Hamilton: I will give all I can tomorrow

Lewis Hamilton says that he will “race his heart out” in tomorrow’s Malaysian Grand Prix as McLaren suffered a disastrous qualifying session.

Prior to qualifying both Hamilton and team-mate Jenson Button had held high hopes for this weekend, having shown strong pace throughout practice.

Such optimism soon turned to disappointment, however,  as McLaren misjudged the weather conditions in the first segment of qualifying. Like many, the Woking-based team had expected the rain to abate towards the end of the segment and thus decided to hold both of its cars until the end.

However the rain did not subside and track conditions subsequently deteriorated – leaving Button and Hamilton with an uphill struggle to make it through to Q2.

Unfortunately Hamilton could not find enough speed to jump out of the first drop off zone, and after a spin at the final hairpin, he had to settle for twentieth.

Meanwhile Jenson Button did set a time that was good enough to make it through to Q2. However, the reigning world champion aquaplaned off the track, towards the end of the first segment, and therefore could not take part in the remainder of qualifying.

Jenson Button – 17th: “We thought the first rainstorm was it, and there was nothing else coming, so we waited. I guess events proved it was the wrong thing to do.

“My first lap on Inters felt okay. The thing is, you get no real warning; the first sector of the lap was quite dry, then you get to the fast left-right and it’s really wet. I just aquaplaned off and got stuck in the gravel. I couldn’t do anything about it. I just hope I haven’t damaged anything on the car because I was sat in the gravel with the engine running for some time, hoping to get pulled out.

“It was a strange, disappointing session – both Lewis and I went out early. But, even so, I’m in front of three of my world championship rivals on tomorrow’s grid, and I suppose that’s the best way of looking at it.

Lewis Hamilton – 20th: “This was just one of those days. It had been a very good weekend for us up until qualifying started, and the simple fact is that we didn’t expect it to rain any more. We went out at a similar time to the other top teams, and as a result quite a lot of us were all out of luck.

“By the time I got out there, there were lots of yellow flags about, so you just couldn’t nail it and then it started to rain more heavily. You couldn’t feel a thing , it was so, so slippery. It was easy to come off I had a spin on my first lap, in fact but I did the best job I could in the circumstances.

“I’d been fastest all weekend, but what can we do? We’ve just got to shrug it off. And, as I always, say, I’ll never give up. That’s why I’m not only focusing on the fast cars around me, I’m focusing on everyone including those who are quite a few rows in front of me.

“So I’m looking forward to tomorrow, and I’m going to race my heart out.”

Martin Whitmarsh – Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes: “To qualify only 17th and 20th with what today’s final practice session had clearly demonstrated was a highly competitive car was of course very disappointing for all concerned.

“So why did it happen? It happened because several teams, having consulted the weather radar, believed that the rain that was falling just prior to the start of Q1 would pass through and that the end of Q1 would be therefore by much drier. As we now know, it didn’t turn out like that. With hindsight it would therefore have been better if we’d sent our cars out at the beginning of Q1, instead of waiting for what the weather radar had told us would be drier and faster conditions.

“Having said all that, we’re now looking forward to a very exciting and hopefully very eventful race in which Jenson and Lewis, who are two of the most determined racers in the sport today, can produce a result for us that’s significantly better than our qualifying performance this afternoon.”

Malaysian Grand Prix 2010: Friday Press Conference

Tony Fernandes says that he has been “blown away” by the reaction of local fans to the Lotus team, and hopes to make them proud in Sunday’s Grand Prix.

The Lotus team principal was joined by Otmar Szafnauer, from Force India, in Friday’s press conference, which followed the opening day of practice.

Alongside the team figures were drivers Heikki Kovalainen and Tonio Liuzzi, who also previewed the weekend ahead.

TEAM PRINCIPALS AND DRIVERS: Tony Fernandes (Lotus), Heikki KOVALAINEN (Lotus), Vitantonio LIUZZI (Force India), Otmar SZAFNAUER (Force India)

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: First of all, a question to both team principals. How important is this grand prix for you given the area and the location of your teams?
Tony FERNANDES:
For me it is very special. The first time Lotus is racing in Malaysia which is our home base and we have received a tremendous amount of support over the past week, so a special moment today getting the cars out and getting Fairuz (Fauzy) in the car as well. Both Jarno (Trulli) and Heikki did a superb job in the second session, so overall I can’t wipe the grin off my face. A good day.
Otmar SZAFNAUER: Likewise for us. A grand prix in Asia is important to us and glad to be here. It is a great place. I personally have been here quite a few times and it does allow our owner to watch the cricket one day, watch the Formula One racing the next and back to the cricket; as it is so close he flies between the two.

Q: Tony, just recap the story so far particularly when it comes to the racing itself. It is a long story, but if you would just summarise it.
TF:
Well, we obviously started two tests later than everyone. It has steadily improved. We had some issues in the early days with hydraulics etc. but the car has got better and better. We had some tweaks along the way, but nothing major. The key aim has remained the same: to finish the races and try and be the best of the new teams and put minor upgrades on whenever we can. Our major upgrade will come in Barcelona. I think at each stage the drivers are becoming more comfortable with the car. We are getting to know a lot about the car. We have taken some weight off and we are looking forward really to Barcelona. Between now and Barcelona we will just try and see what we can get out of the car. But it has been a good start. Remind everyone we only had six months in building this and as Mike keeps telling me – 8,500 parts. It was a heavy car as we took the conservative option of building a more reliable car and that has paid off I think.

Q: What has the reception been like in Malaysia, particularly this week?
TF:
When we first announced it I think most people thought I had gone completely nuts. That has been with me most of my life. When I started Air Asia people thought I was completely nuts as well. I think over the last six months we have made the nation more and more believers and our neighbours. We are getting tremendous support from Singaporeans, Thais, Indonesians and now as I walk around the streets everyone is saying good luck, congratulations, we are there for Lotus.’ It has been really overwhelming. I knew we would get support but I didn’t realise how much it would be and as I always said to Bernie (Ecclestone) and Max (Mosley) at the time when you have more local involvement Formula One will be much bigger. It really will become a global sport. Right now it is predominantly European. Just the response we are getting and you see from the ticket sales that we are hearing that it is going very well and the reception Heikki and Jarno got, I think they were kind of blown away with the positive response they got, so it has been fantastic.

Q: What is the thinking behind the use of the third driver on Friday morning with Fairuz? Will you be doing that at other grands prix or is it just here?
TF:
I think we don’t think too far ahead. The plan was to give Fairuz a shot and Heikki very kindly stepped down. Really part of this whole experience and I think good for Formula One is to get other nationalities into Formula One. It makes it more relevant. People do not come to the tracks because it is a track, people come to see what is in the track or what is in the stadium. If there is more local involvement, then it becomes more of a natural to come. If you are just watching a bunch of foreign teams the emotion is not there. Part of our whole Lotus experience is to try and develop drivers. We know it is going to be a long experience. We have started already. We have got a boy in Formula BMW and we have got a 10-year-old now who we are sponsoring in karting. Today was to give Fairuz a chance at testing in his home circuit. As for the future we are not sure. We will have to wait and see but all I can confirm was that it was for Malaysia only at this point.

Q: Heikki, your impressions do you have of the team’s performance?
Heikki KOVALAINEN:
I think the performance has been better than I was expecting. The first time that I went to visit Mike and so on, just before Christmas, I think there were four people working and Mike was telling me it is all going to be fine and we are going to be finishing races. I did have my doubts. But little by little the team has actually very positively surprised me and I have no doubts now anymore that we wouldn’t be successful. I think we have hit all the targets and we have been ahead of the schedules and the team is incredibly professional. The work with the team goes exactly the same it went with McLaren or with Renault or with any top team. The boys, engineers, mechanics and the team management have all been involved before, so the operation runs as professionally as any other team. We just need a bit of time to put some performance into the car and at the moment I am very happy where I am and I think things are going incredibly well.

