2016 Malaysian Grand Prix previewby Peter Higham on 30th September 2016
Traditionally one of the early rounds of the World Championship since it was first held in 1999, the Malaysian Grand Prix has now switched to the second half of the season and begins a run of four races in five weeks. Mercedes-Benz can clinch the constructors’ title here – two weeks earlier than in 2015. However, the team has only won once at Sepang (in 2014) and it is Ferrari who has been most successful with seven Malaysian GP victories to date.
Winner of that 2014 race, Lewis Hamilton qualified on pole position for three of the last four Malaysian GPs and he has always finished on the podium during that time. Team-mate and title rival Nico Rosberg goes to the fourth GP in succession looking for his first Formula 1 win at a particular venue – will the result be the same as in Spa-Francorchamps, Monza and Singapore?
Sebastian Vettel has won the race more than any other driver (four times) and he has started from the front row on four of the last five visits to Sepang. Daniil Kvyat qualified fifth last year and he has scored points in both his Malaysian GPs so far – albeit at the tail-end of the top 10. Marcus Ericsson qualified ninth in 2015 – his best starting position so far. Daniel Ricciardo has qualified and finished in the top 10 for the last 11 races of 2016 but his that first victory of the year remains frustratingly elusive.
Sepang has notoriously fickle weather with rain effecting five of the 18 races to date. Most notably, a tropical downpour forced the 2009 Malaysian GP to be abandoned with Brawn’s Jenson Button receiving half-points for his curtailed victory. When dry, this has been a three stop race in recent history although Vettel benefitted from good tyre management to stop just twice and win last year – his first win for Ferrari.