Can Lotus repeat in Malaysia? Insight into how the racing will pan out
Posted By: James Allen  |  20 Mar 2013   |  5:56 pm GMT  |  100 comments

This weekend the F1 teams move to Sepang, Malaysia for the second round of the championship. After the stunning victory of Kimi Raikkonen and Lotus in Melbourne, all of the leading teams will have gone away to look at how they can work on their car to help the strategy.

The goal will be to try to emulate Lotus’ ability to run at a strong pace while using one less set of tyres (and therefore one less pit stop) than the opposition.

The conditions in Melbourne were cool. Last year Lotus was stronger in hot conditions, like Malaysia and Bahrain. If they still have that ability to cope with the heat in the tyres, then they have every chance to repeat this weekend.

Here are the strategic considerations for the weekend.

Track characteristics
Sepang International Circuit; 5.54 kilometres. Race distance: 56 laps = 310 kilometres, 15 corners in total, a mixture of slow, medium and fast

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 Malaysian Grand Prix is the second round of the 2013 FIA F1 World Championship. The Sepang circuit is one of the first F1 venues to have been designed by architect Hermann Tilke and features his trademark long straights, hairpins and fast esses.

It also has a distinctive first corner which turns right and then left and always results in a big change of field order, with drivers winning and losing positions at the start of the race.

The circuit features a number of high energy corners, quite different in character from Albert Park, which hosted the opening round and much harder on the tyres.

The first and third sectors of the lap at Sepang feature long straights and hairpin bends, while sector two has some medium and high speed corners, which load up the tyres.

Form Guide
As far as drivers’ form is concerned at Sepang, Fernando Alonso has won the race three times and Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen have won it twice, while Jenson Button has also won here.

Ferrari has six Sepang wins, McLaren and Red Bull have two wins each.

Red Bull has stunning one lap pace and is likely to qualify on the front row again. Mark Webber has always gone well in Sepang so he could pose a threat for pole. Mercedes, Ferrari and Lotus will follow. Lotus showed in Melbourne that it has a good handle on managing the new Pirelli tyres over a long run in cold conditions. In Malaysia we will see if they can replicate that in warm conditions.

Lotus conducted Pirelli’s tyre tests with Jaime Alguersuari using a 2010 Renault car; the tyre data was kept behind a Chinese wall, but clearly they must have understood some of the characteristics of the tyre from that experience.

Likely tyre performance and other considerations
Pirelli tyre choice for Sepang: Medium (Option) and Hard (Prime) – this is the same choice as in 2012.

Pirelli has chosen to bring the medium and hard tyres to Sepang, the hardest compounds in the range, to cope with the high temperatures, abrasive surface and faster corners. Temperatures are also raised by the high wheel rotation speeds on the long straights.

The difference in performance between compounds should be between 0.5 and 0.7sec per lap. Teams will want to establish this and the long run performance of both tyres during Friday practice. The data on the Medium tyre from Melbourne showed that the longest stint was 30 laps by a Sauber, while race winner Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest lap of the race on a set of mediums that had done 22 laps. Sepang will present a far stiffer challenge.

Sepang has three major differences from Melbourne, which make it more challenging from a race strategy point of view: higher track temperatures, a rougher track surface and the presence of medium and fast corners, which load up the tyre. There is usually also the threat of rain.

Temperature is critical; Sepang experiences track temperatures of up to 45 degrees, some of the highest of the year, which is at the top end of the tyres’ operating range. The medium tyre is designed for lower operating temperatures, the hard for higher temperatures. The opening stint with 150 kilos of fuel on board, likely to be on medium tyres for most cars, is very hard on the tyres.

Number and likely timing of pit stops
From a strategy point of view a pit stop at Sepang is similar to Melbourne at 22 seconds. And the long straights mean that the adjustable rear wing (DRS wing) is quite effective, making overtaking possible. This means strategists of leading teams will not have to be overly concerned about bringing their driver out into slower traffic after a pit stop.

