The Malaysian GP has become something of a modern classic, the first track designed by Hermann Tilke provides one of the toughest challenges of the season. The heat and humidity is up there with Singapore as the hottest race of the year, the track is fast and easy to make a mistake on. It has been resurfaced for this year, so expect plenty of mishaps on Friday at least as the track rubbers in.
What makes the Malaysian GP unique has to be the weather: sudden rain showers are common in this part of the world and this has provided some exciting racing in the past, notably in 2001, when the leading Ferrari’s of Barrichello and Schumacher slid into the gravel and had to fight back through the field for a one-two. Most famously though was the 2009 event, where a sudden rain storm turned into a monsoon and the race was cancelled at half distance, resulting in half points begin awarded.
Williams’ history at this event is mixed. Their only win came with Ralf Schumacher in 2002, after a dramatic first corner crash between team mate Montoya and brother Michael Schumacher. Montoya managed to fight back from a harsh penalty for the aforementioned crash to finish second to complete a one-two for Williams. Montoya ran Schumacher close in 2004, the pair traded lap records for a large part of the race, but the Colombian couldn’t quite get close enough to Schumacher and finished second.
Nico Rosberg shook the paddock when he put his Williams third on the grid in 2006, but his engine gave up the ghost after a mere six laps at the beginning of a tough season for the team. Rosberg lead the first stint of the 2009 event, but strategic errors and an overall lack of pace meant he finished eighth. Bottas’ and Massa’s fifth and sixth places respectively are the best results for Williams in recent years.
This is a fast, hot race. Tyre wear is high here and the fast corners require downforce but the two long straights require engine power and a slippery chassis. A good overall car is very important here. The FW38 is a reasonably good overall car, but may not have the downforce to compete for the podium here. Bottas recently came out and said that a lack of understanding the tyres has cost the team this season, despite their massively impressive pit stop times. They will need to be on top of that here.
I sound like a stuck record on this point, but Williams need to beat Force India here. The team say they can’t afford to only focus on beating Force India. Fine, so focus on getting as close as possible to Red Bull or Ferrari, which I’m sure they are focused on, but getting close to those teams would ensure they beat Force India. Fourth in the constructor’s may well not go down well back at base but fifth would be that much worse.