F1: Malaysian Grand Prix preview

A look ahead to the second race of the season

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The Independent Online

Kimi Raikonnen won the opening Grand Prix of the season in Melbourne with a sublime drive for Lotus that set up what looks like an enthralling 2013 season.

The Finn's new car looked imperious in race trim and surprised many who thought the Lotus and the other usual protagonists of Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes and Mclaren were tightly matched.

Albert Park, the home of the Australian Grand Prix is unusual in that it is a poor indicator of performance due to its nature as a low grip street circuit.

Sunday's race at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia should provide a great race and a more thorough test of the 2013 cars - and some indication as to the real competitive order.


What to watch...


Pirelli describe the track surface as 'extreme' and the tyres they have chosen for the weekend are the two toughest; the medium and hard compounds. The abrasive nature of the track as well as the high temperature and humidity could contribute to high wear and more pitstops than the two that gave Raikonnen victory in Australia. The Lotus has demonstrated that it uses its tyres very well, and this will be a key advantage again this season. Ferrari treated their tyres well but didn't have the outright pace, and high wear pegged Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel back.



Jenson Button's assessment of his McLaren was as scathing as it was true. The McLaren doesn't look capable of podiums let alone wins. Struggling to understand their car, it would be a surprise if the team can rectify what seems like fundamental design problems in the five days they have between the opening two Grand Prix. The only bright spot could be the dark weather forecast for Sunday, as the McLaren looked quick in the wet in Melbourne in the hands of Button.



The temperatures in Sepang are stifling. It could hit 34 degrees Celsius on Saturday but the biggest cause of concern could be the rain. When it does rain, it comes down torrentially making decisive strategy calling and reading of the conditions vital. The high ambient temperatures play a part to, as once it starts to dry it does so quickly meaning the teams could be caught out.


What happened last year?

Fernando Alonso drove an under-performing Ferrari to first place in a frantic wet/dry race. The Spaniard was aided by a charging Sergio Perez in the Sauber falling off the road as he closed in on first. Perez had to settle for second and was followed home by Lewis Hamilton who completed the podium.



The inaugural race was in 1999

Ferrari have won six races, Red Bull and Mclaren and Renault (now Lotus) have won two races, while Williams and Brawn (now Mercedes) have won one each.


The details...

Race Date: 24 Mar 2013

Circuit Name: Sepang International Circuit

Number of Laps: 56

Circuit Length: 5.543 km

Race Distance: 310.408 km

Lap Record: 1:34.223 - JP Montoya (2004)


TV: Live on Sky Sports F1 and BBC Radio 5 live, highlights on BBC TV and live text commentary online