Q: What has the build-up to this race been like? Been busy?
HK:
Yeah, very busy. Even with last year’s team I did have a lot of marketing but this week has been a record. It has been a fun week with, like Tony said, a very positive welcome for us. Everywhere we have been, not only with our team partners, but commercial people being involved, but a lot of fans have turned up to our events which is very positive and it is a range of different people who are interested in the whole group of Lotus, what we are doing, the whole style of Lotus. It has been very good, a very enjoyable week for me here and meting a lot of local people. I must also say from Finland I have received a lot of positive feedback from the Finnish media, from the Finnish fans, my Finnish friends. We have touched people everywhere which is fantastic.

Q: A little summary of how things went today?
HK:
I think very well. I missed the first session to give Fairuz a go, but I was comfortable I could pick up the pace immediately on the second session. I have been around here many times and also in Melbourne I was very comfortable with the car and I felt 110 per cent comfortable to miss just one session and get back on the pace and it confirmed my feeling. The car was  almost there. The performance is still not what we want it to be but in terms of balance it was not that far off. We tweaked a little bit and we probably work a bit overnight, but I felt that I was straight on the pace and I am feeling comfortable, so I am very happy after today and everything worked out as we were planning.

Q: Otmar, tell us about the progress made over the winter as the team is now much more of a top 10 team.
OS:
That was our goal over the winter to capitalize on the fact we were good at some circuits last year, extremely good, and a bit lacking in some of the others. Our focus over the winter was to make sure we kept that advantage on circuits where  we were good but also improve on those where we weren’t. We tried to add downforce significantly but efficiently and that was our focus over the winter and I think it has paid off. It is early days yet. We have only had two grands prix so far. This is our third and we are working again at getting both drivers into the top 10. We have been close in the first two and we have scored points as well. Those are our objectives. So far so good. However, it is going to be difficult as the year goes on as everybody is bolting on performance race by race.
Q: Pace of development, that’s the all-important thing, isn’t it?
OS: It is now, even more so than in years past. Perhaps we’re on part of the development curve that’s pretty steep and because of it, it seems that every race people are adding performance to their cars. We need to do the same, at the same rate, if not greater.

Q: And could you just explain the thinking behind your use of the third driver and when will we see Paul (di Resta) again?
OS:
You’ll see Paul again in China, in one of the sessions and our thinking behind that is that there isn’t much testing anymore; even winter testing is very critical to the racing drivers. So we basically just use one of the sessions on Fridays to give Paul some seat time and it’s that simple. If, heaven forbid, one of our drivers gets injured or is ill, it’s always nice to have a third driver who has driven the car before and that becomes difficult to do these days without testing in the summer, so that’s the reason for it and he’s done a good job.

Q: Tonio, your feelings about the performance so far this year, particularly qualifying because you’ve been out-qualified so far this year?
Vitantonio LIUZZI:
Yeah, personally I feel pretty OK. We covered our objective in the first two grands prix because we scored points. Regarding qualifying, I don’t have much to say. I think everyone is working on new rules regarding mirrors, because I think a lot of teams have struggled with handling qualifying traffic, because in both cases I was caught up with Williams and BMW Sauber, so I never had the chance to have a clear run especially in Q2. So overall I don’t feel that negative, because I never had a problem in the past, especially in qualifying. It’s not something that particularly worries me for the future. For sure, you don’t score points in qualifying anyway. It’s something we have to improve but we have to keep on pushing to develop the car because the racing is important. We’ve already scored points in the first two races and we have to keep on going.

Q: What are your personal aims for the whole season?
VL:
To be as consistent as possible, trying to score points at every race. We know that’s not easy because the others are not sleeping and I think we have a really tight fight, especially with Williams and Renault for the fifth position in the team championship. The championship is still very long, so a lot will depend on the development side. But this is our target, to be consistently in the points or close to there and trying to bring the team up and develop together.

Q: What about today? Give us some impression of how the circuit is, because it’s a circuit that seems to get washed every evening, there never seems to be an opportunity to get any rubber down, there’s only one support race.
VL:
It wasn’t too bad in the afternoon, I have to say. In the morning I lent my car to Paul to give it a go, but it wasn’t too bad in the afternoon. It was still improving every 15 minutes because the more rubber that went down the better it was, especially in the high speed corners, but I think it will be like this all weekend because the weather forecast is not great, even tomorrow and the day after. I think we will have quite a special race, pretty similar to Australia, or even more so because it won’t be spitting, it will be a wash-out, quite heavy rain, so I think we will have another interesting race, but not much rubber down for qualifying.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Mike Doodson) Tony, things have been tough for the four new teams that came in because there have been restrictions on testing and so forth. Tony will point to the fact that both of his cars finished the first race, so that probably wasn’t too bad for him, but do you think that in future there should be exemptions made for new teams to allow them to do more running, and perhaps to be more competitive and to make sure that the new drivers that come in aren’t going to get in the way of the ones at the front, as they are racing for the lead?
TF:
I think in terms of testing, we literally had no more time to do so. I think the FIA, if you had asked can we have some more testing?’ I think they would have allowed it, but in our case it was just that time was against us. Do I think more should be allowed in terms of new teams versus the established ones? Let’s say there were four sessions, should we be allowed a couple more? I think that’s not a bad idea, to be honest, because you’re competing against teams that have been around for fifty or sixty years. I was talking to someone at Virgin, actually, it’s something that we think would be a good idea going forward if a new team was to come in next year. If they wanted it, I don’t think it would be a bad idea. In terms of drivers slowing down or whatever, I think that’s all up to the FIA and their licensing system. If they give the driver a super licence, then he should be allowed to compete and is fine to compete. I think that’s where it is. I think the slowing down etc. it’s racing, isn’t it? There’s always going to be guys slowing down; you have to overtake, you have to lap them and I think that’s what racing is all about. So as a layman which I am, I’m not someone who has been in Formula One for very long I do think there’s a little bit too much emphasis put on the backmarkers and their safety issues etc. I don’t think that’s an issue at all. They’re all competent guys and I don’t think they are going to cause any safety issues.

Q: (Santhosh Kumar Deccan Chronicle) Mr Fernandes, suddenly there is a lot of interest in India in Formula One. We have the Force India team and a driver and we are supposed to host an Indian Grand Prix next year and even you have Indian roots. Do you think it’s good for the sport as it enters the second most populous country in the world?
TF:
Without a doubt, I think it’s tremendous. That’s why Bernie’s been hoping to get an Indian driver in and I think it’s great to have Force India. Without a doubt. There’s a billion people there. You only have to see the success of the IPL (Indian Premier League, cricket) and the kind of excitement that’s created in the country. If Formula One can get that in India, I think that will be great for the sport. As I have been saying consistently, I still think Formula One is predominantly a European sport and I always tease Bernie and I say when you have a night race in Silverstone or a morning race in Silverstone because of the Asian audience then you know you have a global sport.’ So we don’t have to start our race at four o’clock in the afternoon. So I think that’s the challenge for FOM and the FIA and all the teams: to really make it a global sport, and I think having the involvement of India and, as I said, it’s not just about the tracks, we can build tracks all over the place, but until you get the Karun Chandhoks, until you get the Fairuz Fauzys, until you get teams like Force India and Lotus, then you’re going to get the real participation. The IPL would not be as successful if there were just foreign teams, if there wasn’t the Deccan Chargers and the Kolkata teams owned by Shah Rukh Khan (Indian actor). If it was Brisbane coming over to play, I don’t think you would get the packed audiences. So I think it’s tremendous that India gets in there. I will look forward to going. It will help Vijay (Mallya) because he can watch a cricket match and just walk over to see a Formula One race at the same time.

