Friday, 30 September 2016

F1 Malaysian Grand Prix – Free practice results 2

Full free practice results (2) for round 16 of the 2016 Formula 1 World Championship (F1), the Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang International Circuit. 

1. Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes-Mercedes 1m 34.944s 
2. Nico Rosberg GER Mercedes-Mercedes 1m 35.117s 
3. Sebastian Vettel GER Ferrari-Ferrari 1m 35.605s 
4. Kimi Raikkonen FIN Ferrari-Ferrari 1m 35.842s 
5. Max Verstappen NED Red Bull-TAG 1m 36.037s 
6. Sergio Perez MEX Force India-Mercedes 1m 36.284s 
7. Fernando Alonso ESP McLaren-Honda 1m 36.296s 
8. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Red Bull-TAG 1m 36.337s 
9. Nico Hulkenberg GER Force India-Mercedes 1m 36.390s 
10. Jenson Button GBR McLaren-Honda 1m 36.715s 
11. Carlos Sainz Jr ESP Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m 36.836s 
12. Jolyon Palmer GBR Renault-Renault 1m 36.940s 
13. Valtteri Bottas FIN Williams-Mercedes 1m 37.016s 
14. Esteban Gutierrez MEX Haas-Ferrari 1m 37.048s 
15. Felipe Massa BRA Williams-Mercedes 1m 37.110s 
16. Daniil Kvyat RUS Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m 37.297s 
17. Marcus Ericsson SWE Sauber-Ferrari 1m 37.449s 
18. Felipe Nasr BRA Sauber-Ferrari 1m 37.547s 
19. Kevin Magnussen DEN Renault-Renault 1m 37.664s 
20. Romain Grosjean FRA Haas-Ferrari 1m 37.789s 
21. Pascal Wehrlein GER Manor-Mercedes 1m 37.878s 
22. Esteban Ocon FRA Manor-Mercedes 1m 37.990s 

Malaysian Grand Prix – Free practice results 1

Full free practice results (1) for round 16 of the 2016 Formula 1 World Championship (F1), the Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang International Circuit. 

1. Nico Rosberg GER Mercedes-Mercedes 1m 35.227s 
2. Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes-Mercedes 1m 35.721s 
3. Kimi Raikkonen FIN Ferrari-Ferrari 1m 36.315s 
4. Sebastian Vettel GER Ferrari-Ferrari 1m 36.331s 
5. Fernando Alonso ESP McLaren-Honda 1m 36.510s 
6. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Red Bull-TAG 1m 36.753s 
7. Max Verstappen NED Red Bull-TAG 1m 36.973s 
8. Nico Hulkenberg GER Force India-Mercedes 1m 37.513s 
9. Sergio Perez MEX Force India-Mercedes 1m 37.601s 
10. Jenson Button GBR McLaren-Honda 1m 37.613s 
11. Daniil Kvyat RUS Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m 37.847s 
12. Valtteri Bottas FIN Williams-Mercedes 1m 37.861s 
13. Romain Grosjean FRA Haas-Ferrari 1m 37.886s 
14. Esteban Gutierrez MEX Haas-Ferrari 1m 37.921s 
15. Carlos Sainz Jr ESP Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m 38.055s 
16. Felipe Nasr BRA Sauber-Ferrari 1m 38.184s 
17. Marcus Ericsson SWE Sauber-Ferrari 1m 38.313s 
18. Felipe Massa BRZ Williams-Mercedes 1m 38.339s 
19. Jolyon Palmer GBR Renault-Renault 1m 39.148s 
20. Esteban Ocon FRA Manor-Mercedes 1m 40.036s 
21. Pascal Wehrlein GER Manor-Mercedes 1m 40.627s 
22. Kevin Magnussen DEN Renault-Renault No Time 

Lorenzo Lorenzo Lorenzo. A petrol-head soap opera?

After Misano, let’s hope the off-track chatter at Aragon doesn’t once again eclipse the on-track action

