|Circuit||Sepang International Circuit – Kuala Lumpur
|Distance||310,408 km / 192,920 miles|
|3||Fernando Alonso||F138||299||Scuderia Ferrari||retired / accident|
|4||Felipe Massa||F138||300||Scuderia Ferrari||5.|
Maranello, 25 March – Five points just don’t explain it. The difference from the 35 points collected in 2012 to the 40 we have this year is much more, especially in terms of the overall competitive performance of the team and its combination of car and drivers. Last year the haul was largely the fruits of the extraordinary talent of Fernando Alonso, who knew what to do to come away with fifth place in Melbourne before romping away to a sumptuous victory in Sepang – even though he had a car that was clearly worse than many of his opponents. The F2012 certainly proved it was far from competitive in qualifying, with just one appearance in Q3 – the ninth place in Malaysia – to show for four attempts. The performance of the F138 is very different, with an average grid position of 3.5 so far due to one front row, two second rows and one third row – very different from the 12.25 average a year ago.This year’s 40 points have been shared almost equally between the two drivers. It’s true that Fernando (18 points) paid a heavy price for his zero from yesterday and he has as many as 17 points less than 2012. But this deficit has been more than made up for by Felipe Massa, who has brought home 22 points whereas he was yet to get off the mark last year. The Brazilian has now taken his run of consecutive points finishes to 12 races, maintaining in this year’s two grands prix the constant improvement that characterised his second half of last year.
A united team, two strong and determined drivers, a competitive car: there is still a lot of work to do to get ahead of all the opposition but all the ingredients are there for a fight to the finish for both titles. That is the first verdict of 2013.
Stefano Domenicali: “Clearly today’s result leaves a somewhat bitter taste in the mouth given the start positions we had secured in qualifying. As soon as Fernando collided with Vettel it was clear that his race would involve fighting his way up the order. At that time, we felt the front wing could hold out and on a track that was progressively drying out, we risked leaving him out. With hindsight, it did not work out, trying to avoid doing two stops in the space of just four laps. As for Felipe, the gap that grew during the opening laps compromised his chances to fight with the leading group of four towards the end. Given the competitive performance level of our rivals, now the important thing is to turn the page: we must put this Sunday behind us and calmly analyse the positive and negative aspects, as we immediately turn our attention to the next race in China.”
Fernando Alonso: “Today, unfortunately, we were very unlucky. After making a good start, I touched with Vettel at the second corner: it was a surprise to find him there, almost stopped and I don’t know what speed he was doing. Despite the fact the car was damaged, it didn’t seem to be too bad and, together with the team, we decided to keep going, because if we’d stopped immediately and then again on lap 3 or 4 to fit dry tyres, we would have dropped too far back and definitely lost the chance to finish up the front. It’s easy to criticise this decision, but at the time it seemed like the right one. It was certainly a shame, because here we could have fought with the Red Bulls, but circumstances didn’t help and apart from the wisdom of the decisions we took, bad luck really played its part, when you think how many off-track excursions there were in Australia without any consequence and even here when the cars first went out on track. Now we are already focusing on the coming races in China and Bahrain, where we hope to do better than last year, so that we arrive in Europe with as many points as possible”.
Felipe Massa: “Today’s race was really complicated, because starting with a new set of intermediates on a track that was very damp at some points and completely dry at others, prevented me from having a good pace and I lost ground to many other drivers on the first lap. Maybe bringing forward the first stop to fit dry tyres was a slightly risky choice, because the track was still damp and this cost me time. Then on the dry track, the car improved, the tyre degradation wasn’t excessive and I managed to settle into a good pace, but at that point, any hope of finishing on the podium had vanished. I can’t say I’m satisfied with this result, but given all the difficulties I had at the start of the race, I am happy to bring home a good points haul”.
