The F1 brigade moves onto the sweltering heat and humidity of Malaysia (Sepang) for the second race of the 2014 season. The Grand Prix will take place with everybody’s hearts and minds still with the ill-fated MH370 Malaysian Airlines flight, with several concerts and pre-race events canceled out of respect for the gloomy situation.
Champions Red Bull aren’t a happy team, with their appeal to the FIA still pending regarding the disqualification of Daniel Riccardio from his 2nd placed position in the Australian Grand Prix. The Australian’s joy was short-lived after discovering his team’s fate, with fuel technicalities threatening to push Red Bull over the edge. This meant that rookie Dane Kevin Magnussen finished second in his debut F1 race, handing Jenson Button the final spot on the podium for McLaren. The British team will be thrilled with their double-podium performance, for the first time in ages.
Alonso’s 4th place means he has a good headstart over defending Champion Vettel, who failed to finish the race. Though I suspect this season won’t come down to these two, considering the form of Red Bull and their defiant attitude. It is going to be 2009 all over again, with the Silver Arrows (Mercedes) looking miles ahead of the rest. Rosberg’s dominant win at Melbourne went on to prove that winter testing wasn’t a flash in the pan, and Brawn’s team are genuine title favorites this time.
Not much can still be predicted about these early races, but the 56-lap 3.44 mile course is bound to squeeze every drop out of the drivers.
Sebastian Vettel has won 3 out of the last 4 races here, with Alonso winning for Ferrari back in 2012.
Alonso is the ONLY driver to have won this race with 3 different cars- Ferrari, McLaren (2007) and Renault (2005). Safe to say this is one of his favorite early races, often a circuit that decides the mood of the season.
Along with Schumacher, these two are the only drivers to win at Sepang thrice. John MacDonald won it 4 times in the early 70s for Ford.
Till 2001, this race was at the end of the F1 schedule. 1999 was a notable race, where Schumacher dominated after an injury, to hand over the win to title hopeful and teammate Irvine. Both were disqualified soon after.
The tight double hairpin at the first corner sees the maximum number of position changes and track spinoffs in the F1 calendar.
Ferrari have won 6 times here, but one suspects that Mercedes will add to their 2009 win (Brawn GP- Button), with Hamilton looking to come good after a splendid qualifying session back in Melbourne.