F1: Malaysian Grand Prix
Saturday March 24,
Sunday March 25
After last season’s snoozefest, this year’s frantic opener in Melbourne played out in a manner suggesting the teams and drivers had all been shoved in a bottle, shaken up, and then poured out on to the track.
Mercedes qualified strongly but had a disastrous race, while Ferrari failed to make the top 10 on Saturday but managed a fifth-placed finish with Fernando Alonso on race day. McLaren did manage to match their qualifying performance on Sunday, though, coming away with a deserved victory as a result.
We head to Malaysia with all six former world champions looking competitive, epitomised by Kimi Raikkonen’s charge from 18th to seventh on his F1 return. Less than a second separated the top eight in qualifying in Melbourne – last year that gap would have stretched only to third. At the slightly more sociable hour of 9am, this is definitely a race worth getting up early for.
DC: “I love Malaysia. It’s establishing itself as a really good Grand Prix.”
AD: “It's the grandfather of [Hermann] Tilke’s designs, isn’t it? It’s fast-flowing, it’s undulating. He gets criticism, but you always have to point them in the direction of Malaysia because it is a great, great circuit – you see overtaking, you see tyre degradation to the max. It’s such a gruelling race for the drivers – so hot and so physical inside the car, you almost want to forget it when it’s over. Technically the the track focuses quite a lot on braking. Tyre degradation is a big factor – the most important thing is keeping your rear tyres alive.”
DC: “The hairpin is brilliant because you’ve got all the time in the world to over-think your entry, and you see so many people going wide, locking up and giving away the chance for overtaking into that main straight. It’s what you want; hurtling straight into a heavy-braking corner promotes mistakes. You don’t need DRS when you’ve got corners like that.”
Circuit length 5.543km
Race distance 310.408km
Lap record 1:34.223 – JP Montoya (2004)
1 Jenson Button (McLaren)
2 Lewis Hamilton (McLaren)
3 Michael Schumacher (Mercedes)