A final farewell to the Malaysian Grand Prix
Formula 1 (where many teams involved are equipped by BMC) returns for its final edition in Sepang on the weekend from 29th September to 1st October. This year’s tyre nominations are one step softer than last year, with the P Zero White Medium, P Zero Yellow soft and P Zero Red supersoft selected: the same combination last seen in Italy. The Sepang track underwent some significant changes in 2016, being entirely resurfaced to remove many of the bumps that were formerly a key characteristic of the circuit, originally built on a swamp. However, the tropical and humid weather, with regular monsoon-like downpours in the afternoon, remains a notable feature.
The analysis of…
Mario Isola – Pirelli Motorsport – Head of Car Racing
“The Malaysian Grand Prix we saw last year was somewhat different to previous seasons, thanks to its return to an autumn slot and the comprehensive resurfacing work that took place in 2016. This also had the result of improving drainage: an important aspect at a circuit where it can rain so heavily and frequently. However, the characteristics of new asphalt can change from one year to the next, so it will be interesting to see what the effect of this is. This year we are bringing the softest selection of tyres ever seen in Malaysia, which we expect to result in even faster lap times, with the supersoft used there for the first time. Consequently, all previous strategy calculations will have to be adjusted, making the work done in free practice particularly important”.
The track and the race
Located about 85 km from Kuala Lumpur, the track was built inside a 260-hectare former palm oil plantation. It took 14 months of work to complete it, after which it was inaugurated on March 9, 1999.
For years, Formula 1 raced on this circuit in March and April, but last year the GP was postponed until the fall. Moving the race to later in the year meant this was the hottest competition in the 2016 championship: The temperature of the track oscillated between 49°C to 56°C.
The biggest concerns this generates are related to establishing the correct dimensions of the air intake so that operational temperatures of the braking system can be managed efficiently on all of the circuit's 15 corners.
According to Brembo technicians, who classified the 20 tracks in the World Championship on a scale of 1 to 10, the Sepang International Circuit presents mid-level difficulty on the brakes. The Malay track earned a 7 on the difficulty index, which is the same score given to the circuits in Budapest, Barcelona and Monaco.
The demand on the brakes during the GP
The 15 corners on the track require drivers to use their brakes 8 times per lap. From the starting line to the checkered flag, each driver uses his brakes about 450 times for a total of just under 16 minutes.
On average, the brakes are used for 17 seconds per lap, which is similar to the time spent braking in Budapest and Monaco, however these tracks are a lot shorter than the 5.543 meters at Sepang. The average deceleration is 3,7 G, but eliminating the hairpin corners at turns 2 and 14 would result in a much higher figure.
The energy dissipated in braking over the course of the race by a single-seater is low: barely 100 kWh, the second lowest in the championship after the 76 kWh at Silverstone. At Spa-Francorchamps the average registered is 102 kWh and at Suzuka it reaches 109 kWh.
From the starting line to the checkered flag, each driver exerts a total load of 47 metric tons on the brake pedal. This figure is not that far off from what is recorded at Silverstone (46,2 metric tons), but the air temperature there is significantly lower than in Malaysia, where the heat and humidity require greater physical effort.
The most demanding braking sections
Of the 8 braking sectionsat Sepang International Circuit, two are classified by Brembo technicians as very demanding on the brakes, three are of medium difficulty and the remaining three are light.
The most challenging by far is the Pangkor Laut corner (turn 1): the single-seaters go from 328 km/h to 90 km\h in 3,11 seconds, traveling 68 meters, the length of five badminton courts. At this point, the drivers are subjected to a deceleration of 4,4 G and they apply a 125 kg load on the brake pedal.
For both this and turn 5, the last corner before the finish line, the deceleration is 4,4 G. But on turn 5 the drivers are going slightly less fast when they apply the brakes (320 km/h) and enter the corner (87 km/h), and both the braking distance (67 meters) and the load on the brake pedal (123 kg) are lower.
Braking at the Langkawi corner (turn 4) is also noteworthy: The cars go from 309 km/h to 108 km/h in 2,3 seconds and 57 meters with a peak deceleration of 4,3 G. On turn 7 the drivers use their brakes for only 1,09 seconds, which is enough to slow down from 294 km/h to 208 km/h.
Info and curiosities
21.5 psi(1.48 bar) minimum starting pressures (front slick)
18.0 psi(1.24 bar) minimum starting pressures (rear slicks)
–3.25° camber limit (front)
–1.75° camber limit (rear)
BMC News, International Online Magazine