2008 Malaysian GP preview: rain & road

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The prospects of a wet Malaysian Grand Prix are growing every day. And the new surface at Sepang will make the race even harder to predict.

A wet Malaysian Grand Prix?

It’s looking a distinct possibility at the moment. The Malaysian government’s weather website warns of thunderstorms during the afternoon on all three days of the Grand Prix weekend. It has rained on the past two days.

This weather radar shows how much heavy rain is in the area – you have to zoom in a bit to find Sepang, which is to the south of Kuala Lampur. They predict a 60% chance of rain on each of the days the F1 cars are on track.

I’ll be keeping an eye on the weather and if anything significant pops up I’ll post it on my Twitter feed which you can also view here. If anyone who reads this blog is in the region and has some local tips, please post it below.

The last wet Malaysian Grand Prix was in 2001 and, as we learned, extremely heavy rain can blow in at very short notice, and just as quickly dry up again.

What about the new track surface?

Sepang was entirely re-surfaced ten months ago. But there were complaints about the quality of the work so it was partly re-done in August last year at turns one, four, seven, eight, nine and part of 15.

It’s not been popular with everyone – the Moto GP riders found the new surface far more abrasive than before when they raced there following the second re-surfacing. The A1 Grand Prix teams reported no such problems but that series uses a hard specification tyre.

The F1 teams will have the two hardest options available to them – ‘medium’ and ‘hard’. Of course if it does rain and they switch to wet weather rubber they are no longer required to use both types of dry weather tyre.

The track also has new tarmac run-off areas at several corners, and the paddock area has had some new construction work.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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33 comments on “2008 Malaysian GP preview: rain & road”

  1. The Wolf has some interesting weather info in his latest post.  Not only is there a 90% chance of rain on the Sunday, the temperatures plummet below anything experienced on the practice and qualifying days.  That could throw a Spaniard in the works…

  2. And Malaysia’s his neck of the woods as well. Very interesting…

  3. It would be great if we saw a wet Malaysian GP. First race without TC (for a long while) followed by first wet race without TC.
    This is shaping up to be a great season already!

  4. whats sandbagging?

  5. Pretending to have a slower car than you do in practice so you can surprise your opponents in the race.

  6. BBC weather says 5 days of heavy showers and 29C for Kuala Lumpur

  7. I think even light to medium rain without TC would present a formidable challenge, so if it rains heavily then I suspect literally anybody could win. Could be a cracker :-D

  8. If it does rain *rubbing hands with glee* could someone just keep Vettel away from Webber during the race?

  9. Or on that note: make sure Hamilton isn’t leading behind the safety car!

  10. Only 7 cars finished the last race, so how many cars will finish a wet race?

    The set up for race day might also present a problem, because teams are not allowed to change their set ups in parc ferme. Will they have to take a chance and use a wet set up in qualifying making them slower or will they go will a dry set up and risk racing like that? This is where the new qualifying rules might present the most problems.

  11. So what are you gonna do about Massa?

    Seriously, there shouldn’t be too much of a problem if it does rain, unless lakes are created on the circuit and even TC won’t help much in that situation.  Don’t forget that F1 drivers coped adequately in the wet without TC for fifty years before its advent.  There is no reason why the present crop shouldn’t be able to adapt.

    What you can expect to see is the rainmeisters emerge.  We know who was good with TC in the wet, but now we’ll see if it’s the same guys who cope best in the rain without TC.

    And before there is a chorus of "well they didn’t cope without TC in Melbourne", I’d ask just how many DNFs were actually caused by the lack of TC.  First corner accident?  Nope, that was over-exuberance by one guy (Piquet, according to Grand Prix dot com).  Massa?  Maybe, or maybe it was just Massa.  Kimi made a couple of errors, one of which he might have been saved from by TC.  Nakajima/Kubica?  Nah, that was just human error.

    It was purely coincidence that the first race without TC in a long time had so many retirements.

  12. Off topic, I read today at Gazzeta de lo Sport that Ferrari thinks there may be a problem of compatibility between the MCL ECU and the Ferrary systems… I am not an expert so can anyone advise if that may be possible?? Obviously is a pro-FE newspaper. Anyway, I think i read somewere there were three posible supliers: MCL systems, Magneti Minarelli (provider of ferrari) and a third one. I reckon the FIA should have pick an independent one to avoid possible advantages.

  13. If there was a fundamental compatibility problem it surely would have come to light earlier? MES won the contract to build the ECUs a year and a half ago.

