There seems to be something about Malaysia, Red Bull and controversy. After the Sebastian Vettel v Mark Webber team orders incident of 2013, this year the team arrives having protested Daniel Ricciardo's exclusion from the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. Ricciardo was mightily impressive as he originally finished second behind a dominant Nico Rosberg at Albert Park, but Red Bull has been receiving little sympathy for ignoring the FIA's guidelines on fuel flow and playing by its own rules. When track running gets started once again on Friday, the big question will be if Red Bull's pace will continue and if Vettel can be as competitive as Ricciardo was two weeks ago in order to limit the damage as Mercedes looks set to dominate the early rounds.

2013 race

Who could forget what happened 12 months ago? The drama started before the race did as a downpour let the track too wet for slicks, and then it continued on lap one when Fernando Alonso damaged his front wing against the rear of Vettel's car but opted not to pit and slid off in to retirement at Turn 1 when the wing failed starting the second lap. Good strategy saw Webber jump Vettel in the pit stops and hold off his team-mate on his out lap before the pair were told over team radio to hold station until the end of the race. Vettel ignored the warning though, attacking Webber and ultimately making it through after a thrilling wheel-to-wheel battle. There was tension at Mercedes too when Rosberg was told to hold station behind Lewis Hamilton until the flag as they comfortably came home third and fourth, but the body language, explanations and outbursts from the Red Bull drivers post-race provided just as much entertainment as the grand prix itself.

Most successful drivers at Sepang: Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel (3 wins each)

Most successful team at Sepang: Ferrari (6 wins)

2014 session times (All times local)

FP1: 1000 - 1130
FP2: 1400 - 1530
FP3: 1300 - 1400
Qualifying: 1600
Race: 1600

Track information
Lewis Hamilton:
"Sepang is a fantastic circuit and it's always an exciting challenge here with the heat and humidity. During my first race here in 2007 I didn't have a drinks feed available during the race, so by the end I was totally exhausted and had lost about four kilos in weight! As a driver it's a weekend you have to be well prepared for physically, as it can be very easy to lose concentration towards the end of a long race in these conditions. Then there's the rain which, when it comes, is just incredible. In a matter of minutes you can find yourself at the centre of a monsoon, which adds to the challenge.

"The first corner comes at the end of a long straight, so you have to pick your braking point carefully to avoid overshooting the turn. This leads into another slow corner, with the pair of them seeming to go on forever. Turns 5 and 6 are high-speed and fantastic to drive; similar to the Maggots / Becketts section at Silverstone but with slightly more space between each corner.

"You need a little lift going into Turn 5 to get the front end turned in, good balance on the power through Turn 6 then onto the brakes for Turn 7. There's a bit of a bump as you power through Turn 8 before easing the car over to the right-hand side of the track for Turn 9. A good exit from this corner is important but an even better one is required from Turn 11, as this is crucial to carrying good momentum through the high-speed Turns 12 and 13. Picking your braking point correctly for Turn 14 is both tricky and essential. Getting it wrong can prove costly, as this leads down the second long straight of the lap and into the final corner; one of the best overtaking opportunities."


The timing of the race lends itself to wet weather, and this year looks set to be no different. Temperatures throughout the weekend are set to be in excess of 30C, with humidity high. Scattered thunderstorms are predicted for Friday and Sunday, while Saturday - when all of the track running happens in the afternoon - also sees afternoon thunderstorms forecast. And when it rains in Malaysia, it rains hard.


Boasting a 100% success rate so far this season (OK, picking Rosberg to win in Australia wasn't hugely risky) we should really quite while we're ahead... But we won't. Red Bull and Renault are making rapid progress but it's virtually impossible to look past Mercedes again this weekend, so we're going to tip Lewis Hamilton to put the Melbourne disappointment behind him with victory in Malaysia.



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