Formula One heads to Malaysia and the Sepang International circuit for the last time having provided some excellent racing over the years.
12 months ago, the Malaysian Grand Prix turned out to be the race that ended the Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton fight for the title. This time, Hamilton could be the one ending the title ambitions of Sebastian Vettel.
Here are our ten predictions for the upcoming race weekend:
10. Renault Ascendancy
— Renault Sport F1 (@RenaultSportF1) September 27, 2017
Renault have been experiencing an upsurge in form in recent races and are looking to overtake Toro Rosso and Williams in the Constructors. They are 17-points adrift of Williams, but believe they can match and beat the Grove-based squad over the final stint of races. It is more broadly promising to Renault that they have managed to steadily bring positive updates to the car in a year of extreme in-season development.
It bodes well for next season that they have a system in place that brings fruitful updates. In the Malaysian Grand Prix, Hulkenberg could easily be best of the rest again, and could be in a fight with the Force Indias for the points behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. Palmer needs a good weekend too so he can advertise himself in the shop window to Williams, so another top ten finish would be handy at the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Hulkenberg to finish top six – 21/10 with PaddyPower
9. Verstappen’s Luck Turns
— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) September 28, 2017
In terms of bad luck, it’s difficult to recall a driver who has had a worse curse in the past few years compared to Verstappen this season. The Singapore GP summed his 2017 season up. He’d done the hard work to get himself into a very strong position, and then factors beyond his control brought about another DNF. It has been a difficult season for Verstappen fans and the driver, but he enjoyed a good race in Malaysia last season, coming close to winning if not for the tenacity of his teammate Daniel Ricciardo. This track suits Red Bull less than Marina Bay, but there’s still some scope to upset Ferrari and get on the podium. Verstappen to have something to smile about finally and finish 3rd.
Verstappen to finish top three – 2/1 with Bwin.com
8. Pole King
IN PICTURES: Kicking off the #MalaysianGP weekend in style with some EPIC hot lap! 🔥🔥🔥
— Mercedes-AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) September 28, 2017
Every pole that Lewis Hamilton collects from now on increases the record, which must be incredibly satisfying. For years it has been Michael Schumacher’s 68 poles, but now we’re living in a rare window in which one of F1’s most prized tallies is a living thing, potentially growing every race. It’s hard to see anything other than a Hamilton pole in Malaysia, Mercedes had to settle for third-row obscurity in Singapore, but this track will suit the W08 much more and the Malaysian Grand Prix is also like a home race for the team with the Petronas ties, so that should spur on a strong performance.
Hamilton on Pole – 8/11 with William Hill
7. McLaren-Honda Woes
— Stoffel Vandoorne (@svandoorne) September 25, 2017
The humidity in Malaysia makes it a harder task to maintain the power unit, and Honda remain fragile in this area. It will be interesting to see where the performance of the package is in qualifying, but lasting the race distance is going to be a tall order here. We’re predicting another difficult race and some very frustrated drivers.
1st team to retire: McLaren – 4/1 with SkyBet
6. Bottas to win
— PETRONAS Motorsports (@PET_Motorsports) September 26, 2017
A Mercedes 1-2 with the Finn taking an unlikely win from pole sitter Hamilton. The Brit might have a bit more of the Professor about him than Senna this weekend. He knows he doesn’t have to take the risk of burning out his car to finish ahead of Vettel, whereas Bottas still has something to prove with Mercedes. It’s also a long run down to turn one, so Bottas could easily get the jump if he can get his Silver Arrow on the front row too.
Race Winner: Bottas – 7/1 with Bwin.com
5. Sainz Points
— Mobil 1 The Grid (@Mobil1TheGrid) September 18, 2017
Carlos Sainz is finally getting his move to a works team in 2018. He deserves to be in a position in which he can grow and it was starting to feel like the Spaniard was stifling away at Toro Rosso with an opening at Red Bull looking slim. He is of the tier of F1 drivers who we believe could do the business at one of the “big” three teams along with Alonso, Hulkenberg, Perez, and possibly Ocon.
Sainz finished 11th in Sepang last season, but this was at a time in which the team’s outdated Ferrari power unit was really costing them, so it was impressive that he got within touching distance of a point. This time, with confidence booming after an incredible 4th place in Singapore, we’d expect Sainz to continue his points-scoring run at the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Sainz in the Points – 4/5 with SkyBet
4. Another Impressive Stroll Performance
— Mobil 1 The Grid (@Mobil1TheGrid) September 25, 2017
Concerning the Williams 2018 driver line-up speculation, the only certainty is that Lance Stroll will be racing for the team next term. He has had an eventful year in which he’s emerged as a quality driver from having to play a pantomime villain early in the campaign with accusations of buying his way into the sport. But his junior formula record is clearly worth more than that, and he’s adapted to the sport well.
The Williams car has been disappointing this season though, and has been truly appalling at some venues. The lengthy straights could help the team rekindle some form, and Stroll has shown himself to be a calculated, cooler customer than most people thought he would be. He is one of our candidates to grab a top ten finish this weekend at the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Stroll in the points – 5/2 with SkyBet
3. It Gets Worse for Seb
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) September 28, 2017
Vettel has been wearing motley pantaloons and a pirate’s eyepatch in the British press the past few weeks, such has the blame been poured onto him for the incident at Marina Bay. He is allegedly incapable of human error and was appointed blame by the self-appointed. It’s difficult enough that the German must know that his mistake at turn one in Singapore could be the championship.
For an athlete that’s given most of his life to Motorsport, that’s enough punishment, don’t you think? The news that Ferrari will be running the same engine in Malaysia and claiming that there was no damage sustained in the heavy collision with Kimi literally begs for Sod’s law to come into play, and the humidity in Sepang could see the undamaged power unit get damaged. We’re also running with this one for the poetic parallel of Vettel retiring with the same issue that ruined Hamilton’s prospects last season.
First to retire: Vettel – 33/1 with SkyBet
2. Attrition Race
— Live F1 News (@LiveF1News) September 25, 2017
There have been 61 retirements so far this season over 14 races, the highest attrition so far being at the Singapore GP with 8 DNF’s. There has also been 6 races in which 5 or more drivers have had to retire, and we think there will be at least 5 retirements in Sepang too. McLaren and Sauber attrition has been poor recently, and there’s bound to be a few handbags flying into turn one. There were 6 retirements at the Malaysian Grand Prix last season.
Total Classified Finishers: Under 15.5 Finishers – 4/5 with SkyBet
1. Kimi Fastest Lap
— GRAINING.ES (@Graining_es) September 24, 2017
Ferrari will go into the weekend believing that they can beat Mercedes in the race, but if the Silver Arrows do end up flying off into the distance, then Ferrari may have a window in which they can perform an extra pit-stop to counter any threat from behind on worn tyres.
Fresh rubber in a lighter car later on could see one of the Ferrari drivers registering the quickest lap of the race. It’s a circuit Kimi is very experienced with, so he could be in for a shout for getting some purple sectors and at least take something away from the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Fastest Lap: Kimi Raikkonen – 13/1 with Paddypower