What can we expect from the Malaysian Grand Prix?
After a chaotic Singapore Grand Prix that had huge ramifications for the Championship, we head to Malaysia for what looks like the last race at the Sepang circuit for the foreseeable future. With the event set to disappear from the calendar next year, here’s what we can expect from the 18th and final staging of the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Pressure on Vettel
After a DNF in Singapore thanks to his tangle with team-mate Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel is now 28 points behind title rival Lewis Hamilton with six races to go. While the maths suggests otherwise, realistically the German needs to win this weekend to keep his title hopes alive. Many of the remaining races suit Mercedes, but Malaysia should be a three way fight like Singapore. Vettel needs to win and maximise the chances of Red Bull getting in Hamilton’s way if he wants to overhaul that deficit to the Brit.
Weather woes for Ferrari?
Ferrari struggled in the wet at Monza, while Mercedes and Red Bull soared. In Singapore, thanks to that chaotic first corner, we never got to see Ferrari’s wet weather pace. What we did see was that despite being the third quickest team in the dry, Mercedes were the fastest in the wet. Malaysia is known for its rain storms at this time of year, so the weather could play into Hamilton’s hands once again, leaving Ferrari floundering.
A close battle
Much like in Singapore, all three front-running teams should be in the hunt at Sepang. Mercedes will be quick in Sectors 1 and 2, while Red Bull and Ferrari should be faster in the middle sector. How each team sets up its car to combat their weaknesses could mean the difference between winning and settling for a podium. Mercedes have brought more soft tyres to Malaysia than Red Bull or Ferrari, who can get the super softs working faster. It should be close again this weekend.
Midfield coming down to the wire
Although Force India are secure in fourth and should be close, the Constructors battle in the midfield behind is close. Toro Rosso are only seven points behind Williams and could have a stronger line-up this weekend with Red Bull junior Pierre Gasly stepping in for Daniil Kvyat. Renault are only ten points behind Toro Rosso and have been relatively consistent this season. If Jolyon Palmer can keep his Singapore form going and complement Nico Hulkenberg more effectively, Renault could make a serious run at fifth in the Constructors standings.