Reports

Malaysia F1 Grand Prix

2017 MALAYSIA GRAND PRIX – SET UP

Malaysia has had a long and fruitful association with Formula 1. It began in the late ’90s, when the Sepang International Circuit was constructed on agricultural land near Kuala Lumpur International Airport, and it has been a regular fixture on the F1 calendar since ’99. The track was the first to be designed and built by architect Hermann Tilke, whose influence extends to 10 circuits on this year’s calendar, and the undulating 5.543km/3.444-mile layout is recognised as one of the most exciting challenges in the world for drivers

NEED TO KNOW

Race title 2017 Formula 1 Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix
Circuit name Sepang International Circuit
First race 1999

TRAVEL

City Kuala Lumpur
Time zone CET+6 / BST+7
Population 1.65 million
Surprising fact Malaysia has an incredibly diverse population. Of the country’s 32 million people, 50 per cent are Malay, 23 per cent are Chinese, seven per cent are Indian and the remaining 20 per cent are comprised of indigenous groups
Local speciality Malaysia is called the street food capital of Asia, and with good reason. Hawker stalls are found everywhere and offer everything from samosas to spicy noodle curry and cendol, which is a desert made from sweet grass jelly and coconut milk
Weather Late September is still the high season, but the chance of rain increases as the monsoon season approaches. Temperatures will be slightly higher than they were in Singapore two weeks ago because the race takes place in the day, so teams should expect an ambient of 30 degrees Celsius and 80 per cent humidity

Track

Track length 5.543km / 3.444 miles
2016 pole position Lewis Hamilton - 1:32.850s
2016 winner Daniel Ricciardo, 56 laps - 1:37:12.776s
2016 fastest lap Nico Rosberg - 1:36.424s (lap 44)
Lap record 1:34.223s (Juan Pablo Montoya, 2004)
Tyre choice Red Supersoft | Yellow Soft | White Medium
Distance to Turn One 660m / 0.410 miles
Longest straight 920m / 0.572 miles (on the approach to Turn 15)
Top speed 330kmh / 205mph (on the approach to Turn 15)
Full throttle 65 per cent. The longest period of full throttle is 12s, on the approach to Turn 15
Brake wear Medium. Only 15 per cent of the lap is spent braking
Fuel consumption 1.79kg per lap, which is average
ERS demands Medium. There is a high dependency on ERS at every track, but the eight braking zones around the lap make it possible to recover braking energy
Gear changes 57 per lap / 3192 per race (highest of the season)

RACE

Laps 56 laps
Start time 15:00hrs local / 08:00hrs BST / 09:00hrs CET
Grid advantage The racing line is on the left and that’s where the grip lies at the start. However, there’s a rainstorm most evenings, so there’s a chance that the grid will be washed clean before the start, negating any grid advantage
DRS There are two DRS zones, on the approaches to Turns One and 15
Don't put the kettle on... The combination of high track temperatures and fast corners encourages drivers to make more pitstops, not less, at Sepang. Daniel Ricciardo won last year’s race with two stops, while Max Verstappen finished second with three, and strategy was influenced by three Virtual Safety Car periods. Pirelli are taking softer tyre compounds to the race this year, which could lead to even more stops. A conventional three-stopper would result in cars visiting the pits on laps 10, 25 and 40
Pitlane length/Pitstops 420m/0.261 miles (It takes 22s to make a stop)
Safety Car 20 per cent. There tends to be lots of incidents and accidents at Sepang, but large run-off areas allow marshals to get stranded cars out the way quickly
Watch out for... Rain. The later start time of 15:00hrs pushes the finish of the race towards early evening, which is when the rain showers tend to hit

THE DRIVERS

FERNANDO ALONSO

“After Singapore, I’m already eager to get back into the car and hopefully make it further than the first corner in Malaysia! Of course, what happened was disappointing and it’s difficult to hide your frustration when you’re the victim of someone else’s incident. I felt we had the potential to be really competitive – one of our only opportunities of the year – and it’s a shame we couldn’t bring home the points to prove it, but these things happen. 

“The conditions in Malaysia will be very similar to Singapore – hot, humid and challenging for the drivers and the car. The configuration will work less in our favour, but of course we will still fight for everything. There are six races left and we are still putting all our energy in finishing every race in the best possible position we can. 

“Sepang will be more difficult for us in terms of set-up since the straights require good straight-line speed and power, but this track is a mixture of a lot of different characteristics, so we’ll see how much we can make up on the slower-speed corners. The 2018 cars will definitely be faster through there, which will surely be fun to experience, and I hope we can avoid any drama and have a solid race.”