Last year’s race was wet, but pre-race simulations indicated that a two stop strategy was faster than three by around 3 to 4 seconds.

This would envisage starting on mediums, using a new set of mediums at the first stop on lap 16 and then a set of new hards on lap 34. Although the three stopping car is ahead after 40 laps, he is not able to gain enough margin to stay ahead after his final stop, nor to catch the two stopping car by the end. But it is close. There could be an advantage, therefore, to saving a new set of medium tyres from qualifying, of possible.

Rain can always affect the outcome at Sepang as it can come at any time and can be very intense. Last year the race was delayed by heavy rain. There must always be a degree of flexibility built into race strategy when planning for Sepang.

After Lotus successfully made one less stop than its rivals Ferrari and Red Bull in Melbourne, all eyes will be on them to see whether they can repeat that in Sepang. The car’s gentle action on the tyres certainly gives them a strategic advantage.

It will also be important to establish during practice whether the hard tyre is relatively fast enough that a pit stop might be saved by using it earlier in the race. This would save over 20 seconds plus help gain track positions.

Weather Forecast
The forecast is for hot and humid conditions with a 30% chance of thunderstorms on Sunday. Last year’s race was very wet at the start and there were delays and safety cars.

Chance of a safety car
Despite the weather hazards, the chance of a safety car at Sepang is incredibly low, by F1 standards, at 15% over last 7 years and an average of 0.1 safety cars per race. Where a safety car has been deployed it’s usually been because of heavy rain, as in 2009 and again last year, when it was out for seven laps.

Recent start performance
Start performance is hugely important to strategy, as we saw in Melbourne, with Webber losing five places off the grid which he could not recover, while Raikkonen and Alonso’s results were both set up by excellent starts.
At Sepang a fully functioning KERS is important, as the run to the first corner from the start is quite long at over 600 metres.
As far as 2013 start performance is concerned drivers have gained (+) or lost (-) places off the start line this season as follows:


+3 Raikkonen
+2 Perez
+2 Bottas
+2 Bianchi
+2 Massa
+2 Alonso
+2 Sutil
+1 Maldonado
+1 Gutierrez
+1 Chilton
+1 Van der Garde
+1 Di Resta
+1 Button

Held position



-1 Vergne
-2 Hamilton
-3 Grosjean
-5 Webber*
-6 Ricciardo
(Hulkenberg did not start in Australia)
*Webber dropped from second to seventh after a clutch problem in Australia

Pit Stop League Table

Of course good strategy planning also requires good pit stop execution by the mechanics and we have seen tyre stops carried out in less than two and a half seconds by F1 teams.

The league table below shows the order of the pit crews based on their average stop time in Australia from the car entering the pit lane to leaving it.

1. Ferrari – 21.646
2. Mercedes – 21.961
3. Red Bull – 22.263
4. Sauber – 22.315
5. Lotus – 22.359
6. McLaren – 22.462
7. Force India – 22.875
8. Marussia – 23.142
9. Williams – 23.475
10. Toro Rosso – 23.706
11. Caterham – 23.751

The UBS Race Strategy Briefing is prepared by James Allen on F1 with input and data from strategists from several F1 teams and Pirelli

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One key factor for Lotus this year will be to stay out of trouble.

Qualifying in p5-10 is great if you can stop one less time and win the race that way, but the probabilities of getting caught in a lap one incident are higher.

They will have to manage this risk as best they can if they are to challenge for the world championship (where the most important thing is consistency)


Oh, if they were worried about first lap incidents they wouldn’t have kept their driver line up unchanged. ¦¬)


Mr Allen, your pre and post race analysis

are superb,worth waiting for, in actual fact

more interesting then a half of a grid in

the race.

Thank you Sir.


I hope tires are not gonna be the ONE MOST determining factor for a race win, this season.