TEAM PRINCIPALS AND DRIVERS: Tony Fernandes (Lotus), Heikki KOVALAINEN (Lotus), Vitantonio LIUZZI (Force India), Otmar SZAFNAUER (Force India)

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: First of all, a question to both team principals. How important is this grand prix for you given the area and the location of your teams?
Tony FERNANDES:
For me it is very special. The first time Lotus is racing in Malaysia which is our home base and we have received a tremendous amount of support over the past week, so a special moment today getting the cars out and getting Fairuz (Fauzy) in the car as well. Both Jarno (Trulli) and Heikki did a superb job in the second session, so overall I can’t wipe the grin off my face. A good day.
Otmar SZAFNAUER: Likewise for us. A grand prix in Asia is important to us and glad to be here. It is a great place. I personally have been here quite a few times and it does allow our owner to watch the cricket one day, watch the Formula One racing the next and back to the cricket; as it is so close he flies between the two.

Q: Tony, just recap the story so far particularly when it comes to the racing itself. It is a long story, but if you would just summarise it.
TF:
Well, we obviously started two tests later than everyone. It has steadily improved. We had some issues in the early days with hydraulics etc. but the car has got better and better. We had some tweaks along the way, but nothing major. The key aim has remained the same: to finish the races and try and be the best of the new teams and put minor upgrades on whenever we can. Our major upgrade will come in Barcelona. I think at each stage the drivers are becoming more comfortable with the car. We are getting to know a lot about the car. We have taken some weight off and we are looking forward really to Barcelona. Between now and Barcelona we will just try and see what we can get out of the car. But it has been a good start. Remind everyone we only had six months in building this and as Mike keeps telling me – 8,500 parts. It was a heavy car as we took the conservative option of building a more reliable car and that has paid off I think.

Q: What has the reception been like in Malaysia, particularly this week?
TF:
When we first announced it I think most people thought I had gone completely nuts. That has been with me most of my life. When I started Air Asia people thought I was completely nuts as well. I think over the last six months we have made the nation more and more believers and our neighbours. We are getting tremendous support from Singaporeans, Thais, Indonesians and now as I walk around the streets everyone is saying good luck, congratulations, we are there for Lotus.’ It has been really overwhelming. I knew we would get support but I didn’t realise how much it would be and as I always said to Bernie (Ecclestone) and Max (Mosley) at the time when you have more local involvement Formula One will be much bigger. It really will become a global sport. Right now it is predominantly European. Just the response we are getting and you see from the ticket sales that we are hearing that it is going very well and the reception Heikki and Jarno got, I think they were kind of blown away with the positive response they got, so it has been fantastic.

Q: What is the thinking behind the use of the third driver on Friday morning with Fairuz? Will you be doing that at other grands prix or is it just here?
TF:
I think we don’t think too far ahead. The plan was to give Fairuz a shot and Heikki very kindly stepped down. Really part of this whole experience and I think good for Formula One is to get other nationalities into Formula One. It makes it more relevant. People do not come to the tracks because it is a track, people come to see what is in the track or what is in the stadium. If there is more local involvement, then it becomes more of a natural to come. If you are just watching a bunch of foreign teams the emotion is not there. Part of our whole Lotus experience is to try and develop drivers. We know it is going to be a long experience. We have started already. We have got a boy in Formula BMW and we have got a 10-year-old now who we are sponsoring in karting. Today was to give Fairuz a chance at testing in his home circuit. As for the future we are not sure. We will have to wait and see but all I can confirm was that it was for Malaysia only at this point.

Q: Heikki, your impressions do you have of the team’s performance?
Heikki KOVALAINEN:
I think the performance has been better than I was expecting. The first time that I went to visit Mike and so on, just before Christmas, I think there were four people working and Mike was telling me it is all going to be fine and we are going to be finishing races. I did have my doubts. But little by little the team has actually very positively surprised me and I have no doubts now anymore that we wouldn’t be successful. I think we have hit all the targets and we have been ahead of the schedules and the team is incredibly professional. The work with the team goes exactly the same it went with McLaren or with Renault or with any top team. The boys, engineers, mechanics and the team management have all been involved before, so the operation runs as professionally as any other team. We just need a bit of time to put some performance into the car and at the moment I am very happy where I am and I think things are going incredibly well.

Q: What has the build-up to this race been like? Been busy?
HK:
Yeah, very busy. Even with last year’s team I did have a lot of marketing but this week has been a record. It has been a fun week with, like Tony said, a very positive welcome for us. Everywhere we have been, not only with our team partners, but commercial people being involved, but a lot of fans have turned up to our events which is very positive and it is a range of different people who are interested in the whole group of Lotus, what we are doing, the whole style of Lotus. It has been very good, a very enjoyable week for me here and meting a lot of local people. I must also say from Finland I have received a lot of positive feedback from the Finnish media, from the Finnish fans, my Finnish friends. We have touched people everywhere which is fantastic.

Q: A little summary of how things went today?
HK:
I think very well. I missed the first session to give Fairuz a go, but I was comfortable I could pick up the pace immediately on the second session. I have been around here many times and also in Melbourne I was very comfortable with the car and I felt 110 per cent comfortable to miss just one session and get back on the pace and it confirmed my feeling. The car was  almost there. The performance is still not what we want it to be but in terms of balance it was not that far off. We tweaked a little bit and we probably work a bit overnight, but I felt that I was straight on the pace and I am feeling comfortable, so I am very happy after today and everything worked out as we were planning.

Q: Otmar, tell us about the progress made over the winter as the team is now much more of a top 10 team.
OS:
That was our goal over the winter to capitalize on the fact we were good at some circuits last year, extremely good, and a bit lacking in some of the others. Our focus over the winter was to make sure we kept that advantage on circuits where  we were good but also improve on those where we weren’t. We tried to add downforce significantly but efficiently and that was our focus over the winter and I think it has paid off. It is early days yet. We have only had two grands prix so far. This is our third and we are working again at getting both drivers into the top 10. We have been close in the first two and we have scored points as well. Those are our objectives. So far so good. However, it is going to be difficult as the year goes on as everybody is bolting on performance race by race.
Q: Pace of development, that’s the all-important thing, isn’t it?
OS: It is now, even more so than in years past. Perhaps we’re on part of the development curve that’s pretty steep and because of it, it seems that every race people are adding performance to their cars. We need to do the same, at the same rate, if not greater.

Q: And could you just explain the thinking behind your use of the third driver and when will we see Paul (di Resta) again?
OS:
You’ll see Paul again in China, in one of the sessions and our thinking behind that is that there isn’t much testing anymore; even winter testing is very critical to the racing drivers. So we basically just use one of the sessions on Fridays to give Paul some seat time and it’s that simple. If, heaven forbid, one of our drivers gets injured or is ill, it’s always nice to have a third driver who has driven the car before and that becomes difficult to do these days without testing in the summer, so that’s the reason for it and he’s done a good job.

Q: Tonio, your feelings about the performance so far this year, particularly qualifying because you’ve been out-qualified so far this year?
Vitantonio LIUZZI:
Yeah, personally I feel pretty OK. We covered our objective in the first two grands prix because we scored points. Regarding qualifying, I don’t have much to say. I think everyone is working on new rules regarding mirrors, because I think a lot of teams have struggled with handling qualifying traffic, because in both cases I was caught up with Williams and BMW Sauber, so I never had the chance to have a clear run especially in Q2. So overall I don’t feel that negative, because I never had a problem in the past, especially in qualifying. It’s not something that particularly worries me for the future. For sure, you don’t score points in qualifying anyway. It’s something we have to improve but we have to keep on pushing to develop the car because the racing is important. We’ve already scored points in the first two races and we have to keep on going.

Q: What are your personal aims for the whole season?
VL:
To be as consistent as possible, trying to score points at every race. We know that’s not easy because the others are not sleeping and I think we have a really tight fight, especially with Williams and Renault for the fifth position in the team championship. The championship is still very long, so a lot will depend on the development side. But this is our target, to be consistently in the points or close to there and trying to bring the team up and develop together.