STOFFEL VANDOORNE

“After Singapore, I’m looking forward to heading to Malaysia on the back of a positive weekend on my side of the garage. I felt strong all weekend and we were able to put in consistent performances in every session. It’s a shame we couldn’t score points with both cars as we all felt it was really deserved; Fernando was very unlucky, but we head to Kuala Lumpur with a bit more confidence and the objective of keeping this momentum going. 

“Like Singapore, Malaysia will be a first for me as I’ve never raced there before. It’s a shame it’ll be the last time we’ll be racing there for a while, but that’s all the more reason to make the most of it. It looks to be a pretty cool track – challenging and similar conditions to Singapore – but hopefully potential to show what our car can do. 

“It definitely won’t suit us as much as the Singapore track did, so we still need to be cautious about what’s possible, but having watched races there in the past, there’s always some kind of drama and the risk of a shower or two, so we’ll have our fingers crossed for an opportunity for us to mix it with cars a little bit further up the field.”

THE MANAGEMENT

ERIC BOULLIER

“There’s no denying Sepang will be tough for us – both for our package and for our drivers – as we often see the hottest temperatures and highest humidity levels of the year. Our two drivers are among the fittest on the grid, so I’ve no doubt they’ll approach the weekend fully prepared as usual. The conditions present a pretty unique technical challenge for our engineers too, as we try to find the best compromise in terms of performance and cooling over the whole weekend. 

“As for performance, we will of course be pushing for Q3 on Saturday – as we have done over the past couple of races – but this circuit is unlikely to be as kind to us as Singapore in terms of outright lap-times. As ever, reliability will be key in these tough conditions, as points are only ever possible with a reliable car, as will avoiding any first-lap chaos, which is always easier said than done. 

“Nevertheless, our drivers report that the MCL32 has good balance as well as strong traction on slower-speed corners wherever we race in the world, both of which factors will be a benefit on a track of this nature. We’ll aim to bid a fond farewell to Sepang International Circuit after 19 great years, and I hope we can put in a fitting performance in front of our Malaysian fans.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA

“We’re heading back to Asia for the Malaysian Grand Prix, and we expect it to be another challenging race with extremely hot and humid weather conditions. 

“Last time out in Singapore we had mixed fortunes. Fernando was involved in an unfortunate incident and ultimately retired, while Stoffel’s pace was competitive and he drove incredibly well, eventually crossing the line in P7. Overall it was positive that we were competitive throughout the weekend and came away with some precious points. 

“Regarding Fernando’s Singapore power unit, we were concerned that it may have been irreparably damaged, but fortunately after a thorough check back at the Sakura factory we can confirm it is okay to be re-used. 

“The layout of Sepang International Circuit is a mixture of long straights and sweeping corners, which will no doubt make for an exciting race. Despite it being a power-hungry track, the changeable conditions mean anything can happen, so hopefully if we prepare well we can capitalise on any opportunities that come our way and break into the points. After 19 fantastic years, this year’s grand prix will be the last in Malaysia, so we’d like to thanks the fans and treat them to an exciting race weekend.”

2017 MALAYSIA GRAND PRIX – FREE PRACTICE

“A VERY SATISFYING DAY”

Both McLaren Honda drivers made a positive start to this weekend’s Malaysia Grand Prix despite running in two shortened free practice sessions.

The start of this morning’s FP1 session was delayed by half an hour after heavy rain rendered the track too wet for running. Afternoon practice was red-flagged with around 15 minutes remaining when Romain Grosjean’s car was damaged after he hit a loose drain cover at Turn 12.

Nevertheless, our drivers made excellent progress in each session, with an upgrade package on Fernando’s car helping him to an impressive fifth-fastest time in FP2.

FERNANDO ALONSO

#FA14 MCL32-02
FP1 1:50.597s (+1.635s) 6 laps 3rd
FP2 1:32.564s (+1.303s) 14 laps 5th
FP3 1:33.530s (+1.650s) 17 laps 11th

“We had a good day today. In the first session, we checked a few things on the car. We went out when the track was a bit less wet and managed to put it in third position… which was nice.  

“In the second session, on a dry track, the car continued to behave well, and we had no big things we need to change for tomorrow.

“We tried several different configurations, and they proved all positive, so we need to go through the data tonight to decide what to do. The car feels good on this circuit, with a lot of grip when using the Supersoft tyre.

“We missed some running due to the red flag at the end of the second session, but that happened to most of the teams. We’ll try to catch up with that work tomorrow in FP3, if it doesn’t rain.”

STOFFEL VANDOORNE

#SV2 MCL32-03
FP1 1:53.771s (+4.809s) 10 laps 12th
FP2 1:33.673s (+2.412s) 15 laps 13th
FP3 1:33.321s (+1.650s) 16 laps 10th

“The conditions were a little bit tricky this morning, particularly this Tarmac, which felt quite slippery in the wet. This morning, there was limited running for everyone, because we were all saving tyres – the weather for the remainder of the weekend looks fairly unpredictable, so we need to look after the wet-weather tyres.

