Having been one of the pioneers of Formula One in the Far East after joining the calendar in 1999, the Malaysian Grand Prix runs for the last time this weekend. This year’s tyre nominations are one step softer than last year, with the P Zero White Medium, P Zero Yellow soft and P Zero Red supersoft selected: the same combination last seen in Italy. The Sepang track underwent some significant changes in 2016, being entirely resurfaced to remove many of the bumps that were formerly a key characteristic of the circuit, originally built on a swamp. However, the tropical and humid weather, with regular monsoon-like downpours in the afternoon, remains a notable feature.
Pirelli’s racing manager Mario Isola comments on what to expect at the at the Sepang International Circuit: “The Malaysian Grand Prix we saw last year was somewhat different to previous seasons, thanks to its return to an autumn slot and the comprehensive resurfacing work that took place in 2016. This also had the result of improving drainage: an important aspect at a circuit where it can rain so heavily and frequently. However, the
characteristics of new asphalt can change from one year to the next, so it will be interesting to see what the effect of this is. This year we are bringing the softest selection of tyres ever seen in Malaysia, which we expect to result in even faster lap times, with the supersoft used there for the first time. Consequently, all previous strategy calculations will have to be adjusted, making the work done in free practice particularly important.” – Mario Isola explained, ahead of the 2017 Malaysian GP.
Sepang International Circuit from a tyre point of view:
– The resurfacing also reduced the high level of asphalt roughness Sepang was noted for, helping make a softer tyre choice possible.
– With the new asphalt now being a year old, the ageing process may have given it different characteristics to last year.
– The new asphalt also means that the camber and lines of some corners are now faster than in the past.
– Malaysia’s tropical weather makes use of the wet weather tyres quite likely.
– When it is dry, track temperatures are high, leading to thermal degradation. At 59 degrees, last year was the highest track temperature seen all season.
– Two stops won last year, but tactics were also influenced by virtual safety cars.
Sepang International Circuit minimum starting pressures (slicks)
21.5 psi (front) | 18.0 psi (rear)