Pat Fry: “For both drivers, the initial part of the race affected the final outcome, which is a real shame because the start was very promising. The contact between Alonso and Vettel at the second corner was an unfortunate episode: we knew the front wing was damaged but the car still seemed to be competitive and we decided to run the risk of staying out. We definitely could have played safe and called him in, but that way we would have ended up behind everyone on rain tyres and would have lost even more ground with the next stop to fit dry tyres. With hindsight, we can say the risk wasn’t worthwhile. In the wet, Felipe struggled a bit to find the right balance and that compromised his chances of fighting for a podium position. Once it was dry, his lap times improved: he definitely drove a good race which enabled him to pick up useful points”.
|Pit-stop||1st stop||lap 6||Medium|
|2nd stop||lap 20||Hard|
|3rd stop||lap 33||Medium|
|4th stop||lap 47||Medium (used)|
|Weather: air 28/29°C, track 33/38 °C. Sunny|
Sepang, 24 March – Felipe Massa fought back strongly after slipping down the order from his front row start position, to bring home valuable points for fifth place. Fernando Alonso’s 200th Grand Prix is not one he will care to remember, as it lasted only just over a lap, before ending in the gravel. Sebastian Vettel headed home a Red Bull Racing one-two ahead of Mark Webber. Completing the podium was Lewis Hamilton for Mercedes.
Inevitably here in Sepang, the rain appeared minutes before the cars were due to leave the shelter of the garages, so the Intermediate and Extreme rain tyres were prepared, as the rain intensified. It was heavy in parts and several cars went off the track on their way to the grid, which resembled a strange Garden Party as all the teams erected temporary tents over their cars. With 15 minutes to the start, the rain began to ease, turning to a light drizzle, as team strategists faced the traditional Malaysian puzzle.
Along with the other 20 drivers, Felipe and Fernando opted to start on the Intermediates. It seemed the best choice as the cars threw up plumes of spray on the parade lap. As the lights went out, Vettel led from pole, Fernando got ahead of Felipe, but Webber in the other Red Bull nearly passed the Spanish Ferrari driver, as Felipe dropped to fifth behind Hamilton in the Mercedes, ahead of Nico Rosberg.
Trouble struck on lap 2: Fernando had fought hard to get ahead of Vettel, but the two men touched and this had caused damage to the nose on the Spaniard’s F138. On the pit wall, the thinking was to leave him out for a lap or two longer to deal with the damage, in order to change the front wing at the same time as the switch to slicks, which was imminent. But the part failed, consigning Alonso to the gravel trap on the outside of Turn 1. He signalled for the marshals to push him back on track but in vain. Meanwhile, Button in the McLaren had moved up to fourth ahead of Rosberg, with Felipe, having had a difficult opening lap, now sixth. The top three was made up of Vettel, Webber and Hamilton, but Rosberg had managed to get back in front of Button for fourth. With four laps gone, Felipe was 2 seconds behind Button.
Lap 5 and Vettel was the first to pit for slicks, followed by Felipe, who thus dropped to eighth. The track seemed very wet in sector 1. On lap 6, Sutil, Ricciardo Raikkonen, Di Resta, Maldonaldo, Van De Garde, Bianchi, Bottas all came in for slicks. Lap 7 and it was Webber, Hamilton, Button, Hulkenberg, Vergne, Perez, Pic. Hamilton made the classic “new team” mistake and at first stopped in the McLaren pit, instead of Mercedes! With the field now all on slicks, the order on lap 9 was Webber, Vettel, Hamilton, Rosberg, Button, Hulkenberg, Felipe in seventh, 4 seconds down on the German Sauber driver and 22.6 behind the race leader. Behind the Brazilian, Perez, Grosjean and Raikkonen completed the top ten, all of whom were on the Medium tyre. The order hardly changed, with the most exciting battle at this point being Raikkonen’s attack in the Lotus on Perez’s McLaren for ninth spot.
The second pit stops started on lap 19, with Webber and Ricciardo. Felipe was closer to Hulkenberg in the Sauber, but eighth placed Grosjean in the Lotus was closing on the Ferrari. In fact these two came in together on lap 20 for new tyres – the Brazilian was now on the Hard Pirellis – and left pit lane in the same order. Di Resta also pitted the Force India at this time. Hamilton and Button both came in on lap 21, as did Hulkenberg and Raikkonen. Felipe was in a battle for seventh, behind Sutil in the Force India and ahead of Grosjean and Hulkenberg. Lap 22, Vettel and Rosberg, lying first and second came down pit lane, followed by Perez from sixth. Sutil had a very long stop and Felipe was sixth, 9.2 behind Button. At the front, Webber was coming under attack from his second placed team-mate, with the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Rosberg still behind the Red Bulls fighting among themselves. Button was fifth, 8.9 ahead of Felipe.
