LOOKING AHEAD TO MALAYSIA
Our official race previews are your guide for every lap of every race in 2017.
Hear from the team, drivers and management as we prepare for round 15 of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship at the Sepang International Circuit.
Follow McLaren TEAMStream for all the build-up to the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Race title 2017 Formula 1 Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix
Circuit name Sepang International Circuit
First race 1999
2016 Daniel Ricciardo, 56 laps, 1:37:12.776s
2015 Sebastian Vettel
2014 Lewis Hamilton
History lesson Malaysia has had a long and fruitful association with Formula 1. It began in the late ’90s, when the Sepang International Circuit was constructed on agricultural land near Kuala Lumpur International Airport, and it has been a regular fixture on the F1 calendar since ’99. The track was the first to be designed and built by architect Hermann Tilke, whose influence extends to 10 circuits on this year’s calendar, and the undulating 5.543km/3.444-mile layout is recognised as one of the most exciting challenges in the world for drivers
City Kuala Lumpur
Time zone BST+7/CET+6
Population 1.65 million
How far? Kuala Lumpur is 10,600km (6,587 miles) from the McLaren Technology Centre
Getting there All of the Formula 1 freight has made the 300-mile (483km) trip from Singapore (scene of the last grand prix) to Kuala Lumpur by road. However, the two-week gap between races has meant that all team personnel have flown back to the UK for a week and will begin travelling to Malaysia at the start of race week. More than 50 international airlines fly into Kuala Lumpur, so there are many flight options from London
Surprising fact Malaysia has an incredibly diverse population. Of the country’s 32 million people, 50 per cent are Malay, 23 per cent are Chinese, seven per cent are Indian and the remaining 20 per cent are comprised of indigenous groups
Local speciality Malaysia is called the street food capital of Asia, and with good reason. Hawker stalls are found everywhere and offer everything from samosas to spicy noodle curry and cendol, which is a desert made from sweet grass jelly and coconut milk
Weather Late September is still the high season, but the chance of rain increases as the monsoon season approaches. Temperatures will be slightly higher than they were in Singapore two weeks ago because the race takes place in the day, so teams should expect an ambient of 30 degrees Celsius and 80 per cent humidity
Track length 5.543km/3.444 miles (eighth longest track of the year – longest: Spa-Francorchamps, shortest: Monaco)
2016 pole position Lewis Hamilton, 1m32.850s
2016 fastest lap Nico Rosberg, 1m36.424s (lap 44)
Lap record 1:34.223s (Juan Pablo Montoya, 2004)
Tyre choice Red Supersoft, yellow Soft and white Medium compounds – the seventh time this combination has been used in 2017
Distance to Turn One 660m/0.410 miles (longest of season: Barcelona 730m/0.454 miles)
Longest straight 920m/0.572 miles, on the approach to Turn 15 (longest of the season: Baku, 2.1km/1.305 miles)
Top speed 330km/h/205mph, on the approach to Turn 15 (fastest of season: Monza, 360km/h/224mph)
Full throttle 65 per cent (highest of the season: Monza, 75 per cent). The longest period of full throttle is 12s, on the approach to Turn 15
Brakewear Medium. Only 15 per cent of the lap is spent braking
Fuel consumption 1.79kg per lap, which is average
ERS demands Medium. There is a high dependency on ERS at every track, but the eight braking zones around the lap make it possible to recover braking energy
Gear changes 57 per lap/3,192 per race
Laps 56 laps
Start time 15:00hrs local/08:00hrs BST/09:00hrs CET
Grid advantage The racing line is on the left and that’s where the grip lies at the start. However, there’s a rainstorm most evenings, so there’s a chance that the grid will be washed clean before the start, negating any grid advantage
DRS There are two DRS zones, on the approaches to Turns One and 15
Don’t put the kettle on…The combination of high track temperatures and fast corners encourages drivers to make more pitstops, not less, at Sepang. Daniel Ricciardo won last year’s race with two stops, while Max Verstappen finished second with three, and strategy was influenced by three Virtual Safety Car periods. Pirelli are taking softer tyre compounds to the race this year, which could lead to even more stops. A conventional three-stopper would result in cars visiting the pits on laps 10, 25 and 40
Pitlane length/Pitstops 420m/0.261 miles (longest of the season: Silverstone, 457m/0.284 miles). It takes 22s to make a stop
Safety Car likelihood 20 per cent. There tends to be lots of incidents and accidents at Sepang, but large run-off areas allow marshals to get stranded cars out the way quickly
Watch out for…Rain. The later start time of 15:00hrs pushes the finish of the race towards early evening, which is when the rain showers tend to hit
“After Singapore, I’m already eager to get back into the car and hopefully make it further than the first corner in Malaysia! Of course, what happened was disappointing and it’s difficult to hide your frustration when you’re the victim of someone else’s incident. I felt we had the potential to be really competitive – one of our only opportunities of the year – and it’s a shame we couldn’t bring home the points to prove it, but these things happen.
