Circuit Length:5.543 Km
Lap Record:1:34.223 = 211.782 km/h - J. Montoya (Williams BMW) 2004
Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Renault); 1:34.870 = 210.338 km/h
1st:Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Renault) 1:37.39.832
2nd:Jenson Button (McLaren Mercedes)
3rd:Nick Heidfeld (Lotus Renault)
Mark Webber (Red Bull Renault); 1:40.571 - 198.415 km/h on Lap 46
From the tight confines of a street circuit to the flowing, undulating lay-out created specially by Hermann Tilke (it was his first track in F1): what will the contrast tell us about the 2012 machinery?
“Sepang will be interesting for everybody,” says Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher, “because it will be the first clue to the real relative strengths of all the cars.”
If that’s the case, watch for another sterling performance from McLaren and particularly from Jenson Button. That combination looked, already, the class of the field in Melbourne and since these races are back-to-back that hasn’t given the chasing pack much margin for improvement before Sunday’s race.
And how will Pirelli’s new-for-2012 tyres cope with the Sepang condition? It’s never really dry there: even when it’s not raining the humidity touches 80%! It’s also hot (track temperature up to 50 degrees) and the Sepang track surface is unusually abrasive.
So Pirelli will take the P Zero Silver for its first outing this year – it’s the hardest of their dry-weather compounds. The option will be the P Zero White (medium) tyre we saw in Australia. Watch for the left-hand tyres doing most of the work.
One man keen to make a big impression, after being cruelly denied the chance to do so in Australia, is Romain Grosjean. The Lotus man has raced at Sepang before in GP2 and can’t wait to get back out there. “It’s nice and wide,” he says, “with fast flowing corners and a lot of undulation which makes it great fun to drive. The last corner is a tricky one, but I enjoy everything about racing here.”
Track characteristics: two long straights with very tight corners at the ends… high-speed sections like Turns 5 and 6 as well as twisty stuff like Turns 1 and 2… a super overtaking opportunity into the left-hander at Turn 15 and the 660m sprint to the first corner, the second-longest after Barcelona.
P2 in 2010 is Mark Webber’s best Sepang result, though he has been in the points on three other occasions; Daniel Ricciardo, meanwhile, makes his Malaysian debut with Toro Rosso. Can the young Aussie build on his brilliant last-lap burst into the points in his home debut? Point to note: Heikki Kovalainen will pay a five-place grid penalty after being found guilty of passing Sebastian Vettel under the Safety Car in Melbourne.