Malaysian Grand Prix

Malaysian GP

2016 Malaysia Grand Prix – race report

"A great motivation for McLaren-Honda"

Sepang International Circuit, Sunday October 2

McLaren-Honda picked up eight points after getting both cars home inside the top 10 of today’s Malaysia Grand Prix.

Fernando drove a sensational race from 22nd to seventh at the flag. While the Virtual Safety Car dropped a free pitstop into his lap, he drove with verve and flair both before and after to carve through the field. By the end of lap one, he was running in 14th, and was barely out of the top 10 for the remainder of the afternoon.

Jenson’s two-stop strategy was stymied almost immediately by the appearance of the Virtual Safety Car, which gave his rivals – including Fernando – a free stop, and dropped him back to ninth. It was the only dose of bad luck in an otherwise faultless race.


Started: 22nd
Finished: 7th
Fastest Lap: 1m38.291s on lap 44 (+1.867s, 6th)
Pitstops: Three: laps 9 (2.77s), 27 (2.62s) and 37 (2.40s) [Option/Back-Up/Option/Option]

“It was definitely a very exiting race for us today, with some great battles.

“Having started from the very back, we recovered some good places at the start – and were lucky not to get caught up in the first-corner accident. I was actually surprised by my position, because I’d already got into the points after just a bunch of laps.

“At that point, we had some debate over the radio about the strategy – about whether to be aggressive or more conservative. Eventually, we decided to attack and use all the new sets of Option tyres we had left over from qualifying. The final Virtual Safety Car certainly played in our favour, because it allowed us to use the last new set.

“After this weekend’s penalties, we needed some luck – and we got that today!”


Started: 9th
Finished: 9th 
Fastest Lap: 1m38.740s on lap 51 (+2.316s, 8th)
Pitstops: Two: laps 9 (2.84s) and 40 (2.79s) [Option/Back-Up/Option]

“My race wasn’t too bad – but I got so unlucky with the Virtual Safety Car. The cars behind me were on a three-stop and I was on a two-stopper – then, three laps after I pitted, there was a Virtual Safety Car, which meant they were all able to gain 15 seconds on me for free. It’s a shame I missed it – but luck has not been on my side for these last few races.

“I was actually up into fourth position at the start before a couple of cars dragged past me on the opening lap.

“The two-stopper was the better strategy today, but it’s too difficult to make work when there’s a VSC; I was looking good for seventh up until that point.

“Hopefully I’ll have a bit more luck in the last five races.”

ERIC BOULLIER - Racing director, McLaren-Honda

“To be looking at two points’ finishes after starting one car from last position on the grid is an extremely satisfying result – and a real testament to the progress we’re continuing to make at McLaren-Honda. The split-strategy reaped dividends for both Fernando and Jenson, and the pit-crew executed five faultless pit-stops, including a double-shuffle, which is always a stressful moment in any race.

“Fernando’s charge through the field may have been fortuitously assisted by an opportune Virtual Safety Car period, but he was already inside the top 10 before making his final stop. He benefited from our aggressive three-stop strategy, and drove with all his fire and bravado to make up 10 positions on the opening lap alone.

“Jenson, driving in his 300th grand prix, was no less impressive – but he was desperately unlucky to make his second, and final, pit-stop just a few laps before the Virtual Safety Car handed his rivals a free, and unexpected, stop. To be clear, the two-stop was the fastest option to the chequer, and he was nicely lined up for the rest of the race – until the Virtual Safety Car. That’s motor racing, but we all know that Jenson’s driving is worthy of greater reward than ninth, and I’m sure that will come his way in these final five races.

“Now, we look forward to the next grand prix, at Suzuka, Japan, in seven days’ time. For Honda, it’s the most important and prestigious race of the season, and, buoyed by our result this weekend, we’ll be aiming for another good showing next week.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA - Honda R&D head of F1 project & executive chief engineer

“I am very happy about the great drives from both drivers today, with many on-track battles. The team also did a great job with a solid strategy that helped us bring both cars home in the points. 

