Round two of the 2015 Formula One World Championship takes us to Kuala Lumpur’s Sepang International Circuit, a Hermann Tilke-designed track that was first in the spate of modern tracks in emerging markets for the sport. It opened in March of 1999, and since then it’s been a permanent fixture on the F1 calendar as the venue for the Malaysian Grand Prix.
It stretches 3.4 miles and is one of the toughest of the year due to harsh weather and track conditions. Ground temperatures can exceed 122 degrees F (50 degrees C) during the hottest part of the day, which combined with a rough track surface and numerous fast corners means tire degradation is quite severe. As a result, Pirelli has nominated its tougher Medium and Hard compounds for the race.
The circuit is also an interesting technical challenge for the engineers, who need to maximize the trade-off between aerodynamic grip through the track’s fast corners and straight-line speed. And then there’s the tropical rain to look out for, with the current forecast predicting scattered thunderstorms for Sunday’s race.
Facing the challenge of the Malaysian race will be two drivers absent at the last race in Australia: McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Williams’ Williams Bottas. Both have been cleared to race this weekend. For Alonso, it will be the first time racing for the British team since his troubled 2007 season. It has also been confirmed that German driver Adrian Sutil is returning to F1 again, this time as a reserve driver for Williams.
Last year’s winner of the Malaysian Grand Prix was Mercedes AMG’s Lewis Hamilton, and given his pace so far this season we could certainly see him at the top of the podium in Malaysia this year too. The Briton currently leads the 2015 Drivers’ Championship with 25 points, ahead of his Mercedes AMG teammate Nico Rosberg who sits on 18 points. In third place is Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel with 15 points. In the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes AMG leads with 43 points, followed by Ferrari with 15 points and Sauber with 14 points.