On lap 30 of 56, Hamilton was the first to three-stop, coming from fourth, followed in by race leader Webber and third placed Rosberg. Felipe was still sixth, with Hamilton five seconds ahead of him. Vettel pitted from the lead on lap 32, coming out fourth, just centimetres in front of Rosberg. Felipe made his third stop next time round, while Button now found himself temporarily leading, but on fresher tyres, Webber was able to pass him on lap 34, as Hulkenberg and Raikkonen came out of pit lane wheel to wheel after their third stops. Button then brought the McLaren into the pits but stopped the car in the middle of the pit lane with a loose wheel and had to be pushed back to the garage.
With 20 laps to go, Felipe had fought his way up to a lonely fifth, a long way off fourth placed Rosberg and around 7 ahead of Grosjean. While Webber had a 3.6 cushion over Hamilton, the Mercedes man had Vettel and Rosberg breathing down his neck. It became a Red Bull one-two at the front, as the reigning world champion got past Hamilton on lap 38. The English Mercedes driver was the first to four stop on lap 41, followed next time by Vettel and then Rosberg. Webber made his stop on 43 and just managed to get out ahead of his team-mate with the two Red Bulls running wheel to wheel for a while. Felipe was still posting good lap times and was now 6.5 behind the battling Mercedes. Hard to believe Vettel and Webber were team-mates as they fought tooth and nail for the lead, the German eventually getting ahead on lap 46. Felipe made his fourth and final pit stop on lap 48 which dropped him to eighth, right behind the Perez-Raikkonen battle and it didn’t take long for the Brazilian to dispense with the McLaren and the Lotus to get back up to sixth. On fresh rubber he was flying and with two laps to go he made his final move, passing Grosjean for fifth. Nico Rosberg finished between the Ferrari man and the podium trio.
This result means that after two races, Scuderia Ferrari is third in the Constructors’ classification, although equal on 40 points with second placed Lotus, while Red Bull now leads. Felipe and Fernando are fifth and sixth respectively in the Drivers’ points table.
Sepang, 24 March – Felipe Massa came home fifth for Scuderia Ferrari in the Malaysian Grand Prix. Fernando Alonso had to retire on the second lap.
The race got underway with the field on Intermediates, before stopping not long after for dry tyres. Massa ran a four stop strategy, making up no less than three places in the closing stages. Alonso’s race was decidedly short. After a good start took him up to second place, the Spaniard made slight contact but with heavy consequences with the back of Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull. It damaged the front wing and after going through a few more corners, the wing gave way, sending Fernando into the gravel and into retirement.
Sepang, 24 March –Whatever the outcome of the race in a few hours time, for Fernando Alonso, the Sepang weekend will be one to remember. The 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix is in fact his two hundredth participation in a Formula 1 Grand Prix. It’s a significant achievement as it stands, but a closer look at the details of the Spaniard’s career since 2001, his debut season, makes it even more impressive.
Two world titles, thirty wins, thirty two second places and twenty five thirds. These are amazing figures when one considers that, in total, Alonso has made it to the podium eighty seven times, which equates to an average that comes within a whisker of forty four percent. To these figures one can add twenty two poles, out of a total of thirty seven front row starts, and nineteen fastest laps.
Equally impressive are the figures that sum up Fernando’s career since he joined Scuderia Ferrari. He has taken part in fifty nine races for the Prancing Horse, getting to the podium in thirty four of them, with an average of almost sixty percent.
These are impressive statistics that sum up a career during which the Spaniard has always had very clear objectives. He made his debut with Minardi in 2001 and after a year out as a test driver, returned to Formula 1 full time in 2003. Today, aged 31, Fernando still has many records to chase and there is every reason to believe that, for a long time to come, he can keep adding to what is already an extraordinary career.
Fernando Alonso: “I am very happy with this position as it’s been too long since I qualified in the top three! Something I have usually managed to achieve in the race has been missing for quite a while: maybe the rain helped us a bit as we were not the quickest in the dry, but starting in the top three gives us a realistic chance of a podium finish and we can even dream about winning. In Q3, when we had seen the track was drying quickly, we had a moment’s hesitation, because in the dry, the intermediates only last one or two laps before beginning to degrade. But in the end, it seemed the most sensible choice and it worked out well. Of the past three years, this seems to be the moment when everything appears to be working for the best: performance, strategy, pit stops. Now we must see how tomorrow will turn out, because it’s always a lottery if it rains. Even if, in the current Formula 1, the start is not the most important thing, we will still try to make a good one in order to maintain position or even to try and get past Vettel at the first corner. Then we will see: our race pace in Australia and the long run here on Friday means we can be reasonably optimistic.”