Right now the world’s MotoGP media is all agog, counting down the minutes and seconds to 17.00 hours on Thursday. The reason: a live edition of the latest episode of the MotoGP pantomime, a kind of petrol-head’s soap opera, during which Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo will be encouraged to say nasty things about each other by journalists hungry for Friday morning newspaper headlines, or Thursday afternoon clickbait.
All the world is a stage and MotoGP is just one tiny corner of it. The human interaction between racers is always fascinating, but when we shift into that other dimension where the off-track bullshit overshadows the on-track action, I started to feel jaded, like I’ve been watching too much rubbish TV. We’ve been here before, of course. Very recently. Perhaps this is MotoGP’s new reality and I’m just not X-Factor enough to get it.
Back in bike racing’s dim and distant past, Kevin Schwantz and Wayne Rainey happily tripped each other up whenever they felt the need. At that time the pair shared a mutual hatred way ahead of Rossi’s and Lorenzo’s, but they never moaned about what went on, because they expected nothing less. The way they saw it, revenge is a dish best served cold, usually two weeks later at Sunday lunchtime.
I suppose we shouldn’t blame Lorenzo and Rossi; it’s the modern world, the X-Factor generation, the multi-view TV screen with all angles covered, the super-slow-mo replayed ad infinitum, rolling news, 24/7 websites, social media and everything else that turns every storm in a teacup into a full-blown global crisis. At least, what feels like a full-blown global crisis.
In fact, this time we should lay some of the blame on Lorenzo, for it was him who decided to open the debate aboutRossi’s Misano passing manoeuvre. I wonder if he’s revised his opinion, now that he’s watched the race, because no one else seems to think Rossi was being dodgy when he swept past his team-mate. There is no doubt that Rossi has made plenty of dodgy passes during his career (as have all the others, Dani Pedrosa excluded), but this wasn’t one of them: he was a full bike length ahead when Lorenzo tried to slam the door shut.
Even more bizarre was Lorenzo’s assertion that Rossi “didn’t need to make this overtake”. Isn’t the general idea of this sport to pass the man or woman in front? And in modern-day MotoGP – where technology makes overtaking so difficult – few riders delay an attack when they’re offered even a sliver of an opportunity.

None of us want MotoGP to be too dangerous but we do want it to be a little bit dangerous. Don’t we? How else can it be, unless we put the riders in electric-powered go-karts, speed-limited to a maximum of 30km/h?
As early 20th-century bad-boy Ernest Hemingway once said, “There are but three true sports – bullfighting, mountain climbing and motor racing – the rest are merely games.” Lorenzo’s apparent desire for a written invitation to be offered before each attempted overtaking manoeuvre would turn MotoGP into a game, and a pretty rotten game at that.
Since Misano, Marc Marquez has taken Rossi’s side, giving his blessing for the veteran’s manoeuvre, and perhaps changing the paddock dynamic once more. It’s only natural that Marquez and Rossi should be friendly again because if the paddock is a schoolyard rather than a soap opera, Rossi and Marquez are the school’s bad boys ganging up on that kid no one’s quite sure about.
Poor Jorge, he always ends up on the wrong end of these confrontations. At Motegi 2010, where he lost a vicious on-track duel with Rossi, he asked Yamaha team boss Lin Jarvis to have a word with his team-mate, who left the meeting giggling like a schoolboy. “Yamaha asked me to race with more attention,” he laughed. “So, next time I will try to beat him again… with more attention!”
It was the same the following year, when Lorenzo tackled Marco Simoncelli during the Estoril post-qualifying media conference. When Lorenzo suggested that “it will be a problem” if Simoncelli continued with his aggressive tactics, the Italian shrugged his shoulders and brought the house down with these words, “Okay, I will be arrested!”

Lorenzo should know by now that he’s not witty enough to win these encounters – he is much better off when he lets his riding do the talking. His decision to use Misano’s post-race conference to condemn Rossi was particularly ill-judged because it soured Pedrosa’s moment of glory. The race winner sat there between the Yamaha team-mates, looking for all the world like a school kid collecting first prize, while his bickering parents aired their dirty laundry in public. Frankly, it was embarrassing.

Is it too much to expect a more honourable weekend at Aragon? Possibly not, because proceedings may well get underway badly on Thursday afternoon; although this media conference will be different to the last, because the riders won’t be high on adrenaline and because they will have their answers carefully prepared.
Either way, will someone please wake me up when the talking stops and the racing starts… - Mat Oxley

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Formula 1 Tech insight: Mercedes’ unique brake discs

Mercedes’ domination on track owes much to the relentless way in which they’ve continued to develop the standard-setting F1 W07 Hybrid since the start of the season. One of the latest areas of the car to see revisions is the brake discs…

With the brakes on an F1 car regularly exceeding 1,000 degrees C, dissipating heat efficiently is a major concern in order to keep the brakes working effectively over a sustained period of time. Mercedes' latest development - giving their brake discs a concave/scalloped edge - is a move that has likely been made to improve cooling efficiency, with the revised shape (believed to be an F1 first) enlarging the surface area of the disc and improving fluid dynamics within the brake drums. On top of a direct performance advantage, improved heat dissipation helps the disc stay in an operating 'sweet spot' - which has an additional benefit in terms of tyre temperatures. - Formula1

Malaysia preview quotes - Manor, Williams, Sauber, Pirelli & more

There's no let up in the heat as the teams and drivers move from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur's Sepang International Circuit for this weekend's 2016 Formula 1 Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix. Those involved preview the action...


