Malaysia Grand Prix 2014: Drivers Who Must Impress in Sepang

Jason Pettigrove@@jaypetti1971Contributor IMarch 29, 2014

Kuala Lumpur's Sepang circuit is the next test for the F1 drivers.
Kuala Lumpur's Sepang circuit is the next test for the F1 drivers.Vincent Thian/Associated Press

The Malaysian Grand Prix takes place at the Sepang International Circuit, Kuala Lumpur, on Sunday in the second round of this year's Formula One season.

The 16th time that the race has been run is sure to provide racegoers with all of the thrills and spills associated with this high-octane, high-risk sport.

Mercedes' Nico Rosberg sits atop the drivers standings after his win in Melbourne, closely followed by Kevin Magnussen.

A number of other drivers who are expected to be in the shake up at the end of the season were unable to score in Australia. They will, no doubt, be looking to put that right and get some points on the board in this one.

The sweeping Sepang circuit gives plenty of opportunities to overtake, so a second- or third-row placing on the starting grid isn't a disaster.

And there will be a handful of drivers eager to impress..

Lewis Hamilton

Will Lewis Hamilton live up to his tag of pre-race favourite?
Will Lewis Hamilton live up to his tag of pre-race favourite?Mark Thompson/Getty Images

According to Oddschecker, Mercedes' No. 1 Lewis Hamilton remains the pre-race favourite.

Rob Griffith/Associated Press

The Englishman was given a boost with the news, per Byron Young of the Daily Mirror, that he will be able to use the engine that failed him in Australia after no damage was reported.

With just five units allowed during the season, to have lost one after the opening race could have been fatal to Hamilton's chances of overall success.

Victorious in Melbourne, team-mate Nico Rosberg noted via ESPN that Mercedes were now the team to beat:

The chances are, yes, that we will be right at the front because it seems that we have a bit of an advantage over the other people.

Of course Melbourne is not a benchmark as a race, so we need to be a bit cautious with that but I think we're looking good, so it will be possible to do a great result again here.

Should Hamilton take the front row on the starting grid, then it's hard to see how Mercedes can lose this one.

They have the quickest car and as long as Hamilton doesn't get complacent, an impressive run could see a one-two finish to cement their standing at the top of the drivers' championship during these early stages.

Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel gave a withering critique of F1's new engines.
Sebastian Vettel gave a withering critique of F1's new engines.Peter Lim/Associated Press

The four-time world champion is one unhappy bunny.

Sebastian Vettel had to retire after just five laps in Australia because of engine difficulties, but it's not only the workings of the new V6s that are bothering the German.

According to Daniel Johnson of the Telegraph, Vettel is none too enamoured by the sound of the new engines (NSFW):

It is s**t. [...] I think for the fans it is not good. I think F1 has to be spectacular - and the sound is one of the most important things.

[...] we went to see the cars live in free practice in Germany, and the one thing I remember was the sound.

[I remember] how loud the cars were, and to feel the cars through the ground as it was vibrating. It is a shame we don't have that anymore.

In truth, Vettel has far more to be concerned about than the sound of his car.

No points on the board isn't yet a disaster because this is a circuit that Vettel enjoys, having won here three times in the past—including in 2013 when he ignored team orders to take the chequered flag from team mate Mark Webber, per the Press Association via the Independent

Mal Fairclough/Associated Press

However, the engine problems that blighted his run in Australia will be a concern.

Per Sky Sports, the driver was frank enough to admit that although the problems will be addressed, he has no idea how long it will take to solve.

And for the sport's main attraction, that just isn't good enough.

Engine issues notwithstanding, Vettel needs to reproduce some of last season's form to gain a foothold on the leaderboard and kickstart his assault on a fifth successive championship.

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso is in confident mood ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Fernando Alonso is in confident mood ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix.Peter Lim/Associated Press

Fernando Alonso and his Ferrari team got off to a decent start in Melbourne, placing fourth.

Despite not having the most reliable unit these season, the Spaniard is still confident of success, per Sky Sports:

I think that we have more potential than what we showed in Australia and we need to put everything in place and have a better weekend. We also understand that we need to improve as that will still not be enough as the Mercedes cars seem very strong.

But we have the potential, the team has the facilities, the team has the talent to do a very good job and we are strong and we should be strong. We will do better I am pretty sure.

Alonso knows the circuit well having also won here on a hat-trick of previous occasions.

Andy Brownbill/Associated Press

A studious performer who takes his work extremely seriously, Alonso can be relied upon to provide another professional performance.

Whether that will be enough to take the chequered flag is unlikely, but this seasoned grand prix veteran will give everything in the hope of adding more points to the 12 already in the bank.


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