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Who can take the heat in Malaysian Grand Prix?
Posted By: James Allen  |  24 Mar 2014   |  5:38 pm GMT  |  200 comments

The Malaysian Grand Prix is the second round of the 2014 FIA F1 World Championship and – from a reliability point of view – far more of a challenge for the teams than Melbourne.

The intense heat and humidity will stretch the cars’ cooling systems to the limit. With the new hybrid turbo power units and the powerful batteries in the Energy Recovery System, cooling is critical this year.

We may see several teams being forced to open the bodywork to improve cooling, which will hurt their aerodynamic performance and in some cases the stability of the cars in the corners. The 2014 cars have less rear end stability already than the 2013 cars due to the removal of the exhaust blown diffuser and one element of the rear wing.

The new tyres from Pirelli look pretty durable; the medium tyre showed very little degradation in Melbourne, although the rougher surface and higher cornering forces of Sepang will stress the tyres more, especially the front left.

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.

The start is always critical here; the distinctive first corner 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. Collisions like Alonso’s which broke his front wing last year, are common.

The circuit features a number of high energy corners. 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.

Track characteristics – click on map to enlarge
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 – 65% of the lap. Total fuel allowed for race distance: 100 kilos.

Time spent braking: 15% of the lap. 8 braking zones. Brake wear: Medium.
Total time needed for pit stop: 22 seconds.

The pit lane speed limit in Sepang is 100km/h, pit lane length is 425 metres.

Fuel effect (cost in lap time per 10kg of fuel carried): 0.36 seconds (average/high)

Form Guide

This is the 16th running of the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang. As far as drivers’ form is concerned; Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel have both won the race three times, Kimi Raikkonen has won it twice, while Jenson Button has also won here. Alonso, Vettel and Felipe Massa all have two pole positions at Sepang. Button and Lewis Hamilton have one each. Hamilton and Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg are both looking for their first win in Malaysia.

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

This year, with the greater demands of the powerful hybrid turbo engines, the Pirelli tyre compounds are all a step harder than in 2013. Despite this, Pirelli has once again 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. And with the high levels of torque this year, wheelspin is a problem under acceleration; this also damages the tyre.

The difference in performance between the two compounds should be between 1.3s and 1.5s per lap, which is a very significant gap.

Teams will want to establish this during Friday practice. With limits on engine mileage this year, as there are only 5 power units per driver for the 19 race championship, they will not get a complete picture from practice, so tyre models will be vital. As we saw in Melbourne, it is essential to know how long the optimum stint length is on each tyre, to have an attacking race strategy.

The data on the Medium tyre from Melbourne showed that the longest stint was 25 laps by Jenson Button’s McLaren. Sepang will present a far stiffer challenge.

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 front left tyre is the most stressed at Sepang and can reach temperatures of 120 degrees centigrade. It is the fourth hardest track of the year on tyres (after Silverstone, Barcelona and Suzuka).

Number and likely timing of pit stops
The last two years have seen rain affected races, with multiple pit stops. If this year’s race is dry we can expect to see a two stop races, with teams using Medium-Medium-Hard as the preferred strategy. The performance gap between the two compounds is significant, so getting the right balance between an extra stop and a longer stint, losing time on the hard tyre will be vital.

From a strategy point of view a pit stop at Sepang is similar to Melbourne at 22 seconds. The long straights mean that the adjustable rear wing (DRS wing) is quite effective, making overtaking easy. So strategists can plan for the fastest race for their driver, without being concerned with losing time in traffic, unlike Melbourne, where it was very hard to overtake, even with a significant straight line speed advantage. On some laps, McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen had a 36km/h advantage over Daniel Ricciardo, but still could not pass him. That will not be a problem in Sepang.

Weather Forecast

The forecast for the weekend is for temperatures of 32-34 degrees, thunderstorms and a 60% chance of rain on race day.

Rain can always affect the outcome at Sepang as it can come at any time and can be very intense. For the last two years the race has been affected by rain. In 2012 the race was delayed by heavy rain. There must always be a degree of flexibility built into race strategy when planning for Sepang.