Felipe Massa: “It was a great qualifying in which we managed to make the most of all the opportunities that came our way. In Q3, we decided to stop towards the end of the session to fit a new set of intermediates and this allowed me to do a lap good enough to take second place on the grid. I am very happy with this team result, which is down to the great job done over the winter months. The car has shown itself to be competitive in all conditions, both in the wet and dry, but we must continue to improve. Today, we were up against very strong opposition and maybe the rain helped us a bit, because in normal conditions it would have been harder to aim for this result. Now we can expect a long and difficult race in which anything can happen and in which strategy and tyre management will be the key, while the uncertainty over the weather won’t help anyone”.
Pat Fry: “Like all the other teams, we tackled today’s qualifying with the aim of using as few tyres as possible to save them for tomorrow’s race. It took just one run on the hard compound to get both drivers through to the second part, providing various options for the rest of the session. In Q2, we used just one set of Mediums and even without the rain, I think that we would have managed to get through to the final part without any trouble. From then on, as predicted, it started to rain, but not enough to complicate matters: even though the track was wet, it was clear that Intermediates were the right choice. Going for a pit stop change after the first few laps proved to be the right move: we had to evaluate a subtle balance between tyre temperature and the amount of water on track and while at the time that can seem stressful, given the conditions, thinking back, it was relatively straightforward. If the rain holds off tomorrow, it will be very interesting to see how everyone exploits the tyres. All the teams have a few more new sets, which will make for a fascinating race”.
|ALONSO – Chassis 299||MASSA – Chassis 300|
|Q1||P4||1:37.314||Hard – 5 laps||P12||1:37.712||Hard – 6 laps|
|Q2||P7||1:36.877||Medium – 3 laps||P6||1:36.874||Medium – 3 laps|
|Q3||P3||1:50.727||Inter – 3 lapsInter – 3 laps||P2||1:50.587||Inter – 3 lapsInter – 3 laps|
|Weather: air 32 °C, track 39/44 °C. Sunny at the beginning, rain|
Sepang, 23 March – One can keep calm and not count one’s chickens, but one can also enjoy the moment and take satisfaction from a job well done. That was definitely the mood in the Scuderia Ferrari camp here in Sepang after Felipe Massa secured his first front row grid position since Bahrain in 2010 at the end of qualifying. The Brazilian was right to call it a team effort, for two reasons: firstly because the tricky conditions meant it involved keeping a cool head on the pit wall and in the garage and secondly, because Fernando Alonso is next on the time sheet, meaning he starts the Malaysian Grand Prix from third place right behind pole man Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull.
After the thrilling session, both Ferrari men suggested that the rain which affected the top ten shoot-out in Q3 might have helped their cause, but nevertheless, the F138 was good enough to be in the hunt throughout, with both Felipe and Fernando comfortably getting through the first two parts of qualifying, while using as few sets of tyre as possible. In the event of a dry race, then tyre degradation will again be the key factor and tyre management, as we saw seven days ago in Albert Park is the key that can unlock the door to the podium. Starting from third, Fernando has even suggested that one should not rule out being in the fight for outright victory, but as a three times winner here, the Spaniard knows as well as anyone how the weather can throw everything into confusion. However, from the second row of the grid, the Ferrari man can hope to have a reason to celebrate his 200th Grand Prix tomorrow.
When the rain came in time for the end of Q2 and stayed throughout Q3, it was the usual case of the times tumbling as a drying line appeared, even if everyone went for two sets of Intermediates in the final session. Fernando was quickest for a short time, but Sebastian Vettel asserted his and the Red Bull’s superiority over the single lap, to take his second pole in two races. Right at the end, Felipe’s well timed run was enough to put him in second place, while at the start of tomorrow’s 56 lap race, Fernando Alonso will have the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton outside him on the second row. Mark Webber for Red Bull and Nico Rosberg in the other Mercedes share the third row in fifth and sixth places respectively. If the weather is bad then starting from the front two rows also carries a visibility advantage and the current forecast is for thunderstorms at around 5 and 6 in the evening. When does the race start? 4pm!
Sepang, 23 March – The Scuderia Ferrari team members have now been on the road for over a fortnight as they tackle the Australian and Malaysian races. So, a longing for home was the theme behind giving Fernando Alonso a small but heartfelt tribute in celebration of his 200th Formula 1 Grand Prix and that theme was an Asturian dinner.