Pascal Wehrlein

“I’m certainly hoping for better things than in Singapore. That was a great venue and I enjoyed every bit of the experience, especially the night race factor, but it was not such a good weekend for our package. This race has seen very high temperatures and humidity levels in the past. It’s going to be tough, even with the change to a later slot in the calendar, but the fast and flowing circuits give us a better starting point. Plus, the wet tyre testing I had last week [for Pirelli] will probably come in handy here!”

Esteban Ocon

“Three [successive] race distances ticked off is certainly important for me, after starting my F1 career over halfway through the season. It hasn’t all been plain sailing though and in particular Singapore was a tough race in which we made life difficult for ourselves. Still, there’s a lot to look forward to – practice makes perfect and all that - and I’m hoping for better things from here onwards.

“[Malaysia] will be quite a different experience to Singapore, which was characterised by more and slower turns, plus the very different challenge of a street circuit. This one is much faster with longer corners, so more representative of the circuits where our car has performed better. The high temperatures make it tough on the tyres, so we’ll have to work at managing the degradation, plus rain could be a factor - potentially my first wet sessions. I’m looking forward to another new experience.”

Dave Ryan, Racing director

“Most of the guys in the team got a brief but important break after Singapore, whether it was back at home in the UK or remaining out here in Asia. The cars are pretty much on tour for the rest of the season, so the mechanics at least get some time away from the factory. That’s important, given how intense the calendar is this year. This race is always tough on team, car and driver, because of the high ambient and track temperatures, and also the torrential downpours we’ve seen here over the years. So yes, we’re ready for all of that. We have a few new developments here, which should help us performance-wise, and we’ve made some operational improvements to counter some of the issues we’ve experienced over the past couple of events.”


Valtteri Bottas

“Malaysia has changed places in the calendar so it’s going to be just as hot and humid as Singapore and another very physical race for the drivers. It has a nice mix of both high and low-speed corners. We normally score strong points at Sepang. Overall, it’s an enjoyable track to drive and I’m really looking forward to going back for another year.” 

Felipe Massa

“Malaysia is another very difficult race in the calendar because of how hot and humid it is. It rains there almost every day, and when it rains it’s normally torrential so it covers the whole track. The race is just so dependent on the weather, but I really hope we can do well there and have a good result. I was sixth there last year, I hope this year I can perform even better!”

Pat Symonds

“The new date for Malaysia takes us to the first of two circuits that really stretch the car after the confines of Singapore. In Kuala Lumpur we also have the challenge of extensive changes that have been made to the track. As well as the complete resurfacing of the track there is also some realignment which has been specially designed to improve the racing. It will be interesting to see how successful it is, and if it acts as a pointer to future circuit modifications. From a performance point of view, of course, the focus is on the very high temperatures and humidity which not only affect the car set-up but also take a high toll on the drivers. The circuit is tough on tyres and hence we move up the spectrum once again using the hard, medium and soft compounds. There are several high-speed long corners where loading dictates the advantage of the more robust compounds. The circuit has good overtaking opportunities and we can expect an exciting race but, as always in Malaysia, we will be keeping a very close watch for the heavy rainfall that can disrupt this event.”


Marcus Ericsson

"The Malaysian Grand Prix is another challenging race weekend due to the high temperatures as well as the humidity. After the Singapore Grand Prix I stayed out and went to a training camp in Thailand to be in the best physical shape. Besides the physical challenge, the weather can also play a huge role during the race weekend in Sepang. Normally the races are quite exciting due to the unpredictable weather with heavy rain storms."

Felipe Nasr

"Talking about the Malaysian Grand Prix, the first thing that comes to my mind is the heat and the high humindity. During the last race weekend in Singapore we were already able to acclimitise to the high temperatures – in Malaysia this will help us as the conditions will be the same. The weather makes it an exciting race weekend, as you never know when the rain will come into play."


