Malaysian GP: thoughts on the start

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Can Jenson Button win from pole position for the second race in a row?

The Malaysian Grand Prix is less than 12 hours away. Will we get another action-packed encounter as we saw in Melbourne – and will the rain we’ve expected all weekend finally arrive?

Let’s take a look ahead to the crucial opening lap of the race and see how the start, the first stint, and the rest of the race will unfold.

Join us here on F1 Fanatic for the Malaysian Grand Prix live blog starting 9am on Sunday (from one hour before the start of the race).

The start

There are three elements to a fast start this year: tyres, KERS and which side of the grid a driver is on.


At Melbourne the cars on the super-soft tyres were able to exploit their excellent early performance to pass slower-starting rivals. Felipe Massa used them to especially good, moving up to third place from seventh on the grid.

This weekend the teams are using the soft tyres instead of the super softs. But some drivers may still favour them to help them in the opening stages. This is particularly true of drivers who have qualified ‘out of position’ and will need to make up ground quickly: including Sebastian Vettel (13th) and Massa (16th).

More here: Malaysian Grand Prix grid


The long run to the first corner and the blast between turns two and four look ripe spots for drivers to jab their KERS buttons and make up places.

Seven cars are KERS-equipped this weekend: the Ferraris, McLarens and Renaults, plus Nick Heidfeld’s BMW. But will they all have it activated? Raikkonen was keeping his finger off the button in qualifying, no doubt because of the overheating problems the team experienced in practice.

Clean side

At most tracks the drivers starting on the cleaner side of the grid can expect to have an advantage. But at Sepang the racing line cuts diagonally across the grid, and in recent races here both sides of the grid tend to get away equally well.


We’ve already started picking over the strategies for the race.

Pole sitter Button looks to have at least one lap more fuel than the four cars behind him. Further back, Vettel is lending weight to the expectation that he’ll bolt on soft tyres at the start and go for it.

More here: Malaysian GP fuel weights and strategies

Weather and light

All weekend long we’ve been waiting for the rain to arrive. In between sessions the track has seen occasional deluges, the like of which could cause the race to be red-flagged if they happen again tomorrow. There is an 80% chance of showers during the race.

Rain at Sepang tends to fall very heavily, then dry up very quickly. In 2001 Ferrari played a blinder by putting on intermediate tyres during the peak of a passing rain storm, correctly guessing that the race would remain behind the safety car for a long time, but the track would dry out quickly afterwards.

Wet weather inevitably brings the question of which driver are better in the rest: recent history favours Vettel, Kubica, Hamilton and Alonso over the likes of Massa, whose disastrous form at Silverstone last year sticks in the mind.

The late start for the race means more low light problems for the drivers. And the consequences could be far worse if a heavy rain storm blows in, potentialyl making visibility so poor the race has to be stopped.

More here: Should F1 have ‘twilight’ races? (Poll)

Your predictions

I asked for people’s predictions on Twitter – here’s some of the replies I received:

F1Guru mclaren push too much into 1st corner. Button drives away toyotas get up to no good and take each other out. One can hope
#StooCollins jens will be taken on first corner by trulli
#BowenRacing Trulli will be close to button at turn 1, maybe too close. By turn 2, Webber will be 3rd and Raikkonen 4th due to KERS.
#Shaun_Wood Jenson will do the same as last week and make a good start, Rubens will get to third. Kubica and Webber will collide.
#pastamaster39 Jenson will get away cleanly, Glock and Trulli will jostle for 2nd position, some KERS cars will overtake one ahead?
#olliewhite Given the slightly lighter fuel load, Trulli will nudge past Button into T1. Glock will take both! (I’m optimistic!)
#olliewhite Although in reality, Button will cruise through T1 in the lead. My first prediction is more interesting though!
#ebarnes442 Trulli, in an effort to keep Button from running off and hiding on the first lap, makes a desperate move in turn 1 and take
#ebarnes442 takes them both out. Glock sneaks through to lead lap one from Kimi and Webber and goes on to give Toyota its first win.
#RubberGoat What’s going to happen? A big pile up at turn 1 when all the KERS cars arrive much faster from the back of the pack!
#cholle2001 on lap 1: jenson speeds away from the rest of the pack within 4 sec. vettel overtakes lewis, kazuki, and heidfeld. yay!
#clairetuk Lewis will try to hard and Fernando will get up there from 10th and someone in a TR car will crash into someone first cor

How do you think the race is going to play out? Who will be the driver to beat if it’s wet? Have your say in the comments.

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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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22 comments on “Malaysian GP: thoughts on the start”

  1. I have a feeling Barrichello will DNF. Possibly with Webber.

    Button should win, unless it rains, then maybe Raikkonen.

  2. I’ve been checking the F1 site, including the FIA F1 Media Center to see if they still manage to make more damage to F1 that they are already doing from new rules to all this stuff with the stewards – now the race results are decides days after the races not on track…

    It’s funny they the official FIA release of the starting grid already includes Rubens and Vettel’s penalties, but they still call it PROVISIONAL….

    I’m guessing stewards will be checking the car (mainly the McLaren duo) with a magnifying glass all night long until they are of to the pre-grid…

    All this is really sad, however fans are pulling for… We love the sport – we hate the men that (badly) rule it…

    I hope it rains tomorrow and mix all cars and we see a lot of crashes and DNF. At least is there is a surprising final result, it can be blamed on the weather instead of on the stewards…

    Myself, since McLaren will probably be stop in its attempts to bring their car up on the classification, one way or another, I hope Rosberg will have a break and make it his first race victory this weekend. For him and for Williams.

