Williams Martini Racing: Malaysian And Japanese Grands Prix Preview

Sept. 28, 2016




Kuala Lumpur’s Sepang International Circuit was first in the spate of modern tracks in emerging markets for Formula One.

The likes of Bahrain, China, Singapore, South Korea and India would later follow, but Hermann Tilke’s first foray into Asia set a new standard and lay pressure to modernise on the historic European circuits. One feature the more traditional venues could not apply is the tropical Malaysian climate, which has unleashed spectacular downpours on Formula One sessions over the last 15 years. Williams’ only victory at Sepang came in 2002 with Ralf Schumacher leading home team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya in a 1-2. 

For Malaysia, Pirelli have made available the soft, medium and hard tyres.

Pat Symonds: The new date for Malaysia takes us to the first of two circuits that really stretch the car after the confines of Singapore. In Kuala Lumpur we also have the challenge of extensive changes that have been made to the track. As well as the complete resurfacing of the track there is also some realignment which has been specially designed to improve the racing. It will be interesting to see how successful it is, and if it acts as a pointer to future circuit modifications. From a performance point of view, of course, the focus is on the very high temperatures and humidity which not only affect the car set-up but also take a high toll on the drivers. The circuit is tough on tyres and hence we move up the spectrum once again using the hard, medium and soft compounds. There are several high-speed long corners where loading dictates the advantage of the more robust compounds. The circuit has good overtaking opportunities and we can expect an exciting race but, as always in Malaysia, we will be keeping a very close watch for the heavy rainfall that can disrupt this event.

Valtteri Bottas: Malaysia has changed places in the calendar so it’s going to be just as hot and humid as Singapore and another very physical race for the drivers. It has a nice mix of both high and low-speed corners. We normally score strong points at Sepang. Overall, it’s an enjoyable track to drive and I’m really looking forward to going back for another year. 

Felipe Massa: Malaysia is another very difficult race in the calendar because of how hot and humid it is. It rains there almost every day, and when it rains it’s normally torrential so it covers the whole track. The race is just so dependent on the weather, but I really hope we can do well there and have a good result. I was sixth there last year, I hope this year I can perform even better!




If you ask any Formula One driver to list their favourite tracks, the Suzuka Circuit will always feature high on the list with its traditional features and unique figure of eight layout. It’s a narrow, high speed circuit with very little run off and is therefore the ultimate test of man and machine. Sector one is a particular highlight with high speed changes of direction placing a premium on aerodynamic downforce. 

For Japan, Pirelli have made available the soft, medium and hard tyres

Pat Symonds: Japan is my favourite circuit, which is a view shared by many of the drivers and engineers. It presents so many challenges to us from the fast first corner and 130R, to the very difficult continual changes of direction that are found from turn two up to turn seven. Couple this with the long high-loading through the Spoon Curves (T13-14) one can begin to understand how it challenges the cars, drivers and tyres. For Japan, Mercedes are also introducing their final power unit upgrade of the year, which will be available to all its customers, and is one which we hope will allow us to improve our performance for the remaining races of the season.

Valtteri Bottas: If I had to choose one track as my favourite, it would have to be Suzuka because of the high speed nature of the circuit. It’s a proper race track really built for Formula One cars. On top of that, the atmosphere is very special. The Japanese fans get so excited about the race. There’s a lot of support for me there, which I really appreciate. It’s always nice to go to Japan, it’s a favourite for a lot of people because it’s such a great track and overall a great weekend with a really good atmosphere – one I always look forward to.

Felipe Massa: I think Suzuka is one of the best places to race. I love the layout and the high speed sections. Sector one I think is the most incredible sector in the world. I really love Japan. I love the people and I love to go there to spend some time in Tokyo. I’m really looking forward to my last Formula One race in Japan and I can’t wait to enjoy it with the amazing Japanese fans.

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