Paul Hembery, Motorsport Director

“In terms of extreme conditions that provide a real test for the tyres, Malaysia is right up there with anything else we see all year. That’s because of the extremely high temperatures as well as the high energy loadings through the fast corners. The big unknown for this year is the track surface, which is completely new. The weather can also change in an instant, turning the track into a monsoon. As a result of all that, Sepang tends to be quite a varied weekend where track evolution is hard to follow. We’ve seen a high number of pit stops in the past and we would probably expect multiple stops from most drivers again this year: this of course opens up an even wider array of variables when it comes to potential race strategies, now that teams have three compounds to choose from.”


Fernando Alonso

“The Malaysian Grand Prix is always a fun event and among the drivers’ favourites on the calendar. There’s great food, lively fans and good racing so I hope we can put up a strong fight there. I’ve won this race three times before so I have happy memories, and we’ll be aiming to continue the momentum from the past couple of races and get a strong result there again this year.

“I’m looking forward to heading back to Malaysia after 18 months since the last race there. It’ll be interesting to see how the cars cope on the newly-resurfaced track, and I imagine the weather conditions will be different from our last visit. Still, we expect it to be a tough race in the heat and humidity, but there’s a good combination of slow and high-speed corners and fast straights, so it has a little bit of everything. It tests every part of the package, and the driver too, so hopefully there’ll be some close racing and an entertaining weekend for the fans.”

Jenson Button

“We always think of Singapore being tough because it’s the longest race of the year, but Malaysia will almost certainly be the hottest race on the calendar. Not only that, but the humidity is immense and the cockpit reaches very high temperatures. As drivers, we’re all well equipped for these conditions as part of our training, but it does take its toll by the end of the weekend. You definitely need to be in peak physical fitness to cope with the heat. I’m ready and excited to get out there and start my 300th Grand Prix, and hopefully have better luck than I did in Singapore.

“Sepang is becoming a modern classic - although it’s a relatively new circuit, it’s one of those tracks that drivers enjoy going back to. The conditions are like nothing else we experience, the circuit is quite technical and fun to drive, and the atmosphere is always great. Although it’s traditionally seen as a high-speed circuit which isn’t usually something that our package favours, we do have a good car under braking which is necessary to handle the tight corners after the long, fast straights.”

Eric Boullier, Racing Director

“The challenge at this circuit is to maintain good balance throughout the long straights, big stops and sweeping corners, all while taking the tough and often changeable conditions into account. After a recent run of mixed fortunes on one side of the garage, our aim for the remaining races has to be to iron out reliability niggles and finish with both cars.

“Since the inaugural Malaysian Grand Prix at this circuit in 1999, Sepang has become a popular venue for drivers and fans alike. There have been a number of memorable races there and thanks to the climate and the nature of the technical layout, it often produces unpredictable results. There are good overtaking opportunities to be had and ample run-off, which once again promises interesting racing.

“The Sepang circuit poses a tough technical challenge for our mechanics and engineers, who have to strike a delicate compromise between efficient cooling, aerodynamic performance and balance, so Friday running will be important initially in order to assess the impact of the new track surface on the car and the re-profiling of some corners - particularly Turn 15. If we can achieve reliability on both sides of the garage, I’m hopeful for a positive weekend. We’ve proved recently that our package is a firm contender in the midfield pack and we have the potential to finish ahead of some strong teams, so we’ll keep fighting to maintain our position and move closer to the front of the grid.

“Finally, I’d like to congratulate Jenson on his 300th Grand Prix start - a spectacular achievement for a great world champion, and we look forward to celebrating this incredible milestone with him and the team this weekend.”

Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer

“The Malaysian Grand Prix will no doubt be another hot and humid battle to be fought amongst the drivers. The changeable conditions mean it will be tricky to find a good balance with the car, and the rain can of course give us an added challenge. The circuit in Sepang is an undulating mix of long straights and sweeping corners, which all make for an exciting race with lots of good overtaking battles. We are not 100 percent certain if we will install any power unit updates for this race, but we’ll look to make our final decision at the track based on the balance of performance and reliability.

“More importantly, this will be a race to celebrate as Jenson makes his 300th Grand Prix start, which is an incredible milestone and achievement in such a demanding sport. We’re lucky to have two world champion drivers in the team with such experience, and hope that we can finish with a strong result for everyone in the team.”


