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Malaysia GP: Preview - Honda

NEWS STORY
18/03/2008

Round two of the 2008 FIA Formula One World Championship takes the Honda Racing F1 Team to Kuala Lumpur for the Malaysian Grand Prix. The 56-lap race is staged at the Sepang International Circuit and comes just one week after the season-opening grand prix in Australia.

This year's event is the 10th Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang, the circuit being the first F1 track to be designed from scratch by German architect Hermann Tilke. It was built on a 260-hectare swamp and the challenge of its long, demanding corners has been made harder over the years by an increasing number of bumps in the asphalt.

The cars average 210kph (130mph) around the 5.54km (3.44-mile) lap, and the sweltering humidity and scorching heat make the Malaysian Grand Prix a tough test of man and machine.

The hot weather in Australia last weekend helped to prepare the teams for the Malaysian Grand Prix, which is traditionally one of the hottest races on the calendar. Cooling will still be a factor, but the Honda Racing F1 Team is not expecting more extreme conditions than it saw at Albert Park.

The predominant handling characteristic at Sepang is oversteer, and it's a relatively bumpy track which also causes some problems. There's a good balance of high and low speed corners and, as is the case at every track this year, the engineers will strive to get as much mechanical traction as possible without traction control.

For driver confidence, it's important to get a good balance through the quick left-right at Turns 5 and 6, but there are other more important corners in terms of lap time. The penultimate corner onto the long back straight is a double apex and it's technically difficult to find a good balance through there.

Sepang will also give a better steer on the relative competitiveness of all the teams because you need a good car to be competitive.

Sum up your thoughts following last weekend's Australian Grand Prix?
Ross Brawn, Team Principal: "Whilst the result was disappointing, we have to look at the positives. Qualifying confirmed that we are in the midfield and a very strong race drive from Rubens showed that we have the potential to fight for points. It was pleasing to see that the aerodynamic upgrade from Jerez worked as expected and I think we have a good basis for the first three races until we can introduce the next development step for Spain."

What do you think the Honda Racing F1 Team can achieve in Malaysia?
RB: "I think we can have a similarly strong weekend to the one we experienced in Melbourne. We have shown that we have a car with which to target the points and two drivers who are very determined to achieve that."

What are your hopes for the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend?
Jenson Button: "I'm looking forward to Malaysia. Obviously I didn't get to compete in Australia because I had an accident at turn one, but I'm very positive for the next one. We made a lot of improvements with the car during the weekend and I'm hoping for the same improvement over the next race. It's very competitive in the midfield and we have to get the best out of the car at every stage. If we can do that we can get a good result in the race."

Describe the physical challenge of driving in 35-degree heat and 70 percent humidity
JB: "It's tough racing in the temperature but that isn't the real problem, it's the humidity. It's one thing taking in hot air but quite another taking in hot and damp air. It's pretty tough to breath and it can get quite claustrophic in the helmet. You just have to make sure you're prepared and we will be!"

Were you pleased by the performance of the RA108 in Australia?
Rubens Barrichello: "We knew we had made a step forward at our final pre-season test in Jerez. What we didn't know was where we were in relation to the other teams. I'm encouraged by the start we have made to the season and for this I have to thank everyone in Japan and the UK for all the hard work that has gone into the car over the past few weeks in particular. I think we are going to have a positive season."

What is the key to a quick lap at Sepang?
RB: "The most important factor is to have a good aerodynamic balance, which is something we have obviously been able to improve for the start of the season. Hopefully this will benefit us again in Malaysia."

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