Mike Coughlan, Technical Director: Following a difficult opening to the season in Australia, the team has regrouped and been working hard to solve the problems we encountered last weekend. We have a good idea where to focus our efforts and learnt a lot in Melbourne which we will implement in Malaysia to continue working to improve the performance of the FW35 throughout Friday testing and into the weekend. The Sepang circuit is a technical challenge which is always quite hard on tyres. The high ambient temperatures and humidity also make it a tough race for the drivers, with the weather also playing its part with late afternoon showers common and forecast over the weekend. Our aim is to move forward from where we were last weekend, with a view to end the race with both cars in points-scoring positions.
Pastor Maldonado: Malaysia is one of my favourite circuits and it’s also one of the most challenging, testing your skill and concentration towards the end of the race as the heat takes its toll on you physically. The weather conditions can change in an instant and in the last couple of years the weather has gone from 40 degree heat to thunderstorms and heavy rain, with extreme changes in track temperature as well. I had a disappointing Australian Grand Prix and the car isn’t quite where we hoped it would be, but we will be working hard to unlock the potential that we saw in testing.
Valtteri Bottas: Malaysia is a big test for the drivers and the weather conditions are always tricky to deal with. Last year was very difficult because we had hot humid track temperatures combined with a series of rain showers. The fast corners in the second sector of the track are the most challenging because it’s really hot for the tyres and in these high temperatures you need to be careful not to degrade them too quickly. I learnt a lot from my first Grand Prix in Australia and whilst we weren’t as competitive as we had hoped, the fact that I brought the car home safely in my first race is a positive I can take away and we will now be looking to improve on our performance for this race.
Rémi Taffin, Renault Sport F1 Head of Track Operations: Sepang is a challenge for the engine as there are two long straights of just under a kilometre each. Top end power and good acceleration are thus important, but there are also tight mid to low speed corners so the engine also needs to be responsive on the apex and exit of turns. The high ambient humidity reduces engine power output as the high water content displaces the oxygen available to burn. If it stays dry, Sepang is actually one of the harder circuits for engine engineers as the engine gets a full workout.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli Motorsport Director: The Malaysian Grand Prix is always one of the most demanding of the entire year for the tyres because of the extreme conditions we encounter: massive humidity, high temperatures and often torrential rain. We’ve nominated the P Zero Orange hard – a new colour for this year – and the P Zero White medium. These are the two hardest tyres in the range, ideally suited for the high temperatures and abrasive surface of Malaysia. Although this is exactly the same nomination as last year, the tyres should be up to a second a lap faster this year, with better combined traction and a wider working range. With the extreme weather we frequently see in Malaysia, there’s a strong chance we’ll use the Cinturato Green intermediates and Cinturato Blue full wet tyres as well during the weekend. These have a new construction that improves traction and reduces snap oversteer.