“Start performance is hugely important to strategy, as we saw in Melbourne, with Webber losing five places off the grid”

“At Sepang a fully functioning KERS is important, as the run to the first corner from the start is quite long at over 600 metres”

Looks like Mark will be battling with the Marussias and Caterhams for most of Sunday then…




James what are the chances of rain ?

Will this be a repeat of 2009 or 2012 ?

I do not know how a dry race is on the cards. you have stated here 30 % chance of rain on sunday

What are the chances of wet practice or qaulifiying

Hope we see a DRy quali and race. Though i fear rain will make the GP a boring one with plenty of intervals in between


Currently the forecast is 60% chance of rain for qualifying, 10% for the race.


I’m sure I’m being thick, but I don’t understand the safety car stats: 15% chance of a safety car with 0.1 per race. What am I missing?


Maybe rounding difference? Maybe the average is actually .14, but they rounded down for the decimal and rounded up for the percentage.


I guess that would explain the average number of safety cars being lower than the chances of at least one. The numbers still don’t look right though – if there was one in 2009 and one last year that would be at least 30% and 0.3


.1 = 10%


it’s a damn shame that the team that blew everyone away in melbourne doesn’t even have a title sponsor.

lotus could really use the bucks to allow them to keep the updates coming and challenge the bigger teams.

there has to be someone out there in the corporate world that is keen to build a relationship with lotus.

it’s a no-brainer.


Good Point. Maybe Coca-Cola. Sugar drink vs caffeine drink. Paint the cars red. Have polar bear stickers on the sides.

Or maybe IKEA. Paint the car blue and yellow with an Allen Key painted on the front.


Coke is already sponsoring them through their Burn energy drink.


“Red Bull has stunning one lap pace”

I guess your idea of “stunning” is different from mine. Yes, RB did well in practice, on average, and qualified well in Australia, but only by a small margin, made a bit larger by perfect timing in drying conditions at the end of Q3. They certainly didn’t stun anyone in P3. It’s too early to tell, but the sentence might have said, “RB appears to still have good one-lap speed, but their advantage could well be smaller than last year”.


I disagree. Vettel aborted his final, fastest lap in Q3. Had he not done that, I think his winning margin would have been even greater. RB really had dominant pace in qualifying, but it cost them. Perhaps they can afford to sacrifice a bit of raw pace in favour of better tyre treatment. In order to achieve the time, Vettel destroyed his tyres in Q3, which ultimately did not pay off.


Apparently Marco has said that RB need to concentrate more on race pace than outright one lap speed.


Yeah really hope Lotus get their passive DRS up to speed at Malaysia. I think they will surely need it and it will serve them well at Monza , Spa also. I don’t think they can expect the same performance advantage to Australia as Malaysia will suit Merc and Ferrari and RBR because of high speed straights.

If Lotus have corrected their cool weather performance over last years E20 I really hope they have not lost their hot weather performance on degradation as this will be critical at Sepang the other thing still left on the to do lost is wet weather performance and this will prove game changing this weekend.

Craig in Manila

Pretty-rare for a driver to win Oz GP and Malaysian GP in same year.

It’s only been done three times in last ten seasons and, each time, it’s fair to say (I think) that the driver was sitting in a pretty-special/dominant car :

Seb in 2011

Butt in 2009

Schu in 2004

As such, I’m not putting any money on Lotus for this one. It’s RBR or Ferrari for me.

Having said that : GO KIMI !


In all the above three occasion those drivers have gone to win the championship + constructor.

So if Kimi wins, can we except the same?

Craig in Manila

That would be fine by me !


No. These are both reserved for Red Bull exclusively 😉

Val from montreal

“Ferrari has six Sepang wins, McLaren and Red Bull have two wins each.”

Technically yes , but :

Schumacher 3 ( 2000 , 2001 , 2004 ) * 1999 *

Irvine 1 ( 1999 * )

Raikkonen 1 ( 2008 )

FA 1 ( 2012 )

Go Vettel !


