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Malaysia preview quotes - McLaren, Sauber, Marussia and more

24 Mar 2015

From the streets of Melbourne, the F1 paddock moves swiftly to Kuala Lumpur's challenging Sepang International Circuit, venue for next weekend's 2015 Formula 1 Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix. Those involved discuss their prospects...


Romain Grosjean

“The first challenges in Malaysia will be the heat, humidity and usual rain storms at 4pm! It’s a good track with some interesting corners, fast straights and a track surface that can sometimes be difficult to understand. The heat and humidity can give the cars and drivers something to think about and the rain can give us all a challenge too. For us as a team, the target is to get some race laps on the board.

“[Sepang is] one of my favourites. It has a great flow to it and there are good overtaking opportunities as well as good potential for an exciting race. It’s a circuit that many drivers like. It’s also an interesting track for the engineers working to get the best set-up for the car to work well. It makes for quite a hard race too, as you have the heat and humidity along with the challenge of the track itself. It’s going to be fun.

“Our target for the early races is to be regularly in the top ten. We certainly demonstrated that in Albert Park and our race pace simulations were good so if we’d remained in the race we should have finished strongly. There’s nothing to suggest this can’t be the case in Malaysia and we really want to start scoring points.”

Pastor Maldonado

“Sepang is a good track and I really like the challenges it presents. It’s very interesting from an engineering point of view, especially the aerodynamics, but also the tyres because the asphalt is very aggressive. Hopefully the race will be much longer for us than it was in Australia!

“We know the weather at Sepang can change a lot; in fact it is usually either extreme heat or extreme rain, so very tropical and we’ll need to be ready for everything. Also the high temperatures are hard on the cars in terms of reliability. From the driving point of view it is quite stressful as well. All round, I would say Sepang is one of the toughest races of the year. We’ll need to be strong in all areas.”

Federico Gastaldi, Lotus deputy team principal

“It’s amazing to think we’ll be racing in Sepang for the 17th time this year! Malaysia’s an interesting commercial market for us as a team and the event usually delivers a great race. Sepang’s a superb facility and there’s normally a really strong turn out too. The track layout really challenges the drivers and engineers and this combined with the challenges the weather can present makes for an event we all enjoy.

“We should build on the work in Australia. Yes, our race was very short there, however we’ve demonstrated the first step of our 2015 fightback by qualifying in the top ten with good race pace potential. There’s nothing to say Sepang should not suit us, so we’re ready to deliver. Points. That’s what we’re here for. We want to see progress from the start we made at Albert Park and it would be fantastic to have both cars greet the chequered flag with a good clutch of points stashed away. Of course, this is what every team is trying to do, but we’re battling hard at Enstone to make this happen.”

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo

"I'm feeling good going to the next race, I know we have a lot of things to improve on and I'm optimistic that we can achieve some of those in Malaysia, which will give us some more performance. I'm just hanging out waiting to drive now, but it's good. The season has started and I think if anyone had any first race jitters they're gone and I think Malaysia should run a lot smoother for everyone. I think once you're in the car it's hard, the work is done before getting in it. Hydration is really, really important and keeps you cooler. The more hydrated you are, the more your body dispatches the heat. And do some heat training before the event to make it feel like it's not as hot, but once you're in the car, it's like a sauna and you can't get out of it."

Daniil Kvyat

"I think the first weekend was challenging, but we learnt many things. Also for me adapting to a new team was crucial. Of course, the race wasn't as I would've liked but it happened this way and now I'm just looking forward to the challenges ahead. It's good Malaysia is so soon. After Australia, I wanted to leave the weekend behind me as soon as possible and start focusing on Malaysia. We have good potential which we will be looking to use and hope to extract. It's an interesting challenging track, there are some high speed sections, and those high speed sections are the most interesting ones. For me, Malaysia means a lot. I won my first single-seater race ever there about five years ago I think, and last year, another points scoring race for me, my second race and second points so it was very good, good memories, but it's a tough race and challenging race for a driver because it's known for being so hot. This is why we train quite hard and get our arses kicked during the winter season by our trainers! Sepang is one of those races where you see where you are in terms of your physical preparation."