Q: What about today? Give us some impression of how the circuit is, because it’s a circuit that seems to get washed every evening, there never seems to be an opportunity to get any rubber down, there’s only one support race.
VL:
It wasn’t too bad in the afternoon, I have to say. In the morning I lent my car to Paul to give it a go, but it wasn’t too bad in the afternoon. It was still improving every 15 minutes because the more rubber that went down the better it was, especially in the high speed corners, but I think it will be like this all weekend because the weather forecast is not great, even tomorrow and the day after. I think we will have quite a special race, pretty similar to Australia, or even more so because it won’t be spitting, it will be a wash-out, quite heavy rain, so I think we will have another interesting race, but not much rubber down for qualifying.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Mike Doodson) Tony, things have been tough for the four new teams that came in because there have been restrictions on testing and so forth. Tony will point to the fact that both of his cars finished the first race, so that probably wasn’t too bad for him, but do you think that in future there should be exemptions made for new teams to allow them to do more running, and perhaps to be more competitive and to make sure that the new drivers that come in aren’t going to get in the way of the ones at the front, as they are racing for the lead?
TF:
I think in terms of testing, we literally had no more time to do so. I think the FIA, if you had asked can we have some more testing?’ I think they would have allowed it, but in our case it was just that time was against us. Do I think more should be allowed in terms of new teams versus the established ones? Let’s say there were four sessions, should we be allowed a couple more? I think that’s not a bad idea, to be honest, because you’re competing against teams that have been around for fifty or sixty years. I was talking to someone at Virgin, actually, it’s something that we think would be a good idea going forward if a new team was to come in next year. If they wanted it, I don’t think it would be a bad idea. In terms of drivers slowing down or whatever, I think that’s all up to the FIA and their licensing system. If they give the driver a super licence, then he should be allowed to compete and is fine to compete. I think that’s where it is. I think the slowing down etc. it’s racing, isn’t it? There’s always going to be guys slowing down; you have to overtake, you have to lap them and I think that’s what racing is all about. So as a layman which I am, I’m not someone who has been in Formula One for very long I do think there’s a little bit too much emphasis put on the backmarkers and their safety issues etc. I don’t think that’s an issue at all. They’re all competent guys and I don’t think they are going to cause any safety issues.

Q: (Santhosh Kumar Deccan Chronicle) Mr Fernandes, suddenly there is a lot of interest in India in Formula One. We have the Force India team and a driver and we are supposed to host an Indian Grand Prix next year and even you have Indian roots. Do you think it’s good for the sport as it enters the second most populous country in the world?
TF:
Without a doubt, I think it’s tremendous. That’s why Bernie’s been hoping to get an Indian driver in and I think it’s great to have Force India. Without a doubt. There’s a billion people there. You only have to see the success of the IPL (Indian Premier League, cricket) and the kind of excitement that’s created in the country. If Formula One can get that in India, I think that will be great for the sport. As I have been saying consistently, I still think Formula One is predominantly a European sport and I always tease Bernie and I say when you have a night race in Silverstone or a morning race in Silverstone because of the Asian audience then you know you have a global sport.’ So we don’t have to start our race at four o’clock in the afternoon. So I think that’s the challenge for FOM and the FIA and all the teams: to really make it a global sport, and I think having the involvement of India and, as I said, it’s not just about the tracks, we can build tracks all over the place, but until you get the Karun Chandhoks, until you get the Fairuz Fauzys, until you get teams like Force India and Lotus, then you’re going to get the real participation. The IPL would not be as successful if there were just foreign teams, if there wasn’t the Deccan Chargers and the Kolkata teams owned by Shah Rukh Khan (Indian actor). If it was Brisbane coming over to play, I don’t think you would get the packed audiences. So I think it’s tremendous that India gets in there. I will look forward to going. It will help Vijay (Mallya) because he can watch a cricket match and just walk over to see a Formula One race at the same time.

Hamilton fastest again in Malaysian Practice 2

Lewis Hamilton continued his dominance in Malaysia, as the McLaren driver once again topped the second practice session for this weekend’s Grand Prix.

The British driver was the first frontrunner to set a time in the session and soon eclipsed his practice one efforts, as he rocketed into the low 1m34s.

However, Hamilton did not enjoy a trouble-free session as, once on the option tyres, the 25-year-old complained about the quality of the tyre.

Hamilton was not alone however, with team-mate Jenson Button (4th) complaining of a lack of rear end stability and understeer. Meanwhile the option tyre was also responsible for a number of incidens during the session with the likes of Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi forced off the circuit as the back end of their Toro Rosso’s stepping out.

Sandwiched between the two McLarens were Sebastian Vettel, who improved from his lowly position in the first session, and Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes.

Sadly, the former’s team-mate raised more question marks over the reliability of the Red Bull, as Mark Webber was forced to park his car less than half way into the session, with another suspected engine failure.

Both Ferrari drivers appeared to settle for long-fuel runs, but Fernando Alonso did set a quick time once he had choosen the option tyres. But, while the Spaniard was seventh Massa’s attempt was disappointing, with the Brazilian having to settle for fifteenth.

Pos  Driver         Team          Time               Laps
1.   Hamilton       McLaren       1:34.175	      27
2.   Vettel         Red Bull      1:34.441  + 0.266   28
3.   Rosberg        Mercedes      1:34.443  + 0.268   30
4.   Button         McLaren       1:34.538  + 0.363   24
5.   Schumacher     Mercedes      1:34.674  + 0.499   30
6.   Kubica         Renault       1:35.148  + 0.973   34
7.   Alonso         Ferrari       1:35.581  + 1.406   34
8.   Buemi          Toro Rosso    1:35.660  + 1.485   39
9.   Petrov         Renault       1:35.872  + 1.697   20
10.  Sutil          Force India   1:35.957  + 1.782   32
11.  Kobayashi      Sauber        1:36.018  + 1.843   38
12.  Liuzzi         Force India   1:36.221  + 2.046   34
13.  de la Rosa     Sauber        1:36.325  + 2.150   33
14.  Alguersuari    Toro Rosso    1:36.325  + 2.150   39
15.  Massa          Ferrari       1:36.602  + 2.427   30
16.  Barrichello    Williams      1:36.813  + 2.638   26
17.  Hulkenberg     Williams      1:37.415  + 3.240   19
18.  Trulli         Lotus         1:38.454  + 4.279   34
19.  Kovalainen     Lotus         1:38.530  + 4.355   32
20.  Webber         Red Bull      1:38.786  + 4.558   13
21.  Glock          Virgin        1:39.061  + 4.886   23
22.  di Grassi      Virgin        1:39.158  + 4.983   29
23.  Chandhok       HRT           1:41.084  + 6.909   27
24.  Senna          HRT           1:41.481  + 7.306   32

Hamilton leads first Malaysian Practice

Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheets in the opening practice session for the 2010 Malaysian Grand Prix, with Nico Rosberg denying McLaren a one-two after a last-gasp lap.

Jenson Button and Michael Schumacher were third and fourth respectively making it a Mercedes-powered lockout of the top of the standings.

Although the rain stayed away, the session did not run without incident with the likes of Felipe Massa and Pedro de la Rosa making trips across the gravel traps.

Sebastian Vettel could only manage ninth for Red Bull, as he complained about having issues with slowing his car down.

Pos  Driver        Team         Time              Laps
1.   Hamilton      McLaren      1:34.921            19
2.   Rosberg       Mercedes     1:35.106  + 0.185   19
3.   Button        McLaren      1:35.207  + 0.286   25
4.   Schumacher    Mercedes     1:35.225  + 0.304   14
5.   Kubica        Renault      1:35.402  + 0.481   22
6.   Webber        Red Bull     1:35.479  + 0.558   22
7.   Sutil         Force India  1:35.955  + 1.034   20
8.   Alonso        Ferrari      1:35.959  + 1.038   20
9.   Vettel        Red Bull     1:35.043  + 1.122   19
10.  Buemi         Toro Rosso   1:36.100  + 1.179   20
11.  Massa         Ferrar       1:36.451  + 1.530   22
12.  Kobayashi     Sauber       1:36.503  + 1.582   28
13.  Alguersuari   Toro Rosso   1:36.645  + 1.724   18
14.  Petrov        Renault      1:36.712  + 1.791    9
15.  di Resta      Force India  1:36.891  + 1.970   25
16.  de la Rosa    Sauber       1:36.899  + 1.978   24
17.  Hulkenberg    Williams     1:37.802  + 2.881   27
18.  Barrichello   Williams     1:38.278  + 3.357   18
19.  Trulli        Lotus        1:39.460  + 4.539   21
20.  Glock         Virgin       1:39.755  + 4.834   17
21.  di Grassi     Virgin       1:40.159  + 5.238   25
22.  Fauzy         Lotus        1:40.721  + 5.800   19
23.  Senna         HRT          1:41.832  + 6.911   27
24.  Chandhok      HRT          1:41.966  + 7.045   24

Malaysian Grand Prix 2010: Thursday Press Conference

Rubens Barrichello was joined in the press conference by Karun Chandhok, Kamui Kobayashi and Nico Rosberg, to preview the 2010 Malaysian Grand Prix.

