After the season opening Australian Grand Prix two weeks ago, Formula 1 now moves onto the Sepang circuit in Malaysia, with lots of questions being raised up and down the paddock.
The 5.543KM Sepang track will be hosting a Formula 1 Grand Prix for the seventeenth time this weekend, with the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS team still the ones to beat, with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg looking to be even further in front of the rest of the field if what conspired in Australia is anything to go by.
Hamilton took a dominant pole position in Australia, with Rosberg alongside him on the front row, and the duo pulled away throughout the race to win by over half a minute from Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari, and it could have been more. The duo will be looking for more of the same this weekend, although Rosberg is hoping to be the one standing on the top step of the podium on Sunday.
Ferrari looked in Australia to have improved their racecar significantly during the off-season, with both Vettel and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen having strong outings at Albert Park.
However, as proven by McLaren in 2014, the Australian track does not generally reflect the running order for the rest of the season, so before we claim that Ferrari are back as genuine contenders, let’s wait and see how they perform in Malaysia.
Williams Martini Racing were forced to race with only one car in Australia after Valtteri Bottas was ruled out with a back injury suffered during qualifying, and it will be interesting to see if the Finn has made a full recovery as he attempts to return to racing this weekend in Malaysia.
Team-mate Felipe Massa gave all he could in the opener but was overhauled by Vettel for the final podium spot, but the Malaysia track could suit the team’s FW37 better this weekend.
The Sauber F1 Team had a dream start to the season on track in Australia, with both Felipe Nasr on debut and Marcus Ericsson scoring the team’s first points since the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix.
They put all their off-track problems behind them, and head into Malaysia with confidence they have a more competitive car than they did at any time during 2014.
It will also be interesting to see how test driver and Ferrari Academy member Raffaele Marciello will get on in his debut free practice session for the team.
Whereas Sauber showed improvement in Australia, the Infiniti Red Bull Racing outfit struggled, with Daniel Ricciardo finishing a lapped sixth and Daniil Kvyat retiring before even making it to the grid with a gearbox issue.
In the time since the race down under, Red Bull have been in loggerheads with their engine supplier Renault, with the driveability of the upgraded power unit being the biggest concern to the former World Constructor’s Champions. Both Ricciardo and Kvyat will hope for better luck this weekend, with the Russian eager to finally make his Red Bull Racing debut.
The sister team to Red Bull, Scuderia Toro Rosso, had a positive race in Australia, even if they could only take two points away from the event. Carlos Sainz Jr was running inside the top six early on, and was on course for a better result than ninth before a slow pit stop cost him valuable time that saw him fall behind Nico Hulkenberg and into the clutches of Marcus Ericsson.
Team-mate Max Verstappen also impressed in Australia, running comfortable inside the top ten before engine failure robbed him of points on debut. But in that time, the Dutchman had removed doubts from many people’s minds about his age and apparent lack of experience as he performed like someone who had been racing for years.
Both Toro Rosso drivers will be looking forward to getting out on track, and it wouldn’t be a surprise it both were fighting for points again in Malaysia.
Sahara Force India arrived in Australia with very little testing mileage on their 2015 VJM08, but left the country with both cars having finished inside the points. Nico Hulkenberg had a quiet race to seventh, while Sergio Perez had a more entertaining race to tenth.
Both drivers will be looking for improved competitiveness from their car in Malaysia, with points once again the aim as they play catch up in the development of their car.
Blink and you’d have missed the Australian Grand Prix for the Lotus F1 Team. Both Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado were both out before the end of lap one, but the pace of the Lotus was far better than twelve months ago, having seen both drivers qualify inside the top ten.
The team will arrive in Malaysia hopeful of maintaining their pace, but also ensuring reliability is improved, although in Maldonado’s case, he was the victim of someone else’s incident in Australia.
McLaren-Honda had a baptism of fire on their debut in Australia, with Kevin Magnussen’s engine expiring before the race begun and Jenson Button being the only driver to finish who did not score points. Just getting to the finish down under was an achievement, but they will now be hoping to start making progress after running in Australia with a detuned power unit.
There will also be many eyes on Fernando Alonso in Malaysia, who looks set to finally make his second debut for McLaren after sitting out the Australian Grand Prix. The Spaniard will be hopeful of helping the team make that progress, with both he and Button hopeful of a problem-free weekend.
Finally we have the Manor F1 Team, who failed to get either car on track in Australia. They come to Malaysia with the belief of finally seeing Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi on track in their updated 2014-Marussia. Software issues kept them in the garage at Albert Park, but they will be hoping for a smoother weekend at Sepang.
2014 Malaysian Grand Prix Podium
|3||1||Sebastian Vettel||GER||Red Bull-Renault||+24.534s|
2015 Malaysian Grand Prix Race Victory Odds
|Lewis Hamilton||1/2||Valterri Bottas||25/1|
|Nico Rosberg||15/8||Kimi Raikkonen||33/1|
|Sebastian Vettel||16/1||Felipe Massa||33/1|
|All odds courtesy of Ladbrokes and are correct as of 25 March 2015. Odds may change before event. Other drivers quotes available.|