F1 Preview: Malaysian Grand Prix 2009

Welcome to the slightly delayed preview to the Malaysian GP!

* * * *
FIA Formula 1 World Championship
– Formula 1 Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix (2/17)
– Sepang International Circuit
– Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
www.formula1.com
F1.com track map
Live timing (Java required, free registration required, worth it)

Circuit
Check the track map link above to see the three official timing sectors.

We move from the stop/start part-street track of Albert Park to the very fast, very open Sepang, sited adjacent to KL International Airport some 20 miles from KL itself.

Sepang joined the calendar for the 1999 season and was the first of the ‘Tilkedromes’, those circuits penned by the track architect Herman Tilke who has become the F1 track designer of choice. It set the tone for his later circuits including Bahrain, Shanghai and Istanbul. Features include an exceptionally wide racing surface, a very long wide pitlane and a large central grandstand with local styling cues.

The signature corner on this circuit is turn one, an ever-tightening right-hander leading into a very tight switchback to the left. Accidents are common here and drivers will need to keep their elongated noses clean. Tilke used a similar corner design twice for Shanghai, at the first corner and at the corner on to the long straight.

The track as a whole is very fast and flowing for the most part, with a couple of harder braking areas producing potential overtaking spots, as well as the two very long straights either side of the central grandstand – these straights ought to be ideal for those running KERS.

This track was very smooth for the first several runnings but in the last couple of years several bumps have appeared – many drivers and F1 analysts have perhaps unkindly stated this brings the circuit some much-needed character!

The overbearing heat is frequently the topic of the weekend with team personnel and media alike hiding away in the air conditioning of the paddock buildings (no such luck for the spectators). This year though, the 5pm start should negate some of this but it will bring another problem: rain. Typically after the race is over, usually 5.30pm local, and the sun begins to set, the track is engulfed in a tropical rain shower – this year the race begins at 5pm and the forecast is for rain. Last time we had heavy rain at Sepang it caused utter chaos with cars off the track at all angles.

Form
BrawnGP are the clear favourites after their performance last weekend however the race pace of the Toyotas and BMWs, and Vettel’s Red Bull, should not be underestimated. Neither should Hamilton’s McLaren. There is also the question of how the various combinations of KERS and diffusers – or lack thereof – will work at a very different circuit to Albert Park. Already in practice Kimi Raikkonen’s KERS battery has come to a smoking halt, will the heat of Sepang prove too much for KERS?


UK TV

Q: BBC One will air Qualifying live at 9am BST Saturday, session begins at 10am.
R: BBC One will air the Race live at 9am BST Sunday, race starts at 10am.
H: BBC Three will air 1hr Highlights at 7pm BST Sunday.

US TV

Q: Speed will air Qualifying semi-live at 5am ET.
R: Speed will air the Race live at 4:30am ET with the race to start at 5am. Rerun at 1:30pm.
– Canada should get coverage on TSN featuring BBC commentary, you may find Speed is blacked out.

Note for US viewers: Speed builds in a delay during qualifying coverage in order to fit in as many advertisements as possible. This completely screws up your chances of following live timing as well as ensuring anyone following F1 updates on Twitter gets spoilers 10 to 15 minutes ahead of seeing it on their TV screen. I don’t yet know if they do this for the race – either way, I urge you to complain!
Live Comments
I will be at Sidepodcast.com for qualifying and the race, and probably for the IndyCar race too (if they decide to live comment it). Fire up the Live Commenting Live..Thing at the appointed time, join the appropriate thread at the top of the screen, enter your name and then just type away! You’re welcome to join us as long as you keep the sweary exclamations away.

I’ll also be commenting on Twitter from time to time, but since I’ll be focussing on writing my race notes I may be fairly quiet.

Support events
GP2 Asia Series; Formula BMW Pacific;

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