Paul Monaghan, Chief Engineer, Car Engineering

"Last year the progress we made from the third test to the first race was significant and one of our strengths is our development rate. We have the best team in place to repeat our success and we are working as hard as we can to improve as much as possible ahead of Malaysia."


Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director

"The Australian Grand Prix two weeks ago confirmed what we saw in testing: lap times that are two seconds or more faster this year compared to last year, in every session. This exponentially increases the workload on the tyres: something that will be particularly in evidence at Sepang, which has some of the most abrasive asphalt we race on all year and a number of fast corners that take a lot of energy out of the tyres, as well as high ambient temperatures. For all these reasons, we have chosen the two hardest tyres in our range this weekend: P Zero Orange hard and P Zero White medium, as has always been the case in Malaysia since we returned to Formula One in 2011. We should see a return to at least two stops per car in Malaysia – perhaps more if the weather gets in the way ­– after an early safety car meant that unusually most drivers stopped only once in Australia. Wear and degradation is traditionally very high in Sepang, so managing the tyres and the strategy carefully will be key to success."

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg

"I am really looking forward to getting back to action in Sepang after a fairly positive start of the season. We knew the VJM08's reliability was one of our strong points and we were able to play that card well. We didn't make any mistakes and we had a good strategy, and that helped us capitalise on a day when others ran into trouble. We need to keep our feet on the ground, however, because we know the circumstances in which we got this result and we know the next races will be tough.

"The track in Sepang is quite challenging and is very different compared to Melbourne. The various sectors have unique characteristics: there is a nice variation of high and low-speed corners and two very long straights. You need to balance your setup between top speed and downforce to make the most of your car in each of them. The high temperatures and humidity add to the challenges of this track, and you always have a threat of rain, especially at the start of the race."

Sergio Perez

"Malaysia is a very special place for me. It is where I got my first podium in Formula One, in one of the best races of my career in 2012, so I will always have happy memories about this circuit. The track is really interesting and the three sectors each have their own character. The track is physical but it has some very technical parts as well. You also have some very long straights at the end of the lap that offer a lot of opportunities for overtaking.

"The weather always makes it interesting. When you are racing in Sepang it is something that is always in the back of your mind, because you know a sudden rainstorm can throw up some unexpected strategies and opportunities you can exploit. The heat and the humidity are a big challenge, but as a driver you are prepared for this. You work really hard during the pre-season and every day with your trainer to be at your best in these circumstances, so I know I am ready.

"I am looking forward to going racing again after our first run in Melbourne. We are still learning a lot about the full potential of the VJM08 and every time we hit the track we are going to find some improvements. We are aware of the work needed to make our car more competitive, but we also know it is going to take time. The car feels really promising but it needs development and I look forward to getting some upgrades soon."

Vijay Mallya, Force India team principal

"Starting our season in Melbourne with both cars in the points was the ideal way to open our 2015 account. Those seven points were an important reward for all the hard work of everyone in the team over the winter and give us something to build upon as we head for Malaysia. 

"Despite scoring well in Melbourne, we know the VJM08 is only just beginning its development journey and that we need to add performance if we want to finish consistently in the points. There will be some small tweaks this weekend before bigger steps can be made during the European season.

"Malaysia is an interesting track for us. We had a good race there last year with Nico and it's a track that generates good racing. The hot weather usually plays to our strengths and the risk of rain can add another dimension to the strategy. Hopefully we can capitalise on these elements to be competitive and come away with another strong result."


Valtteri Bottas

"As always, Malaysia is a very hot and humid race, and although these aren't the ideal conditions for the car we have had some exciting races in Sepang over the years. There is also always a risk of rain which we have to be aware of, but it brings some more spice in the suspense. After Melbourne I have stayed in Asia to acclimatise to the hot conditions and adjust to the right time zone. I trained a lot over the winter to prepare for these physically difficult conditions. After such a frustrating Sunday in Australia, I have taken the necessary measures to make sure I arrive in Malaysia fit to race and ready to bring the results home."

Felipe Massa

"Malaysia is always very hot and very humid, so very difficult physically for the drivers. The car also has its challenges as the temperature plays its part, so our cooling is very important. The rain is an issue as it always rains at the time of day when the race is, but we will be prepared for it. I have trained very hard in the heat just for this race and cardio has been important."

Rob Smedley, Williams head of vehicle performance

"We are heading to Malaysia after a good start to the season, very much in a position to be finishing with both cars scoring good points. We have been working hard on all areas of performance and to close up any margins we had in Australia. Sepang is one of the first of the Herman Tilke circuits and the drivers like it as it includes fast corners and overtaking opportunities. The ambient conditions always play quite a big part in the weekend and the drivers have to be ready for those challenges. The circuit itself starts off with quite a lot of front graining and finishes being rear limited during the race. As it is a purpose built circuit we should be able to see more of the strengths of the FW37 and it should suit us a bit better."


Lewis Hamilton

"Australia was a great way to start. To pick up where we left off last year was awesome. But if 2014 showed anything, it’s that putting together a whole season is never easy. Winning the first race is just one small step in a long journey and I’m not reading anything into it. The next step is Malaysia and that’s all I’ve been focusing on since we left Melbourne. I can’t wait to get back out there and I can’t wait to get to Sepang. It’s a great circuit, a home race for Petronas and a country I really enjoy going to. The people are so welcoming and the support we had there as a team last year was amazing. Of course, the race itself is really tough with the heat and humidity. But I feel ready for anything right now and the aim is to repeat last year’s performance. It took me eight attempts to win this race when I finally made it to the top step last year and I don’t plan on waiting that long again…"

Nico Rosberg

"Melbourne was a mega weekend for the team. To start off the year with such dominance was just amazing and the team really did an incredible job. Of course, I’m disappointed not to have repeated my win from 2014 – but Lewis was on top form and it’s up to me to find that little bit extra. It’s all set up to be another great battle between us this year and I’m ready for the fight. Hopefully we will also have some other competitors pushing us as hard as we push each other, as this would be great for the sport. But, either way, I really hope we can put on a great show for everyone watching at home and also for the Malaysian fans, who are always such great hosts. It would be perfect to get another strong result in front of our friends from Petronas and that’s definitely the target – so long as the order of the top two is reversed, of course! I’m also particularly looking forward to welcoming our special guest Mr. Vettel to the Friday engineering meeting. I’m sure we will all learn a few interesting things for the weekend…"

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

"Melbourne was a faultless weekend from the team and a well-deserved reward for everybody who has worked so hard on the W06 Hybrid project. They absolutely deserve the success we currently enjoy. It was, however, just one race. We will not be backing off – and nor can we afford to, with a relentless opposition chasing us. Ferrari have made a clear step forwards, Williams also look very strong and you can never count anybody out at this stage, so we are prepared for a fight in the coming races. The next battle is Malaysia – a home race for Petronas and one we will attack with the same intensity as Australia. In our minds it’s back to square one and our objectives remain the same."

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)

"Sepang is a very different racetrack to Melbourne – a permanent facility with a full range of cornering speeds which is very unforgiving on the car. It’s also one of the most challenging events of the year in terms of both human and mechanical endurance due to the extreme heat and humidity. Throw in the near-certainty of torrential downpours and it’s never a straightforward weekend operationally. We may see some slight adjustments in the performance differential between teams due to the very different nature of the track relative to Melbourne and we’re also bringing a few small updates to the cars – fixing a few points which have not quite been up to scratch thus far."


Will Stevens

“It’s great to be heading to Malaysia in the knowledge that we are in a different place to our situation in Melbourne. Sepang is a fantastic and very technical track, so it will be a good test of our package. I’m really excited about being able to begin the development programme and to start to understand what we have and where we are in relation to the competition.”

Roberto Merhi

“I’m very excited about the prospect of making my F1 debut in Malaysia. Obviously Sepang is a challenging environment, so I have been doing all I can on my side to prepare for that to be able to manage the heat and humidity. The last race weekend was disappointing for everyone in the team, but I know how much work has gone into getting us fully operational again and it will be great for everyone to finally see wheels turning.”

John Booth, Team Principal

“After the disappointment of not meeting our objectives in Australia, we head to Malaysia this week hoping for a more typical race weekend. We headed back to the UK to regroup technically and bolster the work we had completed in the field in Melbourne, and as a result we are in a different position to the one we were in two weeks ago. Again, the rate at which we are progressing, when one takes into account our circumstances pre-season, is very impressive and everyone in the team is to be commended on a huge continued effort. Sepang always throws up its own unique challenges, thanks to the combination of fierce heat and a well-timed downpour, but we look forward to debuting the car and our two young drivers and to finally start getting down to business on the racetrack.”


Marcus Ericsson

“After the great result in Melbourne, it feels good going to Malaysia. I know the track quite well from GP2 and also from last year in Formula One. For me it is quite an interesting circuit with many medium and high-speed corners, which are quite demanding for the tyres. The Malaysian Grand Prix is one of the toughest on the calendar, because of the high humidity and heat. It means you need to be in good physical shape, and I am sure I am. I have been training very hard over the winter, and before the race in Sepang I have spent one week at a training camp in Thailand getting acclimatised to the humidity. I am sure I will be one hundred percent ready when I get to Malaysia. Another aspect which comes into play is that we often have the risk of heavy rain there, so the races are usually quite exciting. I hope we can build on the progress we have made in Melbourne, and have another good race weekend.”

Felipe Nasr

“I am really looking forward to the Malaysian Grand Prix. It will be easier for me to approach this race weekend, as I know the track quite well from previous racing series, which was not the case in Melbourne. Looking back to our winter tests, I am confident that the layout of the track in Malaysia can suit our car. After a successful season opener in Melbourne, I think the Malaysian Grand Prix can be one of the races we can look forward to. The track consists of some long straights and fasts corners, so I would expect a bigger tyre degradation. On the other hand, it is positive that our car seems to have a decent straight line speed, but I think some more downforce could help us to gain time in the high-speed corners. Overall, I am looking forward to my second race of the 2015 FIA Formula One World Championship.”

Raffaele Marciello, test and reserve driver

“It will be exciting to drive the Sauber C34-Ferrari for the first time [in FP1]. That will also be the same for the Italians, as we have not had an Italian driver in Formula One for quite a few years. I will definitely enjoy the experience, and I am really looking forward to it. I am confident I can do a good job as well as supporting the team in order to find a set-up for the car which suits the track. I have never been to Malaysia before, but I know the track quite well from the Ferrari simulator in Maranello, and I am sure I can get to learn it fast once I drive there. As the circuit has some fast corners, I think the car’s downforce will be crucial. Another important aspect will be the weather, as the humidity, along with the temperatures, is quite high. From a driver’s perspective it will be a challenge, but this is the same for everyone. Together with my trainer, I am getting well prepared for this weekend.“

Giampaolo Dall’Ara, Head of Track Engineering

“The Sauber C34-Ferrari has proven itself to be a competitive and reliable car in Melbourne, and now the team is looking forward to further confirmation in remarkably different conditions such as the race weekend we will encounter in Malaysia. Firstly, the circuit at Sepang is biased towards medium to high-speed corners, and it is a very technical one, offering more racing lines due to its width. Secondly, the climatic conditions are usually extreme, thus the event is demanding for drivers and cars. Thirdly, Pirelli’s compound allocation covers the stiffest side of the scale, with hard as prime and medium as option. And lastly, there is no way to accurately predict the rain, which is not uncommon in the afternoon at this time of the year.” 


Fernando Alonso

“I watched the weekend in Australia very closely and I was in touch with the team from the moment they arrived. It’s clear we have a lot of work ahead of us but Jenson’s result in Melbourne was encouraging from the point of view of reliability and data collection, which are extremely important. I’d also like to say thanks to Kevin for his efforts over the weekend, and it’s a real shame he wasn’t able to get to the grid. 

“I’ve been working hard on my fitness and I feel good and ready to go this weekend. The heat in Malaysia is always very tough for the drivers but I’ve been focusing on this in my training and I’m definitely prepared for all of the weather conditions that we can face in Sepang. This track has always been one of my favourites, it’s a really exciting circuit to drive and there’s the opportunity for good overtaking battles between the straights and the fast corners. I’ve won three times in Malaysia, including in 2007 with McLaren, and although we are a long way from the front, everyone in McLaren-Honda is working hard to develop the package and keep building momentum with each race.

