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
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