  14. The final specification (MES’s upgrade to the ECU firmware) of the ECU was at the beginning of March, not long before the Australian GP (two weeks), and apparently it was changed because of the "problems" that Honda has identified.

    Toyota has also stated that their problem from the Australian GP are related to the integration of the ECU.

    It might mean that Ferrari didn’t have enough time to fully understand, and change according to the new specifications.

  15. If that is the case, why did the problem only kick in during the last few laps of the race? I’d have thought that the incompatibility would have showed up the first couple of times some suitable conditions arose (e.g. pit stops, Safety Car procedures). I suspect that this incompatibility may in fact be that the Ferrari engine is incompatible with a multiple-race regulation more than anything else.

  16. Maybe this is a sign of what teams were using the buggy part of the code and are therefore hitting gremlins due to the removal of the bug?

  17. Toyota’s problems were caused by an ECU problem?  Holy cow, I thought the ECU thing was a bit of a snore but if one can make a car leap into the air and then disintegrate, maybe I should be paying closer attention ;)

    BTW, I don’t know if "spaniard in the works" is a common twist of that phrase, but it had me holding my sides!

  18. "A Spaniard in the works" is an old joke – title of a book by John Lennon.  I just thought it was appropriate in this context, although I refuse to say which particular Spaniard I was thinking of.  :D

  19. Apparently Ferrari did know that Kimi’s engine was slowly dying during the race, the spectators also said that Kimi’s engine sounded strange for quite a while before he stopped. The same problem was also related to the qualifying problem that Kimi had. Massa’s engine stopped for exactly the same reason. Which they claim has something to with the valves, and they according to Di Montezemolo the problem has now been fixed.

    Nothing else major has really changed with the engine freeze in place, the only major component is the ECU, so Ferrari must make sure that all the programs are compatible with existing ones.

  20. Trulli’s problem with the overheating battery yes, obviously not Glock.

  21. Powerline 2008
    20th March 2008, 5:47

    It’s not just going to be heavy rain in Malaysia but a raging thunderstorm. The tracks are on a flat piece of ground where the driving wind can just sweep across the tracks. There are no hills nearby to act as a buffer.

  22. it will be tough for driver’s..
    too humid and hot

  23. For a spaniard, could someone tell me what does "A Spaniard in the works" mean?, In wich context?. Thanks.

  24. Santiago, see comment 18.

  25. Keith I have already read that comment. Literally in Spanish mean a spaniard labouring, but I´m pretty sure in English means something very different, and comming from great John Lennon means much more than a simple phrase, but I´m not that clever to catch it ( maybe becouse I´m Spaniard ). I mean that we twist words in my lenguage, like everybody does in their lenguage, but I´m unable to catch some English expressions.

  26. I´ll give you an example, while you fit in his shoes we got in his skin. Quite weird, isnt it?

  27. @Santiago
    Its a play on words from ‘throw a spanner in the works’
    To throw a spanner in the works means to ruin or frustrate some system or plan, usually by accident.
    Imagine dropping a spanner (wrench) into a gearbox while it was running !

  28. Thanks D Winn. I just read that from the Wikipedia, but still I was unable to fully understand the phrase To throw a spanner in the works. Now it is clearer to me. These blogs teach more than F1, and will mixe cultures, wich is a good thing nowadays. 

  29. I must think anyway that the last Spaniard in the works was poor Kovalainen, and next one could be the whole of the pilots. Can somebody imagine that no-one crosses the finish line? Are we thinking that these chaps are unable to keep their cars on the road with heavy rain?. Could the race be suspended if a storm falls over, for safety reasons?.

    Too many questions?

  30. You could be right there Santiago, if only 7 finish in the dry, they might all fall off in the wet !

  31. Santiago: Regarding my reference to "A Spaniard in the works", it is actually a compliment to Fernando Alonso.  I was going to say that rain would radically change everyone’s chances, as it usually does, and the "spanner in the works" is a quick way of saying that.  But then I remembered Lennon’s play on the phrase and realised how apt it could be, given that Fernando is one of the better drivers in the wet.  It was just too good a fit to ignore.  ;)

  32. Clive, I remember that Alonso won a race in the wet last year, was third in other and crashed in Japan while Lewis was ahead in that GP wich finally won. Of course Lewis did not score in the race that Alonso won. The other one well known where Lewis did not scored can be given to the team.
    As Alonso says wet races are a lottery and he does not like them. In fact he does not want any water a all in Sepang. He probably knows better than anyone his goods and lacks. I think the better in the wet is Jeson Button, and behind him Vettel despite his problem with a Red Bull last year.

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