Nico Rosberg

“Singapore was a perfect weekend for me. I felt great in the car, had a fantastic qualifying, made a strong start and then came out on top after a really intense battle with Daniel [Ricciardo] at the end of the race, which made the win all the more fulfilling. The team did such an impressive job understanding what went wrong last year and turning it around. I’m massively proud of everyone for that. It’s an incredible position to be in as a driver, knowing you have a shot at winning every weekend. I won’t take it for granted. I’ve had a good run lately and I’m enjoying the moment. But as far as the next race goes, or the next one after that and so on… it’s anyone’s game. Red Bull and Ferrari are both pushing us really hard, so there will be some tough weekends ahead. It’s exciting for the fans and pushes us even harder to keep improving, so that’s a great thing. Malaysia didn’t work out perfectly for us last year, so if we can win it this time against such tough opposition that would be really awesome. I can’t wait to see all the guys from Petronas who work so hard to give us that extra competitive advantage and hopefully give them something to cheer about at their home race.”

Lewis Hamilton

“Singapore was a difficult weekend for me, so to come away with a podium in the circumstances was pretty good damage limitation. Ultimately, Nico did an exceptional job and I didn’t have my best weekend. But that’s the way it goes. We’re both fiercely competitive. Some weekends he does great, some weekends I do great. It’s a combination of things that all come together to make a strong weekend and every one is different. I have no idea if the momentum will swing back to me or when it might. But we still have six races left, so I just have to keep giving it my all and hope for the best. That’s all you can do as a sportsman. It’s going to take some good results to get back in front and stay there - but I’ve had plenty of those in the past, so there’s no reason to think they won’t come back to me again. Sepang is my first shot at it and I’m really looking forward to getting out there. It’s a track I usually go pretty well at - plus we have some really fantastic support from the Malaysian people, including all the guys and girls from Petronas. It should be a great weekend, so if we can get a result to match that would be awesome. Let’s see how it goes…”

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

“We saw Formula One at its best in Singapore. Just like in football, where you have good games and bad ones, this was a classic. I’m proud of the team for how we bounced back after last year and we take our hats off to Red Bull and Daniel [Ricciardo] too, as they made it a huge battle. This is how Formula One should be and, although it was extremely tense, I thoroughly enjoyed the race. Now we go to Malaysia, which is a big weekend for us. To win in what feels like our second home, in front of thousands of friends and partners from Petronas, would be very special. But, like Singapore, this was a race where we underperformed last year, so we will need to push hard to put that right. We can guarantee that the drivers will be doing just that. This year more than ever, we’ve seen that they are pushing each other to new heights. We’re entering a gruelling phase of this record 21 race season, where the physical and mental challenge of a championship reaches its absolute peak. We’re in good shape - but we must remain on our toes to get the ball over the line.”

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)

“We’re all very much looking forward to Malaysia. With Kuala Lumpur being the home of Petronas, we very much see this as one of our home Grands Prix. In 2015 we didn’t manage to secure the win, which was hugely disappointing to us, so we have all the more motivation to come back and get it right this time around. Focusing on the technical aspects of the circuit, it’s a very challenging weekend. The heat and humidity make life tough for drivers, team and cars alike, while the track action can often be affected by rain, which tends to be very heavy and arrive very suddenly. As such, we’ve seen some very eventful races in Malaysia over the years. The nominated tyre compounds for this event are the hard, medium and soft, with the unusual scenario of the hard as the obligatory race compound - meaning that, if the race remains dry, every driver must use that tyre. The characteristic of the circuit itself is more ‘normal’ than that of Monza or Singapore, which were more focused on more specific areas of car performance. Sepang places an even emphasis on power, aero efficiency and mechanical grip, so we’re looking forward to seeing how we fare and aiming to put in a strong performance for the Malaysian fans.”

Toro Rosso

Daniil Kvyat

“Sepang is an interesting track. As we already saw in 2010, the first two corners offer a good opportunity for racing and overtaking. It's also very hot, like in Singapore - you could cook a fried egg on the tarmac!

“It will be a challenging race, so let's see what we are capable of. The only negative part for us this year is that maybe Sepang has too many long straights. We should build chicanes halfway through every straight! (Laughs) It would be nice, eh?! Anyway, having chicanes or straights, nothing changes… Their race mode for Malaysia is ON!”

Carlos Sainz

“The start there is always exciting as you can take different lines and go very wide into braking. What I'd point out is that they've resurfaced the track this year, so the amount of grip might change a bit and let's see how it goes with the soft (tyre) compound over there.

“I remember that last year, the track temperature for the race was 64 degrees! But it's still not as tough as racing in Singapore. I'd say Malaysia is the second toughest race, after Singapore. We really like the corner sections like Turns 1 and 2, 7 and 8 or the section that goes from Turn 9 to 14… But not the long straights!”

