Will tyre management prove key in Kuala Lumpur?


With the Malaysian Grand Prix renowned for its tough conditions, variable climate and extreme heat, the Sepang Circuit is one of the most exciting GPs in F1. Pinnacle Sports previews the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix on March 24th.

Sepang Circuit: tough on both man and machine


Since holding its inaugural Grand Prix in 1999, the Sepang International Circuit is one of the toughest circuits in Formula One. A combination of long high-speed straights, and tight twisting corners ensure the track is complicated, but perfect for overtaking.


Car set-up is key as the Sepang Circuit presents a difficult balancing act for the teams to master – with a variety of corners mixed with long straights it’s vital to find a balance between adding downforce and facilitating top-end speed.


The Sepang Circuit has a number of differences from Melbourne, which certify why it’s more difficult for both man and machine. A combination of extremely high track temperatures, a rough track surface and a volatile climate, ensure both a driver’s skill and the cars durability are pushed to the limit.


Unpredictable weather can play a part


The weather at the Malaysian Grand Prix is renowned for being extremely unpredictable – expect blisteringly hot sunshine one minute and a tropical thunderstorm the next.


The forecast earlier in the week showed that qualifying would be dry, although Sunday could see a number of thunderstorms. How drivers and teams react to the ever changing conditions could be key between success and failure. With this said, the climate around the circuit is ever changing, so it is advisable to monitor the situation.


Tyre degradation could prove a problem


The Sepang Circuit has one of the most abrasive surfaces the cars will compete on all year, which is part of the reason why the two hardest Pirelli compounds will be used.


With the track being built on swampland, it has an uneven surface, which coupled with the track temperature and twisty bends increases tyre degradation. The high lateral demand on the tyres – second only to Barcelona – leads to heat build-up within the tyre.


Although grip levels are high in Malaysia, the frequent rain has the effect of washing any rubber that has been laid down from the track overnight, meaning that there is often a ‘green’ surface at the start of each session producing another test for the drivers.


Qualification as a race performance indicator at Malaysian Grand Prix


After proving that there was a good correlation between qualifying position and final race positions throughout the 2012 season (click to read here), we examined the past 10 Malaysian Grand Prix to give an indication as to how much weight Formula 1 bettors should place on the relevance of qualifying.


The data shows that there is a 0.48 correlation between qualifying and race position over the last 10 Malaysian GPs, however when eradicating the 2006 data –that showed a correlation of 0.08 – the correlation rises to a solid 0.53.


60% of races at the Malaysian Grand Prix had a correlation above 0.5, which highlights that for more than half of the data, qualifying provided a meaningful predictor of a drivers’ race performance.


The 2006 Grand Prix proved controversial as five drivers expected to be challenging for the points were forced to drop ten places because of changing an engine before the race – therefore skewing the data. On race day, the drivers’ who didn’t change their engine suffered serious mechanical difficulties, with only 14 drivers finishing the race from a field of 22.


The strongest correlation was 0.82, which was recorded at the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix. Here the weather was perfect for Formula One racing and as such eight of the top ten qualifiers, finished inside the points on Sunday which highlights the importance of researching the weather forecast.


50% of drivers who qualified on pole at the Sepang Circuit over the past ten years have won the race, while the average finishing position is 3.7.


What we learnt from Australia


Kimi Raikkonen won the first Grand Prix of the year and proved that Lotus have kept their good tyre durability while improving their race pace, which means they are well placed to make a serious championship charge.


Despite claiming a one-two in qualifying Red Bull were unable to convert their pace into a victory – Sebastian Vettel third and Mark Webber sixth – but there is little doubt that the car is the quickest after such a dominant qualifying session.


Mercedes made a solid start to the season with Lewis Hamilton debuting in the Silver Arrow claiming third in qualifying before finishing fifth. A better performance is expected from the team when track temperatures rise.

McLaren had a disastrous start to the season and are struggling to compete in the midfield let alone at the front. After designing a new car instead of tweaking last year’s model – like the majority of the teams – they found themselves at times two-seconds off the pace. Jenson Button finished ninth after qualifying 10th, while Sergio Perez finished 11th after starting 15th on the grid.


Formula One bettors should couple the data from the relationship between qualifying and finishing position while keeping a very close eye on the weather alongside subjective factors such as track characteristics, race strategy, tyre degradation, racing incidents and season form, to ensure they are in a stronger position to make an informed decision about Formula One race winners.


Click here for the latest Malaysian Grand Prix Odds.


(Source: Pinnacle)




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