Malaysian GP: Force India preview

Just five days after its F1 race debut in Australia, the Force India Formula One Team will be back in action for the second event of the year, the Malaysian Grand Prix, from 21 - 23 March. The team's performance was encouraging throughout the ...

Just five days after its F1 race debut in Australia, the Force India Formula One Team will be back in action for the second event of the year, the Malaysian Grand Prix, from 21 - 23 March. The team's performance was encouraging throughout the weekend in Australia, however its strong potential ultimately culminated in a disappointing race with both cars retiring in the early stages.

The team is however now focussed on making amends in the heat and humidity of Malaysia. With new aero developments to debut at this event, the team has set its sights on achieving a competitive finish this time out. The team will draw on Giancarlo Fisichella's rich experience of this event: the Italian has raced at every Malaysian Grand Prix held and took victory in the 2006 event. Adrian Sutil made his Malaysian Grand Prix debut last year.

The 56-lap race will take place at the Sepang International Circuit, 60km from the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

Team quotes

Dr. Vijay Mallya, chairman and managing director

'The Australian Grand Prix gave us much encouragement. With strong performances from both drivers over the weekend we showed an improvement over this time last year. It was disappointing not to get to Q2 as we wanted and then to have the double retirement, but even so, the morale is much improved over 2007.

We can see we are making tangible improvements. To be in the top ten in two practice sessions and then just a couple of tenths from Q2 is a clear demonstration of this, and being in a position to fight for points has really lifted the team. I'm delighted to see that we have great spirit and everyone is now absolutely committed to find those extra tenths to improve performance.'

Colin Kolles, team principal

'I was very pleased with Australia despite the ultimate race result, and I think we can continue the trend in Malaysia this weekend. Giancarlo has won at the track before, and now Adrian has previous experience of the circuit after his first Malaysian race in 2007. The drivers compliment each other very well and we seem to be getting the most out of the car. The rest of the field looks strong, but I think we can be there fighting too.'

Mike Gascoyne, chief technical officer

'I think we have to go to Malaysia with the same objectives we set out in Australia. We were very unlucky over in Melbourne to miss out on Q2 by just a fraction of a second, and then both cars going out so early. I think apart from a couple of people, 'what might have been' is everybody's headline! At the start Giancarlo obviously had nowhere to go and then Adrian was also running pretty well, and was actually being held up by Glock. Both looked to be pretty competitive, and were happy with the car. Considering how the race turned out it was very frustrating though because we could have finished well.

'We did however show a clear step forward in competitiveness. This time last year we knew we were a second off the back of everyone. In Australia we showed we are a lot closer, and with new parts for Malaysia now we should be in a position to make another step forward.'

Driver quotes

Giancarlo Fisichella

'I am looking forward to Malaysia now so we can show what we can really do over a race. As we went out very early in Australia, we could not demonstrate how much closer we now are relative to the other teams. The VJM01 feels more consistent and stable, and now we have some new aero parts coming for this race I think we can make another step forward.

'I have good memories of the race here too. I won in 2006 with Renault and, although we will not be in that position now, I do think we should be able to put in a good performance. My aim is the same as before: I want to take the team into Q2 for the first time, and then finish the race. As Australia showed, anything can happen and if we are there, then we have a good chance of picking up a good result.'

Adrian Sutil

'I enjoy Malaysia, even though it is very tough on drivers with the heat and humidity. It is also a very bumpy track so it makes it very physically demanding. I think I will be well prepared though as Australia was also hot and I am spending three days training in Malaysia to acclimatise. Last year was my first time in Sepang and it was not such a great event for us. Unfortunately we were not as quick as the others on the long straights, and then I went out very early on in the race in an accident.

This year I think we will be better. I am really disappointed that I did not get into second qualifying and then could not finish the race in Australia, as I think we could have finished very high up with the way the race went. But you just have to forget that now and look forward to the next event. Q2 is for sure my aim, and I really think we could make it this time.'

Malaysian Grand Prix information

2008 marks the 10th anniversary of the inclusion of the Malaysian Grand Prix on the F1 calendar. The 5.543km Sepang track was the first of the purpose-built Hermann Tilke-designed circuits to appear on the calendar in 1999. The 15-turn track contains a variety of corners, from a tight second gear hairpin leading on to the pit straight to two high-speed sweeping corners at turns five and six and a fast double-apex right hander. Even now, the track is still regarded as one of the best and most challenging of the recent generation of new circuits.

The track is built in a natural amphitheatre close to the ultra-modern KL International Airport on the site of a former palm plantation. From anywhere in the grandstands, fans can see at least 50% of the track and from the hibiscus-shaped shaded grandstand on the main pit straight, a view of at least 70% is possible.

With tricky combinations of corners, braking stability is key, although with understeer predominating in the long slower corners, getting a good balance can be difficult. The most difficult challenge for drivers, however is the high levels of humidity and searing temperatures - with humidity an average of 70% and cockpit temperature well over 40 degrees, the race is one of the most physically demanding that the drivers visit over the course the season. As such, Adrian Sutil headed across to Langkawi, an island off the west coast of the Malaysian Peninsula, for a warm weather training camp, while Giancarlo Fisichella and Tonio Liuzzi flew straight to Malaysia to acclimatise to the warmer conditions.

It's demanding for the team too, as performance can be compromised by the heat as the circuit loses grip during the heat of the day as tyre and aerodynamic performance drops. The high temperatures mean a real test for the cooling systems, and with the engines now on the second race of their cycle, they will be carefully monitored to ensure reliability.

Adrian Sutil's guide to Malaysia

'I will head straight to Kuala Lumpur after the Australian GP to give myself as much time as possible to acclimatise to the heat. The humidity in Malaysia is unlike anywhere else on the calendar, except perhaps Singapore, and that makes it the hardest race of the year for the drivers.

The heat in the cockpits reaches 60 degrees in the race, which makes it very challenging. You sweat a lot and the track surface is also very bumpy, which makes it very heavy on the body. After an hour you begin to see things as the sweat gets in your eyes, which is a bit of a strange feeling.

I have various methods of preparing for the race: I train outside once I arrive in Malaysia and I even sit in a sauna for an hour and a half - the duration of the race - to help my body get used to the heat. With only a week between the Australian and Malaysian races, there won't be that much time to acclimatise, so I'm expecting the race to be tougher than it was last year.

Sepang is not one of my favourite tracks, but I think my attitude is coloured by the difficulties that we had with our car last year. It's an aerodynamic track and our car wasn't that efficient, which made some of the long corners very difficult. Without a stable car you end up fighting it and turning each corner into three separate ones.

Unfortunately, I didn't see so much of Malaysia last year because I stayed at the airport hotel and spent my time either there or at the racetrack. I love Asia because it has a very different feel to Europe and the people are very nice. I hope to see more of Kuala Lumpur this year and I might even stay there for a few days after the race because I'm not going to return to Europe before the Bahrain Grand Prix.'

-credit: force india

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Giancarlo Fisichella , Mike Gascoyne , Adrian Sutil , Colin Kolles
Teams Force India