The Malaysian Grand Prix, held at the Sepang International Circuit on 23 October, is the penultimate race of the season and the final long-haul event of the year, coming the week after the Australian round.
Sepang is the second longest circuit on the calendar, after Silverstone, and is characterised by two long and fast straights each followed by tight and slow hairpins, and its tropical climate which can switch from monsoon rains to heat of over 50 degrees Celsius and oppressive humidity.
The main challenges from a tyre perspective come from the straight-line speed, the temperature, and the hard braking for the hairpins. Tyre compound options are unchanged from last year, and Sepang is one of only four circuits on the calendar at which asymmetric rear slicks aren’t required. Hard and Extra Hard compound front slicks are required to provide sufficient durability in the heat and stability under braking as riders decelerate from over 300 km/h to around just 80km/h for the hairpins, turns one and fifteen. Only two compound options of front slick are available in Malaysia because a third soft emergency spec is unnecessary and unsuitable as braking stability would be compromised too much.
The rear tyres are available in Medium and Hard compound as edge-grip and shoulder durability through the longer corners such as turn three and accelerating out of the hairpins are important. With the ambient being so high, warm-up performance is less of a consideration because as it is naturally good. Both tyres need a strong centre section though because of the high speed and track temperature.
Asymmetric rear slicks are not necessary at Sepang. Although there are ten right-hand corners and five lefts, the temperature generated in either shoulder of the rear tyres is very similar therefore asymmetric rear slicks would be of no significant performance or safety advantage.
The 2009 title was sealed by Fiat Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi in Malaysia, as was the 2010 crown by teammate Jorge Lorenzo who took his first premier class crown. This year Casey Stoner arrives as the newly-crowned World Champion, taking the title as he did last weekend in Australia.
Hiroshi Yamada – Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Department
“The title may have been decided last time out but there’s still lots to play for, particularly the fight for third position in the championship, so we can expect more tooth-and-nail battles in the heat of Malaysia. I’m sorry to see that Jorge won’t race in Malaysia either after his injury in Australia, and I wish him a full and speedy recovery. It’s always a punishing event for everyone because of that and the humidity, with the ever-present chance of tropical rains thrown in, but one I’m looking forward to as it’s the final overseas race as the season nears its conclusion.”
Hirohide Hamashima – Assistant to Director, Motorsport Tyre Development Division
“Sepang features a mix of high speed corners, long straights and heavy braking for tight hairpins so it is a tough challenge for our tyres and for the riders, especially when combined with such high temperature and humidity. Characterised by its two long straights and the high track temperature which is often above 50 degrees Celsius, it is one of the fastest circuits of the season and one of the most demanding for our front tyres.
“Front tyre stability is crucial under braking, especially at the end of the two fast straights as riders brake from over 300 km/h to around just 80km/h into the hairpins, and the high speed corners demand good shoulder grip and durability. Tyre durability and a good bike setup are crucial here as the high ambient and track temperatures mean that there is little cooling effect on the tyres, but we visit Sepang for winter tests which means everyone should have sufficient data to optimise their setups.”