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Sepang - the engineer’s view 18 Mar 2004

Mike Gascoyne (GBR) Toyota Technical Director.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Rd 2, Sepang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 18 March 2004

The Sepang circuit, which lies just south of Malaysia’s capital city Kuala Lumpur, is the very definition of a modern Grand Prix track.

The 5.543 km of winding asphalt features long, wide straights plunging almost immediately into slow, tight corners. The country’s climate also means that car and driver will have to cope with some of the highest temperatures on the Formula One calendar.

Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director Chassis, Toyota:
“We are bringing a new front wing and new turning vanes to Sepang, designed to maximise our aerodynamic performance at a track, which should theoretically be more suited to the TF104 than Albert Park was. The long straights will benefit our engine, which has already proven itself as one of the best in F1, and the traditionally hot weather conditions should also play into the hands of our tyre supplier Michelin."

James Robinson, Head of Race and Test Engineering, Jordan:
“This race will test the drivers and cars to the limit, with track temperatures of up to 54ºC and very high humidity levels. One of our strengths is our young and fit driver line-up as these conditions play heavily on driver fitness. The track is challenging, very modern with good facilities and technically is a circuit that is very rewarding if everything comes together and you get it right. It will be interesting to see Bridgestone's continuous improvement with the tyres and weather changes are usually a big factor here, something we expect may come into play with our strategy on Sunday."

Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director, Williams:
“Malaysia will be the first truly hot race of the season which will give us a better understanding of the true competitiveness of this year's grid. Although we don't mind the heat, we would prefer to race without the threat of heavy downpours for which Malaysia is well known.

“One outcome of the new regulations is that engine use is being controlled to suit certain situations far more than in previous years. In other words, during qualifying and certain race situations, the engines are being run flat out, whereas in free practice and other phases of the race, the aim is to conserve the power unit.

“There are various ways of doing this. One way is to cut down on the distance covered during practice, but that is not our preferred approach. Our drivers and engineers make full use of the free practice sessions for set-up evaluations and tyre selections. Another opportunity for conserving the engine is to modify the gear selection parameters, which is sensible in certain situations. For example, when choosing tyres on Friday, it doesn't make any difference whether you change gear 500 revs earlier or later so this is the perfect time to preserve the engine.

“To deal with the higher temperatures in Malaysia, we will probably see additional or larger air-cooling intakes and exhaust extraction vents. These apply to the air intakes in the side-pods and the two vents in the exhaust manifold.”

Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director, BAR:
"We were a little disappointed with the result in Australia, but we had a problem with the front wing on both cars, which were damaged at the first corner. However, we think Sepang should suit our car a little better as it tends to work well when the track is hotter. Sepang is not really a power circuit, you just need to be aerodynamically efficient and have good braking stability. Reliability in higher temperatures is also an issue and it will be hard on the cars and drivers. We are going there in a confident mood and looking to challenge the top three teams. We are happy with our qualifying pace and focusing very hard on race performance."

Willy Rampf, Technical Director, Sauber:
"Sepang is like Albert Park in Australia, a maximum downforce track under the latest aerodynamic regulations. Cooling is also a critical factor. Especially for the race we have to prepare our maximum cooling capacity with the bodywork and we must also have some 'emergency' cooling in our pocket.

"The C23s will be in similar specification to Australia, because there was no time for us to test between races and the first components from our new wind tunnel at Hinwil will not come on stream until Imola.

“Overall, Sepang requires plenty of traction, so this will be the focus for the mechanical setting. There are a lot of high-speed corners, therefore stability is also important, together with good chassis handling balance. The high track temperature is very demanding for the tyres, but we are confident that Bridgestone will have a well performing tyre like in Melbourne. There is a high chance of rain, so rain setting has to be prepared.”