“The session was cut short this afternoon because of Grosjean’s accident, so we lost a bit of track time. That meant we didn’t really gain an understanding of our long-run pace – we only did some short-run prep and didn’t do any long runs.

“Fernando and I tested some different-spec floors today. There was only one set available, and Fernando was running that today. It looks like a useful step forward.

“I’m looking forward to some more stable conditions tomorrow so we can carry our momentum forward.”

THE MANAGEMENT

ERIC BOULLIER

“A very satisfying day, despite the curtailed running in both sessions. We trialled some new components on Fernando’s car today, and they look to be a useful new addition. They perhaps also explain a large part of the disparity between drivers, as Fernando’s package was slightly better suited to the characteristics of the particular circuit.

“The red flag at the end of FP2 meant we didn’t get all the high-fuel running we would have liked - but we’re not alone in being in that predictament - so we’ll need to adjust our run-plan accordingly for tomorrow.

“In any case, a lack of practice time often makes the race more interesting, and that would certainly suit us.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA

“After such torrid conditions in Singapore, this weekend in Malaysia seems set to become challenging once again with tropical weather.   

“As the start of the FP1 was delayed due to the heavy rain, we completed the session with somewhat fewer laps than usual. Despite this, we collected precious data towards the weekend as we ran with both Full Wet and Intermediate tyres.   

“Conditions were better for FP2 and both drivers showed stable running. Fernando’s lap times were particularly encouraging for us.   

“The high temperature conditions are tough not only for the members of the team but also for our PU, therefore it is positive that we were able to finish the sessions without any issues.   

“The time gap between the competitors in the midfield is close, so small differences in our settings will make a difference in tomorrow's qualifying results. We'll analyse our data tonight in order to find the most competitive set-up.”

2017 MALAYSIA GRAND PRIX – QUALIFYING

“A PLEASANT SURPRISE”

Stoffel Vandoorne will start the Malaysia Grand Prix from a career-best position of seventh. His team-mate Fernando Alonso joined the Belgian in Q3, and will line up 10th on the grid for tomorrow’s race.

FERNANDO ALONSO

#FA14 MCL32-02
Q1 1:33.049s (15th) Option tyre
Q2 1:32.010s (10th) Option tyre
Q3 1:31.704s (10th) Option tyre

“I’m satisfied with this result, and with how the weekend has gone in general, but it’s going to be tough to maintain our qualifying position tomorrow. We know that our race pace is not as strong as our qualifying pace, so we’ll probably struggle a little bit more if conditions remain dry.

"However, maybe some rain will affect the race – some mixed conditions would improve things for us.

“I think performance was there for us this weekend, and getting both cars in Q3 on this circuit is a very good sign. The new parts we brought here worked well yesterday but maybe didn’t work as well today, so we will have a close look to that.

“It’s a very close field: it’s going to be tough to maintain our position tomorrow, but we’ll do our best, as always.”

STOFFEL VANDOORNE

#SV2 MCL32-03
Q1 1:32.838s (13th) Option tyre
Q2 1:31.848s (9th) Option tyre
Q3 1:31.582s (7th) Option tyre

“We weren’t really expecting to be so high up the grid. We’d hoped to get into Q3, but fighting for seventh was a pleasant surprise.

“In fact, my whole qualifying session went really well. I didn’t make any mistakes and pulled every sector on every lap. To qualify seventh on a circuit like this is probably about as good as it gets for us, so I’m very happy with my performance.

“We generally tend to be better over a single lap than across a race stint, so I think tomorrow will be tougher for us, but at least we’re in a position to race. And nobody really has any race preparation runs under their belts [due to yesterday’s FP2 red flag], so hopefully we can go into the race a little bit more prepared than the others and benefit from that.

“Hopefully we can make a race of it tomorrow.”

THE MANAGEMENT

ERIC BOULLIER

“Both drivers have worked very well together to develop and refine our car package across the weekend, and today’s qualifying result really justifies their efforts.

“Stoffel has driven superbly all weekend, and absolutely nailed it in all three qualifying sessions, achieving his best F1 qualifying position so far. Fernando wasn’t particularly happy with his final lap, but he still has a very good opportunity for tomorrow.

“Everyone’s preparations for the race have been affected by the weather and yesterday’s shortened practice sessions. We know we might not be as rapid in the race as we were in qualifying, but we’re aware that there are a lot of questions marks still remaining about everyone’s race pace.