With rain on the horizon, the weekend ahead should be a fascinating encounter as Formula One reaches round three of nineteen.

DRIVERS: Rubens BARRICHELLO (Williams), Karun CHANDHOK (HRT), Kamui KOBAYASHI (BMW Sauber), Nico ROSBERG (Mercedes)

Q: Karun, obviously a very steep learning curve for you this year. Tell us about it.
Karun CHANDHOK: It is not ideal. I don’t think anyone in F1 has gone straight into qualifying without testing or a single lap of free practice. Bahrain was far from ideal. It is going to be very tough. With the car we didn’t do any winter testing. We are two months behind the programme, but we will keep chipping away and see where we end up. Melbourne was a step forward. We got one car to the finish and that was a step in itself. The more miles we do, the more we learn about the car. These guys were lucky to be pounding around Valencia, Barcelona and Jerez in the winter time and we didn’t get that opportunity, so unfortunately we are testing in public in front of all you guys and all these cameras and it is not easy, but these are the cards we have been dealt with, so we will do the best job we can.

Q: What are the effects of the finish in Melbourne? What sort of things did you learn?
KC: First of all, morale-wise it was good for the boys. The mechanics on my car worked two nights straight in Bahrain, two nights straight in Melbourne. They just went back to shower and came straight back to the circuit. It was a fantastic effort from the guys in the garage. It is good for them to have put in all that work and see a car get to the finish. For them it is a morale boost. For us as a team we learnt a lot. We have never done the long runs with these tyres before. We learnt a lot about what the car is like on 160-170kgs, whatever it was. There is so much to learn. For me it was a bit strange as I have never been lapped before in my life in normal circumstances and it was quite difficult. It had drizzled or rained at the beginning of the race, so going off-line was quite tricky. I didn’t want to get in any of these guys’ way, so I tried to get out of the way but it was a very strange race.

Q: Where do you think the pace is going to come from? Is it from you, from just learning how to use the tyres, the engine, just the chassis, the set-up, the experience?
KC: All of the above. I think we are both rookies in the team, so we have got a lot to learn obviously. Qualifying in particular is quite critical in F2 and learning about how you have got to bring the tyres in for the one lap and get the tyres to the optimum temperature and pressure for your qualifying lap.  In GP2 we did not have tyre warmers and so the way you went about was a bit different. In Melbourne, for example, that was my mistake. I was too slow on the out lap, just building the tyres up gently, and I dumped four tenths to myself just between lap one and lap two of the first sector because I did not know how to get the tyres in for lap one. Just small things like that. There is a lot to learn as drivers for the team. It is not rocket science. We need downforce. That is the big thing in F1 and we are a long way behind these guys in terms of downforce levels. Mechanically as well I think the first step was to get the car finished and now we are trying to develop it.

Q: Kamui, you had two-and-a-half tremendous races last year and then the two races so far this year. Tell us the difference between the two as they were fantastic races last year for Toyota, but so far this year it hasn’t been fantastic.
Kamui KOBAYASHI: I think the last two races for me were very really bad luck. In the first one I had a problem with the hydraulics which I was not really expecting from the winter test. In the last race I think the front wing failed, but also for me it was quite difficult. Last year the last two races for me were great. I had no testing, like only eight months and I expected it to be really hard but the car had good potential. I spent two years as a test driver, so it was very easy to communicate with everybody and really easy to get there. This year it’s a new team and we have to work hard. At the moment I am not showing the performance myself as I didn’t finish race,  but the most important thing in the future is to finish the race.

Q: In testing the car looked very good. Do you think you are showing the true pace of it at the moment or is there more to come?
KK: Yeah, I think that’s our problem at the moment and we try to find a reason. The winter test was a great performance. We are not always looking for the top. A good place to be will be the second group on the top and this year is our best target. I think the winter test was a good shape and I think we are quite frustrated at the moment. In Bahrain the situation was a little bit difficult. We were struggling, especially on the bumps, and the car was really difficult to drive. But in Melbourne it was a good improvement for us. The position was difficult but pace-wise it was much closer with the guys in the second group, so I think it was a good step for us to improve. I think this week will be another step that we need to improve.

Q: Do you think this race will be better for you? It is a circuit you know, isn’t it?
KK: This is a circuit I know very well. I think I had two races at this circuit with GP2 Asia which was a good experience.

Q: Nico, in spite of two good finishes so far the team keeps saying it is not quite on the pace yet. Is it something that you know about or are not certain why?
Nico ROSBERG: We know that we are not quite where we want to be yet, but I think that was to be expected in some ways. With Mercedes coming in and everything the team needs to grow. We have massive potential. A really strong group of people and strong support from Mercedes-Petronas, so I am very confident that very soon we will be able to close the gap.

Q: Tell us about the challenge of this circuit. What is important here?
NR: The track here in Malaysia is one of my nice favourite tracks. It is really nice to drive. There are lots of different combinations of corners and it is very challenging. It is going to be tough for the drivers because of the heat. It is one of the most challenging races for a driver’s fitness in the year but that’s why I did all my training in the winter, so I should be fine.  Car-wise it is also quite demanding with the temperatures but I think we made some good progress on the set-up in Melbourne which should help us here also, so I am looking forward to a good weekend.

Q: What is it like being the team-mate of the most successful Formula One driver of all time?
NR: It has been a great experience for me as it is just interesting working with him. Until now the partnership with him has been very good. Everything has been open, very relaxed, so I am able to learn a few things and for me it has been a great opportunity.

Q: Rubens, you have done all 11 Malaysian Grands Prix. Tell us from your point of view the challenge of this circuit.
Rubens BARRICHELLO: Much the same. It is one of my favourites. I think it has great types of corners. You go from very high speed to some low speed, quite technical corners. It is an aerodynamic driven track and you have to have a balance on the braking for you to get a fix on the corner ratio before you get back on the power, so it is quite nice. It is not easy to set up the car which makes it even more interesting. To get to a reasonable level is okay, but to get it really well set up for you to be really happy is not easy, so it is quite exciting.

Q: A new team for you this year. How are you finding Williams which is a very established team?
RB: A bunch of fighters, good people, good working method. We are working well together, a lot of fine tuning things to get to the bottom of it but working well together. I am delighted to be working with them. They are very open. There is a lot of freedom inside, so obviously they are getting to know Cosworth and Cosworth are getting to know them. It has been a good job. We are far away from where we think we can be but so far it is going in the right direction.

Q: Where do you feel you are in the hierarchy? Obviously, you feel as though you should be higher up.
RB: I think there is the top four doing better than us and then there is us Renault and Force India closely behind. It was fantastic to see Robert (Kubica) doing so well and going right up the front and keep up the pace as in qualifying we are pretty much the same. I think we can knock on the door of big points every time before we can put some new upgrades on the car and then really start to show what we are capable of.


QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Frederic Ferret L’Equipe) Nico, where do you think your car can match the best cars on the grid?
NR: It’s going to be mainly aerodynamics, that’s where the main progress has to come from. One of the things is obviously the McLaren invention or whatever that is, which all the teams are looking at, at the moment, and then there’s also some mechanical things we believe that we can do better and those developments will be coming very soon. I was in the factory about two weeks ago and they presented the developments to me and it’s looking very promising, so for me it was really encouraging and I look forward to seeing how it goes.