It was therefore a rather unusual Saturday evening, spent surrounded by the whole team. The familiar home cooking smells from the kitchen, even in the middle of Malaysia, meant Alonso could put all the pre-race pressures behind him, in the company of his fellow team members.
Sepang, 23 March –Qualifying was affected by rain arriving at the mid-point, complicating matters for everyone, but come the end, Scuderia Ferrari had got Felipe Massa into second place and Fernando Alonso into third.It was dry and very hot for the start of Q1 when both Ferrari men did just one run using the P Zero Orange hard tyres. A single run was also the strategy for Q2, this time using the Mediums. After 8 minutes of this part of qualifying, light rain began to fall, so that no one went out for the final moments. Tyre choice was now problematic for the final part.
As Q3 began the ten cars went out on Intermediates, the drivers testing the conditions during the ten minute session. Massa and Alonso did two runs each, the last one on new Intermediates.
It was very close in the final stages, with each successive car going quicker at the flag, so that Fernando was briefly on pole, before being overtaken by Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull, fastest at the end and Felipe. It was a good team effort for Scuderia Ferrari, following on from the positive showing in Melbourne and the first and second rows look promising for tomorrow.
Sepang, 22 March – Scuderia Ferrari’s Technical Director, Pat Fry, was one of the participants in the traditional Friday FIA press conference. The Englishman was first asked for a comment about the team’s performance in Melbourne, especially in terms of race strategy, one of the key topics following on from the Australian Grand Prix. “I think our people were pleased with the race pace of the car. It was quite obvious that Kimi was going to be two-stopping. I think you could see him two seconds back from the group. I don’t think we could have followed suit and competed on a two-stop which is why we went for the aggressive three-stop, which got us through the traffic. With that and the 60km/h pit lane limit, it’s always that balance between two-stop and three-stop. We weren’t brave enough to make the two-stop work. Kimi was, so good luck to them, or well done to them. We just need to keep on working on the pace of it. It’s nice being second but you always want to win don’t you.”From Melbourne to Sepang, Fry was asked about his expectations considering two major unknowns, the weather and tyre degradation. “I think our race pace will be good here, similar to Melbourne,” maintained Fry. “In terms of tyre degradation, I’m not sure yet, We need to go and look at the numbers. Obviously, today’s running was a little bit mixed up. When everyone was doing their long runs this afternoon, there was rain in turns six and seven. Hopefully we will be able to get the degradation under control as well. As for strategy, I’m not sure how close we are to a three to four changeover or a two to three changeover.”
Fry was also asked to comment on the good form shown by Felipe Massa, who has again been very quick in these two first sessions at Sepang. “He’s got a good attitude and he’s driving very well, very sensibly, not overdriving the car. If you look at last year, the first half was a bit of a struggle, the second half was a lot better and he’s continued that form into this year. That’s obviously good for us in the Constructors’.
Fernando Alonso: “Today, the car worked well in all conditions and that is very good news for us. This circuit is more representative than Australia for evaluating the car’s performance and so it was important to understand here today if the positive feelings from the winter were not just an illusion. On my lap on the Medium tyres, I did not have the right balance, otherwise I could have managed to improve, as I did on the Hards and I could probably have been on the “front row.” Now we must see how tomorrow goes, when it could rain at any moment and on a track where tyre degradation is much higher than in Melbourne. With a high number of pit stops likely, a car that works better in the race than in qualifying could be an advantage. However, tomorrow we will try and do our best to get a place on the front row, because, as usual, the start, strategy and pit stops will hold the key”.
Felipe Massa: “Overall, it was a good day, even if the rain that arrived for the end of the second session cost us some valuable time, when it came to comparing the two compounds over a long run. The car responded well in both sessions and, as for the tyres Pirelli brought here, I felt much more comfortable on the Mediums that we’d already used in Australia. We now have a long evening to work on understanding what the real behaviour of the tyres is, because that is definitely what can make the difference and could make us more competitive, as we prepare for both qualifying and the race”.
