Malaysian GP: FIA preview and team round up

CHARACTER OF EVENT The first FIA Formula One World Championship Malaysian Grand Prix took place on the impressive new Sepang circuit, near Kuala Lumpur in 1999. Malaysia, however, is by no means a newcomer to the business of international ...

CHARACTER OF EVENT

The first FIA Formula One World Championship Malaysian Grand Prix took place on the impressive new Sepang circuit, near Kuala Lumpur in 1999. Malaysia, however, is by no means a newcomer to the business of international motorsport. In 1985 it hosted a round of the World Sports Car Championship on the Shah-Alam circuit and is a regular stop on the World Motorcycle Championship schedule. The new 3.443 mile Sepang circuit, immediately adjacent to Kuala Lumpur's international airport, is a purpose-built state-of-the-art facility which really put Malaysia on the Formula One map and sets dramatic new standards. Much of the design work was carried out by renowned German architect Hermann Tilke, who has worked on many formula one circuit projects in close co-operation with the Circuit Department of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA). The circuit layout demands a maximum downforce set-up and although turn five is very quick, there are plenty of slow speed hairpins as well. The pit complex includes 30 separate garages, including 15 team rooms, and a unique double-fronted grandstand overlooks both the front and back straights seats 30,000 spectators.

SPECIAL FACTS

When Malaysia joined the Formula One World Championship trail in 1999 it was the first new country to be included since the Hungarian Grand Prix joined the calendar 13 years earlier.

The Sepang circuit facilities include a mall with retail outlets and even prayer rooms. Elsewhere on the circuit, away from the start/finish grandstand complex, there are facilities for a further 100,000 fans.

NEWS FROM THE TEAMS

SCUDERIA FERRARI MARLBORO : OLD CAR IN MALAYSIA (1st - 10 points in Australian GP)

Despite speculation to the contrary, Ferrari will field a couple of F2001s for the Malaysian Grand Prix. The new F2002 was tested this week by Luca Badoer in Mugello and although the Italian had a trouble-free 78 laps and managed a 1m 23.50s fastest in cold and windy conditions, the team will not take the car to Sepang for what is usually the hottest race of the season. However, they do not rule out the chance of running the car at Interlagos if tests continue well. Another factor which makes the F2002 debut in Malaysia unlikely is that Barrichello has yet to drive the new car and has gone back to Brazil for a break after the Australian Grand Prix. Meanwhile Luciano Burti has been driving the F2001 at Fiorano from Tuesday until today (Friday) concentrating on testing tyres and some mechanical components which should be sent to Malaysia.

BMW WILLIAMSF1 TEAM : GENE AT SILVERSTONE - (2nd - 6 points)

BMW Williams test driver Marc Gene was testing at Silverstone this week, while the two race drivers Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya had a few days' break before the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend. On Tuesday he concentrated on tyre development work and then ran 78 laps on Wednesday to assess various engine development components. Test team manager Tim Newton commented; "We achieved exactly what we intended today and covered 78 laps. We concentrated on running tyre tests for Michelin this morning, then completed a race simulation with one long run during the later part of the morning session and two long runs in the afternoon". Ralf Schumacher will race the same car as he crashed at Melbourne next week in Malaysia. The FW24 chassis suffered serious scoring to its undertray and damage to its impact structures, two of which have been replaced, in addition to a nose wing and damaged diffuser.

WEST McLAREN MERCEDES: ALESI TESTS AT PAUL RICARD - (3rd - 4 points)

While the race team was away contesting the Australian Grand Prix, former Formula One driver Jean Alesi was busy at Paul Ricard this week tyre testing in a McLaren Mercedes MP4/16B for three days starting on Tuesday. The Frenchman had been invited to test as a consequence of his deal to drive for the AMG Mercedes squad in the DTM series and while he thoroughly enjoyed the experience, there are currently no plans for him to test the Formula One car again. Meanwhile David Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen are having a few days off before arriving at Kualar Lumpur early next week in preparation for the Malaysian Grand Prix on March 17. Test driver Alex Wurz has also briefly returned to Europe but will also be on hand as stand-by reserve driver at Sepang as usual.

JAGUAR RACING : NO TESTING THIS WEEK - (4th - 3 points)

After their surprising fourth place in the Australian Grand Prix, most of the work at Jaguar Racing has been going on behind the scenes with the team management trying to assess whether the best course is to continue with the R3 development or back-track to the R2B interim development car in the longer term. "It is a matter of whether the drivers would rather run the R2B without power steering or continue with the new car", said a team spokesperson. The R2B had electronic power steering last year but this was banned from the start of 2002 and re-engineering the car with mechanical power steering may take too much time and resources.

