For Sepang, Rain Expected: Party Time!

Paige Michael-ShetleyCorrespondent IMarch 30, 2009

NORTHAMPTON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 06:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and McLaren Mercedes drives on his way to victory during the British Formula One Grand Prix at Silverstone on July 6, 2008 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

According to the weather reports, there is an extremely high chance of rain throughout the weekend in Sepang, with a staggering 94 percent chance of rain on race day. Furthermore, thunderstorms are expected throughout the weekend. 

It should be cautioned, however, that this is not the first time rain has been expected for the Malaysian Grand Prix. In fact, it has become something of a tradition over the past two seasons, with rain expected in both 2007 and 2008. Still, an estimated 94 percent chance for rain on race day is about as certain as it gets. 

If there is rain, however, we can expect to see quite a show on Sunday. As we all know, a rain storm in Southeast Asia is no laughing matter, so we could be in line to see drivers face a tremendous challenge in vicious conditions. Compounding this challenge will be the reduced rear downforce the drivers will have at their disposal this year, which will make controlling the car extremely difficult. 

Who would a wet race this weekend favor? Well, to begin with, you have to look at the team, who clearly have the most pace right now: Brawn. As if they needed any other advantage over the competition this weekend, they may get one with a wet race. 

First, they have more rear downforce than any other team, so they will naturally have an aerodynamic advantage in these conditions. Secondly, both Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello are supreme wet racers, with each driver scoring wins and turning in a number of other highly impressive driving performances and finishes in the wet. Finally, Ross Brawn brings a wealth of technical experience in setting up for wet conditions with the Rain King himself—Michael Schumacher—at both Benetton and Ferrari. 

Next, you have to look at the man who has been the best wet race performer of the last two seasons—Lewis Hamilton. With his brilliant win at Fuji in 2007 and performances last year, including his savage assault on the field at Silverstone; his expert win in the wet/semi-wet Monaco last year; and great performances at Spa and Monza; he's cemented himself in the minds of many as the best wet racer in F1 today.

However, given McLaren is lacking rear downforce, Hamilton could have his hands full. If I'm McLaren, I would roll the dice and plan to go to Sepang with a maximum downforce setting, even if it compromises the straightline speed that they would need in Sectors one and three in order to be even pedestrian in the dry. 

Sebastian Vettel is another driver who comes to mind as a favorite to win in a wet Malaysian Grand Prix. He achieved his first F1 victory famously in the wet at Monza, and he contended for his first one in the horrendous conditions at Fuji in 2007, before infamously ramming his now-teammate Mark Webber under caution.

Young Vettel loves the wet, clearly. 

The last man who comes to mind as a favorite for a wet race at Sepang is Robert Kubica. He drove a brilliant race in the wet at Fuji, challenging Hamilton for the lead at one point and then participating in an epic last-lap duel with Massa for position. Kubica also turned in a dominating performance in the early stages of the wet Monaco Grand Prix last year, before Hamilton took the lead under pit stops and proceeded to gap the field on to victory. He scored a podium finish at Monza last year from a dismal starting position, and he was on track for a podium at Silverstone before spinning off.

Some claim the Pole has the best car control in Formula One, and he has provided plenty of evidence for this argument in his young career. 

All in all, let's pray for rain this weekend at Sepang. If anything, it should liven up what many anticipate will be another Schumacher-Ferrari-esque butt whooping by Brawn GP.