“We battled strongly with Williams and Force India throughout the race, and it was a shame that we couldn’t get fully in front, but I think we had very strong race pace, so it’s an encouraging result looking ahead to our home grand prix in Suzuka.

“It was unlucky for Jenson with the Virtual Safety Car and his pit-stop timing, but he drove well and had consistent race pace throughout. Fernando, as usual, had a very good start and a strong charge through the field to finish seventh, another amazing result similar to Spa-Francorchamps.

“Today’s brilliant drives and double points finish are a great motivation for McLaren-Honda.”

2016 Malaysian Grand Prix – preview


#14 Fernando Alonso

"I’m looking forward to heading back to Malaysia after 18 months since the last race there. It’ll be interesting to see how the cars cope on the newly-resurfaced track, and I imagine the weather conditions will be different from our last visit. Still, we expect it to be a tough race in the heat and humidity, but there’s a good combination of slow and high-speed corners and fast straights, so it has a little bit of everything.

"It tests every part of the package, and the driver too, so hopefully there’ll be some close racing and an entertaining weekend for the fans."

#22 Jenson Button

"Sepang is becoming a modern classic – although it’s a relatively new circuit, it’s one of those tracks that drivers enjoy going back to. The conditions are like nothing else we experience, the circuit is quite technical and fun to drive, and the atmosphere is always great. Although it’s traditionally seen as a high-speed circuit which isn’t usually something that our package favours, we do have a good car under braking which is necessary to handle the tight corners after the long, fast straights."



2015 winner Sebastian Vettel, 56 laps, 1:41:05.793s
2015 pole position Lewis Hamilton, 1m49.834s
2015 fastest lap Nico Rosberg, 1m42.062s (lap 43)
Name Sepang International Circuit
First race 1999
Circuit length  5.543km/3.444 miles
Distance to Turn One 600m/0.373 miles
Longest straight  920m/0.572 miles, on the approach to Turn 15
Top speed 330km/h/205mph, on the approach to Turn 15  
Pitlane length 420m/0.261 miles, estimated time loss 24s
Full throttle 65 per cent, with the longest period of full throttle being 12s
DRS zones Two, on the approaches to Turns One and 15
Key corner Turn 14, a tightening, understeer-inducing right-hander that loads up the outside tyres. It’s important to get the car into the apex and get the power down early because the longest straight on the lap follows, along which there is the second DRS zone
Fastest corner  260km/h (162mph), Turn Five
Slowest corner 70km/h (43mph), Turn Two
Major changes for 2016 The circuit has been re-surfaced since last year and more than half of the corners have new kerbs and improved drainage. The camber at Turn Nine has been altered, and, most significantly, Turn 15 has been re-profiled to make it slower, in an effort to encourage overtaking  
Fuel consumption 1.79 per lap, which is average
ERS demands Low. There are several slow corners, out of which electrical power has an impact on acceleration, but there are eight significant braking events around the lap where energy can be recovered 
Brake wear Medium. Only 15 per cent of the lap is spent braking
Gear changes 57 per lap/3,192 per race



History lesson: 
Sepang was the first F1 track to be designed by Hermann Tilke, whose company has helped to design 11 of the 21 circuits on this year’s calendar. Sepang was opened in March 1999 and it hosted its first grand prix later that year, since when it has been a permanent fixture in F1. This year the race is taking place in October, for the first time since 2000.

What makes the track unique: 
It has an interesting mix of medium and high-speed corners, but the biggest single challenge for the teams is cooling. The ambient temperature rarely drops below 30 degrees at this time of year, which places added pressure on the cooling of the power unit in particular.  

Grip levels: 
Medium. The circuit has been re-surfaced this year, so grip levels will depend on how the asphalt has cured since it was laid six months ago. The fast corners have high levels of grip due to the aerodynamic downforce created by the cars, but the new surface will be the biggest single factor influencing grip levels.

Good. This is a modern racetrack, with excellent run-off areas. There are more gravel traps than asphalt run-off areas because they are the preferred safety option for bike racing, which also takes place at Sepang.

Watch out for…: 
The rain – and when it rains in this part of the world, it usually pours. In 2009 the race had to be stopped after 31 laps due to a flooded racetrack and the later-than-normal start time of 3pm leaves the race vulnerable to a late-afternoon thunderstorm.


Start time 15:00hrs local/08:00hrs BST
Race distance 56 laps (full world championship points will be awarded after 75 per cent distance/42 laps)
Safety Car likelihood Low. There is only a 20 per cent chance of a Safety Car
When to press record The start. It’s a long drag to the first corner, which is a slow 180-degree right-hander, immediately followed by a left-hander. There’s always a good scrap through this section on lap one, with the outside line through Turn One sometimes proving to be the more successful
Don’t put the kettle 
Vettel won last year’s race on a two-stop strategy, while Hamilton and Rosberg stopped three times en route to second and third places. The addition of the Soft tyre to this year’s compound list is likely to increase the number of stops, with most drivers trying to complete the race distance on three stops. Expect pitlane action on or around laps 10, 25 and 40
Weather conditions now   29 degrees
Race forecast 31 degrees 
Tyre choices Soft/Medium/Hard, a combination that has only been used twice before this year, at Barcelona and Silverstone



First Malaysian Grand Prix: 

There is no official slogan, but the construction of Sepang International Circuit coincided with the launch of ‘Vision 2020’, a development programme intended to accelerate Malaysia’s drive towards industrialisation.

Malaysian's F1 heritage: 
The country’s first association with F1 came via the national oil company, which started sponsoring Sauber in 1995. Four years and $150m later, the first Malaysian Grand Prix was staged at Sepang, which has been the race’s home for 18 consecutive seasons. There has been one Malaysian driver, Alex Yoong, who raced for Minardi in 2001.

Smallest winning margin:  
0.732s, in 2000. Michael Schumacher and Mika Häkkinen lined up on the front row, but it was the McLaren duo of Mika and David Coulthard that ran 1-2 at the end of lap one. Mika was later penalised for jumping the start, handing the lead to David. But a driving error by the Scotsman handed Schumacher the lead, which he was never to lose. The gap between them was less than 1s for the last 12 laps of the race.

Sporting legacy:
With two grands prix tracks in the region, in Singapore and at Sepang, F1 has a solid foothold in South East Asia. But Malaysia’s prowess as a sporting nation has grown steadily since it hosted the Commonwealth Games in 1998, and this year it came home with five medals from the Rio Olympic Games.

Did you know? 
At 310.408kms/192.879 miles, the Malaysian Grand Prix is the longest race of the season in terms of distance.

Don’t forget: 
McLaren has won the Malaysian Grand Prix twice, most recently in 2007. 

Fan zone:
Michael, aged 38, from Kuala Lumpur, asks: “I’ve been a massive McLaren fan, ever since Kimi Räikkönen won at Sepang in 2003. Please can you tell me what the team has been doing since the Singapore Grand Prix last week; have you spent any time in Kuala Lumpur?”

McLaren’s answer: “Our freight was transported the 200 miles from Singapore to Sepang by road. All 11 teams made the journey together, which created an impressive convoy of lorries. As for personnel, a few people stayed in Asia after Singapore, but the majority returned to Woking, where work on next year’s MP4-32 continues.”


#14 Fernando Alonso

“The Malaysian Grand Prix is always a fun event and among the drivers’ favourites on the calendar. There’s great food, lively fans and good racing so I hope we can put up a strong fight there. I’ve won this race three times before so I have happy memories, and we’ll be aiming to continue the momentum from the past couple of races and get a strong result there again this year.”


