The Formula 1 paddock makes a short journey from the last race in Singapore to nearby neighbor Malaysia for the next round in the championship.
The last outing a fortnight ago may have felt like an eternity for the Ferrari team. For the first time in Formula 1 history, both Ferrari’s crashed out on the first corner of the opening lap gifting Lewis Hamilton a crucial win that now puts him a massive 28 points in front of title rival Sebastian Vettel.
And with only 6 races left on the calendar, the Malaysian Grand Prix will be pivotal in the title battle. Hamilton has overcome a sluggish start to the season to completely dominate since the mid-season summer break with three consecutive wins – something that Vettel urgently needs to stop to have any chance of taking the title.
Unpredictable Malaysia A Driver Favorite
The Seepang International Circuit will this weekend host its last Formula 1 race after being removed from the 2018 calendar.
It’s an understated track on the far outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, but it’s a favorite for many of the drivers who enjoy its long straights, medium and fast-speed corners and the challenging weather conditions.
But this combination presents a challenge to the pit engineers who face the daunting prospect of finding the best compromise between aerodynamic performance, balance and efficient cooling.
And while cooling the engines is vital at the searing Sepang circuit, spare a thought for the drivers who pushed through temperatures as high as 60 degrees last year.
“It’s one of the hottest Grands Prix of the year and we are tested and pushed to the limits,” says Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg.
“We have to drink a lot of fluids because we lose so much during the race.”
Adding to the complexity is the changeable weather conditions. It’s common for a heavy downpour in the early evening during qualifying or even a quick burst of rain to throw some unpredictability into the race.
Sweeping Sepang Suits Mercedes
An intriguing aspect of the Mercedes and Ferrari dual this season is that the cars seem to better suit different circuits.
Vettel went into the Singapore Grand Prix the firm favorite to win on a tight, twisty track but he dropped vital points with a clumsy opening lap move.
The tables are turned in Malaysia this weekend with the fast, flowing track instead suiting Hamilton’s Mercedes.
“The last race was a strong reminder that sport always has the power to surprise and defy all predictions,” says Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.
“We have been on the receiving end of those bad moments before, and we know that they can happen as easily to us as anybody else.”
“We will need to be at the top of our game on every track if we want to maintain our lead in both championships to the end of the season.”
Another win for Hamilton could potentially put the title beyond the reach of Vettel. It will be an epic encounter between two top drivers and a fitting way to farewell Sepang from Formula 1.