Formula One: Malaysian Grand Prix preview

Ding ding, Sunday Afternoon Clubbers. Welcome to, er, Thursday evening and welcome to… Malaysia. The leggy blonde with the big card is in the ring and it’s round two. Yeah! So soon? How did that happen? We were thinking the same.

Seeing as it’s already too late to get decent odds on Jenson Button to win the world championship, we thought this time we’d concentrate less on who’s going to win, more on what’s occurring behind the silver and orange cars.

Are we that sure the McLaren MP4-27 is the class of the field already? Pretty much. The noises from McLaren have been cautiously optimistic, to say the least, especially from a team not known for rampant optimism, cautious or otherwise.

“It’s ours to lose…” is the précis of McLaren paterfamilias Martin Whitmarsh’s comments post-Australia. Jenson Button was understandably less guarded. ”If you think we were quick in Melbourne…” he’s been telling folks all week. “I wasn’t upset, I was just being…. quiet” the not-quite-as-official line from Lewis Hamilton.

Lewis – to a man (figuratively), we love you here at Sunday Afternoon Club. We know you’ve been getting your head back together after last year’s shenanigans, and we get eating Jenson’s dust can not have been easy. But in life it’s always a good idea to smile in the face of the bloke who’s just knocked you over. It’s an even better idea in racing. Your yellow-striped helmet is a tribute to Ayrton, and did he let that Frenchman get to him at McLaren? He just rolled with it and got on with winning.

Okay, enough McLaren. On the basis of qualifying, the race in Australia was between only the fastest and the third fastest cars. The second fastest, the Lotus E20, was never really in the race, what with RoGros’ rusty start and rack-bending wrestle with Maldonado. Meanwhile, the even-more-rusty Kimi Raikkonen screwed up qualifying entirely, so never got a run in the top ten. In the race however, if not exactly on-the-pace, he was properly fighty. Qualifying in Malaysia should give us a clue to his pace relatively to Grosjean, but come race day Kimi’s already said he’d be “somewhat aggrieved and more than a tad disappointed not to finish in the top three come the chequered flag.” Well actually, he just said “podium”, but we know what he meant.

So two McLarens and a Lotus on the podium, where does that leave the others?

Red Bull? Novelty-named smoothie and team manager Christian Horner has been as quick to say the McLarens won’t run away with the title as he’s been to deny stories Ferrari have decided he’s the answer to their problems. Over at Ferrari meanwhile, poor old Felipe Massa will have to face his first race knowing that everyone else in the paddock will be wondering if Ferrari are going to take his contract and hand it to Sauber’s Sergio Perez. Could this be Massa’s last race?

Mercedes are saying, somewhat incredibly, that they’ve found a cure for F1 W03’s insane hunger for rubber. On the blogs the battle still rages over whether the slots in the rear are blowing the lower rear wing or, via some impressive plumbing, the front wing. Certainly when Michael Schumacher span in practice, he went out of his way to ensure nobody took a photo. Amusing.

And that, breathlessly, brings us to the Toro Rosso/Sauber/Force India battle, which if anything was even tighter than pre-season’s inseparable form indicated. If any of you can share with the Sunday Afternoon Club a corner-by-corner description of exactly what happened on those last laps, we’ll round up some Top Gear junk and mail it to you.

Practice is at 0200 hours and 0600 Friday morning and 0500 hours Saturday. Sky will be all over that with live broadcasts. Check your EPG for programme times. Qualifying starts at 0800 on Saturday (Sky will be on earlier) and the race is at 0900 Sunday.

The BBC is again showing highlights of both qualifying and the race, and we’ll be online after their highlights with our take on events as usual…

Comments are now closed

A very large part of me hopes that McLaren don’t dominate the next race so that the title battle is exciting this year. Also, firing Massa won’t fix the problem with Ferrari; their car is just not good enough. I do not think a mid-season replacement would work since Perez would have practically no time to get used to their vastly different car. Hopefully Massa sees the signs and pushes harder in the next race (but avoids crashing into people).

Report this comment

Go Schumi!!!. What surprised me at the first race, is that the cars were so… ready.
They were fasr and quite close to each other, no banned technologies, no big messups. Although that Ferrari needs a bit of polishing

Report this comment

GO HAMILTON!!!

Report this comment

When coming upon Maldanado’s incident. Perez slowed and Rosberg hit breaking his steering. The accident closed the seven cars up. Rosberg had passed perez but realised that his steering was broken through the next fast chicane. This led PErez to slow down and this enabled Kobayashi to pass. This led to Raikkonen getting passed three corners from the end. Meanwhile di Resta was making ground and with the Toro Rosso’s bickering in which Ricciardo passed Vergne somewhere in the last sector. Di Resta held back and used all his KERS to overtake VErgne for the last point. That’s what I can get from the footage. But if Maldanado hadn’t crashed di Resta wouldn’t have played a part

Report this comment

Of course, as usual from Top Gear, no word that the old man(tm) was on THIRD place when his gear box unfortunately lost a few teeth. I know, you’re trying to bury Schumacher, but he’s not dead yet, oh, faaaar from it.

