Kuala Lumpur.

The season continues in Kuala Lumpur, and keep with my blog for all the news and reaction from the second Grand Prix of the season.

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