2015 Malaysian Grand Prix Preview


With the ‘first day of school’ vibes now softening following the season-opener in Australia, Formula 1 is ready to well and truly get down to business at the Malaysian Grand Prix this weekend.

The first round in Melbourne yielded a continuation of many of 2014’s running themes: Mercedes dominance, political turmoil and impending financial doom.

The end result was a race that left many far from satisfied, with just 15 cars lining up on the grid and only 11 seeing the checkered flag.

Held in monsoon season, humidity is a serious problem for all at Sepang, whilst the possibility of a thunderstorm at any time means that the engineers and strategists must always keep one eye on the sky.

Lewis Hamilton will be looking to continue his perfect start to the season with another win in Malaysia, but teammate Nico Rosberg is not going to back down without a fight, having lost to his teammate at seven of the last eight grands prix.

The battle at the front will be complemented once again by a number of intriguing storylines up and down the grid, ranging from Ferrari and Williams’ battle for second place to the war of words that is currently ensuing between Red Bull and engine supplier Renault.

2015 Malaysian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Does Nico have an answer for Lewis?

Lewis Hamilton’s win in Australia may only have been by 1.3 seconds, but it looked pretty comfortable. The Briton simply had to monitor his pace in comparison to that of his teammate, and turned up the heat when necessary to bag his seventh win in the last eight races. Rosberg knows that he cannot go down in a similar fashion once again in Malaysia, for if Hamilton can put together a streak of crushing wins, the championship may be over psychologically by the time we hit Europe.

Alonso and Bottas return from injury

The long-running saga surrounding Fernando Alonso’s testing accident appears to have finally come to a close, with the Spaniard putting to bed any final conspiracy theories during the FIA press conference on Thursday. He is now fully fit and ready to race once again, and it will be fascinating to see how the Spaniard fares on his McLaren return in Malaysia, the site of his first victory for the team back in 2007. Combined with Valtteri Bottas’ return from injury, the F1 field is ‘back to normal’ this weekend, which should help to improve the on-track spectacle.

Manor’s drive to get racing continues

Manor came under fire for failing to get its cars out on track in Australia, but the FIA cleared it of any wrongdoing after accepting that the team did all that it possibly could to take part in at least one of the weekend sessions. The team claims that it is in a far better position heading to Malaysia, meaning that we could see its cars finally get out on track. This by no means guarantees it will qualify for the race, but by simply getting Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi out in practice, the team’s remarkable comeback story will continue.

The gloves are off for Red Bull and Renault

Red Bull’s threat to quit F1 after just one disappointing race may smack of sour grapes, but in truth, there is some sense behind it. The engine-focused nature of F1 now means that any team with a dud engine stands little chance of working its way up the field, hence why Red Bull is so furious with Renault. The French marque has insisted that its engines are not the only problem, and even accused Red Bull of lying. With the bosses of each brand going head-to-head in the FIA press conference on Friday, you can expect sparks to fly: it’s good to know that Cyril Abiteboul already has his boxing gloves.

Strength in numbers

The most disappointing part of the Australian Grand Prix weekend was the paltry grid that went racing. If 18 cars starting in Austin was bad, then just 15 was an embarrassment, as was the fact that only 11 finished. So Malaysia is all about F1 getting back to its usual self: 20 cars on the grid, the majority of which see the flag. Questions still hang over Manor’s head, but with more cars, we are bound to be treated to a more exciting and entertaining race on Sunday.

Malaysian Grand Prix – Facts and Figures

Track: Sepang International Circuit
Laps: 56
Corners: 15
Lap Record: Michael Schumacher 1:24.125 (2004)
Tire Compounds: Medium (Option); Hard (Prime)
2014 Winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2014 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:59.431
2014 Fastest Lap: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:43.066
DRS Zones: Main Straight (T15 to T1); T14 to T15

Malaysian Grand Prix – TV Times

Free Practice 1: NBC Sports Live Extra 10p ET 3/26
Free Practice 2: NBCSN 2a ET 3/27
Free Practice 3: NBCSN 2a ET 3/28
Qualifying: NBCSN 5a ET 3/28
Race: NBCSN 2:30a ET 3/29

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).