“The conditions in Malaysia will be very similar to Singapore – hot, humid and challenging for the drivers and the car. The configuration will work less in our favour, but of course we will still fight for everything. There are six races left and we are still putting all our energy in finishing every race in the best possible position we can.
“Sepang will be more difficult for us in terms of set-up since the straights require good straight-line speed and power, but this track is a mixture of a lot of different characteristics, so we’ll see how much we can make up on the slower-speed corners. The 2018 cars will definitely be faster through there, which will surely be fun to experience, and I hope we can avoid any drama and have a solid race.”
“After Singapore, I’m looking forward to heading to Malaysia on the back of a positive weekend on my side of the garage. I felt strong all weekend and we were able to put in consistent performances in every session. It’s a shame we couldn’t score points with both cars as we all felt it was really deserved; Fernando was very unlucky, but we head to Kuala Lumpur with a bit more confidence and the objective of keeping this momentum going.
“Like Singapore, Malaysia will be a first for me as I’ve never raced there before. It’s a shame it’ll be the last time we’ll be racing there for a while, but that’s all the more reason to make the most of it. It looks to be a pretty cool track – challenging and similar conditions to Singapore – but hopefully potential to show what our car can do.
“It definitely won’t suit us as much as the Singapore track did, so we still need to be cautious about what’s possible, but having watched races there in the past, there’s always some kind of drama and the risk of a shower or two, so we’ll have our fingers crossed for an opportunity for us to mix it with cars a little bit further up the field.”
McLAREN HONDA RACING DIRECTOR
“There’s no denying Sepang will be tough for us – both for our package and for our drivers – as we often see the hottest temperatures and highest humidity levels of the year. Our two drivers are among the fittest on the grid, so I’ve no doubt they’ll approach the weekend fully prepared as usual. The conditions present a pretty unique technical challenge for our engineers too, as we try to find the best compromise in terms of performance and cooling over the whole weekend.
“As for performance, we will of course be pushing for Q3 on Saturday – as we have done over the past couple of races – but this circuit is unlikely to be as kind to us as Singapore in terms of outright lap-times. As ever, reliability will be key in these tough conditions, as points are only ever possible with a reliable car, as will avoiding any first-lap chaos, which is always easier said than done.
“Nevertheless, our drivers report that the MCL32 has good balance as well as strong traction on slower-speed corners wherever we race in the world, both of which factors will be a benefit on a track of this nature. We’ll aim to bid a fond farewell to Sepang International Circuit after 19 great years, and I hope we can put in a fitting performance in front of our Malaysian fans.”
HONDA R&D CO. LTD HEAD OF F1 PROJECT & EXECUTIVE CHIEF ENGINEER
“We’re heading back to Asia for the Malaysian Grand Prix, and we expect it to be another challenging race with extremely hot and humid weather conditions.
“Last time out in Singapore we had mixed fortunes. Fernando was involved in an unfortunate incident and ultimately retired, while Stoffel’s pace was competitive and he drove incredibly well, eventually crossing the line in P7. Overall it was positive that we were competitive throughout the weekend and came away with some precious points.
“Regarding Fernando’s Singapore power unit, we were concerned that it may have been irreparably damaged, but fortunately after a thorough check back at the Sakura factory we can confirm it is okay to be re-used.
“The layout of Sepang International Circuit is a mixture of long straights and sweeping corners, which will no doubt make for an exciting race. Despite it being a power-hungry track, the changeable conditions mean anything can happen, so hopefully if we prepare well we can capitalise on any opportunities that come our way and break into the points. After 19 fantastic years, this year’s grand prix will be the last in Malaysia, so we’d like to thanks the fans and treat them to an exciting race weekend.”