Sepang, 28 March – While there is the usual excitement and sense of anticipation regarding Sunday’s Malaysia Grand Prix, it seemed very much like business as usual in the Sepang paddock. Engineers and mechanics were going about their tasks almost as if these new Formula 1 cars had been around for a long while and were not just at their second race. However, like a swan gliding across a lake, beneath the surface there’s frantic activity.
While the two F14 T may look substantially the same as they did in Melbourne last weekend, appearances can be deceptive: since the opening round of the season, every bit of data from the Albert Park weekend has been analysed, so the Scuderia Ferrari engineers in Maranello could look at ways of fine tuning all the systems on the car, with the aim of extracting some more performance, as well as continuing to work on its all-important reliability factor, here in Malaysia.
On track today, of the two Prancing Horse drivers, it was Kimi Raikkonen who had the better day, completing 50 laps, as against 43 for Fernando Alonso. The Finn was second fastest in both sessions, one of only three drivers to break the 1m 40 barrier. The other two were Nico Rosberg fastest for Mercedes and reigning champion Sebastian Vettel third for Red Bull. Fernando was fifth this afternoon, behind the other Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton.
Fridays are extremely busy, even more so than usual with these new regulations, so it was useful that both Prancing Horse cars ran reliably throughout the three hours of track action, allowing for plenty of laps, which always equates to plenty of data. One key aspect of F1 we had not experienced in Australia was tyre degradation, but here in Malaysia, where drivers have the Hard and Medium compounds, the former making its first appearance, that is going to play a significant part here, because of the track temperature and the high speed turns that load up the tyres.