F1 2012 Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix

Sepang International Circuit: The second race of the Formula One season took place at Kuala Lumpur under mixed weather conditions with a three day weather forecast of clouds/partial sun/rain for the practice, qualifying and race segments. The race is scheduled for 14 laps on the 5.5km circuit making a total race distance of 77.6km and 210 turns. My objectives for the weekend are to qualify 10th or better and finish the race 7th or better.

Sepang is located near Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia and is considered one of the most unusual tracks on the F1 circuit, featuring long wide straights and sweeping corners. The pit straight is where the DRS zone is located and leads to a very long and slow corner, similar in nature to the first turn at the Shanghai course. Sepang is an extremely technical track in which cars generally oversteer which can cause problems with finding an optimal setup.

Prerace and Qualifying

My teammate Daniel Ricciardo is presently in 13th position and P1 on the team while I am in 4th place in the Drivers’ Championship but P2 on the team. Given the spectacular fourth place result at the Australian Grand Prix I am well situated to achieve the season objective of 14th place overall in the standings.

During the practice session I would post the top spot at 1:44.417, 2.316 ahead of second place Fernando Alonso.

In the first qualifying session I make a significant improvement with a best lap time of 1:44.117, 0.448 off of the leader and placing me at P3.

In the second qualifying session I further improve my time to 1:43.412, but slip to 1.239 behind the leader while still retaining P3 thus making it into the shootout.

In the third and final qualifying session I marginally improve on my lap time to 1:43.250, but it is not enough for a favorable grid start being 1.110 off of the pole sitter Mark Webber placing me in P9 overall (which allows me to pass the qualifying objective of finishing 10th or better).

Race Strategy

This information was not covered in the first entry of the series; however I plan on including it going forward. There is an option to adjust the default race strategy set for the track, however here I decided to leave things as they are: starting the race on the option tires and then switching to primes during the pit stop scheduled for lap six.

Track Overview

My teammate is starting towards the back in 18th position so I should not have any difficulty in finishing ahead of him this race and improving my standings with the team.

Event Information

The temperature is 22 degrees Celsius (71 degrees Fahrenheit) and there is a 50% chance of rain in the forecast.

Research and Development

This panel indicates that I am presently set on a cautious path. This will be further fleshed out during the season, especially if I decide to stay with the team over several races.

Car Setup

These are all the default settings entering the race weekend. There is the ability to tweak these and fine tune several aspects; however the car handled well during practice and qualifying and I did not feel the need to push the envelope in any one area.

Race Laps 1-5

Punching KERS at the start is my best option to gain as many positions as possible going into the first turn.

With the car damage modeling at full, this is a serious gut check as any solid contact with the car in front of me could tear off my front wing assembly and send me to the pits.

Going through the second turn with cars on either side as I try to anticipate where an opening to exploit will occur.

The two Ferrari’s would be stout early on so I settle back in fourth place and patiently wait for the race to develop.

On lap two I would overtake Fernando Alonso through the slow turns one and two sequence and assume P3.

With the weather still partly cloudy and sun, the DRS was enabled at the beginning of lap three. The DRS zone however is along the front stretch by pit road, on the opposite side of where I am at here as I head into turn 15. This is where I would consistently apply my KERS boost though and it would become an integral part of my ultimate race finish.

On lap four I would catch Mark Webber and set him up for a pass along the outside going into turn four to take over P2.

On lap five I was really hitting my marks keeping the gear box wound up tight which allowed me to close on the race leader Filipe Massa going into the final turn as the ominous weather is lurking overhead.

Did I mention that I hate rain?

Lap Time Results

Lap 1: 1:53.678 (P4)
Lap 2: 1:46.063 (P3)
Lap 3: 1:44.519 (P3)
Lap 4: 1:44.911 (P2)
Lap 5: 1:43.337 (P2) Fastest Lap of the Race

Race Laps 6-10

Coming down the front stretch on lap six I setup Massa for the pass going into turn one to take over the top spot as my team singles to pit at the end of this lap.

Massa would stay out during the lap to retain P1 at the start/finish line while I ducked into pit row where my team nailed a stop of 3.835 (I would exit pit road in sixth place overall).

During the next lap the front runners would pit placing Massa and I back into P1/P2. I would hound the race leader to setup the use of the KERS system down the backstretch going into turn 15 to take over the top spot (my left thumb is off of the button as this point as the reserve has been completely drained by the time I reach the final DHL marker on the right).

Massa would try to jam me up on the chicane right at the end of the turn but I did not flinch and held it steady along the outside to assume the lead.

Lap Time Results

Lap 6: 1:49.954 (P2) Pit Entrance Lap
Lap 7: 2:03.372 (P5) Pit Exit Lap
Lap 8: 1:44.996 (P1)
Lap 9: 1:44.323 (P1)
Lap 10: 1:45.042 (P1) 

Race Laps 11-14

During lap 11 the rain came and really picked up by lap 12 which slowed the race to a crawl, allowing Massa to close on me in the final laps.

Holding KERS in reserve until the backstretch heading into turn 15 allowed me to inch ahead of Massa and Vettel to maintain the lead.

With an immediate threat to my lead each corner had to be approached with extreme caution so as to not allow anyone to come alongside.

The dual proximity indicators (the white arrows by the steering wheel) indicate both Massa and Vettel trying to get by on either side during the final lap.

While it was close heading into the backstretch for the final time, the KERS employment yet again saved the day.

The compulsory fist pump after taking the victory is pretty sweet indeed.

Lap Time Results

Lap 11: 1:44.658 (P1)
Lap 12: 1:49.649 (P1)
Lap 13: 2:05.478 (P1)
Lap 14: N/A (Race End)

Race Result

The total race time was 26:15.851 and was slowed due to the rain that came in the closing laps. I finished 2.211 ahead of Sebastian Vettel to earn 25 championship points.

Drivers’ Championship

The win places me in second in the championship standing behind Vettel, six back from tying for the top spot. There is a weird quirk here in that after reviewing a replay and advancing from the race results to this card, the weather situation in the background appears to default to the beginning of the race.

Constructors’ Championship

The win would also bolster Scuderia Toro Rosso in the constructors’ standings, placing us third behind Vodafone and Red Bull.

Race Recap

I exceeded both prerace objectives by qualifying in seventh place and finishing first. There is a discrepancy here regarding the fastest lap of 1:43.336 in that during the actual race the timing showed the lap as 1:43.337.

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