Former F1 World Champion Jenson Button predicts 'absolute madness' in Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang, forecasting fun and games with the ever-unpredictable Kuala Lumpur weather and describing Pirelli's tyres for the weekend as 'very different from those we had in Melbourne'.

Having struggled during FP1 today - posting only the 15th-fastest time, more than three seconds shy of the leading pace - Button improved dramatically during the afternoon FP2 session to vault up the timing screens into second place at the close of play, a scant five thousandths of a second adrift of Red Bull Racing rival Mark Webber.

"This afternoon's session was much better than this morning's," the McLaren-Mercedes star confirmed. "We found things a little difficult during FP1; after Melbourne, we chose to head in a certain direction in order to resolve the issues we had in the first race, but the track is very different here, so we went back on a few of those changes and everything is performing better now.

"We don't know what fuel loads the other teams were running, of course, but what's important is that we changed a lot of things on the car and they were all positive steps. We feel like we've found a good direction - and hopefully there'll be more to come."

The major issue, he acknowledged, is the fact that 'the tyres feel very different from those we had in Melbourne', resulting in 'everyone struggling with rear grip'. That is a situation that will only be exacerbated by the fiercely hot conditions - with the track temperature climbing to 51?C and an ambient level of 37?C - and the anticipated torrential rain on race day at Sepang.

Memories are still vivid of the 2009 race-stoppage due to the track being practically flooded, and qualifying for last year's edition being similarly unsettled by the weather - causing many drivers, Button included, to come uncharacteristically unstuck. This time around, both qualifying and the grand prix itself will begin at 4pm local time in an effort to attract a greater share of the European TV audience - but by the same token, leaving drivers right at the mercy of the capricious elements and Malaysia's regular afternoon downpour.

The combination of the tropical heat, stifling humidity, monsoon-like forecast and wet tyres that are likely to deteriorate swiftly on a drying track will test the sport's stars to the absolute limit, the 2009 title-winner contends.

"Getting used to the humidity is very difficult, no matter what you do, and the heat is tough," acknowledged the man who triumphed in Kuala Lumpur on his way to lifting the drivers' crown two years ago, and one frequently recognised for his expert tyre-management. "You have to be well-oiled - have enough liquid inside you - and trying to be as relaxed in the car as possible is the key.

"It's tough from the word 'go', because on the lap to the grid you are going slowly. There is no airflow in the car and it's very, very hot. Then in the race, the heat means there is no cool air and on the straights you are struggling to breathe.

"If your water system stops working, you have big difficulties. I've had it in the past here, and I started to get dehydrated. You start shivering, your eyesight starts going and it can become very dangerous - so making sure your drinks system is working is very important.

"We're all looking forward to it, because you never really know what's going to happen. It's going to be an interesting race even if it stays dry because of the tyres around here and their low wear performance. With the heat and humidity, and with it being a very tough circuit on tyres, we are going to see a very different race to the last one in Melbourne. Chuck the weather into it, and it's going to be absolute madness..."

A total of 1,255 laps were completed by the 27 drivers in action during practice on Friday - running on three different types of tyre, one an experimental evolution developed last week in Istanbul - with a difference of around 1.2 seconds per lap between the two nominated compounds. Of more concern for Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery, however, is what might happen should the anticipated rain arrive on race day - and then abate.

"I hope they have to go through rain-intermediate-slick and don't just jump from rain to slicks," the Englishman confessed, explaining that to gamble on staying out on wet rubber until the circuit is dry enough to switch over to slicks in an effort to avoid having to make an extra pit-stop for intermediates would very likely backfire. "I don't believe they will be able to go from rain to slick, because the wet-weather tyre won't operate on a drying track and will blister very quickly. You don't want to be on a dry track with the full wets - not a wise move.

"Everybody has faced extremely tough conditions during the first day of running in Malaysia. 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. 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.

"Given how harsh the conditions were today, we've been pleased with the way things have gone and we're expecting a three-stop strategy for the race. 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 - but this is just going to add to the spectacle of what is sure to be a fascinating race."



Loading Comments...