The Undercut: Your Malaysian Grand Prix preview
Will the last Grand Prix at Sepang be a thriller?
The Malaysian Grand Prix, the 15th race of the year, just five to go after this and it is looking set to be a tasty season finale.
Sebastian Vettel, from a championship lead at the Belgian Grand Prix now has a 28 point deficit to Lewis Hamilton.
There are, of course a stack of points still to be had but Hamilton is on top form, hoovering up wins and all of the remaining tracks are said to favour Mercedes.
He may say he isn’t worried but Vettel has his work cut out and then some.
The two of them however, may not have it all their own way this weekend. Sepang and its downpours have thrown up some unexpected results over the years and with the Red Bull pair looking as strong as ever, who knows what will happen.
One thing is certain, Lewis just needs to keep bagging the points and surely now is the time, if it isn’t already decided, for his team-mate, Valtteri Bottas to assume a firm number two status.
Lewis at Sepang last year, a repeat sighting Sebastian wouldn’t mind
As for anybody not driving a Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull, it will be a case of picking up any scraps that fall from the top table, so many will be hoping for a wet race on Sunday.
At the time of writing, the forecast for this weekend is wetter than an otters pocket, so a few fingers will be crossed on that front.
One team who really need a healthy dose of the wet stuff is of course McLaren. They still have to plod around with Honda for now and the long straights here will be a killer.
One bookmaker offers better odds on Kim Jong-un playing golf with Donald Trump (80/1) than on a McLaren podium (100/1) in Malaysia on Sunday.
Paddy Power, just one of the bookies with little faith in Macca.
Sadly, this looks like the last time F1 will visit the Sepang International Circuit as the government, perhaps understandably, are not keen on throwing millions of ringgits at a race that not many of the local population are bothered about attending.
Sure, the first few races from its inception in 1999 had a decent enough audience but with motorsport not being that big a thing in Malaysia, the novelty soon wore off and people stopped going.
This is a shame for us out in TV land, as we have had some classics here over the years. F1 owners Liberty Media are no longer keen on these tracks out in the middle of nowhere, preferring to take races to where the fans already are, so who knows in the future, maybe a Kuala Lumpur street race? I’d buy a ticket right now for that.
Sebastian at Sepang last year, a repeat sighting Lewis wouldn’t mind.
So, what has happened since Singapore? Well, the fallout from the first corner shunt that took out Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen rumbled on all week.
As you’d expect, only Kimi wasn’t that bothered by it that much but the other two were happily blaming each other in the press. It was therefore to be expected that the three of them would appear in the Thursday FIA press conference, which you would have thought might make interesting viewing.
Not a bit of it, like trained chimps, the threesome stuck to the script prepared by their PR teams. Not one of them had anything to say on the matter and after a moment or two of awkwardness, compere James Allen gave up trying to get a decent soundbite and moved on.
It really does beg the question, why on earth do they bother televising these press conferences? They are dull beyond belief and for the effort involved, they probably attract an audience of about five viewers.
The print journalists hate them being televised too, as it is they the conference is for but as they are on TV, the drivers comments (for what they are worth) are all over the internet before the journos have left the room, rendering the whole thing even more pointless.
The big news this week is that Red Bull, having already demoted him to Toro Rosso, are ‘resting’ Daniil Kvyat for this race and the next in Japan, inserting 2016 GP2 champ Pierre Gasly in his place.
Kvyat may be back in the car for the United States Grand Prix on the 22nd of October as Gasly could wrap up the Japanese Super Formula thing that weekend.
We won’t be needing this for now…
Whether Pierre comes back again so Daniil can have another rest is unknown but Toro Rosso are closing in on Williams for fifth place in the constructors standings, so will want all the points they can get. Their current tally is Carlos Sainz 48 and Kvyat 4. Yes, FOUR points.
Only the pointless (in more ways than one) Marcus Ericsson is behind him. Quite how this affects the 2018 driver situation at the team is anybody’s guess. It looks like it will be Gasly and Kvyat, which certainly as far as the Russian goes, makes no sense whatsoever.
So, as usual, we’ll have live tweeting and chat during the race with me @GrandPrixDiary, the best tweets make the DriveTribe Twitter race review.
See you on Sunday!
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