The second race of the season - the Malaysian Grand Prix - is traditionally held at the 'hottest' circuit of the year, putting an added load on the shoulders of drivers and team personnel already working in a pressure cooker atmosphere. However, the conditions are also stressful for the machinery and, in particular, engines.

R?mi Taffin, race engineer to Fernando Alonso at Renault F1, is well aware of the stresses and strains that will be placed on the regie's V10 this weekend, but also points out that, at a circuit with a number of high-speed corners, the powerplant can also have beneficial effects.

"Without a doubt, this is the circuit with the highest ambient temperatures and humidity levels of the season," he explains, "Temperatures vary between 32 and 40?C, with around 80 per cent humidity. The engines therefore undergo a serious test, because they have to cope with very high operating temperatures.

"This is why we tend to see large cooling holes in the bodywork, to improve engine cooling. Engines which run at high oil and water temperatures have a definite advantage here."

Taffin agrees that an engine with a wide operating range is also an advantage, because it allows the team to compensate for changes in temperature without too many changes to the car's mechanical configuration.

"You mustn't forget that the high levels of humidity also have an impact on engine power," he continues, "This is why we concentrate on different air intake set-ups, in order to best adjust engine performance to the conditions. For example, the high temperatures require the use of longer inlet trumpets."

The heat also has an impact on maximum power, which is generated roughly 300rpm higher. In terms of average engine speed, Sepang is among the five most severe circuits of the year, with 55 per cent of the lap spent at full throttle.

However, on the plus side for Renault, in particular, the car's centre of gravity plays an important role at a circuit such as Sepang. A light engine, positioned low in the car, brings concrete benefits for the car's handling, and may help lift the blue-and-yellow cars into the points for a second race in succession.