Malaysian Grand Prix 2016 Preview: Start Time, TV Info, Weather, Schedule, Odds
Following an exciting race in Singapore, the Formula One circus reconvenes south of Kuala Lumpur for the Malaysian Grand Prix.
On the back of a three-race winning streak, Nico Rosberg leads the drivers' championship again—for the first time since the end of the British Grand Prix back in July.
Last year, with the Malaysian Grand Prix coming in its traditional place at the beginning of the calendar, Sebastian Vettel pulled off a shocking win for Ferrari—the Scuderia's first in the hybrid V6 engine era. Ferrari are still looking for their first win of 2016, but Red Bull have looked stronger in recent races, with Daniel Ricciardo nearly catching Rosberg at the end of the Singapore Grand Prix.
Vettel is also the most successful driver in Malaysia, having won the race four times. Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso have three wins apiece, while Lewis Hamilton has just one, back in 2014. Rosberg's best finish at the Sepang International Circuit was second that same year, 17 seconds adrift of Hamilton.
The Mercs are the obvious favourites again this weekend at the home race of their title sponsor, Petronas. As if it were possible, the team are even more dominant this year than in either of the two previous seasons.
Through 15 races, Mercedes have 538 points, compared to 531 at the same point last year and 522 in 2014. Even more impressive, Hamilton and Rosberg have won 14 of the 15 grands prix this year, losing only in Spain, where Hamilton's first-lap mistake took out both cars.
Will anyone be able to challenge the Silver Arrows this weekend on a track where they struggled in 2015? Remember, they also struggled at Singapore last year, and we all saw how that turned out two weeks ago.
Keep reading for a full race-weekend preview, including TV times, championship standings, a circuit map and guide, tyre and DRS information, weather forecast, odds and session times.
Hamilton led Rosberg by 41 points with six races remaining in the 2015 season. This year, he is eight points down. But don't get too discouraged, Hamilton fans—back in 2014, Rosberg had a 22-point lead at this point in the season, and we all know how that turned out.
Still, Rosberg is clearly feeling comfortable in the car right now, while Hamilton seems to be struggling somewhat.
Behind the Mercs, Ricciardo has pulled 26 points clear of his old team-mate Vettel for third place. Further down, Alonso could jump into the top 10 with a strong performance this weekend. He sits 11th, five points behind Felipe Massa.
Here are the top-10 drivers heading into the Malaysian Grand Prix:
A Mercedes win coupled with any other points finish will be enough to clinch the team's third straight constructors' title in Malaysia, no matter what Red Bull or Ferrari do.
The real battles, though, are for second and fourth places. Red Bull have a 15-point lead on Ferrari for second, while Force India are just one point ahead of Williams for fourth.
Meanwhile, Sauber's Felipe Nasr finished 13th in Singapore, the team's best result since Austria. You can bet the Swiss team are desperate to score a couple points before the end of the year to overhaul Manor for 10th place.
Here is the table for the constructors' championship:
Sepang International Circuit
The 5.543-kilometre, 15-turn Sepang International Circuit hosted its first F1 grand prix in 1999. It was the first F1 track built from scratch by the now-ubiquitous Hermann Tilke.
Unlike some of Tilke's creations, Sepang has become something of a modern classic. It's fast, sweeping turns are popular with the drivers and the two long, signature straights provide plenty of overtaking opportunities. The ever-changing weather can also throw up some surprise results, adding to the allure of the Malaysian Grand Prix.
"I think it's pretty much the hardest race of the year," said Romain Grosjean, per the Haas race preview. "Singapore is a slower track with slower corners, whereas Malaysia has high speed with high loads. Again, it's a great challenge, a great track, and when you have a good car, it's an amazing experience."
Check out the F1 circuit guide video for a lap of Sepang from a driver's perspective.
Turns 1, 2 and 3
Turn 1 is a slow, tight, long right-hander at the end of the lengthy start/finish straight. The drivers brake to approximately 90 km/h at the entry, scrubbing more speed through the corner.
Turn 2 follows immediately, with the cars down to about 65 km/h for the downhill left-hander, with the circuit falling away at the exit.
From there, the drivers accelerate downhill through the flat-out Turn 3, reaching speeds of more than 300 km/h on the straight heading to Turn 4.
Turns 4, 5 and 6
Turn 4 is a heavy braking zone, with the drivers slowing to 100 km/h for the right-hander. Turn 5 is a sweeping left-hander, followed immediately by Turn 6, another fast, sweeping curve.
Turns 7, 8, 9 and 10
After a short straight, Turns 7 and 8 form a double-right-hand turn, taken at approximately 160 km/h. They are followed by another blast downhill to the hairpin at Turn 9.
"Big braking, and there's also change in the surface which makes it pretty difficult to get the right traction out of that corner," explained Esteban Gutierrez in the Haas race preview. "By that time the tires are pretty hot, so you struggle with the traction out of the hairpin."