Chance of a safety car
Despite the weather hazards, the chance of a safety car at Sepang is incredibly low, by F1 standards, at 14% 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.

Pit stop League table

A measure of the total time it took the team and driver to make their fastest stop, based on the car entering and leaving the pit lane. This measures the team effort, including the driver in getting the car into the pit box.

1. Ferrari -21.825s
2. Lotus – 22.264s
3. McLaren -22.273s
4. Red Bull – 22.427s
5. Force India – 22.497s
6. Marussia – 22.656s
7. Toro Rosso – 22.978s
8. Williams – 23.117s
9. Caterham – 23.238s
10. Mercedes 23.673s
11. Sauber 23.797s

Start League Table

An indication of trends of drivers gaining and losing places at the start. Where drivers have had first lap incidents which dropped them to the back of the field, they are not included above, but are detailed in the notes marked * below. This affects other drivers’ gains and adjustments are made for that, but the sample still shows prevailing trends of places won and lost at the start.

Gained positions

1. Bottas, Maldonado +5 places
2. Ericsson +4
3. Raikkonen +3
4. Rosberg, Hulkenberg +2
5. Magnussen, Chilton, Sutil +1

Maintained position


Lost positions

1. Hamilton, Vettel – 3 places
2. Alonso, Button, Vergne, Kvyat -1 place

Melbourne Notes: Kobayashi, Massa eliminated in a first corner accident; Perez, Gutierrez pitted at the end of Lap 1; Bianchi, Grosjean started from pit lane.

The Race Strategy Briefing is prepared by James Allen on F1 with input from strategists from several F1 teams, from JA on F1 technical adviser Prof Mark Gillan and from Pirelli

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Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

Hoping for the rain, and betting old farts Alonso & Raikkonen could deliver!


The zimmer frame pair can still show the young uns how its done!


So, if the tyres are a step harder this year than 2013 and I presume they have kept the Kevlar belt, then they are basically the 2012 spec tyres, right?




hope force india have got their nuts sorted this year…

they missed out on quite a lot of points last year because of it


i meant “wheel nuts”

kenneth chapman

hahaha sure!


I love this era.

Look at the comments above – NO ONE knows what’s going to happen, there are so many unknowns:

Will the RBs continue to recover? Can Ferrari’s nano-cooling survive the heat? Will LH’s Merc be reliable? Where will Williams fit in? Vettel or Ricciardo? Hamilton or Rosberg? Will Button be shaded by Mag again? How will the turbos and ERS deal with the heat? Will the Renaults (particularly in the Lotus) be any better?

Todt has done an amazing job pushing these new rules. If F1’s cantankerous-old-man-Lauda can embrace them so heartily, so can everyone else. (If you miss the ringing in your ears, just turn up the volume on your car radio on the way home).


“NO ONE knows what’s going to happen, there are so many unknowns”

It seems fairly predicable to me. One of the W05’s will probably win the race. Assuming they both finish the race they will probably finish one-two.

In any case I don’t think unpredictability is the hallmark of sports. No one knows what’s going to happen when you play roulette, but that doesn’t make roulette a sport. The nature of sports is that it is somewhat but not completely predictable. That’s why sports always has such things as favorites, underdogs, long-shots, and upsets.


If some ugly smelly pink sneakers made you run faster but everyone else slower, wouldn’t you want them to be mandatory in a race as well?

That’s why Lauda is so fond of this era. If Mercedes wasn’t winning this year, we’d be at risk of losing a team and an engine supplier.


Regardless of his motivations, I like his points!


Off topic, BUT, I’ve seen photos of Kobayashi’s car going under Massa’s during there first corner incident at Melbourne. How big of a concern is this for driver safety?

I don’t think we want to see someone’s head come into contact with a rear crash structure, or worse, but I am wondering how they handled this 20 years ago when all noses were “drooped”?

Were the rears of the car lower back then? Is it the rear crash structure?

In the states we’ve seen CART cars run up and over, and even balance on top of, other cars without hurting the driver (although it was scary).


It’s kind of ironic since they were lowered because they were worried about drivers losing their heads.


Interesting POV.

“Formula one should be again what it always has been: the ultimate discipline,” said Mateschitz

“It is not there to set new records in fuel consumption, or so you can talk at a whisper during a race and the greatest thrill is the squealing of the tyres.

“I consider it equally absurd that we are going a second slower than last year and that the junior series GP2 is almost as fast as formula one with a fraction of the budget,” he added.


Expected from DM. Like how Rosberg said the racing this year is very exciting. Of course he would say that, wouldn’t he?

kenneth chapman

i tend to agree with DM. there is no light at the end of the tunnel….as yet.


Those 2 potential new teams FIA is looking for? They are going to be buyers, not building teams from scratch.

What’s up with Caterham? Partnership with Renault done. Fernandez saying if he’s at the back, he’s not going to continue.

What is the F1 team Death Watch list now?

Lotus and Caterham – both Renault power, plus Sauber? Go out there and enjoy those 22 car grids this year boys and girls.

David in Sydney

I’ll take Caterham F1 off his hands for EUR 1,000 and a promise of keeping his branding contract for 3 years.


There is so many interesting topics for this weekend, I don`t know where to start!

Reliability, rain, topspeed, intrateam-rivalry, tyres, upgrades, rookies etc..


Does anyone have any insight into how much Ferrari are lagging in the engine-department, how much laptime are they behind Merc?

Renault has been very clear about their deficit and that they will claw it back soon, wile Ferrari has been kind of quiet on this..

James, mabe you can do some 007-work on this? 🙂


Hasn’t the pit speed limit been lowered from 100 to 80 km/h last season?

kenneth chapman

what will be the fallout if red bull continue to race using their own ‘fuel flow’ metering on the assumption [rightly or wrongly] that the gill sensors are still giving dodgy readings?

can they race subject to protest? it is interesting that none of the other teams have entered a protest. maybe they are all relying on the ICA result. if the ICA uphold red bulls position what happens to the other teams provisional results vis-a-vis lodging a protest? have they run out of time?


Rarely a dull race here so looking forward to it. I’ll always remember 1999 when Michael destroyed the field on his comeback race. Im tipping Lewis for pole and win!



Did Ferrarri set a record with their 2.2 pitstop?


No we’ve seen below 2secs


James remember the really long pit stop of Barrichello @ Malaysia 2001 . I think that stop lasted 1 minute 12 seconds.


Mark Webber and Red Bull at last year Texas grand prix: 1.9 seconds. Wow, a click of the fingers and the tyres are changed!


James, let’s hope it will be a baked track on Sunday then we’ll know how much the engines will hold out. Should be an interesting weekend and hope the results get jumbled up amongst the top six teams.

Just got a feeling, Massa and Bottas will do well for Williams and also the how Kevin and Kvyat will fair.

Looking forward to the whistling and squealing effect.

I like your mast head ‘Horsepower Whisperers’….quietly powerful.


For pure gutsiness Kvyat is hard to match. If there’s rain I suspect the young guns will possibly over drive in a display of bravery.

I’m expecting the old pros to bring home the bacon … quietly, and almost under the radar. You probably know who I mean….


Masthead Meanderings

Horsepower Whisperers

Evocative of the new cars-powerfully quiet.

See,I heard you first time.


It’s going to be very interesting if Red Bull can even compete. I mean there are two scenarios:

1) They were legit in Australia, so they race the same way, and hope the sensors don’t mess up again.

2) They were trying to be tactful and in Malaysia they race fairly this time and finish further down the field, maybe near the Toro Rossos.

I will still put a small wager on a Red Bull 1-2, just because the odds are so good. )


Red Bull really need to grow up. The only reason they chose to ignore the FIA’s advice was to make the car go faster. There is no other reason. Every other team complied, if they had ignored the FIA then they all could have gone faster. The appeal must not win, unless we want to see every race result decided in a courtroom weeks after the event. That would be farcical


If they’re going to insist they were legit in Australia, they’ll have to do the same. So we might see both cars finish, and both cars get disqualified. And in Bahrain, both cars finish, and both cars get disqualified.

Which is all a bit farcical.


I think the heat may well kill the’ll certainly be a test of their cooling upgrades.


I think Ferrari can win this race. Even with motors turned down they both finished in melb and I think they will have found some answers since. Mercedes are still the bench mark in speed but when they have problems they stop permanently and this can transpose to any Merc powered car- except maybe Williams- who have some work to do on downforce & rear end stabilility. What was truly impressive was Bottas braking stability – which will bode well for Malaysia.

I hope we dont see rain although that seems most likely at Sepang. I know people like to see mixed racing but I dont see the point when cars are driving at half pace / behind a safety car for half a GP. Personally I hope it doesnt rain at any circuit, it does nothing for the viewing and the speed.


Ferrari to win sounds a bit bold to me, especially when Alonso couldn’t even get out of Hulkenberg’s slipstream even with DRS in Oz, Ferrari electrical ‘problems’ aside. I hope they can get into the mix though.

I also hope we don’t see rain in Malaysia, to get a better comparison picture on power and tyre wear between teams, differences between tyre types etc.

Though rain is a good thing from time to time, as long as it isn’t a monsoon or safety car start etc, it has given us some awesome races in the past and awesome displays of skill:

Senna at Donnington and Estoril 85, Clark winning Spa by 5 mins, Spa ’98!, Stewart at Nurburgring 4 mins ahead of anyone else, Hockenheim 2000, Schumi Spain ’96 not too exciting but class drive, Hill v Schumi Suzuka 94, Alonso in the dog at Malaysia 12, Monaco 84, Hungary 06, Canada ’11, Spa plenty more times including Kimi v Lewis and also Hakkinen’s beautiful move splitting Schumi and Zonta after a wet kerb spin, Brazil as well, not just Massa’s finest hour in 2008. Phew…

David in Sydney

If Ferrari has a software problem with their engine and braking system then it is quite possible for the software to be ironed out in time for Malaysia and the engines upgraded.


Dont forget the best wet driving F1 has seen for the past 15 years, Hungary 2006.


This happens when one reads too fast. Feel free to erase both of my comment.


You’re right about wet/mixed weather providing some other-wordly performances.

As well as the ones you mentioned, don’t forget Senna Britain 1988 (as well as a great drive by Our Nige), Ayrton Spa 1989, Our Nige Spain 1992, Michael Spa 1992, Senna Brazil 1993, Michael Spa and Nuburgring 1995, Damon in Brazil 96, Michael at Monaco/Spa 97, Frenzy at Magny-Cours 99, DC Brazil 2001 (including the cameo by Monty), Lewis Fuji 2007 and Silverstone 2008, and Jenson Brazil 2012. Truly wonderful performances in soggy conditions.

David in Sydney

You would think it would be a race for Mercedes powered cars and a win for a McLaren if both Mercedes drivers have a mishap otherwise it’ll be Rosberg.

But the rain…

And the heat…


Sorry I can’t provide stats, but Melb and Mala are so different I can’t recall anyone who has won the two back to back .. So i guess if it’s Rosberg it would be ominous for the rest


Vettel in 2011 for one.


I’m not sure the McLaren will outpace the Williams if we get dry conditions through the weekend


They may if Rons promised 0.5 sec upgrade works!

I agree though, unless it rains Williams should be the No.2 team….based on Oz.


Just an idea James, in the Pit Stop section, can you put the gap required for a driver to make a stop and still come out in front?


Well this gives an indication, doesn’t it?

It’s one of several reasons why we measure this time for a stop rather than solely the stationary time (circa 2 seconds)


Actually, I think TGS has a point. The total time in pit lane is relevant, but the fact is that the car also covers distance while in pit lane. So even though they may spend 22 seconds in pit lane, the actual lead required might only be 18 seconds to still emerge in front.

The difference is the time it takes the chasing car to cover the distance between the pit lane entrance and exit. The full 22 seconds is only relevant if the car enters and exits the pits in exactly the same place.


Yeah I see your point. Thanks.


Can’t wait for this race and I’m looking forward to seeing how the ferrari’s cope given their incredibly narrow air inlets/sidepods…clearly they feel the Ferrari engine can cope with cooling easily.

It’s such a shame I’ll have to watch this race without the live timings once again though, as judging by Melbourne, FOM have got rid of the live timing option via the website (it not longer tells sector times) and instead require fans to buy the smart phone app which just isn’t suitable given how small the screens are compared to my laptop.

Really hope this is addressed. Out of interest James, does the same apply to you guys in the commentary box? Or do you get the full version of the live timings, like we used to get in the past?


Yup, that’s the link. Use it during a session or the race and you’ll no longer see the exact sector times. In Australia, we just got a yellow or purple dot indicating whether the sector the driver had set was a personal best or race best, which is largely useless. Basically, they’ve gone out of their way to downgrade the information you get on the website and instead you need to buy the app (which drained the battery on my S4 in 30 minutes!) to actually get the sector times.

Thankfully, I’ve figured out a way to have my phone send the sector times straight to my desktop but it’s still frustrating given the link you posted gave ALL the data in previous seasons.

That said the app does feature some other really useful information but it’s largely irrelevant given how small most phone screens are!


Well, that sucks! 🙂

Last season I used a program called F1LT (free, and very customizable). Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be developed any more and didn’t work for Aus. There’s an alternative called Live F1 which I’ll try next race…


We have the FOM screens but we use the FOM app too for tyre data and other things.


What was the point of removing sector times from the timing applet? All we have now are coloured dots 🙁


They want our money unfortunately.

I would be happy to pay for a desktop/laptop app that gave me live timings and other info but the fact that it’s only available on iOS and Android is so disappointing 🙁

kenneth chapman

it is almost impossible to forecast the result in malaysia. it has always been difficult to even get close due mainly to the irregularity of th weather. throw all the other issues into the mix and see what you get.

i see drama followed by a degree of chaos.


Yep huge potential for it.. Especially turn1 with the brake by wire being truly tested in extreme heat and not so grippy tyres..add dampish conditions- it will be a real struggle


Rosberg will have the pace, will manage his tyres better in the intense heat.


Hopefully it’ll stay dry and the two Merc boys will have the cars to go for each other. Then we could also see just how much faster they really are. I’d hate to see one with a problem and the other race for 10 laps then basically cruise for reliability.

The tyres on Rosberg v Hamilton may be different this year, I wonder if they will grain then come back good again, unlike last year.

The battle to be ahead of your teammate, to perhaps get the undercut fresh tyres could be critical.

Wouldn’t be surprised if McLaren bring Jenson in before anyone else for his first stop to jump then run longer on set 2.


With such a big difference between tyre compounds (1.5 sec) there will be a nice benefit to getting through Q1 on hards, given the likely strategy is med med hard. Merc were the only ones to do it in melbourne. Saving a set of new mediums and front row position makes merc the easy tip for this race again be surprised if any different


Hopefully we will see a great attacking race with aggressive overtaking.

NOT looking forward to tip-toe racing, so-called stragetic racing and fuel economy parades.

Let’s see what we get to watch on Sunday.


Aww you ruined it. I was so happy to get all the way to the bottom of a comment forum and NOT see someone complain about the new F1.

I’m with Lauda (paraphrasing): the OZ gp was exciting (about as much as any other OZ GP in the past); drivers have ALWAYS had to manage their cars (esp before the bullet-proof reliability of the last decade); saying that F1 shouldn’t be concerned with fuel consumption is idiotic; and the idea that F1 has to be loud is like watching soccer for the riots, or hockey for the fights.

With the way he’s been spot-on on almost every point this year, Lauda should replace Bernie.

Don’t worry, Sepang will be an amazing race.


‘And the idea that F1 has to be loud is like watching soccer for the riots, or hockey for the fights.’

What a load of Bull. Not the same in any way. Let’s just make it formula 1 E then?! F1 has always been about noise that’s half the reason fans pay to go to the circuits (well, used to).

Yes it might be a good race this weekend but it will also be dead silent


Should both silver arrows get off the line it will be interesting to see how much of a speed advantage they have

I’m not a Massa fan but I do think he will be out to prove a point this weekend as his season hasn’t started yet and he will looking to out pace bottas. I can’t help but think he will come up short


He is short 🙂

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