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Formula One - Malaysian GP Preview

Saturday, March 24, 2012 - 13:00

Malaysian GP 2012 Kimi RaikkonenThe Lotus F1 Team delivered another strong showing in qualifying today. Both drivers were ice cool in the 32 degree ambient temperatures and the E20 was perfectly composed.

Kimi Raikkonen matched Mark Webber with the fourth fastest time of Q3, a 1:36.461. Because Webber crossed the line first, he takes the grid advantage. Kimi was pushed back further due to a gearbox change last night. Kimi will start the race tomorrow in P10 due to the five-place grid penalty, but he clearly has the pace to fight with the front-runners. He looked particularly feisty in Q2 when he set the fastest time of the session.

“I made a couple of mistakes on my fastest lap [in Q3] which probably cost us a couple of tenths. Without that, we were in a shout for pole today. It’s a shame we have a penalty on the grid but the car works well.”

Romain Grosjean will benefit from his team-mate’s demotion by starting one place higher than his qualifying position, in sixth place. He set a 1:36.658. “The team has done a great job to get the most out of the car, and we can be really pleased we’re fighting for top positions,” said Romain.

Just 0.439 seconds separate him from pole position winner Lewis Hamilton, so the field is tight. Romain adds: “Hopefully we can move up even further.”

It all bodes for a very exciting race.


The Lotus F1 Team have arrived in Malaysia with a spring in their step. Sure, Australia didn’t exactly go to plan, but we know the car is right up there.

Australia gave clues to the order of things. McLaren are the team to beat. Lotus are close to Red Bull on pace. Mercedes are not as strong in race trim as they are in qualifying. Ferrari are some way behind the top three teams, but not as far back as testing seemed to suggest. Force India are certainly within stabbing distance, and Sauber’s tyre management abilities also make them a threat.

The Lotus E20 loves fast corners, which is what Sepang is all about. Therefore, the team will be disappointed if they leave Malaysia without some engraved excess baggage.

Australian GP 2012 Gallery 3In addition, Romain Grosjean – the star of Australia’s qualifying – cites Sepang as his favourite track in the world. He’s only been here once before, in 2008 when he finished second in the GP2 Asia feature race. Kimi Raikkonen, meanwhile, picked up his first ever grand prix win here in 2003 and did it again in 2008.

Malaysia is a very special race for the team, given that Lotus is owned by Proton. The company’s headquarters are located less than half an hour from the track, and on Thursday morning Kimi and Romain were there to meet Lotus Cars Club of Malaysia members and local media.

The team’s drivers have acclimatized to Malaysia’s stifling heat by playing tennis. During the race, drivers lose 5kg in body weight due to sweating inside their race suits. The ambient temperature is in the high 30s. Add to that the heat of a 3 litre V8 at 18k and a second skin made of Nomex, and you begin to realize what a sauna this race is.


The double-fronted, palm tree-like grandstand provides an awesome backdrop to a circuit that is one of the most challenging of the year. As well as the physical punishment the drivers receive, due to the stifling 40 degree temperatures, there are several corners which are off-camber, making braking difficult and the perfect racing line a bit of an art.

Sepang track

The circuit’s layout of wide straights leading into tight corners has often resulted in collisions. The two long straights provide a great opportunity for the drivers to get a tow, and the generous track width encourages them to take extra chances. The sight of 20 cars scything through twisty turns 1 and 2, jousting all the way, is always thrilling, while turn 12 is blindingly fast, and the final hairpin the home of the late-braker. More Facts >

Local start time: 16h00
Number of laps: 56
Circuit length: 5.543km
Race distance: 310.408km
Lap record: Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams, 2004), 1:34.223


Pole Position:     Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull Racing

Race: 1) Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull Racing
2) Jenson Button  – McLaren-Mercedes
3) Nick Heidfeld – Lotus-Renault

The Lotus-Renault team enjoyed a dream start to last year’s race. Nick Heidfeld sprinted from sixth to second at the first corner, while team-mate Vitaly Petrov passed three cars to slot in fifth.

The Russian was on course to finish seventh in the race but, just four laps from the finish line, he ran wide at Turn 8, hit a bump and went airborne. When the car came crashing back down on the track it ripped the steering column from its socket, and Vitaly was just a passenger.

Heidfeld dropped to fifth after the first round of pitstops but fought back, passing Lewis Hamilton in the dying laps and keeping Mark Webber at bay to take his first podium finish in two years.

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KL is an ever-evolving jungle of buildings that seem to have sprouted organically from the vegetation and rivers that still snake through the heart of town. It boasts old Chinese and colonial mansions on the one hand, and dazzling modern architecture on the other, such as its symbol of economic power, the Petronas Towers.

The tallest twin towers in the world – and, until Taipei 101 overtook it in 2004, the world’s tallest building full stop – this breathtaking building has become THE symbol of modern South East Asia. 451.9m tall, Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta Jones jumped of it in the movie Entrapment. It’s a favourite with risk-hungry skydivers. However, you are advised to use the elevators instead. It opens at 9am (closed Monday) they issue 1,700 free tickets to go up to the Skybridge each day. However, only 120 people can go up per hour, so you may have to get your ticket and return later. It shuts at 7pm.

The best view of the twin-towers can be found from Skybar, 33 floors up on the roof of the Traders Hotel, where you can swim by day and party by night. It’s here that the Lotus F1 Team headed to let its hair down before the serious business of the weekend fired up.

For hardened clubbers, Zouk – which is Creole for ‘party’ - draws the biggest crowds and DJs. It can easily hold 2,000 party people. Outside it looks like a huge boulder, and inside there are booths made out of rock formations around the dance floor, which offer the most comfortable vantage point. A couple of years back, one well-refreshed driver strode into one of these booths, tripped, and landed on a table of champagne flutes. He never admitted to his physio where he got the cuts from.

For the best food, wander around Chinatown and follow your nose. Most kerb-side joints won’t run to a tablecloth, but the authentic Chinese and Malay food you find here is worth the 13-hour flight in itself. Plus, you can get well fed for 2 Euros. Outdoor eateries, hawker stands and ‘mamak’ stalls clutter both sides of the street, underneath hourly-rate hotels. The satays here are the standard by which all should be judged.