Hi James,

Thanks for providing the preview on Malaysia. I had a question regarding the Lotus’s DDRS aka “The Device”. Is there any sort of update on it , I haven’t noticed any talk about it in recent times apart from the fact that E21 has the infrastructure in place to incorporate it when needed. Did they run it in Melbourne , I’m pretty sure there are heaps of fans like me out there who would love more info the DDRS and are intrigued by it.




James can you give us some insight into today’s high speed pitstops. I have noticed that with only 3 seconds to do any work the teams are using some sort of driver to adjust the front wings as there isn’t time to adjust them manually. Are there any other processes that have changed due to the lack of time available? The swivelling jack is the most obvious but are there any others that we don’t see?


Will do.


I agree about the weather and time slot of the race. I lived in Malaysia and it often rains around 4pm like clockwork. I don’t know why they don’t start the race around noon.

Kimi Raikkonen is my pick. He and the Lotus were impressive last season and both he and the car look sharper again this season. He is also the coolest driver on the grid.


I would love it if they started it around noon local. That would make it around 10 or 11 my time instead of the 2:30 am it is now.


I enjoyed your review James; especially the detailed track characteristics. I would love to see Lewis win, or even better, fellow Scott Paul DiResta, but I don’t think either he or his car are there just yet. I fancy Kimi to win again; he has the bit between his teeth now. Looking forward to Sunday. Thank you.


I love the feature.

Boullier has been quoted saying (something like) Lotus is bringing some upgrades. I wondering if the have ‘the device’?!?

Of course they would not have demonstrated it at Melbourne, even if they had it working.

I expect Mercedes to go well.

I think Red Bull will have a stronger comparative in race pace, and still dominate one lap pace.

I don’t think it is too early to predict Bianchi in the points.

Hoping for strong races from Perez and Massa.

But recent history is monopoplized by world champions, and like most races this season, it will be world champions and/or Red Bull drivers who win, with the outside shooter, Grosjean.


Great point! I would love to see The Device in action. Perhaps RedBull has passive DRS in the pocket too. Guess we will find out in P1.


I believe Lotus have a new floor here in Malaysia.

Will keep an eye out for the “device”


Hi James,

Are you able to clarify please whether these wins for Lotus (this year and last) are being counted as new wins or being added to the historical tally of the old team? There was so much in the press about it all 3 years ago with the Team vs Group battle, but then it all went quiet last year when Team Lotus becane Caterham and Group Lotus quietly took over the mantle. I’ve got a lot of time and respect for the guys at Enstone (whatever we call them), but it’s a bit strange not really knowing who to think of them as.

Many thanks.


I think of them as Toleman, since the F1 website lists 1981 as their first year.

But something is wrong on the website, because they are listed with 2 WCCs, whereas they have 3 WCCs: 1 under Benneton name and 2 under Renault name.

They also have 4 WDCs: 2 from Schumacher and 2 from Alonso.

But wait: things get worse when looking at race victories. The website lists 37 race wins.

Under each name, they had:

Toleman: 0 wins.

Benneton: 27.

Renault: 20 (Renault’s incarnations add up 35).

Lotus: 2.

How this adds up to the website’s 37, I have no idea.



Very interesting – this is exactly my point. I think the team need to make an effort to try and resolve this with a bit of positive team identity publicity.

Darrin from Canada

Good work, now I’m curious too. James?


I’m also interested in this. I asked this question after Abu Dhabi last year, but i didn’t get the answer yet…


I agree.

I’ll check. When I spoke to team owner Gerard Lopez last year about this , before the wins, he said they were not using the Lotus heritage, rather the Enstone heritage (Benetton, Renault etc) hence the E20 name for the car


Thanks James, more info on this would be great. If that is the case and they’re not using the Lotus heritage then it’s a very sorry end to the whole Lotus name saga and makes a mockery of the whole ‘double Lotus’ re-entry into the sport… 🙁 It’s almost as ridiculous as Caterham still running around in the old Lotus colours! I think it’s great to see KR doing what he’s doing, I just wish it was against a clearer backdrop.

