March 21st, 2013 (F1plus/B. Creed).- For every upcoming Grand Prix there's certain stories that generate more attention than usual. In exotic Malasyia the climate always plays a big role, along with the ever present tyre management component. Let's have a look at those five:
1. Weather: Malaysia is known for its unpredictable weather. Over the last four years it has rained on at least one of the days of the Grand Prix. Take 2009, the race began in dry conditions but by lap 19 the rain began to fall. On lap 33 the race was stopped and the result was taken from the classification on lap 31. In 2010 qualifying was under wet conditions and saw Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton start the Grand Prix in 19th and 20th place. By the Sunday the weather was dry and Hamilton finished the race in sixth. There was a similar situation in 2012 with Alonso struggling in dry qualifying ending up ninth before winning the race in wetter conditions on the Sunday. One thing is for sure the unpredictable weather makes for an interesting weekend.
2. Tyres: Tyres played a big part in last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix. Those who qualified in Q3 had to start on the supersoft tyres they had qualified on and these did not last long in the race with Jenson Button having to pit after just four laps.
Not making Q3 was a blessing for Force India’s Adrian Sutil who had an opposing strategy to all those in front, starting on the medium compound tyre. He lead the race twice before his race fell apart on the supersoft tyre leaving him seventh. With the weather a deciding factor in tyres as well it will be interesting to see how the teams will handle this factor.
3. McLaren: McLaren’s disappointing Australian Grand Prix makes them a talking point in Malaysia. Only managing to finish ninth and 11th is clearly not where McLaren want to be and doesn’t bode well for the rest of the season. The team will be keeping the same car and package for Malaysia so it is difficult to see how McLaren will be able to improve this weekend.
It will be interesting to see how the team try to combat this disappointing performance. The weather conditions may play into their hands but with midfield teams such as Force India and Sauber ahead of them or right on their tail they will have fierce competition to score points in Malaysia.
4. Fernando Alonso’s 200th Grand Prix: Fernando Alonso will take part in his 200th Grand Prix this weekend in Malaysia. However having had two non-starts in Belgium in 2001 and the USA in 2005 this weekend will only be his 198th race start.
On the back of an impressive performance in Australia and with Ferrari leading the constructors championship, Alonso will want to produce a race winning performance here. And with the 2013 Ferrari appearing much stronger than its 2012 counterpart that won the 2012 Malaysian Grand Prix it should be a good opportunity for Alonso to win and lead the drivers championship.
5. Two DRS zones: The Sepang circuit will have two DRS zones for the first time this year. For the previous two years there had been a single DRS zone on the start/finish straight and this year will see another added on the straight that leads into the last corner. The position of the detection points of the two DRS zones mean when one driver passes another on the back straight using DRS they then face being overtaken themselves using DRS on the pit straight.