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg

"It feels strange to be going to Sepang at the end of the season, but it’s also a nice change to mix up the calendar. It's one of the hottest events of the year and the temperatures make it quite tough on tyre degradation. The tyres will be important here, managing them throughout the race is crucial and it’s an area we really concentrate on understanding with the engineers.

"Coming after Singapore, I hope we will be a bit more acclimatised to the hot weather - it may even feel like a relief after the real oven of Marina Bay! I'd rank these two events as the toughest races of the season from a physical point of view - you really need to be at the peak of you fitness to do well here.

"Most of the races I remember in Malaysia have seen crazy weather conditions, in April, with monsoon rain, red flags and aquaplaning everywhere. I am quite curious to see how it will change now that the race is in October. It's a track where I have scored some good points and where I had a strong race in 2014, so I hope to go there and create some more special memories."

Sergio Perez

“Kuala Lumpur is a very interesting and busy city. There are many things to do and see so it’s always cool to be there. The weather usually plays a big role in the race and it will be interesting to see how this year’s changes to the calendar affect the weekend, with the race going from April to October.

“Sepang is usually a circuit where rain is a certainty rather than a possibility. It’s where I scored my first podium in Formula One, in 2012, thanks to making the most of the weather conditions. Being in a position to fight for the win came as a shock for me as we did not expect it, but the emotions of that day will stay with me forever.

“It’s another physical race, with the heat and humidity. The track itself is very long and there are a several technical corners. There are long straights with big braking zones that require precision and the high temperatures take the life out of the tyres quickly, especially the rear ones. We have done well in similar hot conditions this season so hopefully we can be on the pace once again.”


Kevin Magnussen

“It will again be a very hot and humid race weekend so it will be physically demanding just like it was in Singapore. I like Sepang Circuit and besides being a great venue, the track has some great high speed sections and the last section is especially one I like very much. Tyre management will be a key aspect in Sepang.

“My first race in Sepang was in 2014 but it didn’t leave me with any particular good memory but hopefully we can change that next weekend!

“Unfortunately on a race weekend there's not too much time available to explore and sample the local cuisine and I'll most likely be headed back to the hotel every evening. It's a long day at the track then you have to train, relax and ensure you get enough sleep to be at your best for the race. Sadly sometimes sampling the local culture has to wait until you're on holiday.”

Jolyon Palmer

“It’s hot and humid just like Singapore! It’s a nice place to visit and Sepang Circuit is modern. It’s nice and flowing with a couple of long straights, some fast corners and there are big braking zones. A strong finish was not possible on the streets of Singapore so I’m pumped up for this coming race and determined to gun for points.

“I raced in Sepang twice when I was in GP2 but for various reasons at the time I didn’t have any memorable finishes, although one year I came up to ninth from the back of the grid. There’s some good overtaking opportunities at this circuit and hopefully this experience will be useful for me this year!

“I’ve been lucky enough to see a bit of [Kuala Lumpur in the past]; we don’t always have time to see the places we visit much because we have busy schedules. Kuala Lumpur is a really nice city to explore and downtown you can visit the very modern areas with the big famous towers and then you have the more traditional areas and the markets. The city’s got a great vibe.”

Cyril Abiteboul, managing director

“The faster circuits suit us better than the slower ones and we should be able to take full use of the small power unit and mechanical upgrades introduced for the first time in Singapore. We are now focussing on the smaller details for the end of the season, and making sure we are exploiting everything to its maximum, including within our operations. We’re on a positive trend and want to take this momentum forward into the final rounds in Asia.”


Romain Grosjean

“With the resurfacing, you’ve got to go through with the cars and see if the grip is different. There’s also a lot of rain at Sepang, so we could see some big aquaplaning. We’ll be working as hard as we can to deal with all the conditions.

“It can rain at one point of the circuit and not at all on the other side. I think that was the case last year. In qualifying, in Q2, I told my guys, ‘It’s raining,’ and they replied, ‘No, it’s not’. For me, it was pouring down and I could barely keep the car on track. I was on the edge. Suddenly the guys then got the rain and were like, ‘Yes, we can see it’. So yes, Malaysia can be very variable with the rain, and in a short amount of time. It’s part of the show and part of the game.

“Even though I didn’t get much racing in Singapore, you get your body used to the heat regardless with your overall fitness and training. That helps you feel good when you get there. Your body is better prepared to accept the temperatures you encounter. As I didn’t race in Singapore, I’m absolutely ready, physically, to race in Malaysia.

“I think it’s pretty much the hardest race of the year [physically]. Singapore is a slower track with slower corners, whereas Malaysia has high speed with high loads. Again, it’s a great challenge, a great track, and when you have a good car, it’s an amazing experience.

