Malaysian GP preview: Eyes on the skies, and on Alonso

Heavy rain is the only hope for Mercedes' rivals at Sepang, but all eyes will be on Fernando Alonso from Thursday.

Rain looks like the only thing that could stop Mercedes this weekend as Formula One heads to Malaysia for the second race of the 2015 season.

After Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg took a commanding one-two victory in Australia two weeks ago, the Mercedes duo remain clear favourite for the Sepang race, which the Briton won from the German last year.

The high chances of rain for Sunday are set to be the main headache for the German team, with the forecast predicting a 90 percent chance of precipitations.

The unpredictable weather is likely to be the only threat to Mercedes' dominance following an Australian Grand Prix in which its drivers finished nearly 35 seconds ahead of their closest rival.

To their dismay, many in the paddock suspect Mercedes was not even pushing that hard in Melbourne.

Ferrari or Williams leading the chase

Sebastian Vettel was the closest challenger in the Ferrari in Australia, the Italian squad having taken a significant step forward compared to last year.

The battle for the best of the rest was a close one between the Maranello team and Williams at Albert Park, and that looks set to continue this weekend.

Williams is expecting Sepang to suit its car better and be ahead of Ferrari, and the long straights on the Malaysian circuit could play to the advantages of the Mercedes power unit.

But Ferrari's own engine has also made significant progress this year, and the fight for the lower steps of the podium could be the one to watch if Mercedes disappears into the distance as expected.

All eyes on Alonso

Most of the attention, however, will be on Fernando Alonso, at least until the running kicks off on Friday, and once he has passed the mandatory FIA tests.

The McLaren driver is finally returning to the public spotlight after missing the opening race of the season following his crash during testing.

Alonso will feature in Thursday's press conference, and there is no doubt he will be answering most of the questions following the mysteries and the speculation surrounding his crash and the aftermath.

The Spaniard's joy of returning to the cockpit will be short-lived, however, as the McLaren-Honda package is expected to struggle even more in the Malaysian heat.

Gloves off at Red Bull vs Renault

The tension between Red Bull and its engine supplier has only increased since the first race. Accusations have flown back and forth in the past two weeks, and another difficult weekend would not help matters.

The situation was perfectly described by Renault's managing director Cyril Abiteboul, who tweeted a photo of boxing gloves accompanying the text "Packing up to Malaysia. Race (round?) 2."

Both the Frenchman and Red Bull boss Christian Horner will feature in Friday's press conference. Talk about putting on a show.

Full grid expected

While the Australian Grand Prix featured a farcical grid of just 15 cars at the start - and just 13 at the end of lap 1 - the Malaysian race should have a full set of 20 cars.

Williams driver Valtteri Bottas, absent from the race in Australia after suffering a back injury, is expected to also return to action this weekend, pending the FIA tests on Thursday.

Should he be declared unfit again, Williams will need to use another driver, although the team is yet to name a reserve.

Also expected on the grid is the Manor team, which did not turn a wheel in Melbourne, but that insists is in a very different situation than it was two weeks ago.

The British squad escaped a sanction in the opening race, but it is believed it will not be allowed to let it happen again in Malaysia.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Fernando Alonso , Lewis Hamilton , Nico Rosberg , Sebastian Vettel , Valtteri Bottas
Article type Preview