Malaysia Ahead Is the Focus of Ross Brawn, Pirelli, Vitaly Petrov, Nick Heidfeld

Barry RosenbergContributor IIApril 8, 2011

Rosberg and Schumacher in their Mercedes GP cars.
Rosberg and Schumacher in their Mercedes GP cars.Clive Mason/Getty Images

Ross Brawn, team principal at Mercedes GP, might well think about his good fortune to have sold his interest in the team to Mercedes-Benz given its current suffering. In the season opener at the Australian Grand Prix two weeks ago, both team cars failed to finish. Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg each had to drop out during the race.

"It's still frustrating because the car is not where we want it to be, but it's still better than it looked in Australia, and let's hope we can demonstrate that,” Brawn said.

"However, I think we've a while to go before we can certainly trouble Red Bull."

"Although we've lots happening, there are some things we still need to understand as the warmer weather and different conditions here with the tyres has presented problems we have to get our heads round."

Paul Hembery, Motorsport Director for Pirelli, is of the opinion that teams would be best served by running three-stop strategies at Sepang on Sunday. He expressed satisfaction with the durability of the Pirellis, which performed well during Friday's practice on a sizzling Malaysian track, at 48 degrees Celsius (118.4 Fahrenheit).

"Everybody has faced extremely tough conditions during the first day of running in Malaysia," he said. "Luckily our tyres have performed faultlessly so far, but of course the real work lies ahead of us as the drivers put their cars into qualifying and race trim,” said Hembery. "Today, the drivers tried out the evolution of our hard tyres and their response was generally favourable, although we need to be careful that we don't end up with tyres that are too conservative."

"Obviously there will be some interesting tactical calls from the teams tomorrow when it comes to deciding which tyres they will choose to qualify on. This is just going to add to the spectacle of what is sure to be a fascinating race."

Vitaly Petrov earned a wonderful moment at the season opener on the Albert Park track in Melbourne. He stood on the third step of the podium to hold his trophy proudly high after a great drive in his Lotus-Renault. He's the only Russian driver to ever achieve a podium finish.

Unfortunately, the euphoria has been short-lived as Petrov spun into the gravel during his Malaysia practice, and his greatly experienced teammate, Nick Heidfeld suffered an explosive failure of suspension uprights in the same, first 90-minute session.

"It then took us a lot of time to investigate properly, obviously because it is a safety issue,” said Eric Boullier, Renault team principal. "We found out the two failures came out of the same batch of new parts, so we had a back-up plan, and it went okay. They are new parts from a new batch. That's it. These things can happen unfortunately."

Petrov said, “The problem in the morning was quite a surprise and so we decided not to run until late in the afternoon when we had understood things properly,".

"When I did finally get out, the car felt fine, but the time we had was very limited and we didn't really manage to do any set-up work.

"However, tomorrow is a new day and I think we can still have a good weekend."

Nick Heidfeld had a bad time at the first race of the season. He was given the opportunity to replace Robert Kubica, who is hospitalized in Italy after he sustained severe injuries in a rally accident. Unfortunately, Heidfeld finished a sad 12th in the Australian Grand Prix two weeks ago, while his young teammate Vitaly Petrov was 3rd.

"There is always talk about pressure in F1, but I have been in F1 for so long," he said. "I make pressure for myself yes, but I don't really worry about anything else,” Heidfeld said.

"The most important thing is that the car is quick. Vitaly was able to score a podium with a good race, not just being lucky but having a good race and a good strategy.

"So on one side, it makes it even more difficult to swallow that result because you know what would be possible. But on the other side, it is a huge motivation for the rest of the season and this weekend.

"Honestly I cannot wait to finally get started again. Unfortunately, there were two weeks between the two races, as I would have liked to have had one week and get going again."