Formula One teams will require full running in Practice sessions in order to acclimatize to the heavily amended Sepang circuit for the Malaysian Grand Prix.
The track has been completely resurfaced and this will provide a fresh challenge to Formula One teams this weekend. Pirelli’s technical boss Mario Isola believes that the amended surface will change tyre degradation levels and also alter tyre temperatures, therefore slightly shifting the optimal tyre temperature window too.
“The tarmac is a bit less aggressive than in the past, so the roughness has gone a bit down. Malaysia is quite above the average, it was more than 120 percent compared to our baseline, and it’s gone down by 5-10 percent, which is quite a step.
I think there’s a bit of uncertainty. They can’t consider it a completely new circuit, but there are some changes. Different roughness means different temperature on the tyre, and different degradation, and so on.”
The resurfacing has also smoothened out most of the bumps that have characterized some of the corners around the circuit for a long time. This will open up the opportunity for teams to run lower cars and generate different downforce levels. The removal of bumps in some corners will also change the camber of certain corners, opening up new racing lines and opportunities for drivers to exploit.
Turn One has had a significant update with the removal of bumps. This will not only allow more driveability, but will allow drivers to attack into turn one more aggressively. Some run-off areas around Sepang have been replaced by gravel traps in order to aid drainage. A nice by-product of this is that drivers are more likely to be punished if they run wide, like the good ol’ days.
Interestingly, there is also an increased gradient at turn nine – a tricky, tight turn that’s easy to get wrong. This corner has provided plenty of overtakes over the years, so it will be interesting to see how this change in camber, therefore racing line, will alter this.