Q: (Santhosh Kumar Deccan Chronicle) Rubens, you are inching towards 300 Grand Prix appearances. As the most experienced driver on the grid, what is your impression of Karun Chandhok and do you have any advice for him?
RB: It’s like he said, I think he’s probably the very first driver to going straight into qualifying in Formula One history, so I think he’s done quite well. It must have been such an adventure of a rollercoaster, going into that qualifier not knowing the car and how quickly it would go. I think that so far there’s no bad stuff. You cannot see how fast either he or Bruno (Senna) are going because the car is not showing what they can do, because at the moment, you would like to see their car going throughout the one and a half hours (of practice). They would have time to sit down and talk about the set-up. Right now they are trying to fix the problems before getting the set-up, so it’s just keep the feet on the ground and do the work.’ Honestly, I can say that I haven’t been in a situation like that. I’ve been young, like them, but I had cars that although they had reliability problems, I was able to run and get to know them. There was testing beforehand, so for them it must be a lot more difficult. For me, Formula One is a lot easier now. I can just concentrate on racing, that’s why I’m still thinking that I can do another 300 not!

Q: (Ted Kravitz BBC Sport) Rubens and Nico, you’ve effectively swapped seats. What would you say was the one difference from your previous teams to your current one, and if you could give each other one piece of advice about taking the other one’s seat, what would it be?
RB: I haven’t thought of that.
NR: It’s true. We even have the same engineers. We have, literally, swapped seats. Differences? It’s difficult, there’s not a big difference. Yes, you see some small differences in the way that the working environment is and the ways of going about things, but Williams is strong in some areas, we’re stronger in others, so it’s not a night and day difference. And advice is a bit more difficult, isn’t it?
RB: When I come to a new team, I come with the experience of the whole lot, I don’t come with the experience of Brawn last year, how they do this or that. Obviously you leave the team and you have some of the experience of what they were planning to have this year and you tend to speak out and tell the team what you know about it and how to attack. So my philosophy is to learn the team and then try to say, look, this never worked in a team like Ferrari or Brawn and it never will’, so we tend to go from there. But the Williams team is very well based. They were winners from the past and it’s just a question of time before they win again. Again, on the Brawn side, I’ve had a happy time there, so there’s no bad advice as such. Maybe tell Jocky (Clear) not to punch the helmet before the race as he goes (thump) good luck’. The sound isn’t great inside the helmet.
NR: He hasn’t done that to me yet, but I will tell him after this.

Q: (Chris Lines Associated Press) Karun, you’ve started so far behind in terms of preparation and we look at all the new teams and there seems to be a mini-competition between them. Are you so far back that you can’t even hope to catch up to those guys or do you feel that you have a chance by getting back to Europe, developing the car?
KC: We’ll wait and see. At the moment, this weekend, I think it’s highly unlikely that we will be in a position to chase either Lotus or Virgin in terms of performance. As I said before, at the moment there’s no real performance upgrades on the car. There are bits coming out of Europe all the time but they’re just bits to try and get the car more reliable. It’s performance bits at the moment, they will only come once we go back to Europe. We’ve got a good team of people on board. Obviously Geoff Willis has come as technical director, we’ve got Toni Cuquerella who has come from BMW, the engineers as well, we’ve got a lot of people who have come from either BMW or Williams or Renault, so there’s people with recent F1 experience in the team. Rome wasn’t built in a day. We need to put the structure in place and get everyone working in the same direction. They’ve all got their ideas of how these respected teams did things. They now have to put it together and make sure it’s unified in a way that Hispania would do things. Like I said, there’s good enough people there to steer a development programme. I’m not here to drive around at the back of the grid for the rest of the season. I wouldn’t have signed with Colin (Kolles) and the team if I didn’t think there was potential to at least fight with the other new teams. The first half of the season is going to be tough but hopefully we can start to fight to be best of the new teams in the second half of the season. Relative to the existing teams, I think the gap is quite big at the moment. You look at qualifying in Melbourne, it was nearly two seconds between the top of the new teams and the last of the existing teams. That’s quite a big gap to bridge. Whether that gap will be closed during the season we shall wait and see. I doubt it but we can certainly try and close the gap and try, and I hope to be the best of the new teams in the second half of the season.

Q: (Chris Lines Associated Press) Kamui, your front wing came off three times in Australia; has that been sorted out?
KK: I think the front wing has three times… there was no problem with the front wing but the first one was because of my mistake at the beginning(of free practice). I hit a pylon at the fast corner. I think we tried to repair it and maybe there was still a problem with it and maybe some mis-communication in the team and we didn’t change the complete kit of the front wing. I think that was the problem with the second wing. And the last wing was maybe because of some contact with someone. It was not really a big crash, or whatever, but maybe I touched the front wing just a little bit and suddenly after some corners, I think it was after the start with (Vitaly) Petrov and then turn three with Tonio (Liuzzi) and this was our only chance, and after turn five the wing was on but suddenly I lost the front wing on the straight. For me there was nothing to do. We just have to make a stronger front wing.

Q: (Frederic Ferret L’Equipe) Rubens, Michael says that he needs some time to find the rhythm again to fight against you all. As a former team-mate and an experienced driver, do you have an explanation why he’s struggling to find the pace again?
RB: Well, give him the time, that’s all I can say. I don’t know. I haven’t stopped for three years and come back. I will sometime. I will give myself a chance!

Q: (Ralf Bach R & B) Rubens, are you surprised that Nico is the quicker driver at the moment in the Mercedes team or are you surprised that they allowed him to be quicker?
RB: Why is the question for me? Why don’t you ask them? Well, honestly I am surprised, surprised in the way that you stop, you come back to a new Formula One that is all different and people improve and different cars and so on. But I am surprised. I think Nico is doing a super job.

Should Button’s Australian Grand Prix victory really be seen as sheer luck?

Luck: when does it occur and when can it be applied to sport?

Since the flag fell in Melbourne, this word has dominated Formula One blogs and forums. The sole reason for the uproar appears to centre on the McLaren team and the fascinating dynamic which is developing between its two drivers – Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.

Prior to the start of the season, many predicted fireworks. Would Button get equal treatment in “Hamilton’s team” and, if so, would he be able to capitalise on his handling of the current specification of racing tyres to come out on top?

Either way, it is slightly surprising to see that the battles lines have been drawn so quickly, especially after only two rounds of the season.

Already message boards, including the one on this site, have been inundated with fans of both drivers locking horns over who is better – with the overwhelming feeling that Jenson Button was somewhat lucky to take victory in the Australian Grand Prix, while Lewis Hamilton was robbed of claiming at least a place on the podium due to his team’s decision to bring him in for a second time.

In some respects this is true: luck plays a major part in each and every Grand Prix and this one was no different. But, drivers are never simply “in the right place at the right time”. There is often fine line between success and failure in Formula One and often this is down to the reaction to each driver when such an opportunity arises. Does he reach out and grasp it or does he simply let it pass him by?

Nevermore could such a description be justified than in the events which played out on Sunday.

It is true that Button relied on more than his superb opportunistic pit strategy to win the Australian Grand Prix. Firstly, his gamble might well have ended after only a few hundred yards, had he not wrestled the car out of the gravel trap into turn three. Secondly, without the retirement of Sebastian Vettel, the Briton would have had to settle for second place at best, with no answer to Red Bull’s speed.

Therefore, at first glance it would appear that, yes, Jenson was very fortunate to win in Albert Park. But broadening this logic also insinuates that Hamilton rode his luck on Sunday. What if Webber had taken him out at turn three, when the fiery Australian slid wide? What if Rosberg had failed to lift when Hamilton made his daring move down at turn eleven? What if his second collision with Webber had forced his retirement – meaning no points? These are all bogus statements to make, but all appear to contain a “so-called” element of luck.

Thus, the definition of luck can vary and its implementation differs throughout a whole range of circumstances.

The truth is that while Hamilton’s race performance was one of his finest, his team-mate’s drive was equally as enthralling.

