1 Malaysian Grand Prix
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Expect more surprises
The first race of the season in
Melbourne didn't produce the result expected by many. Ferrari weren't dominant but weren't slow either. Renault matched their
pre-season testing pace. McLaren looked slightly slower than expected while BAR and Red Bull surprised everyone in their own ways!.
With only the Australian race run under the new regulations, it will be hard to predict which team will be the team to beat in Malaysia and any of the top teams could make it. Lets hope a number of teams will fight it out.
Sepang is a high downforce track
with a number of medium to high speed corners and 2 main straights. The surface has a medium grip level and is quite abrasive. The
high temperatures and humidity will not only be a test for the drivers but also the engines with most cars running the same engine
run in Australia and the single set of tyres for qualifying and the race.
A number of teams were testing last week at Jerez. Renault, Ferrari, Williams, McLaren, Toyota and BAR were present. Most teams concentrated on tyre testing. Ferrari were also testing the F2005.
Here is a team by team review:
Won in Australia as the weather played into the hands of Fisichella however nothing can be taken away from them as they were strong
and their two drivers set the 2 fastest laps of the race. The car is gentle on tyres so expect another strong performance in the
Drivers: Giancarlo Fisichella got the dream start to the season but things aren't going to be as easy from here as Alonso will be determined on beating him. A podium is likely.
Fernando Alonso was unfortunate in qualifying due to the weather conditions but managed to get from 13th to 3rd and set the fastest lap of the race. Last year at Sepang, he started from the back after spinning in qualifying and managed to finish in 7th. He is clearly one of the favourites to win this race.
Ferrari: Didn't dominate in Australia but weren't slow either. Both drivers were unfortunate in
qualifying due to the weather conditions. Barrichello recovered but Michael didn't. The Ferrari looked to be close to the McLaren as
Raikkonen and Michael were fighting for position early in the race. Ferrari appear to be surprised by the pace of the Renaults
and may accelerate the introduction of the F2005.
Drivers: Rubens Barrichello recovered well from a poor starting position due to the weather conditions in qualifying and finished in second. He is now leading Michael in the championship and needs to maintain that lead if he is to be given a chance from the team. Last year he finished 4th in Malaysia, expect 5th or 6th.
Michael Schumacher struggled in Melbourne after the weather ruined his qualifying. Starting from the back he made up some places but was chased by Raikkonen during the first stint. A tangle with Heidfeld put him out of the race. Michael qualifies for a new engine in Malaysia however due to the engine per two race weekends rule, the team may decide to use the engine from Australia if they decide to introduce the F2005 in Bahrain. Expect him to do better than Barrichello but a win will be difficult.
Surprised everyone in Melbourne. A few may have given Coulthard a chance for a point or two but a solid 4th and 7th place wasn't
expected. In one race Red Bull scored 7 points, just 3 points shy of what Jaguar managed all of last season!
Drivers: David Coulthard was written off by many yet in Melbourne he proved that he still got what it takes. Perhaps being the main driver in the team helps. Expect a top 10 finish with a chance of a point or two.
Christian Klien wasn't too far off the pace of Coulthard and managed to finish the race in 7th. He is guaranteed a drive for Malaysia and Bahrain and he'll need to continue his good form if he is to continue racing in Europe. Top 10 likely, points difficult.
were off the pace in Melbourne. The team knew that and they made it known. They have a mountain to climb and have to improve quickly.
Unable to finish ahead of Red Bull is embarrassing enough.
Drivers: Mark Webber impressed in qualifying but didn't in the race. He was stuck behind Coulthard for most of the race and he should've been able to pass him via the pits if not on track. Webber should have a better race in Sepang but higher than 5th will be hard.
Nick Heidfeld Couldn't match Webber in Melbourne and retired as a result of his tangle with Michael. He needs to be closer to Webber. A points finish is likely.
McLaren: They were reliable and reasonably fast in Melbourne although the car appears to be
hard on tyres. Expect them to be fast at Sepang but the tyres will be a question mark.
Drivers: Kimi Raikkonen stalled the car at the start of the race in Melbourne. Recovered reasonably well to finish in 8th. Stalling a car at the start isn't good though and he wasted a chance of fighting with Montoya. His first win was at Sepang and so he should be strong here. Podium possible.
Juan Pablo Montoya seems to be the harder of the two on tyres and he'll need to adjust his driving style quickly otherwise others will just pass him towards the end of the race. Last year he chased Michael all the way so expect a strong performance from Montoya too. Podium possible.
Starting from second and not finishing in the points, that's such a wasted chance but was that the car or the driver ?. The Toyota
is apparently hard on tyres but Trulli is also known for fading over a race distance. It remains to be seen if the Toyota is
competitive enough to score points.
Drivers: Jarno Trulli continues to be inconsistent. Started 2nd and finished 9th. The story at Renault all over.
Ralf Schumacher was at least better than Trulli as he improved from 15th to 12th despite having to make an extra pit stop for a seat belt adjustment. A top 10 finish in Malaysia is possible.
Sauber: They looked good but a driver and bad luck
prevented them from showing their pace. Expect a strong performance at Sepang from Massa
Drivers: Jacques Villeneuve continues his poor form. From 4th to 13th!. If this continues, he'll be out of the team before his home race in Canada. He needs to look after his tyres and be fast. Retaking his place from Alonso for a few laps was good though!.
Felipe Massa was impressive starting from the back of the grid, he finished 10th and was the only driver on a single stop strategy as he was on the harder compound tyre. He should do well at Sepang with points a possibility.
BAR: What happened ? From second to
eighth ? Sure McLaren and Williams may have improved but BAR where nowhere. They weren't even in points contention. They can't be
that slow as they've shown good pace in testing. They may be slow adjusting to the new rules. Malaysia could be another difficult
race for them.
Drivers: Jenson Button started 8th and finished 11th. Yes he was stuck behind Villeneuve for a while but so was Alonso. He finished on the podium last year here and he'll need to be very lucky to repeat that. Points will be hard.
Takuma Sato started from the back of the grid but you'd expect the BAR Honda to finish ahead of a few other cars in addition to the Jordans and Minardis. Well no, Sato only managed to clear those and finished the race 2 laps down. These are the guys who beat Renault last year!. Top 10 possible but will have to work hard for it.
Jordan: Finished just where they
should ahead of Minardi and behind everyone else. Expect more of the same.
Drivers: Narain Karthikeyan and Tiago Monteiro didn't do too bad in their first race and Karthikeyan seems fast!. They will struggle in Malaysia due to the heat.
Minardi: They raced with their '04 cars modified for the '05 specs. One wonders what the fuss was all
about. Politics of course. They came last which is where they were expected to be.
Drivers: Patrick Freisacher finished his first race 4 laps down. Don't expect much more at Sepang
Christijan Albers seems to be the better of the two but it is too early to call. Like the Jordan pair, they will struggle in the heat of Sepang.
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