Malaysian GP Preview | Farewell Kuala Lumpur, Farewell Vettel’s Title Hopes?

Preview round 15 of the 2017 Formula One season, the Malaysian Grand Prix.

For the 19th and, for now at least, final time Formula One travels to Kuala Lumpur for the Malaysian Grand Prix. Home to Mercedes’ sponsor Petronas, but only ever home to a Hamilton victory on one occasion. While title-rival Sebastian Vettel has clinched victory on 4 occasions, the most by any driver in a Formula One championship Grand Prix. 

After disaster in Singapore, when pole only led to a turn one collision, Vettel will arrive in Malaysia desperately seeking victory to claw back vital points as he fell to 28 points down to the victorious Hamilton.

A victorious Hamilton who could only qualify in fifth place at what was set to be Mercedes’ worst track. While in contrast, the Ferrari’s best chance to put distance between themselves and the Silver Arrows.

Now, Ferrari and the Formula One fraternity head to a high-speed circuit that should perfectly suit the aero-efficient Mercedes more than the agile Prancing Horse. So will Vettel be bowled out of a title-race he led from Australia to Italy? Or can the German stump the Briton to close the gap before the field flocks to Japan – another circuit that should better suit the Mercedes.

Hamilton Malaysia 2016 -

Lewis Hamilton passes the iconic Malaysian flag aside the Sepang International Circuit. Photo credit: Mercedes AMG F1 Team.

Malaysia first appeared on the Formula One calendar back in 1999 after Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad ordered that a circuit that would be the envy of the world was constructed just outside Kuala Lumpur, as part of plans to make the country a fully industrialised nation.

With that, Formula One circuit designer Hermann Tilke was drafted in to design the track. Weaving the wide-spread tarmac for 5.543 kilometres, with a track featuring long high-speed straights and tight, twisting, altitude adjusting corners. Perfect for overtaking.

Pivotal overtaking spots also come at the start and end of the lap. Hitting the brakes hard into Turn 1 or 15, with heavy braking zones at turns 4 and 9 perfect for a mid-lap change of position.

But misplace your car in the high-speed bends of turns 5 & 6 or 12 & 13 and you will be a sitting duck on the straight ahead. Particularly with DRS propelling the car behind into the final and first corners.

Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 17.35.53

The Sepang International Circuit. Copyright:

While Hamilton has just the one victory to his name in Malaysia, coming in his title-winning 2014 season, the Briton came mightly close to adding a second to his name in 2016 as he retired from the lead.

Lewis had dominated the Grand Prix from pole position and found himself negotiating blue flagged traffic as he pulled away from the would-be winner Daniel Ricciardo. But whilst chasing traffic and bemoaning the lack of flags, his engine gave way and flames engulfed the rear of his car as he crouched in angst at Turn 1.

A huge hammer blow to his title-defence and the potentially defining moment that cost Lewis a fourth-title as he went on to finish just five-points down on his long-time adversary and team-mate Nico Rosberg.

Now, Lewis heads for revenge with the championship lead in his pocket regardless of the outcome. But victory in the final Malaysian Grand Prix would go a long way in ensuring he clinches the title once more, pulling level with Vettel on four championship triumphs.

Lewis Hamilton walks away from his smoking car. Copyright Mercedes AMG F1 Team.

Lewis Hamilton walks away from his smoking car at the 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix. Copyright Mercedes AMG F1 Team.

When Formula One first ventured to Kuala Lumpur, a Briton stood upon the podium that year, too, as Eddie Irvine clinched the victory for Ferrari ahead of pole-sitter Michael Schumacher. Battering McLaren as Haäkkinen faltered to third, and 10 drivers retired in what went on to become known as the hardest Grand Prix on the calendar.

The Malaysian Grand Prix earnt that name as high-temperatures and extreme humidity puts pressure on the drivers they do not experience elsewhere. With cockpit temps hitting upwards of 55 degrees Celsius, not only boiling the driver but the engine, too.

Also noteworthy, the race is the longest on the calendar in terms of mileage covered at 310.408km/192.879 miles. Although the race time does not compete with the previous round, as the Singapore Grand often and this year did hit the two-hour race limit.

Sepang final corner -

Out of the final bend and onto the home straight. Photo credit: McLaren.

Should you wish to watch the potential last ever Malaysian Grand Prix in the UK, the race weekend will be broadcasted live on both free-to-air Channel 4 and subscription-based SkySportsF1. Although Sky will also be offering the race for free via SkySportsMix.

Sky Sports F1
27/09 – 20:30 – F1 Report: Preview
28/09 – 08:00 – Driver Press Conference
28/09 – 20:45 – Paddock Uncut
29/09 – 03:45 – Practice 1
29/09 – 07:45 – Practice 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
29/09 – 10:00 – Team Press Conference
29/09 – 10:45 – The F1 Show
30/09 – 06:45 – Practice 3
30/09 – 09:00 – Qualifying (also Sky Sports Main Event)
30/09 – 16:25 – Qualifying Replay
01/10 – 06:30 – Race
=> 06:30 – Track Parade
=> 07:00 – Pit Lane Live (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 07:30 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event and Mix)
=> 10:30 – Paddock Live (also Sky Sports Mix)
01/10 – 14:15 – Race Replay

Channel 4 F1
29/09 – 03:40 – Practice 1
29/09 – 07:55 – Practice 2
30/09 – 06:55 – Practice 3
30/09 – 08:25 – F1 Meets… Nigel Mansell
30/09 – 08:55 – Qualifying
30/09 – 13:30 – Qualifying Replay
01/10 – 07:00 – Race
=> 07:00 – Build–Up
=> 07:35 – Race
=> 10:00 – Reaction
01/10 – 13:30 – Race Replay

BBC Radio F1
29/09 – 21:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
30/09 – 03:55 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
30/09 – 07:55 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
30/09 – 06:55 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
30/09 – 09:55 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
01/10 – 07:30 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

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