    I also hope the Ferrari cars do another ‘Australia DNF’ show. It’s good for morale.

  3. Mass, the two Mclarens and Heilfeld are the 4 heaviest cars on the grid, although Heidfeld is the heaviest then Massa, By approximately a kg
    11. Heidfeld BMW-Sauber 692
    12. Nakajima Williams-Toyota 683.4
    13. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 688
    14. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 688.9
    15. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari 670.5
    16. Massa Ferrari 689.5
    17. Piquet Renault 681.9
    18. Fisichella Force India-Mercedes 680.5
    19. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 655.5
    20. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 686.5

    1. Yes, you’re right about Massa, have changed that now.

  4. The biggest issue for mine is how much wing each car is running and how that plays out in the wet. I haven’t got access to all the trap times but I believe the KERS cars are running a little less wing and the RBR’s are carrying a fair bit more than the double diffuser cars around them.

  5. Good point on Massa, so much for a quick first stint. Seems odd to fuel so heavy with the chance of rain almost 100%.

  6. Accidentally submitted. Massa approx 2.5kg lighter than heidfeld who has the heaviest car.

  7. Eduardo Colombi
    5th April 2009, 1:00

    Thimk Ferrari messed up again putting that much fuel in Massa’s car, seeing that the rain expectations, I hope to be wrong and massa can get his first win this season.

  8. Adam Milleneuve
    5th April 2009, 1:53

    Trulli will lead off the line. Jenson will chase him down and overtake spectacularly. Rain will come, massa will spin. Jenson will win and piquet won’t finish

    That’s my two cents

  9. theRoswellite
    5th April 2009, 2:13

    Big Wish……….getting possibly bigger?

    ………..Toyota wins………………….

    It would be very good for them and the sport…a result we should all be able to celebrate.

  10. I’ll keep it short and simple. It’d be gr8 for Jenson if he coud win again, but this race will be Toyota’s. GLOCK to hopefully win for Toyota. Trulli to finish somewhere in the points. Lewis to as ever still be the media’s talking point come monday morning. Oh and Mark Webber to get a podium – i hope!

    1. Could agree under one condition:
      Glock + rain = DNF

  11. If it rains vetell and webber will be challanging for the win. The redbull cars a quick in the wet and we know both drivers are pretty good wet weather drivers. Ferrari will probably stuggle as they did last year because of the heat retention in the tyres. Kers will be no good in the wet. None of the teams apart from Redbull have done wet weather simulations. Pre season they were the only team to do full simulations in the wet. Every other team sat the day out. I think rubens will be up there too. If its dry i think kimi will challange as the ferrari long run pace is impressive. Toyota is looking good to but it is senstive on tyres and temps, so they may be there. Interesting to see how alonso and renault go. He is super in the wet,if its a light downpoor might see alonso do what schumi or senna done in the past stay out on slicks in the wet. Should be a great race, bring the rain on.

  12. 1 – 2 for Toyota, Button 3rd, Massa stops, Raikkonen drives into the scenery, Hamilton overtakes two cars, gets disqualified.

    Victory for the stewards.

    1. “RAI drives into the scenery” LOL :-)

  13. I can see Kimi Moving to the 3rd Place in the first Lap , Massa will Retire and Lewis will finish 7th .

    The picture is not clear anymore…will be back later :P

  14. I am signed on with Phil C’s position. I would like to see the full list of qualifying trap times.

  15. Pretty pathetic effort by Ferrari in Qualifying, once again. Massa must be spewing after getting kicked out on Q1 having outrun Kimi yet again in practice.

    Now with the heavy fuel load he can only hope that the race starts in wet conditions already and dries up in time for his first pit stop (a similar thing happened to Hamilton in Monaco last year, the timing was just perfect.)

    However, something tells me Massa is just not that lucky.

  16. I have adjusted Q3 times to the weigh of Jenson’s car (660 Kg):

    Button 1:35.181
    Trulli 1:35.427
    Barrichello 1:35.453
    Glock 1:35.844
    Rosberg 1:35.926
    Webber 1:35.973
    Kubica 1:35.974
    Raikkonen 1:36.060
    Vettel 1:36.090
    Alonso 1:36.757

    It seems for Malaysia, Brawn GP and Toyota are not too far; meanwhile Williams, Ferrari and Red Bull are in a “second league”.

    Renault seems to be out of the contention, as in the beginning of last season.

    In any case, I don’t think Trulli could take the win. He is quite fast in one lap, but not consistently fast enough to challenge Button.

    If rain comes (not crazy), Button, Barrichello and Vettel will be in the podium.

  17. If it rains, Vettel would be too light to make any serious gains.

  18. I presume there will be more front wings on the track than on the cars.
    And the winner will be that driver who will have had fewer visits in the pits for front wing repair.

  19. But haven’t races been stopped earlier? I mean, what’s the whole fuss about? In the USA they don’t even race (on ovals) when it rains, and the fans don’t mind that, attending (NASCAR) races in great numbers. Of course, I would have preferred dry racing today, there has been lots of overtaking anyway and Nico Rosberg had a good chance of finishing on the podium, or even winning. Nevertheless, had the race been red-flagged a lap later, Timo Glock would have scored his and Toyota’s first GP win…

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