Pat Fry: “Today’s rain complicated our programme a bit, but overall, it was a positive Friday. As we saw in Australia, here again the key factor will be understanding tyre behaviour. Usually at this track, you need one more stop, but it’s still too early to say. This evening we will tackle the complex task of analysing the data because the rain arrived at the least opportune moment, just as Fernando and Felipe were doing a comparison of the two compounds. In the morning we managed to complete our planned programme, making the most of the better conditions to find the ideal set-up on both cars. Having tried various combinations, we think we know what direction to take for tomorrow’s qualifying”.
|ALONSO – chassis 299||MASSA – chassis 300|
|First Session||P4||1:37.319||13 laps||P7||1:37.771||15 laps|
|Weather: air 30/33 °C, track 36/42 °C. Sunny|
|Second Session||P4||1:36.985||23 laps||P3||1:36.661||33 laps|
|Weather: air 31/34 °C, track 38/47 °C. Cloudy, light rain|
Sepang, 22 March – The most interesting Malaysian Grands Prix have always been those affected by the changeable weather. In Sepang the rain arrives bang on time and that included this afternoon, as it appeared 40 minutes into the 90 of the session, affecting the long runs being carried out on dry tyres. Therefore the order on the time sheet was set in the first dry part, with Kimi Raikkonen fastest in 1.36.569 in the Lotus, ahead of Sebastian Vettel (1.36.588) in the Red Bull. Scuderia Ferrari took third and fourth places with Felipe Massa (1.36.661) and Fernando Alonso (1.36.985) respectively. The two men began by completing set-up work on both tyre compounds, the Orange P Zero Hard and the White Medium, before starting a long run interrupted by rain. In the final half hour the track began to dry and cars went out on the Intermediates and finally back on slicks, with no effect on the fastest laps.
Sepang, 21 March – Felipe Massa’s Malaysian Thursday started off with him dressed up as chemist, when he was the guest of honour at a reception organised by Shell in the centre of Kuala Lumpur. The Brazilian is here for the second round of the Formula 1 World Championship and providing the backdrop for a meeting with local fans and the media was a reconstruction of a chemical laboratory, where Massa, helped by Shell engineers, produced a fruit cocktail. The ingredients of the cocktail were a symbolic representation of the components of Shell’s V-Power fuel, which was created especially for Formula 1 use. Fuel is an area of the sport where research and development have become ever more important, as Felipe explained to the guests, stressing the fact this was even more the case since conventional engine development was banned in the sport’s regulations.
Sepang, 21 March – Hard to believe, but Fernando Alonso drove his Ferrari F2012 to victory here in Malaysia last year. It was an unexpected result to put it mildly, given that last year’s car had left the Scuderia on the back foot right from the start of that year’s testing. So, although the Spaniard arrives here in good shape, in all senses of the word, on the back of a solid second place in Melbourne last Sunday, being the last winner here doesn’t necessarily make him favourite this time round. “I think there is no comparison with last year, as at the time we couldn’t even get into Q3 and we were nowhere near where we wanted to be,” recalled Fernando. “This year, from this aspect it is a little bit better and we have a more or less competitive car. In Australia, everything went fine for us and we showed we have a good potential. However, it’s true that the Australian circuit is strange and unusual. That means that this weekend we will be looking for a little bit of confirmation that the car is performing well. After experiencing positive feelings in winter testing and then in Australia, this weekend is a very real test for us. We want a clean weekend and hopefully a podium will again be a very good target for us and if we manage it, we can be very happy.”
In Melbourne, it’s fair to say the Lotus win was far from a foregone conclusion, but the Ferrari man sees Raikkonen’s victory as a straightforward result. “The pace of the Lotus was very good, but it was not something we could not do, it was not out of our reach,” affirmed Fernando. “They had a very clean race with no traffic, so I think we can fight a bit closer to them.” The Red Bulls – a front row on Saturday, then “only” third in the race – provided more difficult questions. “As I said, this race will be very interesting from many aspects: for us a confirmation to see if we are competitive, which in fact could be the case for other teams. Red Bull had a big difference in their pace between qualifying and the race and so for them too, this will be a very important weekend to understand what is happening. But that is not our problem: we will just try to do our best and then see what the others do.”
You can’t have a race near the Equator, without journalists asking about the effect of the weather on the drivers. “It’s not a big difference in this heat and humidity, because for us in the car it does not feel too much hotter,” explained the double world champion. “Whether it’s in Melbourne at 26 degrees or here at 32, when you are driving at 300 kilometres, the air coming in the cockpit is not too bad. You don’t feel the heat so much. In fact, it’s more of a problem when you stop in the garage because of all the heat soak in the car.”