Put simply: It takes more than your efforts on track to win a motor race. Whereas Hamilton stuck to team orders Button, who was struggling with his intermediate tyres in the race’s opening stages, choose to take control of the situation and roll the dice. On any other day it might not have worked and many would have pointed the finger at Button for not sticking to the original plan. But this time it paid off and the Briton rocketed up the order. Was this luck or was this sheer genius from Button?

Once Vettel departed the race, Button was always in control and his famed smooth driving style came to the fore. But, even then, as the race reached its closing stages, the reigning world champion took a gamble, which paid off.

By the time Hamilton and those around him had made their second pit stops, Button had a commanding lead and could have easily taken the safe option and pitted for fresh rubber, while still resuming in the lead. But the fact that he didn’t demonstrates that the man was in total control of the situation – in control of his own destiny. Unlike his team-mate, Button overruled his superiors and with this was able to maintain an untroubled voyage to the finish.

Why then should such a courageous decision be allowed pass by without any recognition? Why should it be simply put down to luck and why should Button’s tactics in terms of strategy be so incomparable to Hamilton’s on track pursuits? If Button had made the wrong call then he would have been made to “carry the can”, but the same would have applied to Hamilton if he had mistimed a possible overtaking manoeuvre and crashed out.

Of course, nothing can be taken away from Hamilton’s drive; but it is clear that the damage was done on Saturday when he failed to make it into the top ten shoot out. Again, the term luck’ can be used once more. Would Hamilton have been anywhere near the podium had the weather been perfect? Although there is no definite answer, it is highly likely that his task would have been much more difficult. (Does anyone notice a pattern here?)

It is far too early to be placing eggs into baskets in regards to who will lead McLaren’s charge. Although Hamilton may steal the headlines (good or bad), Button continues to work with his head down: he has successfully integrated within the team and has so far been able to take advantage of the favorable situations presented to him. This will not always be the case this season, and on other occasions Hamilton will be bestowed with an opportunity to make or break a particular race – if he is so lucky.

Ultimately fans of the Woking team would be best abandoning their efforts to foster a civil war and instead focus on the current state of play. Once again McLaren has failed to provide a front running car straight out of the box and this time the team has no real excuses. There were no titles at stake last season, and the rule changes for 2010 were not as revolutionary as in previous years. Although all is not lost for McLaren, it will take time for the team to get on top of the MP4-25’s various deficiencies and, as a result, the team will require both of its drivers to work together and at the best of their ability to limit the damage and claw their way forward.

Therefore, McLaren on the whole were very “lucky” to emerge from Australia without falling further behind in the championship. The team was “fortunate” that the weather conditions eradicated its car’s imperfections, that Alonso’s Ferrari spun at turn one and that Vettel was eliminated whilst comfortably in the lead. But, most of all, they were “blessed” to have a driver in Button who could buck the trend and formulate such a strategy from within the cockpit.

Hopefully, with a bit of “luck”, this will all blow over by the time Formula One reaches Malaysia.

Then again, such a thought isn’t likely is it?

2010 Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix Preview

Only a week after an incident-packed Australian GP, the F1 circus arrives in Malaysia this weekend for the third instalment of the 2010 F1 world championship. Here, forumula1.com presents its definitive preview of the weekend ahead at the Sepang International Circuit.

Specifications:
Date: Sunday, April 4th Start Time: 4 a.m. (et)
Site: Sepang International Circuit (1999) — Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Track: 5.543 km (3.444 miles), 15-turn, clockwise road course
Laps: 56
Miles: 192.887
Circuit Capacity: 133,000
2009 Pole Sitter: Jenson Button
2009 Race Winner: Jenson Button
Lap Record: 1:34.223 (Juan Pablo Montoya, BMWWilliams, 2004)

Previous winners:

2009 Jenson Button, Brawn-Mercedes, 182.919 k.p.h./55:30.622
2008 Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 203.971 k.p.h./1:31:18.555
2007 Fernando Alonso, McLaren, 201.893 k.p.h./1:32.14.930
2006 Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault, 205.397 k.p.h./1:30.40.529
2005 Fernando Alonso, Renault, 203.407 k.p.h./1:31:33.736
2004 Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, 204.384 k.p.h./1:31:07.490
2003 Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren, 201.629 k.p.h./1:32:22.195
2002 Ralf Schumacher, Williams, 1:34:12.912
2001 Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, 1:47:34.801
2000 Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, 1:35:54.235
1999 Eddie Irvine, Ferrari, 1.36:38.494

Tyres: From Bridgestone Motorsport director, Hiroshi Yasukawa.

“Last year we had a very exciting Malaysian Grand Prix because of the weather, and this was a good event for us to showcase our full weather range of Bridgestone Potenza tyres… This year also marks the 10th Anniversary of Bridgestone in Malaysia and our colleagues will be marking the occasion with a series of events in the build up to the Malaysia Grand Prix. Furthermore, there will be particular interest in the race for Malaysians this year as they have their own team for the first time with Lotus Racing.”

“Drivers will have to be careful not to lock their brakes, especially when they have heavy fuel loads and cool tyres in the early laps. The section between turns seven and eleven is very important at this track as they give a very good illustration of a good overall car set-up. Being strong here is crucial for a good performance at Sepang. High temperatures are usually a factor in Malaysia and this could mean more tyre degradation than we’ve seen so far this year, particularly given the severity of the track. Last year illustrated that you never know what to expect in Malaysia.”

Tips:

A good bet for this weekend would be the appearance of rain at some point. The weather is notoriously fickle in Malaysia at this time of year and when it comes down in this part of the world, it really comes down. Last season’s race was more like a powerboat derby than an F1 race, and its abbreviation was a pity for spectators, and only half points ended up being awarded. It was, however, not navigable for the drivers, and a clear and present danger to life and limb coupled with the gloom due to the late start time. Although that start time remains the same, this year floodlights will be used in the later stages of the race.

Sebastian Vettel flew at this circuit last year, and will be looking to prove that he is in the championship running despite mechanical gremlins having dogged his first two outings. His team-mate Mark Webber has a point to prove this season – that he is not going to give Vettel an easy ride in the next garage, and that he still has enough racing life in him to challenge for the championship.

Meanwhile, over at Ferrari, a win will be on the cards. Ferrari still believe that they have the best overall machine in the F10; if not as quick as the Red Bull over a lap, it is much more reliable, and in the hands of Fernando Alonso in particular a big threat to anybody else’s aspirations. The bizarre implementation of what was effectively team orders last race in Malaysia is not something that Ferrari fans will want to see repeated this weekend in Malaysia. It may well prove to be a chink in the red armour.

McLaren will carry momentum into the Malaysian event, particularly with last week’s winner Jenson Button. He is reported to be in high spirits and very comfortable in the team, while team-mate Lewis Hamilton will want to re-establish his position as team leader. Their engine partner Mercedes works’ team have renewed confidence after being relatively competitive in Australia: Michael Schumacher is with his back to the wall and will be desperate to put Nico Rosberg in his place.

From the rest, Renault and Force India are among the other teams looking to profit from inclement weather conditions or any mistake on the part of the Big Four. Williams are in with an outside chance of a top five finish if things go their way, while Toro Rosso’s gutsy performer Sebastian Buemi should not be ruled out.

It is expected that the Malaysian event will be nothing more than another development race for the three new teams, who are still some way behind the others in terms of pace. Lotus seem to be in the best position out of the three, with Virgin struggling with ongoing chassis and fuel concerns and HRT reportedly locked in a dispute with their chassis manufacturer Dallara.

Weather forecast (as of 1/4/2010, with thanks to the Met Office):

Rain is expected throughout the race weekend, with Saturday seeing the heaviest showers. It is expected to have cooled to 30C by the time of qualifying, but rain is expected to continue into the evening. Sunday will see more of the same, but the clouds will be less thick by the time of the race. It stands a good chance of being a wet race, although the wind speed will be low throughout the weekend.

