Friday, September 30, 2016


Lewis will rise to the challenge
First included in the Formula One World Championship in 1999, the current Malaysian Grand Prix is held at the Sepang International Circuit at Sepang, Malaysia. FIA-sanctioned racing in Malaysia has existed since the 1960s. But only from 1999 did Malaysia get a proper world class F1 track with the one built in Sepang.

The Sepang International Circuit is located near Kuala Lumpur International Airport, approximately 60 km south of the capital city Kuala Lumpur. It is the venue used for the Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix, Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix and other major motorsport events. The circuit was designed by German designer Hermann Tilke, who would subsequently design the new facilities in Shanghai, Bahrain, Turkey, Valencia, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Korea, India and Austin, TX.

The main circuit, normally raced in a clockwise direction, is 5.543 kilometres long, and is noted for its sweeping corners and wide straights. The layout is quite unusual, with a very long back straight separated from the pit straight by just one very tight hairpin.

Other configurations of the Sepang circuit can also be used. The north circuit is also raced in a clockwise direction. It is basically the first half of the main circuit. The course turns back towards the pit straight after turn 6 and is 2.71 kilometres long in total.

The south circuit is the other half of the racecourse. The back straight of the main circuit becomes the pit straight when the south circuit is in use, and joins onto turn 8 of the main circuit to form a hairpin turn. Also run clockwise, this circuit is 2.61 km in length.

Track Information

Location : Sepang, Malaysia
Track Length: 5.542 km
Race Distance : 56 laps (310 kilometres)
No. Of Turns : 15 corners in total (Left 5, Right 10), a mixture of slow, medium and fast
No. of Pits : 30 units
Grandstand Capacity : 30,000
General Admission : 80,000
Width : 16m (T1:18m; T2:20m; T15: 25m)
Longest Straight : 928m (T15 toT1)
Lap record 1:34.223 (Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams, 2004)
Aerodynamic setup – Medium/high downforce.
Top speed 312km/h (with Drag Reduction System on rear wing) – 300km/h without.
Full throttle – 70% of the lap. Total fuel needed for race distance: 153 kilos.
Time spent braking: 15% of the lap. 8 braking zones. Brake wear: Medium.
Loss time for a Pit stop = 16.5 seconds
Total time needed for pit stop: 22.5 seconds.
The pit lane speed limit in Sepang is 100km/h, which means faster pit stops than Melbourne.
Fuel effect (cost in lap time per 10kg of fuel carried): 0.36 seconds (average/high)

The entire Sepang circuit has been resurfaced and changes made to the track gradient, kerbs, drainage and run-off areas. Among the most significant changes is at the final corner, where the designers have attempted to improve overtaking opportunities. For the new changes to the track, view a side by side comparison here.


About the only thing in common that the Malaysian Grand Prix has with the nearby Singapore Grand Prix that preceded it is humidity: around 80% humidity is a common occurrence, as a result of which there are tropical torrential downpours almost on a daily basis. The actual circuit however is totally different, with high speeds and long corners as well as high temperatures: one of the reasons why the three hardest compounds in the Pirelli range (P Zero Orange hard, P Zero White medium, and P Zero Yellow soft) have been nominated for the first time since Silverstone.

For the first time since Canada, the hardest available compound must be used in the race (with two sets of hard nominated as obligatory sets). The track has been completely resurfaced, following a three-month closure earlier this year, which may mean that it is less abrasive than before: a typical characteristic of Sepang in the past.

Track temperatures are nearly always high: it's actually possible to fry an egg on the asphalt. In the past, wear and degradation has been high, making a multi-stop race likely. Heavy rain has often been a feature of the Malaysian Grand Prix, even causing red flags. It also means that any rubber laid down is washed away, affecting the weekend's track evolution. Thermal degradation is an important factor, again due to high ambient and track temperatures. Sepang is a varied circuit but there are also some fast corners with high lateral energy loads. The new surface should mean that the track is a lot less bumpy. The front-left tyre gets worked hardest, which tends to be the limiting factor in stint lengths.

The three nominated compounds:

Orange hard: must be used in the race as two sets have been nominated as obligatory sets.
White medium: should be key to a flexible strategy, which often pays off in Sepang.
Yellow soft: a soft compound but high working range, which makes it very usable in Malaysia.


Sepang has two DRS zones, with only one detection point. The only detection point is situated between turns 12 and 13, 54 meters after turn 12, with the first DRS zone 104 metres after turn 14.

The second DRS zone begins at the exit of turn 15, 28 meters after turn 15, and extends over the start finish straight .


The Malaysian Grand Prix has moved closer to its original calendar slot this year, but the change in dates is unlikely to have a significant effect on the weather.

Nearby Kuala Lumpur sees slightly fewer rainy days in September than April, when the race was previously held. The first two Malaysian Grands Prix were held in October, both in dry conditions.

However the general picture remains familiar: high heat, humidity and a threat of thunderstorms, albeit a slightly reduced one. These convective thunderstorms tend to occur in the late morning and early afternoon. Note that the race start time is 3pm, two hours earlier than qualifying.

With temperatures frequently exceeding 30C and a fresh, dark layer of asphalt covering the track, we could see some particularly high surface temperatures this weekend. They peaked at a scorching 61C last year.


Mercedes are likely to clinch their third consecutive constructors’ championship this weekend. They arrive in Malaysia 222 points ahead of Red Bull and will take the title of their lead is at least 215 points on Sunday evening.

Could this be Nico Rosberg's year? He has never led the drivers' standings this late in the season and has rarely been on such convincing form as he was in Singapore. Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, has struggled to kick start his season following the summer break following an engine penalty in Spa, a bad start in Monza and set-up issues in Singapore. The records of previous years point toward Hamilton edging Rosberg over the next six races, but the beauty of this sport is that anything can happen. One retirement and the title could swing dramatically one way or the other; one collision and we could be set for all-out war between the Mercedes drivers.

This weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix will be crucial to the title race. If Rosberg can extend his lead with a win, it will leave him a minimum of 15 points ahead of Hamilton and would mean the reigning world champions has gone two months without a victory. If Hamilton wins and Rosberg finishes second the gap will close to just one point, effectively resetting the championship with five races remaining. Bring it on.

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