Following on from Michael Schumacher's success in the Australian Grand Prix with the Ferrari 2001, Scuderia Ferrari-Marlboro has decided not to change the winning combination for the Malaysian Grand Prix, round 2 of this year's F.I.A. Formula One...
Following on from Michael Schumacher's success in the Australian Grand Prix with the Ferrari 2001, Scuderia Ferrari-Marlboro has decided not to change the winning combination for the Malaysian Grand Prix, round 2 of this year's F.I.A. Formula One World Championship. The decision to field the 2001 chassis for the second race of the new season was only taken after the Australian race, at which both the drivers and the team were pleasantly surprised by the advantage they enjoyed over their rivals throughout the weekend.
As Michael Schumacher pointed out after his win, the advantage that his car held over its opposition in Melbourne might not be as pronounced at Malaysia's Sepang circuit, but even so, it was a good sign that the old cars should still be on the pace against their rivals.
Built only four years ago, the Sepang track just outside Kuala Lumpur has similar characteristics to the Melbourne track in that it allows the team to run the softest choice of their Bridgestone tyres because of the smooth surface and low wear rate. "Tyres are certainly the biggest technical challenge for this track, for even though the track surface is very similar to Australia, the higher track temperatures and the number of long medium and high speed corners could make it a problem to run the softer rubber. We will be spending a lot of time on Friday running race fuel and to work out the best tyres option for the race, hopefully without getting fooled by the changing wear rates as the track becomes cleaner throughout the weekend, " explains Ross Brawn.
The layout and wide track means overtaking is not as much of a problem as it was in Australia, while brake wear is also much less critical. The only real question mark over the Malaysian race is that of the weather. Typical tropical afternoon downpours can turn the race into a high-speed dramatic lottery as we have seen in the past.
There is always an element of luck when it comes to second guessing the weather conditions in a race like the Malaysian GP, but to reduce some of the element of luck the team have spent a total of six days of wet weather tyre testing during the off season using an all new trackside watering system that has been built into their Fiorano test track. "When you consider that there are always at least three or four wet races throughout the season, it makes good sense to have such a system," Brawn points out.
The smooth surface and quite high average lap speeds present few problems setting up the carat this track. The ambient temperatures and high humidity are also no problem for the cars, for they have already been well proven in similar conditions throughout last year. So too have the drivers in what is considered physically one of the hardest races of the season for the drivers.
Since Australia, both drivers have been taking a break between the two races, but work on developing the F2002 chassis has been continuing throughout the week following the Australian GP.
Meanwhile, the cars used in Australia have been prepared and shipped directly to Malaysia where the team will be hoping for another strong showing in both performance and reliability.
"We are in a fortunate position to be able to choose when we will debut the new car without risking a great deal running the older one " explains Brawn, who hopes that the situation they enjoyed in Australia will continue in Malaysia.