March, Sepang : With two
different winners at the opening two races of
2010 season that delivered two contrasting kinds
of race, Round 3 at Sepang International Circuit
(SIC) this weekend will be one that is very
difficult to call, according to circuit chairman
Datuk Mokhzani Tun Dr Mahathir.
“It will be a tough call as teams and drivers
haven't found their ‘sweet spot’ yet,” says
Mokhzani when asked on his reading of the 12th
edition of the Formula 1 PETRONAS Malaysian
Grand Prix this Sunday.
“The two races (in Bahrain and Australia) were
completely different and so were the results.
The pundits said Bahrain was boring and
Melbourne was one of the most exciting they've
seen in years,” he said, adding that it was even
too early to say that there was already a trend
in the championship race.
“It's still too early to say. No doubt the
Ferraris and RedBulls are strong but Melbourne
proved that you don't have to be in the front
row to win the race,” he said in reference to
Jenson Button’s sensational victory at Albert
Seventh at the season-opener in Bahrain, the
2009 champion was first to change to slick tyres
in Melbourne and reaped immediate benefits
though Button’s gamble appeared to have
backfired in his first lap out as he skidded
into the gravel. But, as the track dried up and
pole sitter Sebastian Vettel crashing out on Lap
26, Button took full control of the race to
score his first win with McLaren.
Adding 25 more to the six points he collected in
Sakhir, Button goes third in the championship
standing with 31 points – six points behind
Bahrain GP winner Fernando Alonso, who has 37
points. Felipe Massa, who won third in Australia
and second in Bahrain, is second in the drivers’
world championship standings with 33 points.
But, as rightfully explained by Mokhzani, it is
still early days especially with the 2010 season
expanded to 19 rounds and the teams required to
work under stricter rules this season in line
with the cost-cutting measures stipulated by the
world governing body. Malaysia hosts Round 3
from April 2 to 4.
While some of the race officials would already
be making their way to Sepang, the race cars and
team equipments would be arriving at the circuit
from Melbourne beginning early tomorrow morning
and unloading works starting immediately.
With possibility of rain quite strong in Sepang,
Mokhzani said that it would make it even harder
to predict on the race outcome. Over the past
week, weather had been unpredictable in Sepang
and the Meteorological Department has forecasted
that there would be scattered thunderstorms
throughout the weekend.
“(If it rains), tyre strategies will play a
major role. I hope there's a sprinkling of rain
instead of the torrent we had last year,”
Mokhzani said in reference to the 2009 race
which had an unprecedented 5pm start; but was
marred with heavy showers; forcing an early stop
and championship points for the eight top
finishers cut by half.
Marking the 12th edition of the Formula 1
PETRONAS Malaysian Grand Prix, Mokhzani said
that SIC had taken significant measures to
increase the profile of the event including the
promotion of the ‘I Love F1’ campaign to get the
fans closer to the event.
“We've taken more positive steps towards getting
the public closer to F1. The school childrens'
pitwalk and getting the kids to interview the
drivers is great. It was pleasantly surprising
to find so many kids knew the names of the
drivers especially Michael Schumacher,” said
Mokhzani, who unveiled the winners’ trophies in
Kuala Lumpur yesterday and witness the selection
of the ‘young interviewers’.
The 2010 season would mark the return of
Schumacher back to his favourite hunting ground
in Sepang and many including F1 legend Niki
Lauda believed that the seven-time world
champion would shine on his return to the
Malaysian Grand Prix.
Lauda, who returned from horrying injuries in
1976 to take the second of his three world
drivers title in the following year, said
Schumacher would be back in prime form; using
the opening two rounds in Bahrain and Australia
to get himself back into the groove.
Describing Schumacher’s sixth placing at Sakhir
as a perfect start, Lauda pointed out that with
limited time on the new race car and coming from
a lengthy absence away from the championship, it
would take time for the Mercedes GP PETRONAS
driver to find his old form.
Second by choice at the inaugural race in 1999
which was won by his Ferrari team-mate Eddie
Irvine, Schumacher was a winner in Sepang in
2000, 2001 and 2004. In his two opening races
with Mercedes GP PETRONAS this season,
Schumacher was sixth in Bahrain and 10th at the
Australian Grand Prix, whose race was spoiled by
a first corner incident at the start of the
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