“There are plenty [of overtaking opportunities]. There are some big straight lines with good top speed, and then some big braking zones. It’s a track with high tyre degradation. Overtaking is really good fun at Sepang.

“I remember GP2 Asia in 2008. I had the pole position in Sepang by around a second or something like that. It was a very fast time. I stalled on the grid, came back from last and almost climbed back up to first, but I was pushed out by a backmarker. I finished ninth, while the top eight were then reversed on the grid for the second race. I started the second race from ninth and finished second. It was a weekend where I should’ve won both races but, unfortunately, didn’t. I love the track though.”

Esteban Gutierrez

Describing a lap of Sepang: “You approach Turn 1 with a lot of speed. After a long straight, at the first corner you brake and turn in with a lot of lateral load. It’s a fairly long corner that goes into Turn 2, which has a change of surface angle which makes it a bit tricky on the apex to get the right grip for the exit. Then you come down flat out and into Turn 3. You approach Turn 5, which is basically a 90-degree corner to the right where you can use all the kerbs available. Then you come to Turns 6 and 7, which is my favourite part of the circuit - high-speed corner left and right. Turns 8 and 9 comprise a right-hand corner, which is basically two apexes on one whole corner. Then you arrive into Turn 10, which is a hairpin. Big braking, and there’s also change in the surface which makes it pretty difficult to get the right traction out of that corner. By that time the tyres are pretty hot, so you struggle with the traction out of the hairpin. Then you go into Turn 11, which is not really a corner but preparation for Turn 12, which is a medium-speed corner. Then you have (Turn) 13, which is a left-handed, very high-speed corner where you’re flat out. Then you come to the famous corner from Sepang, which is a very long corner to the right with a lot of braking. It’s a very technical corner because it has so many different lines which you can really use depending on the setup of the car and depending if you are on a qualifying lap or in the race. Then you come down the straight and into the last corner, braking pretty late into a medium-speed corner. It’s important to carry the speed in where you really go deep and then prepare with a right line for the exit and come to the straight line.”

Red Bull

Max Verstappen

“Malaysia is very humid and very hot, a bit like Singapore. I like the Sepang circuit, it’s pretty cool. It has a nice combination of fast corners at Turn 5 and 6 and good overtaking opportunities at Turn 9. The weather can vary quite a bit as well. We can get some pretty big storms, but then the track can dry up very quickly because of the high temperature. Last year I did a bit of sightseeing while I was there, and Malaysia seems like a very beautiful country. I really enjoyed it.”

Daniel Ricciardo

“I like back to backs. Looking at Malaysia and Japan they are both very challenging circuits. Malaysia physically is a hot one. We usually go there at the beginning of the season so it is going to be interesting going there now with a lot more development on the car and seeing how it performs. I checked the weather and it seems pretty constant all year round so that shouldn’t change much, but Sepang has been resurfaced so that could be interesting for tyre alife." - Formula1

MotoGP’s New Golden Era?


What an amazing season! The most thrilling and unpredictable in recent memory and eight different winners in eight consecutive races, something that’s never happened before in almost 70 years of premier-class racing. It seems like MotoGP is entering a new golden era, the like of which we’ve never seen.

All thanks to Dorna, of course, for forcing the manufacturers to lease fully competitive motorcycles to independent teams and telling them to junk their priceless, tailor-made electronics in place of Magneti Marelli’s same-for-all unified software. Suddenly it seems like pretty much everyone has a chance of winning a race because the machinery is so equal.
Well, please allow me to pop that particularly fantasy bubble. Dorna has helped, no doubt, as has the rainy summer, but there is one simple reason for this enjoyably unpredictable racing; indeed, it’s all down to one single part of the motorcycle: the front tyre.
Michelin is back in MotoGP for the first time in seven years. During that absence all it could do was go endurance racing, because MotoGP was Bridgestone and World Superbike is Pirelli. There is a huge difference between designing tyres for an endurance rider and an endurance-spec superbike and creating tyres for a MotoGP rider on a no-expense-spared Grand Prix bike.
So the gents from Clermont-Ferrand have had a hell of a lot of catching up to do. Not so much with the rear slick, which was immediately better than the Bridgestone rear but became less so after Scott Redding’s tyre flew apart inArgentina, jolting Michelin into safety mode and forcing it into engineering a much stiffer rear.

