Malaysian GP - Preview

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Lewis Hamilton has described his victory in the Australian Grand Prix as "a breeze", understandable given the manner in which he dominated proceedings in Melbourne.

He might also have been cheekily referring to the sweltering conditions experienced Down Under, as, with certain rivals noticeably getting hot under the collar in Albert Park, Hamilton was definitely in the minority in maintaining his cool in temperatures which climbed to 39 degrees celsius.

Just as well because, less than one week on from Formula One's 2008 curtain raiser, it's a case of 'out of the frying pan and into the fire' as teams head to Malaysia for round two of the championship.

Conditions at the 3.444-mile Sepang circuit outstrip those everywhere else on the calendar, with temperatures easily capable of approaching those experienced last weekend.

However, on top of that, drivers still adjusting to the ban on driver aids introduced this year will also have to cope with a level of humidity that can reach 60 percent.

"For Malaysia, it is very difficult to prepare physically for the race, even more so this year, and you cannot begin to imagine how hot it gets in the car," said Hamilton, who finished second at Sepang last year.

"Last season we had the test session and a couple of weeks off so we were able to go to a hot country and train to get acclimatised.

"This year we have gone straight from Melbourne to Sepang, so we have only had a couple of days to get used to the extreme heat.

"The focus is always on making sure you are well hydrated. Last year I was drinking up to four litres a day in the days building up to the race.

"It was the hardest race I have ever competed in last year, even with all the preparation and trying to look after your energy beforehand."


Having driven a perfect race last time out - albeit disappointed at having missed out on the race's fastest lap to team-mate Heikki Kovalainen - Hamilton is naturally hoping for more of the same this weekend.

"The race at Melbourne was the perfect start to the season for me," he added.

"The car felt fantastic, and I do feel we can go quicker, but Malaysia is a tough race.

"We are going to Sepang aiming to get another great result, but it is likely to be hotter again so it will be a big challenge.

"There is not much we can do with the cars between Australia and Malaysia as there is so little time, but we will keep pushing hard."

One team not hoping for more of the same in Malaysia are pre-season favourites Ferrari, who endured their worst start to a season since 1992 last weekend.

Not only did world champion Kimi Raikkonen and team-mate Felipe Massa both fail to finish, worryingly for the Scuderia, they both suffered engine failures related to the hot conditions.

A Ferrari spokesman told "It was a fuel-feed problem partly related to the hot temperatures in Melbourne. It provoked a failure of the intake valve on both engines."

Nevertheless, having flown both engines home to Maranello for analysis, they are confident that the problems suffered were a one-off.

And Raikkonen, who also suffered a fuel pump problem in qualifying which relegated him to 15th place on the grid, still managed to score a point - the margin by which he took last year's title from Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.

"Obviously it was a disappointing start to the season for all of us in the team. But it is no use crying afterwards. It does not change anything any more. The result is what it is," the Finn said philosophically.

"But despite all the problems, we still managed to get one point, and every single point is always a bonus in this business."

Best result

Nick Heidfeld and Nico Rosberg were the main beneficiaries of others' misfortune, the former's second-place finish allowing BMW Sauber to equal their best-ever result, with the Williams youngster also securing his first podium.

Assuming Ferrari - whose drivers will have fresh engines - have overcome their problems then both teams will be struggling for a repeat performance this weekend.

However, they - and BMW Sauber in particular after Robert Kubica came within a whisker of pole position at Albert Park - will be hoping that Malaysia can nevertheless yield both points finishes and further proof that the gap to the 'top two' is, perhaps, surmountable this year.

Malaysian Grand Prix:

Track length: 3.444 miles (5.543 km)

Number of laps: 56 (192.887 miles/310.408 km)

Lap record: Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams) 1 min 34.223sec (2004)

2007 winner: Fernando Alonso (McLaren)