Malaysian GP: Williams preview

The second round of the season takes Formula One to the Far East and the colourful Sepang region of Malaysia, just south of the country's capital, Kuala Lumpur. Following mixed fortunes for the team at the season opener in Melbourne last weekend,...

The second round of the season takes Formula One to the Far East and the colourful Sepang region of Malaysia, just south of the country's capital, Kuala Lumpur. Following mixed fortunes for the team at the season opener in Melbourne last weekend, the BMW WilliamsF1 Team is looking ahead to the Malaysian Grand Prix, at which they hope to achieve a more rewarding result on Sunday 20th March.

The Sepang circuit is a state of the art, purpose-built facility, one which guarantees drama both on and off the track. With its wide straights, overtaking opportunities are at an optimum at Sepang which should provide some thrilling racing action.

The track's technically challenging nature, combined with the region's unpredictable, and extreme, weather conditions, will test both man and machine to the limit. In addition, Malaysia will be a severe trial for race engines, which will, for the first time, be tested over a second consecutive GP weekend. In ambient temperatures expected to be 36°C, the race will provide a stern reliability test.

Mark Webber:

"I have both good and bad memories of Malaysia. Obviously, qualifying on the front row last year was great, but then I had a very poor start. The race is a tremendous challenge for the drivers and the teams because of the high temperatures, and the impact this has on car cooling, braking and tyre performance. Despite all of this, I think Sepang is a very, very good circuit."

"The weather can be quite unpredictable though, it's always one thing or the other, and when it rains, it really rains. I think we'll get a true reflection of people's pace at Sepang because the results from qualifying one in Melbourne were affected by heavy rain. If we get a consistent weekend in Malaysia, we will get an idea of where everyone stands. Because of all these variables, I'm looking forward to the Malaysian Grand Prix."

Nick Heidfeld:

The Malaysian Grand Prix is an exceptional race, particularly because of the area's high temperatures and high humidity. It is for this reason I will not fly home between the first two races and spend some time in the southern region of Malaysia in order to get used to the climate."

"During the years with Sauber, I spent a bit of time in Malaysia so I know my way around pretty well. I am also looking forward to racing at the Sepang circuit as it's one of my favourite tracks and one I hope to handle well."

Sam Michael (Technical Director, WilliamsF1):

"Malaysia will have ambient temperatures perhaps reaching as high as 40°C, as well as the normal daily tropical thunderstorms that are so common here. In fact, at 2400mm, the average annual rainfall in Malaysia is higher than any other circuit that we race at. Such high temperatures have an influence on tyre degradation and the cooling exits that we will have to fit to the FW27 to ensure the engine does not overheat."

"Sepang is a challenging, high downforce circuit for the drivers with plenty of direction changes through medium to high speed corners. There are also three slow speed corners to deal with and four straight sections which reward engine power. Overtaking is also possible in a couple of places around the track."

"We have some development parts for the FW27 to improve its performance following Melbourne. Our tyre partner, Michelin, will bring two tested tyre choices to Malaysia, if they work as well as they did in Melbourne, there will not be any problems with them. Pitstop strategy will also be interesting if both qualifying sessions are dry. Heading into Malaysia, we are looking to build on our position in the Constructors' Championship with a solid result."

Mario Theissen (BMW Motorsport Director):

"In Australia, we had no problems at all with the BMW P84/5 engines. In Malaysia, we will be competing for the first time with an engine that has already completed a race weekend and, moreover, will have to run in the season's hottest race. In Sepang, there are two major challenges for the engine - twice the running distance and extreme thermal loads."

"In an attempt to counteract the tropical temperatures in Malaysia, all teams will again feature additional, or larger, cooling air intakes at the front of the side pods, as well as apertures in the shape of holes, slits, flues or exhaust vents. Cooling will also continue while the car is stationary. As soon as the car enters the pits, mechanics will hook up fans fed with dry ice into the side pod inlets."

"This cannot be done immediately before the start, when the cars come to a halt after the formation lap. This situation, with no air stream and in the scorching sun on hot asphalt, can get critical and the water temperature can rise rapidly. To prevent the use of costly high-pressure systems, the FIA has prescribed a valve in the water cooling system that opens under a pressure of 4.5 bar."

"However, if that happens while waiting on the grid for the race to start, water evaporates that cannot be subsequently replaced. One thing's for sure - the BMW P84/5 will face a tough test of endurance in Malaysia."


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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Mark Webber , Nick Heidfeld , Mario Theissen
Teams Sauber , Williams