The Mercedes Silver Arrows won Melbourne comprehensively and you could argue that their level of dominance is even higher now than this time last year.
Lewis Hamilton was a deserved winner and Nico Rosberg just struggled to match him. I feel that Rosberg did not help his cause so much by praising Hamilton so mightily in Australia when he called Hamilton’s drive a “World Champion’s Drive”. I may be reading too much into this, but at this time of the year, it sounds like a sort of capitulation. You need to be focusing your mind to beat your competitors and that sort of talk is more appropriate at the end of the year, when it is time to be magnanimous if you have been beaten fair and square.
I’m hoping that the German will surprise in Malaysia and take the fight to Hamilton, because with the other teams struggling to match them, it would be disappointing not to see Rosberg contest this year’s championship like he did last year.
Out of all the modern day F1 tracks built by Hermann Tilke, Sepang is the most loved by drivers on this year’s calendar. It’s got a nice flow to it with a wide range of corners to challenge the drivers. Unusually, for flowing tracks, it also has lots of overtaking spots, which means the racing is always good too.
If it’s dry this weekend, you can also count on it being one of the most physical Grand Prix on the calendar due to the extreme heat and humidity. Drivers tend to lose three kilograms in weight over the course of the race, so fitness and proper hydration is key to a good performance.
The heat also means cooling the cars and their incredibly complex power units is crucial. Malaysia is the second round of the championship and with it being so early in the year, teams with the best pre-season preparation should be in better condition than the ones who didn’t.
As expected, the teams that had a good pre-season are also the ones who went well in Melbourne, namely, Mercedes, Ferrari, Williams and Sauber. I expect them to be able to stand the heat. Others who may find the heat a hindrance are McLaren Honda, the Renault-powered cars (RedBull and Torro Rosso) and Manor Marussia, who did not even run in Melbourne.
One of the questions I get asked the most right now is if Fernando Alonso coming back at this race will make McLaren Honda strong again. Sorry McLaren fans. While it will be good to see Alonso back, they are so far behind the ball at the moment that there will be very little he can actually do.
McLaren are four to five seconds off the pace in Melbourne and it will probably be worse here in Sepang. They were already tuning down their engines due to over heating in Australia and they will have to do at least as much in the Malaysian heat, so expect a very tough weekend for them. They will be one of many teams hoping for rain!
As for the battle for the final podium spot, it will be an exciting battle between Ferrari and Williams, to come in behind the two Mercedes. Ferrari (with both cars for a change) were very strong in Melbourne but I believe Sepang will suit Williams more and they will be stronger here, so it’ll probably be a Mercedes 1-2, followed by a Williams.
Catch Alex Yoong on FOX Sports’ LIVE broadcast of the Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix – 27-29 March