The track surface is very abrasive, particularly in comparison to Albert Park last week which is very smooth. High speed stability is an essential requirement of the tyres here due to the circuit layout, which contains some long straights and quick direction changes.
Good engine tractability is required through turns 1 and 2, the second of which leads to a high speed section so making a good exit here is vital. For turn 3, strong stability from the tyres is required through this high speed corner to aid driver confidence before heavy braking for turn 4.
The high speed turns 5 and 6 require stiff suspension. The car can be run lower and stiffer than at other tracks as there are no high kerbs in which is beneficial from this perspective. Turn 7 can prove punishing for the tyres, as the drivers must turn whilst braking for the corner.
Heavy braking after a long straight is required into the final corner, turn 15. This is followed by another long straight, providing a good overtaking opportunity. A variety of lines are taken through here.
The KERS is more effective during qualifying in Sepang due to the location of the start-finish line, as you get two bites of the cherry with the KERS usage on the out lap. While there is heavy braking for turn 1, the brakes will have cooled along the straight and so should not overheat making this is a good overtaking location.
Downforce levels are very similar to the levels required in Melbourne, however the threat of understeer is not as prevalent as at Albert Park so we can run with slightly less front wing.
In terms of suspension setup, Sepang requires a good all round car. There are high speed straights, very high speed changes of direction in turns 5 and 6, and also some reasonable traction events including the double hairpin at turns 1 and 2 which are very low speed and very tight. There are no high kerbs at this track so the car can be run with a low ride height giving better overall downforce.
There are four heavy braking zones into turn 1, turn 4, turn 14 and turn 15. High temperatures are not such a threat as they might otherwise be here due to the long straights between the braking zones which help to cool the brakes.
Pirelli’s soft and hard compound tyres will be used in Malaysia, meaning a greater gap between compounds than in Albert Park where soft and medium were used. The track is very demanding on tyres due to its aggressive surface, heavy braking areas, long straights and wide variety of speeds and corners.
Malaysia sits towards the upper end of the ‘power tracks’ with 60% of the lap spent at full throttle, but the main challenge is preparing the engine’s cooling systems to cope with the intense heat and humidity. Ambient temperatures can reach over 40°C, so engine cooling becomes crucial. The RS27’s cooling system is refined using dynos back at Viry-Châtillon, where climatic conditions can be recreated including running with 100% humidity and 40°C heat.