2016 Malaysian Grand Prix Practice Review

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Nico Rosberg wins the Singapore Grand Prix ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in second place and Lewis Hamilton in third place. Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren, Toro Rosso and Renault all managed to achieve points at the event also.

This weekend sees Jenson Button starting his 300th GP. This is a fantastic achievement and congratulations to Jenson on this epic milestone.

The Malaysian Grand Prix is maybe the toughest race of the season for the teams and also the drivers. The weather in Sepang is extremely hot and humid with some of the highest temperatures on the Formula 1 calendar, which makes it a rather physical track and therefore one of the most exhausting circuits. The combination of the track and the climate is also hard on the engines which are running almost 70 percent of the lap at full throttle.

Sepang International Circuit features 15 corners, ten of which are right-handers and the other five  corners being left-handers. The minimum track width is 16 meters. It is raced in a clockwise direction and is noted for its sweeping corners and wide straights. It has two long straights of nearly a kilometer each followed by tight, slow-speed corners, along with several extremely high-speed corners and the widest sections of track around. With its long straights and tight hairpins, there are plenty of overtaking possibilities; if you have the speed to do so.

The tropical climate means that it could rain at any minute, so that is always a bit unpredictable, particularly because when it rains in Malaysia, it really rains like the race in 2012!

For the engineers, the set-up here is one of the toughest of the season. In order to set up the chassis and suspension to cope with the varied nature of the circuit is a complex compromise for the teams and the drivers. The track requires a fairly high level of aerodynamic downforce and excellent car balance. Malaysia’s changeable weather and high temperatures can also result in tyre problems, which also affect the braking deceleration. Tyre management is very important in Malaysia and could affect the top ten finishers of the race.

Practices 1, 2 and 3

The main headline from the Practice sessions is that Mercedes and Red Bull look to have the driver-car package to beat this weekend as weather conditions and tyre management which will test the drivers, teams and the cars throughout Friday and Saturday practice sessions.

Nico Rosberg tops the timesheets in FP1.

Nico Rosberg tops the timesheets in FP1.

Practice 1 saw Nico Rosberg tops the timesheet with a time of 1.35.227 followed closely by Lewis Hamilton with a gap of 0.494 seconds behind, Kimi Raikkonen was in third with a gap of 1.088 seconds behind, Sebastian Vettel in fourth with a gap of 1.104 seconds behind and Fernando Alonso in fifth with a gap of 1.283 seconds behind Rosberg.

Daniel Ricciardo is sixth with a gap of 1.526 seconds behind, Max Verstappen is seventh with a gap of 1.746 seconds behind, Nico Hulkenberg is eighth with a gap of 2.286 seconds behind, Sergio Perez is ninth with a gap of 2.374 seconds behind and Jenson Button is tenth with a gap of 2.386 seconds behind Rosberg.

Kevin Magnussen car goes on fire in FP1.

Kevin Magnussen car goes on fire in FP1.

Seven minutes into the session, we saw Kevin Magnussen’s Renault on fire in the pitlane, with Magnussen jumping out the car quickly. The Renault mechanics managed to put out the fire relatively quickly and safely. It is believed to be the cause of the issue was the engine overheating or an oil leak; even after outing the initial fire it was still leaking and catching fire in the pitlane.

This then brought out the red flag while the Renault team, the marshals and the race director sort out this issue safely and as quickly as possible.

Lewis Hamilton tops the timesheets in FP2.

Lewis Hamilton tops the timesheets in FP2 and FP3.

Practice 2 saw Hamilton tops the timesheet with a time of 1.34.944 followed closely by Rosberg with a gap of 0.233 seconds behind, Vettel was in third with a gap of 0.661 seconds behind, Raikkonen in fourth with a gap of 0.898 seconds behind and Verstappen in fifth with a gap of 1.093 seconds behind Hamilton.

Perez is sixth with a gap of 1.340 seconds behind, Alonso is seventh with a gap of 1.352 seconds behind, Ricciardo is eighth with a gap of 1.393 seconds behind, Hulkenberg is ninth with a gap of 1.446 seconds behind and Button is tenth with a gap of 1.771 seconds behind Hamilton.

Practice 3 saw Hamilton tops the timesheet with a time of 1.34.434 followed closely by Verstappen with a gap of 0.445 seconds behind, Rosberg was in third with a gap of 0.619 seconds behind, Raikkonen in fourth with a gap of 0.716 seconds behind and Vettel in fifth with a gap of 0.736 seconds behind Hamilton.

Ricciardo is sixth with a gap of 1.027 seconds behind, Hulkenberg is seventh with a gap of 1.342 seconds behind, Bottas is eighth with a gap of 1.468 seconds behind, Sainz Jr is ninth with a gap of 1.788 seconds behind and Massa is tenth with a gap of 1.793 seconds behind Hamilton.

You would be stupid not to bet against the Mercedes drivers of Hamilton and Rosberg to gain pole position again this weekend. As the Mercedes drivers seem to be performing brilliantly at the moment and the momentum is with them from all the track mileage and their strong form from the last race. Vettel, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Sainz Jr, or Hulkenberg also cannot be discounted for the pole also as they are consistently within the top ten places at the moment.

However, I think that Williams, Force India or even McLaren have shown that they could throw themselves into the mix and could qualify well here to be in the hunt for some decent points this weekend. We all look forward to the qualifying session of the Grand Prix with excitement…

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