Sepang, 21 March – Brakes were the first topic on the agenda of this week in Sepang, in the run up to the second round of the World Championship. Fernando Alonso arrived here on Tuesday to start adapting to the tropical climate and today he took part in the Brembo Educational Meeting. This event was organised by Brembo, a world leader in disc brake technology and was aimed at the specialist F1 media, explaining the workings of the braking system used on Scuderia Ferrari’s F138. Along with Diego Ioverno, the team’s Head of Track activity, Fernando spoke about various aspects linked to the subject, such as how the pedal movement can be modulated, the adjustment of the brake balance during the race and the importance of managing the whole system. Alonso also explained how efficient braking can help during the race with tyre management, a key factor especially in this current season, and other areas of car performance, especially at tracks that put a high demand on the brake system, such as Australia, Canada and Singapore.
The pace of life in Formula 1 is relentless and just a couple of days after packing away the two F138 cars and all the equipment required to run them, Scuderia Ferrari is already hard at work at the Sepang circuit on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, preparing for the second round of the World Championship, the Malaysian Grand Prix. A positive, if hot and sticky atmosphere reigns in the garage, because thanks to a second placed Melbourne podium for Fernando Alonso and a fourth place for team-mate Felipe Massa, the team heads the first published Constructors’ classification of 2013. In fact, the two Ferrari men made the journey from Melbourne to Malaysia together on Tuesday and are now acclimatising to the torrid climate that will characterise this second round of the World Championship, with some physical training. “The first Grand Prix weekend of the season in Australia was a positive one for us as we had previously stated that our objective was to finish on the podium and that target was achieved,” confirms Team Principal Stefano Domenicali. However, there is no room for complacency as nothing in terms of a pit lane hierarchy is set in stone. “We have witnessed a weekend that was very unusual, with qualifying on Saturday and Sunday delivering a snapshot of the order that proved to be completely different come Sunday evening after the race,” adds Domenicali. “But, it was important to see both our drivers deliver strong performances, as it provides a great basis on which we can build a competitive season and I’m pleased for both of them. Seeing Ferrari heading the Constructors’ Championship is a great reward for the people who have been working so hard, both here at the track and back home in Maranello. But it’s only the first step in a very long season and now is the time to analyse and evaluate all the data from Melbourne in order to be immediately ready for this coming weekend in Malaysia.”The Melbourne circuit is unique in many ways and Domenicali is well aware that this coming weekend will throw up a sharp contrast in terms of the challenges that await the teams. “Sepang is a very different track and our plan is to make the most of the package that we have,” maintains our Team Principal. “We need to wait and see how our car will behave in what is a totally different environment: the track will make different demands on the cars to the ones we experienced in Australia, with a change in track surface and the unique weather conditions, very hot and humid, will also impact on everyone’s performance this weekend. We know what is required here and we will need the usual compromise in terms of downforce levels to deal with both the tighter section and the two long fast straights.”The 5.543 kilometre track can be characterised as medium to high speed, while the track surface itself is very abrasive. It puts the tyres under a lot of strain, which is why Pirelli has selected the Medium and Hard compounds for this weekend. In the cold of Melbourne, the teams saw signs of cold weather graining, whereas in the heat of Sepang, heat-induced degradation will be the order of the day, while the high speed turns generate high lateral loads on the tyres too. As Domenicali mentioned, the aero set-up has to be a compromise to deal with a mix of slow and fast sections, and when it comes to the mechanical set up, the Sepang kerbs are low and forgiving, so a stiff and low car is called for. Cooling, if not a problem, is at least a consideration, although with two long straights, the brakes get given a chance to cool down. Physically, the conditions are demanding and that goes for the crew in the garage as much as for the drivers. And let’s not forget the tropical downpours, which have frequently added some unexpected spice to this race.In the ever-changing world of Formula 1, past history counts for little, but nevertheless, the Scuderia can take heart from its Malaysian track record. To date there have been fourteen Grands Prix at Sepang and the Prancing Horse has won six of them, more than any other team, dating back to Eddie Irvine’s victory in the maiden event in 1999, and going through to Fernando Alonso’s win last year. On that occasion, the Spaniard started from eighth on the grid, the lowest position that has ever ended in victory here. It was his third Sepang win, the first two coming with other teams in 2005 and 2007. Whatever happens on Sunday, this will be a special weekend for the man from Oviedo, as it marks his two hundredth appearance on the grid of a Formula 1 Grand Prix.