1999 MALAYSIAN GRAND PRIX - PREVIEW Sepang welcomes F1 to Malaysia With the 1999 Drivers' and Constructors' World Championships still undecided, the inaugural Malaysian F1 Grand Prix at the Sepang circuit on October 17 is assured of excitement...
1999 MALAYSIAN GRAND PRIX - PREVIEW
Sepang welcomes F1 to Malaysia
With the 1999 Drivers' and Constructors' World Championships still undecided, the inaugural Malaysian F1 Grand Prix at the Sepang circuit on October 17 is assured of excitement and high tension.
Malaysia is no stranger to international motorsport, having staged its first Grand Prix event -- for motorcycles -- at Shah Alam in 1991. In April this year the motorcycle GP was the first international event to be staged at the new layout.
The 5.542 km (3.443 mile) Sepang circuit, situated close to the new Kuala Lumpur International Airport, has been widely hailed as the most up-to-date racing complex in the world. However, as far as the F1 teams -- and Bridgestone - are concerned, it represents a step into the unknown.
"Having no previous experience of the circuit conditions with F1 machinery, we turned to our colleagues from the Motorcycle Division who had attended the bike race at Sepang earlier this year," said Yoshihiko Ichikawa, Technical Manager of Bridgestone Motorsport.
"The data provided to us indicated that lap speeds will be similar to those achieved at circuits like Imola and Magny-Cours," says Ichikawa. "It also appears that the surface will be quite abrasive, although this is a characteristic which can change as a circuit beds in."
For Sepang, Bridgestone has decided to take the Soft and Extra Soft compounds offered to the teams at Monaco and Hungary earlier this year. "Given that we expect to see higher speeds than at those two tracks, this selection may seem surprising," admits Ichikawa. "However, it is clear that at this stage of the season the drivers and their engineers are confident about their ability to minimise understeer on the softer compound.
"Although we expect quite high air temperatures of around 30/33 degrees (C), this is unlikely to be a problem," added Ichikawa. "As usual, the choice of compound will have to take into account not only the way the teams set up their cars to suit the tyres but also the added durability of the harder tyre, which may be a factor if it is very hot on race day."