Classy, Top Gear, classy…

Report this comment

I hope Jenson wins the WDC. Lewis should fight also. Red Bull made a joke about the melbourne race. the question is why were they so slow ? Merc or i should say brawn look very good and i am sure that schumi will have a podium. Nico needs to play safe.

As for lotus, they need to improve. Grosjean showed his skills. bad luck kimi. The problem at ferrari is not only Massa but the whole team. ferrari is like the ferrari in the early 1990’s. Perez though looks comfy at Sauber, so does Kamui.

The surprise cars for this year are Williams. Maldonado had his lady luck chopped in the final race, yet he had an incredible race. Senna will have to adapt to the new team. As for Force India The mid-field looks to be cooler. Nico and Paul look tight in team mates fight. Toro Rosso looks good last race. Daniel showed some skills.

Never been a real fan of Alonso but he showed his skills in that trucking bad car. I wonder what he would have been in that merc gp.
Malaysia is going to be quite a surprise. Only time will tell if there will be a finger waving this sunday. Or is it going to be for Red Bull or Mclaren or a generous fist pump for Mercedes GP. Or just a champagne bottle for zzzz..zzzz.zzz Lotus.

Report this comment

nobody has mentioned webber yet,to say he came fourth in australia.he does need to win more though and use pirelli tyres better than he did in 2011.this year toro rosso could be really up there,williams need to climb back up the table after going from the top of the table to the bottom of the point scorers in less than 20 years.ferrari are going to need pure miracles or a new world beating car to win the probably 12 races needed to win the world championship.@curious observer, how are lotus supposed to win at malaysia,that would involve a massive crash on the first lap involving nearly all the top eight cars

Report this comment

Can’t wait for the weekend, it’s gonna be a good one! I’d love for Jenson to win more races, but I WANT Hamilton to do well after an awful previous year he had. The loss of No. 1 status was the wake-up call he needed and i know he’ll fight hard for it or at the very least, consistently finish well into the podiums and points.

It’ll be interesting if Sergio gets Massa’s seat but would he try to fight for No.1 position with Alonso who’s almost always had No.1 status? Add to further complications, the rumours on other forums say Jarno Trulli could get the seat and that’s somewhat believeable considering he was offered a Ferrari seat whilst at Toyota. He and Alonso have history at Renault too…

BTW, I wonder if we’ll see any flying Russians this year at Sepang?… :P

Report this comment

@curious observer- good observations, ’cause from 91-95 Ferrari only got 2 wins (then again, like today the cars were average to rubbish but we’ll have to wait and see how the new car goes).

So far it looks like Grosjean’s years out of F1 in GP2 did the trick to mature him as a racer but I think Maldonado should’ve got a penalty for that contact him- it kinda looked as though he was crowding him out from where I was watching… Here’s to WIlliams doing well this year too, bad luck got the better of them in the opening race but they could challenge for the best of the midfield, if not for podiums, P.Positions or wins!

Report this comment

Jenson Button is a great driver!I think he will win this race because Mclaren has the best car in this season!But I want to see more from Alonso he is so talented…but the car looks weaker than the McLaren MP4-27!

Report this comment

@FastBBBB , Rosberg got a puncture from Perez’s wing didn’t he? Not “his steering broke”

Report this comment

I want Schumacher to win a race this season I have been watching F1 most of my life and I was always for Schumacher and it would go to show that he still has it in him to win a race or two the Merk looks quick but is it good enough for him I hope so.

Report this comment

Report this comment

Span is not the plural of spun.

Report this comment

The fight in the mid pack is closer, should be a great race. The Mercedes engines have great top end, this will help here for all teams with their engines.

Report this comment

Boys, i am streaming practice one online. Lewis ahead by .5s. McLaren’s is the RedBull of 2012.

Report this comment

if it rains, the rainmeister might finally get #92. i hope so anyway

Report this comment

Its practice, the results are not surprising. People are running diff fuel loads, tires, strategies etc .. until qualifying and Sundays race, we have no idea what the pecking order is but for sure the mclaren boy will be out front. what a nice looking car compared to the rest .. ugly nose this season you think that step would interfere with air flow.

Report this comment

This race belongs to Hamilton, RedBull are slow this season..

Report this comment

It’s really amazing what you have both been through and are still smiling – an inspiration to us all!! Take care and I hope to see you again soon in the
Excuse for that I interfere … At me a similar situation. It is possible to discuss. this season
foods to stimulate appetite

my very best wishes for the future… Regards

Report this comment