The inter-team battle between the McLaren drivers at Melbourne was spoiled by the appearance of the safety car. Instead of challenging Lewis Hamilton for the lead, team mate Heikki Kovalainen ended up scrapping for fourth place with Fernando Alonso.
Will we see that battle re-joined in Sepang?
Ron Dennis said the team’s primary concern with strategy in Mebourne, as at Monte-Carlo last year, was not allowing their drivers to be compromised by the safety car. Although that was a logical approach they still got caught out on Kovalainen’s strategy (as did some other drivers).
Dennis, incidentally, will not be on the pit wall at Sepang – he won’t be at the race at all. Will this compromise the team’s strategic decision-making? Given this was hardly a great strength of their last year I suspect not.
But Kovalainen definitely looks quick enough to challenge Hamilton. He set the fastest lap at Melbourne and although he was 0.365s slower than Hamilton in final qualifying, Kovalainen had several laps more fuel on board.
Ron Dennis thinks it will be a few races before Kovalainen achieves his real potential at McLaren:
He should go to Malaysia realising there’s absolutely no reason why he can’t be everything we know he can be. He’s nowhere near where he will be in five or six races’ time. He’s going to get better and better.
In that case Hamilton should be wary, because I don’t think Kovalainen is very far off Hamilton’s speed right now. How will the two get on at Sepang?