KL MINARDI ASIATECH : CELEBRATION IN MELBOURNE - (5th - 2 points)

Paul Stoddart invited the entire KL Minardi team to dinner on Sunday night in Melbourne to celebrate Mark Webber's fifth place. A few small modifications have been incorporated into the cars as a result of the information gathered in Melbourne. Most of the team flew straight to Malaysia but Giancarlo Minardi and some colleagues returned to the factory. The team is currently testing in the Fondmetal wind tunnel, working on the aero package for Imola and some set-up for Sepang.

The team will be paying its second visit to Malaysia in as many weeks. En route to Melbourne they stopped off to officially launch the team's sponsorship package at Kuala Lumpur International airport, only a couple of miles from the circuit.

PANASONIC TOYOTA : SARRAZIN AT PAUL RICARD - (6th- 1 point)

While race team drivers Mika Salo and Allan McNish are holidaying in Malaysia, the Toyota test team has been running at Paul Ricard this week from Wednesday until today (Friday). Most of the team personnel have stayed out in the Far East, but some of the management have returned to Cologne. McNish's car was lightly damaged in the first corner multiple accident at Melbourne, but has been repaired without having to be returned to base. The team, which takes seven engines to each race weekend, will only have to ship out five freshly prepared engines to Malaysia as there is still plenty of mileage left on the two V10s which came out of McNish's race car and the spare TF102.

DHL JORDAN HONDA : FACTORY QUIETER THAN USUAL

The Jordan-Honda team's Silverstone headquarters is quieter than usual because after the Australian Grand Prix whilst some of the crew members returned home to the United Kingdom to see their families, some 27 team members including mechanics, engineers and IT staff began a five day break in Phuket, Thailand. They will arrive at Sepang early next week to start preparing the trio of Jordan EJ-12s for the Malaysian Grand Prix.

LUCKY STRIKE BAR HONDA : WILLIS ARRIVES

Nearly five months after announcing his appointment, the team finally welcomed new Technical Director Geoffrey Willis to their Brackley headquarters yesterday (Thursday). His race debut

with the team is expected to be at the San Marino Grand Prix in April. Instead of attending the Malaysian and Brazilian Grand Prixs he will instead be familiarising himself with the performance of the BAR 004 to date, the team and his new role. The team started a two day test at Silverstone yesterday where Anthony Davidson was driving BAR 004 chassis 001 and completed 52 laps working on a programme of aerodynamic and engine development. His best time was a 1m24.814s. Jacques Villeneuve's rear wing failure in Australia has been thoroughly investigated and was found to have been caused by fatigue. Design modifications have been implemented to prevent a repetition of this problem.

MILD SEVEN RENAULT F1 TEAM : TESTING AT SILVERSTONE

While Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button had a few days off following the Australian Grand Prix and will fly direct to Malaysia for the second round of the championship, Fernando Alonso began a three day test at Silverstone on Tuesday using one of last year's B201s. On Tuesday he managed a 1m25.922s best after 41 laps during the course of tyre testing and evaluating new systems for the new 2002 car. On Wednesday he continued the tyre programme. Commented Technical Director Mike Gascoyone: "Fernando completed a tyre programme for Michelin, finding a very positive step forward for the Malaysian Grand Prix and beyond. We also conducted electronics development as well as a small amount of set-up work aimed at maximising tyre performance". The team has been analysing the data from Jarno Trulli's car which was damaged when he spun off battling for second place with Michael Schumacher's Ferrari at Melbourne. "We have not yet reached a firm conclusion as to the cause of that spin," said a team spokesperson on Thursday.

SAUBER PETRONAS : HARD WORK IN FACTORY

Most of the Sauber team went straight to Malaysia for PR work for their sponsor Petronas. Technical Director Willi Rampf flew home to Switzerland to supervise the production of spare parts as the first corner accident in Melbourne caused significant damage to both Sauber C21s. Rampf estimated the damage at 600,000 Euros including suspension, radiators and wings which all needed replacement. The factory has been under huge pressure as they had already experienced extra work after two accidents in the final pre-season test at Mugello. Sauber also had to send three sets of suspension as extra freight to Melbourne in order to have enough spares. Peter Sauber commented: "Obviously it is disappointing to lose two cars at the start of a race in which we should have scored points easily. On the other hand, none of our direct rivals for the fight for fourth place in the World Championship gained any benefit either".

ORANGE ARROWS : NO TESTING THIS WEEK

The Orange Arrows team will not be testing this week as the cars have gone directly from Melbourne to Malaysia. There is as yet no firm date for the team's next test after the first three races outside Europe have been completed.

-FIA-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Minardi , Jaguar Racing , Jordan