Malaysian GP: Honda preview

Round two of the 2008 FIA Formula One World Championship takes the Honda Racing F1 Team to Kuala Lumpur for the Malaysian Grand Prix. The 56-lap race is staged at the Sepang International Circuit and comes just one week after the season-opening ...

Round two of the 2008 FIA Formula One World Championship takes the Honda Racing F1 Team to Kuala Lumpur for the Malaysian Grand Prix. The 56-lap race is staged at the Sepang International Circuit and comes just one week after the season-opening grand prix in Australia.

This year's event is the 10th Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang, the circuit being the first F1 track to be designed from scratch by German architect Hermann Tilke. It was built on a 260-hectare swamp and the challenge of its long, demanding corners has been made harder over the years by an increasing number of bumps in the asphalt.

The cars average 210kph (130mph) around the 5.54km (3.44-mile) lap, and the sweltering humidity and scorching heat make the Malaysian Grand Prix a tough test of man and machine.

SEPANG - THE TECHNICAL CHALLENGE

The hot weather in Australia last weekend helped to prepare the teams for the Malaysian Grand Prix, which is traditionally one of the hottest races on the calendar. Cooling will still be a factor, but the Honda Racing F1 Team is not expecting more extreme conditions than it saw at Albert Park.

The predominant handling characteristic at Sepang is oversteer, and it's a relatively bumpy track which also causes some problems. There's a good balance of high and low speed corners and, as is the case at every track this year, the engineers will strive to get as much mechanical traction as possible without traction control.

For driver confidence, it's important to get a good balance through the quick left-right at Turns 5 and 6, but there are other more important corners in terms of lap time. The penultimate corner onto the long back straight is a double apex and it's technically difficult to find a good balance through there.

Sepang will also give a better steer on the relative competitiveness of all the teams because you need a good car to be competitive.

Full throttle: 60%
Brake wear: Medium-to-hard
Downforce level: High - 8/10
Tyre compounds: Medium / Hard
Tyre usage: Hard
Average speed: 210kph (130mph)

HONDA TEAM TALK

Ross Brawn, Team Principal

Q: Sum up your thoughts following last weekend's Australian Grand Prix?

A: "Whilst the result was disappointing, we have to look at the positives. Qualifying confirmed that we are in the midfield and a very strong race drive from Rubens showed that we have the potential to fight for points. It was pleasing to see that the aerodynamic upgrade from Jerez worked as expected and I think we have a good basis for the first three races until we can introduce the next development step for Spain."

Q: What do you think the Honda Racing F1 Team can achieve in Malaysia?

A: "I think we can have a similarly strong weekend to the one we experienced in Melbourne. We have shown that we have a car with which to target the points and two drivers who are very determined to achieve that."

Jenson Button

Q: What are your hopes for the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend?

A: "I'm looking forward to Malaysia. Obviously I didn't get to compete in Australia because I had an accident at turn one, but I'm very positive for the next one. We made a lot of improvements with the car during the weekend and I'm hoping for the same improvement over the next race. It's very competitive in the midfield and we have to get the best out of the car at every stage. If we can do that we can get a good result in the race."

Q: Describe the physical challenge of driving in 35-degree heat and 70 percent humidity

A: "It's tough racing in the temperature but that isn't the real problem, it's the humidity. It's one thing taking in hot air but quite another taking in hot and damp air. It's pretty tough to breath and it can get quite claustrophic in the helmet. You just have to make sure you're prepared and we will be!"

Rubens Barrichello

Q: Were you pleased by the performance of the RA108 in Australia?

A: "We knew we had made a step forward at our final pre-season test in Jerez. What we didn't know was where we were in relation to the other teams. I'm encouraged by the start we have made to the season and for this I have to thank everyone in Japan and the UK for all the hard work that has gone into the car over the past few weeks in particular. I think we are going to have a positive season."

Q: What is the key to a quick lap at Sepang?

A: "The most important factor is to have a good aerodynamic balance, which is something we have obviously been able to improve for the start of the season. Hopefully this will benefit us again in Malaysia."

LAP OF THE TRACK with Alex Wurz

"It's usually very hot and humid in Malaysia, so the race is a big challenge for the brakes, the engine and also the drivers. The circuit is a great challenge too, so it's a pretty full-on weekend for the teams.

To take you around the track: you arrive at the first corner in seventh gear, at about 310kph (192mph). There is a lot of grip from the asphalt, so you can brake really late before turning-in in third gear. The rear gets a bit light at this point. You then have the left-hander at Turn 2, which is the slowest corner on the circuit. It's first or second gear, depending on your gearing, and it has a camber change in the middle, so it's quite difficult to find the right differential set-up for it.

"Next comes a long right-hander, which is easy-flat even in the wet, and then you're braking for the right-hander at Turn 4. The braking area is really bumpy, which makes it a bit tricky, and then comes a really nice part of the circuit.

"You enter Turns 5 and 6 in fifth gear, at 230kph (143mph), and the entry to turn 5 is almost flat so you really have to squeeze the throttle and make sure you have a very late apex. There's an immediate change of direction and at this point we pull about 4.5g. You might touch the brakes to stabilise the car into Turn 6, which is incredibly bumpy and the rear gets very light. Don't forget that we are still at 220-230kph (137-143mph), with not much run-off, and I really enjoy it!

"Then comes a double right-hander, which is easy to get wrong if you overdrive and it leads to a hairpin. It's first or second gear and it's very important to have a good exit because that gives you pure lap time.

"Then we go to another flowing section, which leads to the penultimate corner. It's very difficult here because you enter it very fast and the rear gets very light. You have to brake down to second gear while turning and the car is oversteering the whole time. It's very easy to overdo it. The last corner is another hairpin and we again brake very late, from 300kph (186mph), down to second gear."

Honda in Malaysia

Honda Malaysia was established in 2000 and recorded its highest ever passenger car sales figures in 2007 with 28,479 vehicles sold and a market share of 5.8%.

The Malaysian factory produces four models, along with automotive parts such as the CVJ (constant velocity joint) which are exported to the UK, China and other global markets.

Honda Malaysia has joined forces with WWF-Malaysia, the national conservation trust, to initiate a five-year project which adds vital support to efforts to protect the endangered Sumatran rhino.

Honda Malaysia also works with the United Nations Development Programme on the Honda Dreams Fund which provides full scholarships to twenty promising young people from underprivileged backgrounds.

-credit: honda

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jenson Button , Rubens Barrichello , Alexander Wurz , Ross Brawn
Teams Honda Racing F1 Team