Selected driver and team quotes:

Ferrari: Fernando Alonso: “[Australia] was a great show for everybody, a good race to watch and also enjoyable from inside the cockpit. The car was quick enough for me to be able to overtake, after going to the back of the field and in the end, fourth place was a good reward for the team and I am extremely happy about it. Maybe with the spin at the first corner I lost the opportunity to win, but these things happen. It was very good for our championship situation.”

“The McLarens, Red Bulls and Mercedes are our main rivals and only later in the year, will we see which of the eight drivers are in contention for the Drivers’ championship. After just two races, everybody is still a contender and in the fight, even if currently the Red Bull is probably the quickest and they are the guys to watch at the moment, even if they have not put together the perfect weekend. When they do, they could finish a race first and second, so we cannot relax and must keep working to improve the car, especially as I expect McLaren and Mercedes to be more in the fight very soon.”

Felipe Massa: “I hope we can beat the Red Bulls and all the other cars in fact. It will be tough, because, as I said this is a very challenging circuit, which is difficult from the physical point of view. I like it though, because it has high speed corners and quick changes of direction and it can be tough on tyres, which means we will need to have a good set-up to help us look after them.”

McLaren: Jenson Button: “It was a tremendous achievement to score our first win of the season in Melbourne last week, and it’s given every single member of the team even greater enthusiasm for this weekend. Even so, I think we travel to Sepang mindful that the characteristics of the circuit probably won’t suit our car as well as it will suit some of the others but I’m confident that, once again, we’ll be fighting at or near the front. We’re only two races in, but I think the development race will already be starting to have an influence on performance. It’s the rate of improvement that will most influence the battle at the front. And I’m confident we can deliver in this area: it was something I watched the team doing throughout 2009, and it was one of the key reasons for deciding to hold talks with the team. I’m convinced we have the firepower to develop faster than our key rivals.

“Sepang is an awesome circuit, one that I love driving, and I think that I’ll be able to further develop and improve my relationship with the car here. It’s a circuit that not only requires smooth and precise input, but it also needs real commitment through some of the high-speed stuff. I think it’s a circuit that every driver loves.”

Lewis Hamilton: “Sepang has some of the best high-speed corners on the entire calendar. And, this year, I think we’ve got a car that will be far better suited to the circuit than we did last year, so I’m heading to Malaysia optimistic of a good result. It’s a fast circuit, that requires a well-balanced car with a good level of downforce. In some ways, it’s quite similar to Barcelona, where we tested well before the start of the season, so I’m optimistic that we’ll be competitive this weekend. However, I still think it might be difficult to make up the difference that’s needed in qualifying. Hopefully, that’s something that we’ll be able to solve as soon as possible.

“Last year we saw what could happen here once the weather took over. While I’m hopeful that this year’s race will be run in the dry, you can never discount the threat of rain. Either way, I think we’ll be competitive.”

Martin Whitmarsh: Every single member of this team worked tirelessly to put us in a position to win the Australian Grand Prix and we were tremendously buoyed by both Jenson and Lewis’s incredible performances. As a result, we travel to Malaysia keen to maintain the level of competitiveness we demonstrated in Melbourne. We’re under no illusions that the regular pacesetters will once again be up at the front, but I think we’ve now shown that we’re a match for the competition particularly with our race pace, which is up there with the very best. On a broader note, it was very satisfying to see Formula 1 deliver such an invigorating and exciting race in Melbourne, and I hope that this weekend’s race can continue that trend. It’s a circuit that delivers natural spectacle and is one of the best places in the world for watching grand prix cars at high-speed. It looks like we have all the ingredients for a classic season.”

Mercedes GP: NICO ROSBERG
⌠Malaysia is one of my favourite circuits on the Formula One calendar. It’s fast and challenging with a nice layout and a real variation of corners which makes Sepang an exciting track to drive. I have generally qualified well there, starting from fourth on the grid last year and third in 2006. Although we didn’t quite achieve the qualifying and race results that were our full potential in Australia, we made good progress on the set-up of our car over the weekend. Sepang is a different type of track to Albert Park but these developments should benefit us and it’s a good circuit to see exactly how quick each team is at the moment. We will hope to continue our run of points-scoring finishes and stay within reach of the leaders in the Championship. ”

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER
⌠I have taken a lot of positives from the race weekend in Melbourne. Whilst that might not be evident at first sight, when you look into the weekend more deeply, we did make some real improvements and have good reasons to be satisfied, just not from the actual result obviously. Analysing qualifying, both Nico and I could have been two or three places higher and with hindsight, my set-up was too conservative and too much focused on the race. Those better positions would have enabled us to fight closer to the front on Sunday. All of this means that we are not too far away and I am quite confident that there will be more to come. Going to Malaysia this weekend, we know that we have clearly improved our pace since Bahrain which is a good feeling. It was a lot of fun fighting it out on the track in Melbourne, even if it was just for one point, and I will enjoy fighting again in Sepang.

ROSS BRAWN
⌠Malaysia will be a very special week for the team as the home race of our title partner PETRONAS, who are also the official sponsors of the Malaysian Grand Prix. In the first year of our partnership together, we are looking forward to working together here in Malaysia this week and it would be very nice to achieve a special result at one of our home Grands Prix. Before the race weekend gets underway, our drivers will be performing demo runs at the PETRONAS Pit Pulse site close to the Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur and making various appearances at the event. The Pit Pulse programme looks set to be spectacular and we hope to welcome many of the team’s fans there over the next few days. Looking ahead to the race, the team performed well in Melbourne, even though we do not yet have the pace to be competing right at the front of the field. Four points finishes from the first two races puts us in third place in the Constructors’ Championship and we need to keep this momentum going and keep scoring points whilst we work on improvements to the car.”

Team have moved on from Oz, says Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton has said that his McLaren team have learned the lessons from the Australian Grand Prix last weekend, and will be bringing them to bear on this weekend’s Malaysian event.

Hamilton was initially disappointed by his team’s call for him to pit a second time, which mean he found himself further down the field than he expected.

But the Englishman said he better understood the situation after talking with the team once the dust had settled.

“After sitting down with the guys in the garage, I had a good understanding of why we did it. And from that experience, we will definitely take it forward for the next race and future races. I went back to the garage and was happy for the guys. To see them all in the red [victory] t-shirts was a great feeling,” he told Autosport.

“Whether I win or my team-mate wins it is a great feeling, because that is what we worked so hard to get.

“It is the one special thing the team gets to experience during a race weekend. We enjoy that and, of course, we were all feeling it my engineers but we are making split second decisions and we are also still trying to understand how long these tyres will last with this non-refuelling. I don’t think we thought the tyres would last that long.”

Hamilton justified his radio outburst, in which he called the team’s decision-making “fricking terrible”, by saying that he was on an adrenaline high.

“For me, I am so passionate about the racing. My heart was seriously so into it, and my adrenaline sky-rocketed. I had just been taken out by another car, so you don’t always say the right things when you get out.”

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New rule for 2011 announced

Despite an exciting Australian Grand Prix, Formula One executives are concerned that there will be too many races like the season opener in Bahrain which some newspapers and fans dubbed ‘Bore-rain’. In an attempt to spice up the sport, a new rule is set to be introduced in 2011 which would see two drivers per car.

It is anticipated that each car will feature two cockpits and both drivers will remain in the car for the duration of the race. It is understood that each driver will have to drive at least 40 percent of the race each. The new cars would have a longer wheelbase to accommodate one driver sitting behind the other.

The new rule will open up the number of drives in Formula 1, whilst bringing a new strategic element to the sport, one that was perhaps lost due to the ban on refuelling.

Although many of the established teams have previously produced 2-seater cars for demonstration purposes, some of the newer teams are said to be unhappy about the costs involved with producing a new car when they have just invested in a car to enter the 2010 season.

Speaking of the change Eddie Jordan, former owner of the Jordan team, is believed to have said: “I’ll have to see what David Coulthard thinks about the proposal, and then strongly disagree with him.

“This is a worse idea than KERS or having Kimi Raikkonen in a Ferrari.”