It is the front slick where it’s all happening. Michelin’s front was a disaster in the first few winter tests, but was up to speed by the season-opening Qatar GP, where Jorge Lorenzo broke lap and race records.
Since then Michelin has spent a lot of money on front-slick development, trying to improve the tyre race by race. Bridgestone used to bring a choice of two fronts and two rears to each event because it'd been in the game for years – it knew what worked where and what didn’t. Michelin usually brings three fronts to each race, sometimes four, because it needs to offer a greater range of options because it has so little experience of most tracks. Indeed, poor weather at many of its R&D tests gave it no dry-track time at several tracks.
But what’s all this got to do with the thrillingly erratic racing we’re all enjoying?
It’s all down to the fact that the front tyre keeps changing – hopefully improving – and the fact that Michelin sometimes has to guesstimate front compounds because it has zero experience of some of the asphalts. This was the case at Aragon, which is why it brought four different spec fronts.
In the Bridgestone era the teams knew the tyres so well they sometimes knew their race tyres the moment they saw the weekend tyre allocation. And it was the much the same with set-up – a click or three with the suspension and that was about it.
This year the constantly changing character and compounds of the front slick and the greater-than-usual choice of specs has had all the teams struggling to find a direction with set-up, because when the front tyre changes, everything changes. So, one weekend one team and rider gets it right and the next weekend another ream and rider get it right.
There’s another issue with Michelin’s front – its straight-line braking performance isn’t what it should be, plus it has a very narrow range of operating temperature, with a sudden drop-off in performance when the tyre drops below that temperature. That explains this year’s frequent straight-line braking crashes, like those that Lorenzo and Nicky Hayden endured in last weekend’s cool morning sessions.

Consider a few of the recent dry races where one rider finds the front tyre’s sweet spot. At Silverstone Maverick Vinales and his Suzuki technicians got the suspension perfectly dialled in to get the best out of that weekend’s hard front tyre, so he cleared off and won at a canter. And then there was Misano, where Dani Pedrosa finally got a stiffer front casing that worked for him and he tore through from eighth to first.
There is one rider who has found a fairly clear direction with set-up and he just happens to be leading the championship. Marc Marquez and his Repsol Honda RC213V make up most of their time into corners – the kid is an animal on the brakes, so he nearly always needs the hardest front tyre available. And because he always chooses the hardest tyre, his crew isn't flailing around trying this front tyre, that front tyre and then the other. So he can spend most of the weekend working to get the very best out of the hard front, as he did on Sunday, even though the tyre almost had him on the ground on lap three, when it wasn’t up to its optimum operating temperature.
The same factor may also explain Cal Crutchlow’s recent run of strong form, because he too is mega-late on the brakes and therefore needs a hard front slick.
So, make sure you enjoy this season while you can, because by Qatar 2017 Michelin will have a full year’s worth of data from every track and the teams will have a full year’s knowledge of working with the French tyres. The most likely outcome will be that MotoGP loses much of its current volatility.
But this doesn’t have to happen; there may be a way out. No one except Michelin knows how much it spends on MotoGP. Let’s take a wild guess and say £35 million. Like any company, it wants to reduce costs, as did Bridgestone, which is why the Japanese company reduced its allocation to two fronts and two rears. If Michelin goes the same way in 2017, more riders will choose the same tyres and the racing will become more predictable.
That’s not good for the fans or for Dorna, who makes its money from people turning on their televisions to watch entertaining racing. So here’s an idea: if Dorna wants to keep the racing thrillingly unpredictable it should make Michelin continue to offer three or four front-tyre options, and Dorna should pay for the extra tyres. If it makes the racing better, it will be a worthwhile investment.

Meanwhile, Michelin has other problems to fix. There’s no doubt the racing department at Clermont-Ferrand is in a bit of a flap, trying to develop at a rapid rate after so spending so many years away from the cutting edge. Riders complain of inconsistency between tyres – they’ll do a run with tyre A on the front and tyre B on the rear. Then they’ll try another run with a new A and a new B, but the tyres behave differently.
Nowhere was this issue more pronounced that at Aragon, where Pedrosa raced the same spec medium front he had tried throughout practice. In the race the tyre chunked badly and he was lucky (and very brave) to limp home in sixth place. More than anything, Michelin needs to fix this inconsistency.
It’s not only their fault, it’s a consequence of the single tyre rule that can introduce companies with little or no recent experience of making MotoGP tyres. Although many of Michelin’s 2015 and winter 2015/2016 tests were affected by weather, Dorna should have split the bill with the company to ensure they’d had at least one good test at all 18 racetracks - Mat Oxley