Much appreciated.


James, what do you think of introducing three types of tyres, instead of two? I think, in terms of strategies and options, it would make a race more interesting and exciting. Don’t you think?


It would cost a fortune in shipping tyres that would never get used


Perhaps the teams could choose their own two types of tyres in advance. Shipping would be the same and if someone could win with 5 stops for super-softs, I’d think that amazing.


What is the shelf-life of a tyre? If they can be shipped by sea, it really wouldn’t be that expensive to ship them to the circuits. Might be interesting to give teams a choice of “two out of three” different sets for each circuit.

On the other hand, I think tyre management already has a too prominent role – it has always been a part of racing, but F1 is a motor racing sport, not a tyre-racing sport. To echo what Schumacher said last season, it would be great to give the drivers a chance to race, i.e. take corners at the maximum speed they can manage, not the maximum speed the tyres can manage. Pirelli must be happy with the current exposure they get, but once people associate their tyres with poor durability, it may backfire.


No, right now the exposure for Pirelli is fantastic. But it would turn sour if everyone continued to complain about tyres going off too quickly, poor performance from the Pirelli tyres, etc. If, say, Mercedes made very unreliable engines, and the teams it supplies would not finish any of their races, it would also be unwelcome attention that a sponsor like Mercedes would want to avoid. By contrast, nobody complained about the weight of the fuel.


Would that be the same poor exposure that shell would’ve got when we used to notice cars that were full of fuel would be slower than those behind who had less on board? Tyres wear out, grip lowers, you travel slower. It’s a fact. Just as high fuel is. People still buy shell fuel, I’m sure people will continue to buy Pirelli tyres.

Tornillo Amarillo

Perez could use the tyres nobody does.


It will be a crucial step forward for Lotus and Kimi if the car can handle the heat as well.
If Allison has found both cold temperature and warm temperature improvements to the Lotus, then his stock [already very high] will rocket skywards. How long can Lotus hang on to him ?
McLaren will be very keen, esp in view of their present troubles, and also God forbid, Mercedes.


I don’t see why not, but I hope they don’t, lol. GO FERRARI

Tornillo Amarillo

I guess Vettel can put it on pole and do whatever to keep the position this time in hot weather. With Webber close.

Then the Ferraris.

Then the Lotus, maybe both.

Hulkenberg will play then.

Sutil and the Mercedes also.

Perez should be better than in Melbourne.

I really don’t like to have the cars with a 10-second gap at the end of the race and everybody nursing the Pirellis because you just get points, it’s boring. “Consistency” is boring if that means “nursing tyres”. I don’t like drivers like Vettel being happy for getting P3…What is this?


what is the expected life of medium & hard compounds on the circuit?

any chance Lotus will try only one stop?


I can tell you how the race will pan out, halfway through therwe will be a massive downpour and millions around the world will get bored as we look at kimi eat ice cream once again, because no one will do anything about moving the race out of that Stoopid time slot. Anyone local will tell you that south east Asia in monsoon season at that time of day is very likely gonna be 100% humid.

For how many years are we gonna watch bald, and white-haired men sit around and stare at the sky?


If I remember it right, Bernie would like to see man made showers in all races. And its Bernie who made the schedule ;-(


4pm now in Singapore and it’s partly cloudy and dry here.

The weather forecast for Sepang on Sunday shows very little chance of rain as well.. Qualifying may be drenched though.

Bring Back Murray

No matter what the heat the Ice Man Cometh


Rosberg goes well here, doesn’t he? He’s my tip.

It seems a long time ago that Timo was looking up at the big screen in disbelief at Kimi’s fridge raiding!

How’s the weather forecast anyway- is Fridgeraider 2 on the cards?

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