Turn 10 is a quick, right-hand kink as the track climbs back uphill again.
Turns 11, 12 and 13
Turn 11 is a 140 km/h, fourth-gear right-hander leading onto another short straight. Turn 12 is a quick left-hander, with the DRS detection point following its exit.
Turn 13 is a long right-hander that sees the drivers bleeding off speed as they go through it.
Turns 14 and 15
It is essential to have a smooth entrance and exit at the 100 km/h Turn 14. The slow right-hander leads onto the long back straight and the first DRS zone of the lap.
At the end of the straight comes another hairpin, Turn 15. Again, drivers need a good line and smooth acceleration to maximise the following straight. The pit entrance is on the outside of Turn 15, before the drivers blast back down toward the start/finish line.
Malaysian Grand Prix Tyres and DRS Zones
The hard-compound tyres are making just their third appearance this season, along with the medium and soft compounds, the three hardest tyres in Pirelli's range.
With the entire circuit having been resurfaced since last year's race, there is a chance the tyres could last too long for Pirelli's ideal, multi-pit stop race.
"The tarmac is a bit less aggressive than in the past, so the roughness has gone a bit down," the company's technical boss, Mario Isola, told Motorsport.com's Adam Cooper. "Malaysia is quite above the average, it was more than 120 per cent compared to our baseline, and it's gone down by 5-10 per cent, which is quite a step."
Still, as Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery noted in the company's race preview, "In terms of extreme conditions that provide a real test for the tyres, Malaysia is right up there with anything else we see all year. That's because of the extremely high temperatures as well as the high energy loadings through the fast corners."
The two Mercedes drivers have opted for slightly different tyre allocations this weekend, with Hamilton bringing three sets each of the hard and medium compounds, while Rosberg has two hard sets and four mediums. Both drivers opted for seven sets of soft tyres.
There are two DRS zones at Sepang, on the long straights on either side of the main grandstand. However, there is just a single detection point for the two zones, coming between Turns 12 and 13.
Malaysian Grand Prix Weather
Sepang's weather is notoriously unpredictable, although you can usually count on two things: heat and rain. This weekend should be no different.
According to AccuWeather, at the time of publication, the high for each day is 32 degrees Celsius. Meanwhile, the forecast also calls for showers or thunderstorms each day, although not necessarily during the on-track running.
As ever, keep checking the forecast closer to the event for a more accurate reading.
Malaysian Grand Prix Odds
After Ricciardo had the second-best odds in Singapore, we are back to the status quo for Malaysia, with the Merc drivers the two clear favourites.
Despite Vettel's win last year, he is still 12-1 to repeat that performance in 2016.
The best odds available for the top-10 favourites in Malaysia are:
Over the last 10 years, pole-sitters have won just 50 per cent of the time in Malaysia. You can get 5-2 odds for the race winner to come from second on the grid or 6-1 odds that he comes from third or fourth.
For those familiar with betting on horse racing, you can get a boxed tricast (or trifecta) with Hamilton, Rosberg and Vettel at 13-5.
As Jolyon Palmer fights to maintain his race seat for next year, he is 16-1 for his first points finish of the season, while both Sauber drivers are 22-1 for the same.
All odds are taken from Oddschecker and correct at the time of publication.
Malaysian Grand Prix Session and TV Times
Here are the times for the three free practice sessions, qualifying and the race:
|Practice 1||Friday||10 a.m.|
|Practice 2||Friday||2 p.m.|
|Practice 3||Saturday||2 p.m.|
The above times are in local Sepang time (MYT, UTC+8). You can convert the times to your local time zone using the helpful tool on the official F1 website.
In the United Kingdom, Sky Sports F1 and Channel 4 will have live coverage of all the sessions. The programming start times are as follows (all times BST):
|Session||Day||Time (Sky Sports)||Time (Channel 4)|
|Practice 1||Friday||2:45 a.m.||2:55 a.m.|
|Practice 2||Friday||6:45 a.m.||6:55 a.m.|
|Practice 3||Saturday||6:45 a.m.||6:55 a.m.|
|Qualifying||Saturday||9 a.m.||9 a.m.|
|Race||Sunday||6:30 a.m.||7 a.m.|
In the United States, NBC has live coverage of all the sessions on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app, with programming start times as follows (all times EDT):
|Practice 1||Thursday||10 p.m. (NBC Sports app)|
|Practice 2||Friday||2 a.m. (NBCSN)|
|Practice 3||Saturday||2 a.m. (NBC Sports app)|
|Qualifying||Saturday||5 a.m. (NBCSN)|
|Race||Sunday||2 a.m. (NBCSN)|
Enjoy the race and the rest of the weekend!
Matthew Walthert is an F1 columnist for Bleacher Report UK. He has also written for VICE, FourFourTwo and the Globe and Mail. Follow him on Twitter: