The Malaysian Grand Prix gets held for the first time in October this year. It’s usually in March but the powers that be decided to put this year’s race next to the Singapore GP. A brave move in many ways, and I for one am looking to see how this works out in terms of attendance and functions around the race.
Sepang has been recently resurfaced and I’m fortunate to have tried it out when I raced in the Audi R8 LMS Cup here a month ago. Sepang has done a great job with the surface being more grippy and low wearing. In fact in our race the fastest lap of the race was set on the penultimate lap compared to previous years when the track has been high in degradation. In fact it’s such a difference that teams will notice it and will have to factor it into their calculations. For sure the two softest compounds will be the tyre of choice this weekend. There has been some profile changes to parts of the track too but it is so small that it won’t change how the drivers attack the corners.
The fight for the drivers’ championship is perfectly poised as Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton are really close in their fight. I’m not talking about points- although they are so close it’s almost tied- but in performance. Both drivers are at the top of their game but the difference this year is that Rosberg is a lot stronger mentally. In Singapore, team boss Toto Wolff actually said that it was the most complete performance he had so far seen from Rosberg. I’d have to agree there. To outperform his World Champion teammate on a track he normally dominates on was seriously impressive.
In Sepang- barring any mishaps for the two Mercedes drivers- they should be on the front row. The question is, will both of them be able to get good starts? It’s a long drag down to turn one and a bad start for either of them will result in a loss of several positions. It’s a problem that has been plaguing both drivers at different times all year and to be honest, it’s going to decide the championship if Mercedes don’t get a handle on it.
Further back it’s certainly heating up in the best of the rest championship. Not much separates Red Bull and Ferrari. And I saw enough from Ferrari in Singapore that I think they can keep Red Bull on their toes on race pace. They will have to be perfect though because they have lost a lot of positions this year through strategy mistakes.
Assuming it stays dry this weekend, you can count on a Mercedes one two- even with bad starts for one or both of them. However it’s Malaysia, and you can never count on the weather. If we get our usual Malaysian thunderstorms then anything can happen. If that happens I fancy a win for Red Bull, Ricciardo has been looking hungry and mostly the team has been very good with strategy decisions. It’s been great to see them come on strong again this year. And Ricciardo especially is due a win.