#22 Jenson Button

"We always think of Singapore being tough because it’s the longest race of the year, but Malaysia will almost certainly be the hottest race on the calendar. Not only that, but the humidity is immense and the cockpit reaches very high temperatures.

"As drivers, we’re all well equipped for these conditions as part of our training, but it does take its toll by the end of the weekend. You definitely need to be in peak physical fitness to cope with the heat. I’m ready and excited to get out there and start my 300th grand prix, and hopefully have better luck than I did in Singapore.”


Eric Boullier
McLaren-Honda Racing Director

“The challenge at this circuit is to maintain good balance throughout the long straights, big stops and sweeping corners, all while taking the tough and often changeable conditions into account. After a recent run of mixed fortunes on one side of the garage, our aim for the remaining races has to be to iron out reliability niggles and finish with both cars. 

“Since the inaugural Malaysian Grand Prix at this circuit in 1999, Sepang has become a popular venue for drivers and fans alike. There have been a number of memorable races there and thanks to the climate and the nature of the technical layout, it often produces unpredictable results. There are good overtaking opportunities to be had and ample run-off, which once again promises interesting racing.

“The Sepang circuit poses a tough technical challenge for our mechanics and engineers, who have to strike a delicate compromise between efficient cooling, aerodynamic performance and balance, so Friday running will be important initially in order to assess the impact of the new track surface on the car and the re-profiling of some corners – particularly Turn 15. If we can achieve reliability on both sides of the garage, I’m hopeful for a positive weekend. We’ve proved recently that our package is a firm contender in the midfield pack and we have the potential to finish ahead of some strong teams, so we’ll keep fighting to maintain our position and move closer to the front of the grid. 

“Finally, I’d like to congratulate Jenson on his 300th grand prix start – a spectacular achievement for a great world champion, and we look forward to celebrating this incredible milestone with him and the team this weekend.”

Yusuke Hasegawa
Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer

“The Malaysian Grand Prix will no doubt be another hot and humid battle to be fought amongst the drivers. The changeable conditions mean it will be tricky to find a good balance with the car, and the rain can of course give us an added challenge. The circuit in Sepang is an undulating mix of long straights and sweeping corners, which all make for an exciting race with lots of good overtaking battles. We are not 100 per cent certain if we will install any power unit updates for this race, but we’ll look to make our final decision at the track based on the balance of performance and reliability.

“More importantly, this will be a race to celebrate as Jenson makes his 300th grand prix start, which is an incredible milestone and achievement in such a demanding sport. We’re lucky to have two world champion drivers in the team with such experience, and hope that we can finish with a strong result for everyone in the team.”


Malaysian GP race map


2016 Malaysian Grand Prix

The Malaysian Grand Prix is relocated for 2016. One of the season-opening flyaway races for most of its existence, the race at the Sepang circuit has now moved back to an October date, forming, along with Singapore and Japan, a late-season Asian flyaway block. The first two Malaysian Grands Prix, held in 1999 and 2000, were also October races, and respectively the penultimate and final races of their season. It is a good example of how the calendar has expanded in a decade and a half: there are now five grands prix following the trip to Malaysia.

Located only 350km (217 miles) from the equator, moving from a spring to autumn date doesn’t greatly affect the ambient conditions for the race: temperatures, humidity and average rainfall are much the same for October as they are for March. Sepang will provide a venue that is hot, fast, tough on tyres and with a very strong possibility of rain.

While the long back and pit straights dominate the aerial view of Sepang, it’s the middle sector where much of the work gets done with some high speed turns that require stiff suspension. This is encouraged by the low and gentle kerbs around the circuit, which allow the car to run very low.

Fernando is a three-time winner at Sepang, with this figure including his first McLaren victory back in 2007. Jenson won the Malaysian Grand Prix in 2009 with the race awarding half-points, having failed to make three-quarter distance. Torrential rain and the impossibility of completing the distance before the light failed, saw it stopped after 31 of the 56 laps.



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