SEPANG, Malaysia — After a thrilling Singapore Grand Prix, the Formula One world championship continues its South East Asian sojourn with round 16 of the campaign, the Malaysian Grand Prix.
However, while just 350km separate the two race locations, Malaysia’s Sepang Int’l Circuit is a world away from Singapore in terms of track configuration and challenge. The low average speeds and twisting streets of Marina Bay are this weekend replaced by a purpose built circuit featuring highspeed straights and a preponderance of medium- and highspeed corners. There is an obvious commonality between the two circuits, however – the heat.
Average ambient temperatures at this time of year are in the region of 32˚C and with in-car temperatures likely to soar well above that mark, this race is another tough test for drivers.
Sepang puts pressure on machinery, too. Some 60 percent of the lap is taken at full throttle, which puts a car’s internal combustion engine under more strain than usual. The circuit’s two long straights also place a heavy load on the turbo, meaning that the Malaysian Grand Prix is harder on power units than many other venues. The temperatures, abrasive track surface and heavy lateral loads through its high-speed turns mean that tire wear is also a concern at Sepang.
In the drivers’ championship, three straight wins have handed the title lead back to Nico Rosberg, and the German heads into this weekend with an eight-point lead over Mercedes teammate and arch-rival Lewis Hamilton. Meanwhile, a second-place finish in Singapore extended Daniel Ricciardo’s advantage over Sebastian Vettel to 26 points in the battle for third place overall.
In the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes could this weekend become champions elect unless they are outscored by eight points by nearest rivals Red Bull Racing or 23 points by third-placed Ferrari.
- This will be the 18th Malaysian Grand Prix. The race joined the Formula One calendar in 1999 and has featured each year since.
- The inaugural grand prix took place on Oct. 17, 1999. The following year’s race, on Oct. 22, was the final race of that year’s schedule. Thereafter, the race moved to an earlier calendar slot, taking place 11 times in March and four times in April. This year, for the first time since 2000, it has a late-season date.
- This weekend is set to be Jenson Button’s 300th race start. Only two drivers have previously passed the 300-race mark – Michael Schumacher in Singapore in 2012 and Rubens Barrichello who reached the milestone at the 2010 Japanese Grand Prix. Barrichello remains the driver with the most starts – 322.
- Button made his race debut at the 2000 Australian Grand Prix driving for Williams. He raced 17 times for Williams before moving to Benetton in 2001. He stayed with the team when it became Renault in 2002 before moving to BAR in 2003. He claimed his first win at the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix with Honda.
Button has won 14 more times since, the most recent of which was at the Brazilian Grand Prix of 2012. Six of Button’s wins came in the 2009 season when, racing for the Brawn GP team, he won the Drivers’ Championship title. In addition to his 15 wins he has scored 35 other podium finishes and eight pole positions. Button is due to take a sabbatical at the end of this season, by which time he is set to reach a total of 305 grands prix, one less than Schumacher.
- The most successful driver at the Malaysian Grand Prix is Sebastian Vettel. The German has four wins at the Sepang Circuit, in 2010-11 and 2013 for Red Bull Racing and last year for Ferrari. His 2015 victory was his first for Ferrari. Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso are next on the list of repeat winners, with three victories each. The only other multiple F-1 winner at Sepang is Kimi Räikkönen. The Finn won in 2003 for McLaren and in 2008 for Ferrari.
- Alonso scored each of his three wins with a different team. His first grand prix win at Sepang came in 2005 while driving for Renault. He then won in 2007 for McLaren and in 2012 for Ferrari.
- Räikkönen’s 2003 win was his first in F-1. He has been on the top step a further 19 times since, with his most recent win coming at the 2013 Australian Grand Prix while driving for Lotus.