It\'s a back-to-back race weekend as the Formula 1 circus heads to Malaysia, the hottest and the most physically demanding race of the season. Drivers lose up to 5kg during the course of the race due to humidity that\'s nearly 90% and cockpit temperatures soaring above 50 degrees Celsius. There\'s the erratic weather to factor in, making the teams ponder which strategy to stick to--particularly when it\'s a dry qualifying session and a wet race, or the other way around. You either get it completely right or completely wrong.
With hardly any time from Down Under, the teams won\'t have major updates, but they have a better knowledge of where they are relative to the others, which therefore gives us a better idea of the pecking order. With the unpredictable weather throwing everyone off, we, too, can get it completely right or completely wrong.
1. Lotus, Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes are still the top four. Lotus isn\'t particularly known for sheer performance, but rather for race strategy, as was the case in Australia with Kimi Raikkonen taking the surprise win. Provided they have a good start. With that win and a car that\'s easy on its tires, we expect them to sustain their form. Mercedes will continue to be strong. The Mercedes W04 seems more promising than originally expected. The Ferraris have a strong pace, so they will be up there, as will Red Bull.
Rain is now forecast for Saturday. If it is wet, we reckon Jenson Button will put the McMerc higher up the grid.
2. The weather will mix it up. One has to be cocky to think it won\'t rain. We think it will.
3. Marussia will stay on top of Caterham. There\'s a natural expectation that Caterham should be the better team, a known sports car brand with power players as partners, like Renault and Red Bull Technologies. The green team has a better package and has more at its disposal. But a practically all-rookie lineup isn\'t helping its cause. Jury\'s still out on Max Chilton. Jules Bianchi, on the other hand, has been the best performer among the four.
4. Force India will be the best of the rest. Qualifying for them is hit and miss--they\'re capable of getting into Q3, at times just missing out on the top 10. Come Sunday, though, they have good race pace. Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta demonstrated that in Australia, finishing seventh and eighth, respectively. We think they will score points.
The same can\'t be said for Williams, who can\'t seem to squeeze out more pace out of the FW35. It\'s status quo for them.
5. It will be \"The Kimi and Fernando Show\" once again. Malaysia has been a happy hunting ground for these two, Raikkonen scoring his first win here and Alonso his first pole (along with a number of wins). We expect Alonso to win this one.
|MAL||Free Practice One||Free Practice Two|
|Pos||Driver (Team)||Time, +Gap||Driver (Team)||Time, +Gap|
|1||M. Webber (Red Bull)||1:36.935||K. Raikkonen (Lotus)||1:36.569|
|2||K. Raikkonen (Lotus)||1:37.003, +0.068||S. Vettel (Red Bull)||1:36.588, +0.019|
|3||S. Vettel (Red Bull)||1:37.104, +0.169||F. Massa (Ferrari)||1:36.661, +0.092|
|4||F. Alonso (Ferrari)||1:37.319, +0.384||F. Alonso (Ferrari)||1:36.985, +0.416|
|5||N. Rosberg (Mercedes)||1:37.588, +0.653||M. Webber (Red Bull)||1:37.026, +0.457|
|6||A. Sutil (Force India)||1:37.769, +0.834||R. Grosjean (Lotus)||1:37.206, +0.637|
|7||F. Massa (Ferrari)||1:37.771, +0.836||N. Rosberg (Mercedes)||1:37.448, +0.879|
|8||P. di Resta (Force India)||1:37.773, +0.838||P. di Resta (Force India)||1:37.571, +1.002|
|9||L. Hamilton (Mercedes)||1:37.840, +0.905||L. Hamilton (Mercedes)||1:37.574, +1.005|
|10||R. Grosjean (Lotus)||1:37.915, +0.980||A. Sutil (Force India)||1:37.788, +1.219|
|11||J. Button (McLaren)||1:38.173, +1.238||S. Perez (McLaren)||1:37.838, +1.269|
|12||P. Maldonado (Williams)||1:38.673, +1.738||J. Button (McLaren)||1:37.865, +1.296|
|13||S. Perez (McLaren)||1:38.830, +1.895||N. Hulkenberg (Sauber)||1:38.068, +1.449|
|14||N. Hulkenberg (Sauber)||1:39.054, +2.119||E. Gutierrez (Sauber)||1:38.645, +2.076|
|15||E. Gutierrez (Sauber)||1:39.204, +2.269||J. Vergne (Toro Rosso)||1:38.738, +2.169|
|16||V. Bottas (Williams)||1:39.208, +2.273||P. Maldonado (Williams)||1:38.801, +2.232|
|17||J. Vergne (Toro Rosso)||1:39.284, +2.349||D. Ricciardo (Toro Rosso)||1:38.904, +2.335|
|18||D. Ricciardo (Toro Rosso)||1:39.567, +2.632||J. Bianchi (Marussia)||1:39.508, +2.939|
|19||G. van der Garde (Caterham)||1:40.728, 3.793||V. Bottas (Williams)||1:39.660, +3.091|
|20||J. Bianchi (Marussia)||1:40.996, +4.061||C. Pic (Caterham)||1:40.757, +4.188|
|21||C. Pic (Caterham)||1:41.163, +4.228||G. van der Garde (Caterham)||1:40.768, +4.199|
|22||M. Chilton (Marussia)||1:41.513, +4.578||M. Chilton (Marussia)||1:41.438, +4.869|