Formula 1’s final trip (for now) to the Sepang International Circuit in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian Grand Prix, takes place overnight starting on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from 2 a.m. ET. Brew some coffee to stay up through the night if you so desire.
Pre-race coverage runs for an hour from 2 a.m. ET through to 3 a.m. ET, with lights out at that point.
Qualifying threw up another surprise with Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes on pole despite a lack of pace in practice, and with frequent sparring partners Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen just behind. Last year’s Malaysian winner Daniel Ricciardo starts fourth, ahead of Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas.
Meanwhile Sebastian Vettel incurred an electrical issue in third practice that forced his Ferrari team to scramble to make repairs. Alas, the German will roll off from 20th and last after failing to set a time in qualifying when an issue with the power unit persisted.
Hamilton leads the World Championship by 28 points after his surprise win in Singapore and with Vettel needing a miracle from the rear of the field, should be poised to extend that further. But the opportunity is there for Raikkonen and the hungry Red Bull teammates to take points off of Hamilton.
Malaysia has thrown up a few surprise races in its 19 years. It’s always hot and occasionally rainy, and is one of the tougher physical challenges on the season. Drivers, too, will want to have bragging rights as the last winner of the Malaysian Grand Prix.
You can watch the Malaysian Grand Prix live on NBC and the NBC Sports app from 2am ET. CLICK HERE for NBCSN live stream.
You can also try out a new ‘Mosaic View’ for the race that includes the race simulcast, in-car cameras, driver tracker and pit lane cam. CLICK HERE to watch the Mosaic View live stream.
Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett will be on the call, with pit reporter Will Buxton providing updates and interviews throughout the race from Singapore.
Also be sure to follow the @F1onNBCSports Twitter account for live updates throughout the race.
2017 Malaysian Grand Prix – What to watch for (Luke Smith)
Hamilton on second straight break point in title race
In tennis terms, Lewis Hamilton is currently chasing a second ‘break point’ in his fight with Sebastian Vettel, the first coming in Singapore two weeks ago when he won and extended his points lead to 28.
Hamilton wasn’t expected to leave Singapore leading the championship, and given Ferrari and Vettel’s pace through practice, few would have thought he would leave Singapore still 28 points clear.
Alas, he now appears to have the chance to stream into a lead that would be massively difficult for Vettel to overcome through over the final five races of the season.
Can Hamilton get the job done? Or will we see a fightback from Ferrari on raceday?
Raikkonen looks to roll back the clock
Kimi Raikkonen has emerged as an unlikely contender for victory in Malaysia following Vettel’s demise, picking up the mantle nicely for Ferrari in qualifying.
Had it not been for a lock-up at the final corner, the Finn looked poised to snatch pole away, and his race pace could give him the edge over Hamilton and the Red Bulls.
Daniel Ricciardo said after qualifying he believes Raikkonen is the man to beat, and it is up to him now to do Vettel a favor and prove he is able to play a role in helping his title bid by denying Hamilton a maximum score.
Vettel’s fightback offers an added spark
Fightbacks through the field are always fun to watch, and when Sebastian Vettel is involved, they’re usually particularly intriguing.
With a fresh power unit fitted, Vettel will be eager to claw his way back up the order as quickly as possible, but is likely to run a reverse strategy that will only see him come into play at the front in the closing stages.
A safety car or some rain would help his cause, but even in the dry, expect Vettel to be hitting the top six as a minimum. Anything more than that – or a miraculous finish ahead of Hamilton – would be a big bonus.
Gasly gears up for GP debut
Pierre Gasly will make his long-awaited grand prix debut in Malaysia after putting in an impressive display so far this weekend for Toro Rosso.
Gasly outpaced experienced teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. in Q1 and was just a tenth of a second shy in Q2, taking P15 on the grid, and has been learning rapidly through the weekend.
While Toro Rosso does not look likely to score points on raw pace alone in Malaysia, one has to feel Gasly at least stands a better chance than Daniil Kvyat, who spurned even the best of chances last time out in Singapore.
Will rain factor?
Hopefully is the simple answer. Rain in Malaysia has been a common theme through its 19 seasons on the F1 calendar, so it would be fitting to say goodbye with a shower or two.
While we don’t want the biblical rain that washed out the 2009 race, enough to create a real challenge for the drivers on-track and spice up the strategy calls – a bit like the early part of the race in Singapore – would be great to see.
Hopefully the fans will be prepared to brave the elements and give Sepang a good send-off. It has served us well through the years.
2017 Malaysian Grand Prix – Starting Grid
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
3. Max Verstappen Red Bull
4. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
5. Valtteri Bottas Mercedes
6. Esteban Ocon Force India
7. Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren
8. Nico Hulkenberg Renault
9. Sergio Perez Force India
10. Fernando Alonso McLaren
11. Felipe Massa Williams
12. Jolyon Palmer Renault
13. Lance Stroll Williams
14. Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso
15. Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso
16. Romain Grosjean Haas
17. Kevin Magnussen Haas
18. Pascal Wehrlein Sauber
19. Marcus Ericsson Sauber
20. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari