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The drivers preview the Malaysian Grand Prix 16 Mar 2005

Jarno Trulli (ITA) Toyota in the FIA press conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, 5 March 2005 Nick Heidfeld (GER) Williams.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Preparations, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, 3 March 2005 Felipe Massa (BRA) Sauber.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Race Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, 6 March 2005 Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, 5 March 2005

Expect the unexpected in Kuala Lumpur

That’s Jarno Trulli’s weekend prediction, but what do his rivals think? Find out as the drivers look ahead to the Sepang race.

Jarno Trulli, Toyota
2004 Qualifying - 8th, 2004 Race - 5th

"I was buoyed by our front row starting position in Australia because it wasn't all down to the weather conditions in qualifying. The TF105 was well suited to Albert Park and I was pleased with the car's behaviour over the weekend. Therefore, I am confident for the Malaysian Grand Prix. Sepang is an interesting track technically and one of the most demanding of the season for drivers because of the intense heat and humidity. With the new technical regulations for engines and tyres, we could see some surprises and upsets this weekend. I hope we fall into the former category. We missed out on points in Melbourne, but I looking to rectify that in Sepang."

Ralf Schumacher, Toyota
2004 Qualifying - 7th, 2004 Race - DNF

"The Australian Grand Prix was full of mixed fortunes for me after sheer bad luck with the weather in qualifying, followed by an unexpected extra trip to the pits in the race. All in all, it was a missed opportunity to score points. My race debut for Toyota was extremely encouraging in terms of car performance and team operations. It can only be a matter of time before we finish in the points. Malaysia will be interesting because most cars will start the race with the same engine that finished in Australia. In Sepang, with the stifling heat, we could see some teams with technical issues. I think we should be confident in our TF105 car and RVX-05 engine and if our excellent reliability continues, points are by no means out the question."

Jenson Button, BAR
2004 Qualifying - 6th, 2004 Race - 3rd

"The Australian Grand Prix was disappointing, but it was great to finally get back to racing. After our success last season, the result in Australia clearly wasn't the way we wanted to start the season. We have a lot of work to do to get back up to where we need to be. There are some issues we need to address before Malaysia, but I am confident that we will have these solved and I am looking forward to the next race at Sepang."

Takuma Sato, BAR
2004 Qualifying - 20th, 2004 Race - 15th

"Of course we were disappointed in Australia and we have a lot of work to do, but we hope that the very different characteristics of the Sepang circuit will suit our car more. The team has completed a three-day test in Europe this week, so hopefully what we have learned will help our performance in Malaysia. The circuit is a mixture of technical and dynamic high-speed corners, so I always enjoy driving there. Because of the heat and humidity it is also a very demanding circuit for a driver from a physical point of view, so we have to have a lot of stamina and do as much preparation training as we can before the race. It will be very tough, but I stay optimistic and will give 100% as always."

David Coulthard, Red Bull
2004 Qualifying - 9th, 2004 Race - 6th

"They say you're only as good as your last race, so although the Melbourne result was a great morale booster we now have to start all over again in a race that will be a much tougher proposition. Since Australia, I've been training hard in hot weather for what is one of the most physically demanding races of the season, while discovering it's hard to get a tan through a beard! I've finished second and third at Sepang in the past. That will be hard to match, but I will be trying my best to bring home some more points."

Christian Klien, Red Bull
2004 Qualifying - 13th, 2004 Race - 10th

"I reckon Sepang is the hardest race of the year as the track itself is very difficult and the heat and humidity make it even more of a challenge. It will be very tough on the cars too, but having raced here for the first time last year, at least I know what to expect. Despite the conditions, I enjoy driving this track as it is wide enough to create plenty of passing opportunities. After an unusual, but encouraging weekend in Melbourne, I think this race will give us a clearer picture of where we stand compared to the other teams."

Fernando Alonso, Renault
2004 Qualifying - 19th, 2004 Race - 7th

“For the drivers, the time when we really feel the difference of the (Renault) R25 is in high speed corners, so Sepang is obviously one of the races we are looking forward to this year. I love the track, there are lots of long, fast corners and it is a place where you really see the potential of the cars. In Melbourne, I think the difference between the best and the worst car is quite close, because all you have to do it brake for the slow corners, turn in and get back on the throttle. Sepang is very different, and there is a huge difference from the best to worst cars. I think we will see more of the potential of the R25 in Malaysia.”

Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault
2004 Qualifying - 12th, 2004 Race - 11th

“We know the weather made the circumstances strange in Melbourne, so we expect other teams like Ferrari and McLaren to be much stronger in Malaysia. But we have a good package, so let’s see what happens. Sepang is a circuit which shows if a car is good or not. The long, fast corners mean you need a very stable rear end, and a consistent car balance so that you know the car’s reactions through the quick sections. There are some corners where the drivers can really make the difference as well.

“At the moment, nobody knows how the tyre performance will unfold in temperatures like we have in Sepang, and it will be interesting to find out. All we know is that Michelin have done a great job this winter and in the first race. The tyres in Melbourne were very consistent, and the performance was there. In Malaysia, they will have to be durable under much tougher circumstances, but the R25 seems to manage the tyres well. I am confident we will have good performance there.

“The race in Malaysia is always very tough physically, and I said before Melbourne that it is very easy to make mistakes at the end of the race when the tyres are old. With the fatigue from the heat as well, that is even more true for Sepang, but I have been really motivated in training this winter and I am not worried about the physical side. As for expectations? The team is very optimistic, and I think we will expect to fight at the front again. But if bad weather does not play a part, I am sure the race will be a lot closer than in Australia.”

Mark Webber, Williams
2004 Qualifying - 2nd, 2004 Race - DNF

“I have both good and bad memories of Malaysia. Obviously, qualifying on the front row last year was great, but then I had a very poor start. The race is a tremendous challenge for the drivers and the teams because of the high temperatures, and the impact this has on car cooling, braking and tyre performance. Despite all of this, I think Sepang is a very, very good circuit. The weather can be quite unpredictable though, it's always one thing or the other, and when it rains, it really rains. I think we’ll get a true reflection of people’s pace at Sepang because the results from qualifying one in Melbourne were affected by heavy rain. If we get a consistent weekend in Malaysia, we will get an idea of where everyone stands. Because of all these variables, I’m looking forward to the Malaysian Grand Prix.”

Nick Heidfeld, Williams
2004 Qualifying - 15th, Race - DNF

“The Malaysian Grand Prix is an exceptional race, particularly because of the area’s high temperatures and high humidity. It is for this reason I will not fly home between the first two races and spend some time in the southern region of Malaysia in order to get used to the climate. During the years with Sauber, I spent a bit of time in Malaysia so I know my way around pretty well. I am also looking forward to racing at the Sepang circuit as it’s one of my favourite tracks and one I hope to handle well.”

Jacques Villeneuve, Sauber
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

"Sepang is a good circuit but it's very difficult. It's got a lot of interesting corners, both high-speed and low-speed, and it's quite a long lap. Malaysia is also very, very hard physically. This is the first hot race of the year and all of the winter testing is usually done in relatively low temperatures, so it's quite a shock to the body. It is also hard on the car, and cooling the engine and brakes is even more critical. Sepang is always a difficult race.

"Unfortunately I am allergic to spicy food so there are a lot of things I can't eat, but I'm really looking forward to the opportunity we have to spend more time in Kuala Lumpur in the week before the race. It's a nice chance because normally at an event we spend most of our time at the race track and only get to go out and look around a place on the Sunday night."

Felipe Massa, Sauber
2004 Qualifying - 11th, 2004 Race - 8th

"I love the Sepang track. There are a lot of fast, flowing corners where you can get a really good rhythm, and there are a lot of opportunities for passing, especially if you get a good tow down the two long straights. I think we could see a lot of overtaking this year, and the change in downforce rules will help.

"Turns 9 and 11 are tricky because they require lateral braking on entry which demands that you set up the car very carefully so that you have the necessary stability. You have to work a lot on the electronics for the engine braking and the differential.

"Sepang is also very tough physically because of the humidity. You sweat an awful lot and can lose 2 to 2.5 kg over a race distance. That's going to be made even tougher this year on the mental side by the need to look after your tyres, especially during the closing laps."

Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren
2004 Qualifying - 5th, 2004 Race - DNF

"Sepang, a medium to high downforce circuit, is fairly technical in nature. You need for good traction on the exit of the slow corners, such as 14 and 15 towards the end of the lap, as it is important to carry speed onto the two long straights that follow to get a good lap time. Also, the car must be stable under braking and work well through the direction changes at high speed, such as those in sector two. Despite its overall flowing nature, the track is physically very demanding on both the drivers and the cars, for example we have a higher flow into the radiators to try and keep everything cool. The track is very wide, up to 15 metres in places, and has various camber changes. The extra width allows more than one racing line, which makes overtaking possible with turn 15 being probably the best chance."

Juan Pablo Montoya, McLaren
2004 Qualifying - 4th, 2004 Race - 2nd

"The Sepang circuit is one of my favourite tracks, it is really fun to drive there and you usually see interesting races. Turns five and six are probably the most challenging and exciting to drive. You try to take this high speed S complex flat out and to achieve this, your car needs to be very well set-up. For the race, this sees a compromise between slow corner grip and high speed efficiency, as we have long periods of full throttle, with top speeds of up to 330km/h. For the drivers and team members it is important to acclimatise as the heat is enormous, for example temperatures in the cockpit can be over 50 degrees centigrade and we can lose up to four litres of fluid during the race. This is why I travelled to Singapore following the Australian Grand Prix, and I have been following a training and hydration programme with my trainer to get my body used to the conditions to ensure I can perform to my best all weekend."

Pedro de la Rosa, third driver, McLaren
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

"Following a busy weekend in Australia, where in addition to running the third car on Friday I spent the rest of the weekend working closely with the engineers, I returned to Spain to join Alex Wurz on the last day of the three day test session in Jerez. Unfortunately we had to abort the test on the third day due to extreme weather conditions so that I wasn't able to drive. However, Alex completed 1,058 kms, with work focused on tyre evaluation for future races. The Sepang circuit has some similarities to Barcelona, where we have tested on two occasions in MP4-20 and worked on set-up and tyre selection for the Malaysian Grand Prix. Despite the much cooler ambient conditions in Spain, we have worked hard with Michelin using the information gathered from the tests using MP4-20 and advanced simulation techniques, and this process will continue in Sepang on Friday."

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari
2004 Qualifying - 1st, 2004 Race - 1st

"For sure, zero points in the season's first race is not what I expected. This, naturally, will give me an extra boost in Malaysia. From what we saw in Australia, the F2004 M was still competitive, much more than thought possible. I think that we can expect a positive result in Sepang. Rubens proved that it is possible to finish highly even after a so-so qualifying session. I have faith because we were very consistent in the Grand Prix. We are ready for the next race."

Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari
2004 Qualifying - 3rd, 2004 Race - 4th

“In a way, people are having to work for two races at a time, rather than working on the limit for one, so in Sepang we will see how the cars really perform. This is the real test. I have a certain mileage on my engine and I will have to look after it. It is an unknown for us. Is the car tough enough to keep on going? Will I have to pace myself? There are a lot of question marks, but I will be out to enjoy the experience: tyres, drivers and engines must all last to the very final corner.

“Michael has less mileage on his engine so he will probably be able to run more laps in free practice. But we operate as a team at Ferrari and so that will be good for me too. Over the course of the year, managing the situation if me and Michael end up out of synchronisation in terms of whether we are doing our first or second race with the same engine will be an interesting situation. I don’t know if that will arise with us too often, given our good reliability record. But it is a probability.”

Narain Karthikeyan, Jordan
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

“After the first race in Australia, I went directly to Malaysia to prepare physically for the tough weather conditions. I have trained a lot outdoors, about four hours a day, especially doing some cardio work. I have also been around the track and the first things I have noticed are that it is not very clean and it is very wide. However, I think it will suit my style of driving. I am a little bit worried about the very hot conditions here in Malaysia, as it is very humid. Physically, it will be very challenging but I will push hard for it, as I did in Australia and hopefully finish the race again.”

Tiago Monteiro, Jordan
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

“I stayed in Australia between the two races to relax and recover from my cold. Nevertheless, I have also gone through a fitness programme that my trainer had prepared for me. Malaysia will be another unknown track for me. My goal here is to learn the circuit as fast as I can and obviously try to finish the race. The track is quite different from Melbourne, there are many high-speed corners and the hot temperature and the humidity will probably make it the toughest race of the year. However, I am really looking forward to the challenge.”