“The weekend will be tough, but I’m looking forward to getting into the MP4-30 for the first time in a Grand Prix and getting back to racing. I’ve spent some time in the simulator back at the factory with the team, and my focus will be on continuing the development of our package with my engineers, and working on our balance and race set-up. There’s a lot of potential in the car and we will keep pushing every race until we see results.” 

Jenson Button

“Melbourne was certainly a challenging weekend for us, but there were positives to take from it. A lot of our performance was largely unknown coming into the weekend given the limited running we had over winter testing. Despite our finishing position, getting to the chequered flag has meant that we’re now armed with much more data about our package and we can learn a huge amount from it.

“Of course, nobody can be happy with finishing at the back of the pack, and we know there is a lot to do to bridge the gap to the rest of the field. However, the work going on within McLaren-Honda both in Woking and Sakura is relentless; the whole team is working tirelessly to keep developing our package to ensure we keep making steady progress.

“Malaysia will be another tricky step in the learning process for us. It’s often an unpredictable race and the extreme temperatures will test our car and tyres to limits that they haven’t been exposed to yet in testing. With the possibility of rain added to the mix, it will be interesting to see how our car behaves in changeable conditions. Our aim is to maximise our mileage throughout the whole weekend. Sepang itself is a fantastic circuit - I love going there and I have memories of great battles there and of my win in 2009. It’s a real favourite among the drivers owing to its high-speed corners, long straights and plenty of overtaking opportunities. The heat is always pretty brutal, but it’s definitely a good test of a driver’s fitness and a place where our tough training regime always pays off!”

Kevin Magnussen

“The result in Melbourne was obviously disappointing for me. It was a fantastic opportunity to get back in the cockpit and work with the team to keep developing the car, and I was pleased to be chosen to take Fernando’s place. I went into the weekend feeling ready even though we knew it would be a huge challenge, and I was keen to show the engineers that I could work closely with them and provide valuable feedback as we prepared for each session. Unfortunately, when we came to race day, it wasn’t meant to be and I wasn’t able to make it to the grid. Despite that, we learned a lot and being part of the team with Honda was a great experience. The whole team will be pushing hard in Malaysia and I’ll do my bit as always”

Eric Boullier, Racing Director

“Obviously the result in Melbourne is not one that McLaren-Honda would have dreamt of. However, our mileage over the weekend proved invaluable and we’ve taken a lot of learning and insight from the data we collected. It’s also encouraging that we ran in each session, which enabled us to make progress with necessary system checks, set-up variation and aero tests.

“Malaysia will be a big challenge and completely different to the task we faced in Melbourne. Given the extreme heat and humidity, it will be tricky to find good balance in the car in the changeable conditions and through the high-speed corners. Both drivers in Melbourne reported good driveability in the chassis, but getting enough heat into the tyres to improve car performance is proving difficult and something that we mustn’t underestimate with the high track temperatures at Sepang.

“I’m pleased to see Fernando back in the car - he’s raring to go and I know he’s been working hard behind the scenes to prepare himself for this weekend. I would also like to thank Kevin for his hard work in Melbourne; he provided extremely useful feedback and, despite not being able to race, has been a strong support in our development of the MP4-30 so far. Both McLaren and Honda are working together as one team to improve our package, day in, day out, and we’re looking forward to arriving in Malaysia with the aim of getting more mileage under our belts and pushing forward with car development.”

Yasuhisa Arai, Chief Officer of Motorsport, Honda R&D Co Ltd

"Melbourne being our first race of the season, we were only able to approach the race with a conservative setting on the power unit, maintaining a slight margin off of the full output. One car was able to finish the race whereas one car suffered power unit hardware issues.

“We know that Malaysia will be tough on the power unit with its high temperature and high humidity environment, as well as the abrupt braking and acceleration required for the circuit. However, we will evolve to set our control data to adapt more to this circuit. We do not yet know if we will be able to do that in a marginally less conservative manner than we did in Australia, but that will be our initial target.”