Side-by-side: How Sepang has changed for 2016

2016 Malaysian Grand Prix

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The Sepang International Circuit has undergone its first major revisions since it held the first Malaysian Grand Prix in 1999.

The track, one of the first ‘new generation’ circuits originally designed by Hermann Tilke, has undergone revisions masterminded by Italian designers Dromo, who also conceived the planned changes to Monza.

The entire Sepang circuit has been resurfaced and changes made to the track gradient, kerbs, drainage and run-off areas. Among the most significant changes is at the final corner, where the designers have attempted to improve overtaking opportunities.

The comparison images below show the original track in blue and the revised track in beige.

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Turns 1, 2 and 3

The braking zone for the first corner on the track is one of several places where bumps have been eased. The run-off area has also been altered and some of the asphalt replaced with gravel in an attempt to make a better compromise between the safety needs for car and bike racing.

Turn two has been revised in order to make it easier for drivers to see the kerb on the left. At turn three the centre of the track has been raised to encourage water to drain away more quickly.

Turn 4

The approach to turn four is now smoother and again part of the asphalt run-off has been replaced with gravel.

Turn 5

The gradient of the track is now more steeply banked on the racing line at turn five and some kerbs have been removed to aid drainage. The bumps at turns seven and nine have also been eased.

Turn 13

This is another section of track where the middle part has been raised to help water drain away during Sepang’s periodic cloudbursts. Two additional drainage grids are now being used to prevent water from pooling at this part of the track.

Turn 15

The designers have tried to challenge drivers with a choice of racing lines at the final corner on the track, which separates two long straights. A steeper slope at the inside of the corner is expected to encourage drivers to take a later apex.

Sepang International Circuit pictures

Over to you

What do you think of the changes to Sepang for this year’s race? Have your say in the comments.

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    Author information

    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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    35 comments on “Side-by-side: How Sepang has changed for 2016”

    1. Just hope they did not slow the down seams when they change a track it always gets slowed down

    2. they ruined the T15,

      other changes seem to be ok, first time i hear of replacing asphalt with gravel

      1. Ruined T15? How so?

        1. @montreal95 It’s now an off-camber turn and now really only creates one line and requires careful braking. If they had, for example, kept it flat or made it a banked turn, drivers could really test their braking distances and have essentially infinite lines to attack.

          1. @beejis60 Read my reply to @matthijs below please. This is way more complicated than simple off-camber=less overtaking. Especially the way they did it here. Let’s wait and see before condemning it

      2. No the T15 is ammmmmmazing!!

      3. Interesting to see gravel replacing asphalt. I hope this is a growing trend.

        Of course we all know gravel isn’t the ideal situation in all cases as it can flip cars, but I feel in most cases its a much better deterrent/punishment for making a mistake than being able to keep flat out over the tarmac run-off.

      4. Yeah, asphalt with geavel! What a novel idea. Designer must have read F1fanatic.

    3. Any info about the estimated laptime? Will the modifications make the circuit faster or slower?

      Not happy about the final corner, but I’ll wait and see. My believe is that off camber corners DIScourage overtaking and action.

      1. @matthijs That’s the traditional view, yes. But in real life it’s not always true. Depends on other things too. Especially in Sepang T15 type corner. Because if now the ideal line is with later apex, this means there are more possible lines, and the apex speed is slower which are both parameters known to encourage overtaking. So let’s see how it works in practice

        1. Michael Brown (@)
          27th September 2016, 12:38

          Some time ago someone wrote an analysis on how cambered corners are better for racing. But like you said the traditional line had a faster apex and isn’t involved hugging the entire inside of the corner, so a late apex was less effective for overtaking means.

        2. But wouldn’t an off-camber turn BEFORE a mile long straight punish an attacking driver more than on the defense?

          Under current DRS-assisted, low mechanical grip conditions, a driver ahead can control the best line around the turn ro a better exit and a dozen or so km/h more at the end of the straight.

    4. I don’t like the changes to turns 2 and 15. The drop in turn 2 was a very characteristic feature of this track – the raised apex will make it more generic, which is a shame in my opinion. For turn 15, I don’t like off-camber in general, but we need to see some more exciting DRS overtakes I suppose. The new grippy asphalt should be fun and I always like to see more gravel.

    5. Those comparison images are really nice Keith!

      I wonder if we’re going to see just how good the improved drainage will be. And it’s a good thing they’ve tried to improve overtaking at turn 15, although I guess DRS will take care of most of that before that even get there…

    6. with all the drainage work imagine how dissapointed we will be if it doesnt rain lol

    7. he sounds very excited / hopeful about turn 15 here. I want to experience it myself actually by that description. It’s a shame the changes aren’t in F1 2016.

      1. What a pleasure to watch, that video was! Thanks man

    8. I suppose we just have to wait and see. The final corner was already a very good overtaking spot (even with DRS it still felt like a rather natural one, as the preceding straight is short enough for not allowing highway passes), so I don’t think any major changes were actually necessary.

      It would be nice to see more camber/banking changes in the tracks. Imagine Turns 5-6 being a few more degrees banked, the cars would absolutely fly there.

      1. Turns 5 is actually with an increased banking in the racing line of 200% compared to before.

    9. Looking at that picture one should recognize this really is a modern beauty.

    10. Shame about turn 2. Loved it when Alonso was full opposite lock there at the start in 2014. The dip was a great characteristics of this track. Ah well let’s wait and see.

      Still love this though!

      1. The dip was one of my favourite things. It allowed cars doing the cut-back maneuver to get great traction

    11. Does anyone else feel saddened that the gravel isn’t colored anymore?

      1. @mashiat Good spot, I am a little. Perhaps it might be back next year?

      1. Friendly warning to anyone clicking that link, turn down your speakers. Horrible audio quality.

        1. Thanks for the warning, have earphones in so it would have been tragic :)

      2. Very good spot. A shame though, all the changes seem to be smoothing it, taking away dips and undulations. Basically just dumbing the circuit down and making it more boring.

        Also, they haven’t changed turn 13/14, which in my opinion has always felt like Tilke didn’t know how to connect the two parts together so just added this awkward turn in.

        Nevertheless, we shall pass a proper judgement after the race has taken place. It will be interesting to see if lap times fall much.

    12. Any info about the estimated laptime? Will the modifications make the circuit faster or slower?

    13. my initial thought is that the new surface looks very dark so the track temps may well be a bit higher than normal. from what i recall from visiting KL the air temperatures are not significantly different at this time of year (vs. march/april)

    14. What is this obsession with erasing bumps!!? I quite like seeing the cars squirreling around and the drivers having to correct. Its not billiards. Its not rallyX either but this is all part of the drip drip that is making F1 dull dull.

    15. In regards to T15, even if that improves the overtaking at the corner, the question is will we see as many overtakes considering the DRS on the start-finish straight?

    16. That’s really interesting, but what I wanna know is, how much did they spend painting the previously blue track beige?

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