“That’ll hopefully make the grand prix more interesting and unpredictable, and we’ll certainly be hoping to profit from that uncertainty tomorrow.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA

“Today was a very positive day for everyone in the team. After yesterday's unstable weather, today's conditions were boiling hot temperatures with bright sunshine – the complete opposite to yesterday – therefore during FP3 this morning we focused on adjusting the settings ready for qualifying.

“In qualifying, both of our drivers did a great job to secure their positions in Q3. Stoffel in particular showed a great performance with P7, the best qualifying result of his career to date. I think it is a very good result that we were able to show competitiveness at this power-hungry circuit.

“Once again we did not have any issues on our PU today and we'll try our best effort to maintain this condition in tomorrow's race.”

2017 MALAYSIA GRAND PRIX – RACE

“MY BEST EVER RACE IN FORMULA 1 – SO FAR”

Stoffel Vandoorne took his second consecutive seventh position in a race after finishing what he described as ‘the best race of my F1 career’ in today’s Malaysia Grand Prix.

Stoffel had qualified seventh, and made an excellent start to run as high as fifth in the opening laps, only ceding positions to Sergio Perez and Sebastian Vettel during the race.

That finishing position was a validation of all Stoffel’s hard work with the team, and particularly sweet given the team’s expectation that its race pace would not match its strong qualifying pace.

Fernando finished 11th, narrowly missing out on a world championship point. His race never quite fell into a groove – he was delayed at the second corner by cars rubbing wheels ahead of him, and was often embroiled in long scraps with other cars in the midfield. He, too, drove a faultless race – but was unable to fully capitalise.

FERNANDO ALONSO

#FA14 MCL32-02
Started 10th
Finished 11th
Fastest lap 1:36.501s (lap 55) +2.421s (11th)
Pit stops One - lap 26 (4.170s) Option > Prime

“It was a tough race today.

“From the very beginning, at the second corner, the two Williams touched in front of me, and made me lose a few positions. As a result, we ended up in the secondary group, running a little slower than our true pace, and could not overtake.

“So I lost a lot of time, and that really compromised our race. A shame, definitely not one of our best races today.

“But we’ll have better days and, hopefully in Japan, we’ll come back with stronger form, and I’ll be able to add my contribution to the constructors’ championship on Honda’s home ground.

“Having scored points at this track and at Singapore, two very different circuits, is really good for the team. I hope we can continue scoring more points in the remaining races.”

STOFFEL VANDOORNE

#SV2 MCL32-03
Started 7th
Finished 7th
Fastest lap 1:35.931s (lap 49) +1.851s (9th)
Pit stops One - lap 13 (3.005s) Option > Prime

“I can say that this was my best ever race in Formula 1 - up until now.

All weekend I’ve been really strong and felt really confident with the car - in qualifying to finish seventh, and then we weren’t really confident about where we would finish in the race so to pull off seventh today is an amazing result.

A great start, we knew it was probably going to be difficult to hold off the Force Indias and the Williams behind but only Perez came through. From then on, I had amazing pace, pushed hard every lap to try and manage the tyres and keep the gap over Stroll, and I managed that until the end”

“I’m very happy!”

THE MANAGEMENT

ERIC BOULLIER

“First, I want to pay tribute to Stoffel. This was his second consecutive finish in seventh position, and was a result that demonstrated just how much effort and dedication he’s applied to make this work for him.

“Before the start, it was by no means looking like an easy race, particularly as we knew that we would probably be at the mercy of some of the faster cars behind us. So I think we can be proud of all we achieved this weekend, around a circuit that was not best suited to our package.

“Stoffel was the beneficiary of a good start and had the opportunity to run cleanly throughout, but Fernando’s race was really compromised by the time he reached the second corner. Through no fault of his own, he was boxed in, and lost position, as an accident unfolded in front of him.

"Despite a strong drive, we weren’t able to help him make progress through the midfield, which was particularly full of incidents at this race. But he still did well to come home 11th.

“I think we have plenty to look forward to when we head to Suzuka next week.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA

“The Malaysian Grand Prix proved to be another positive result for the team. Stoffel maintained his momentum from Singapore and brought home more precious points, and the result was even more impressive when you consider that this is a tough, power-hungry circuit. I think today we were able to prove the progress of both our car and power unit.

“Stoffel made a good start and was able to keep position until the end of the race. He showed very consistent pace and maintained the gap to his rivals chasing from behind. I think he did a brilliant job all weekend.

“Fernando also had some good battles and overtakes, and it was a shame that he finished just outside of the top 10.

“Overall, it was a decent step forward for us that we could secure points at this potentially difficult circuit. Our reliability was also good throughout the weekend, even in the hot conditions.

“Now we are heading to our home grand prix in Suzuka and I hope we can continue our momentum and give our fans a great race.”