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Malaysia GP: Preview - McLaren

NEWS STORY
19/03/2008

The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team has relocated to Malaysia this week for round two of the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship. Following Lewis and Heikki's strong performances in Australia the team head the Constructors' Championship with 14 points. Lewis and Heikki lie in first and fifth respectively in the Drivers' table with 10 and four points.

The first Grand Prix at the Sepang Circuit on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur was held in October 1999. This year's race is the 10th Malaysian Grand Prix. The 15 bends of the Sepang Circuit, initially named after tourist destinations, have meanwhile been numbered in the conventional way.

The 2007 Malaysian Grand Prix saw the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team score the first victory of its partnership, with Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton finishing one-two. Heikki Kovalainen took his first point in Formula 1 at the event last year. In 2003, Kimi Raikkonen scored his first Grand Prix victory in Malaysia driving for the McLaren Mercedes team. Juan Pablo Montoya holds the record for the fastest lap. His time of 1:34.233 was set in 2004.

The Malaysian Grand Prix is one of the most physically demanding events of the season with extremely humid conditions and ambient temperatures reaching up to 40 degrees centigrade leading to a cockpit environment of over 50 degrees. This level of heat can lead to dehydration, which in turn can cause loss of concentration and performance. This can see the drivers lose up to 4 litres of fluid during the race. In order to stay hydrated, Lewis and Heikki will drink a fluid rich in electrolytes to replace the minerals and salts lost. The process of remaining hydrated starts before the race weekend to get the body used to taking on more fluids.

Following the performance of the team in Australia, what are your expectations going into Malaysia?
Lewis Hamilton: "The race at Melbourne was the perfect start to the season for me, although it would have been that bit better to have Heikki on the podium as well. As I said over the weekend, the MP4-23 felt fantastic and I do feel we can go quicker, but Malaysia is a tough race. We are going to Sepang aiming to get another great result, but it is likely to be hotter again so it will be a big challenge. There is not much we can do with the cars between Australia and Malaysia as there is so little time, but we will keep pushing hard."

You enjoyed the race last year and had some great battles on track, what are the key characteristics of the Sepang circuit that lead to exciting racing?
LH: "Sepang is a fantastic track, but the climate plays a major role making it very tricky for all of us, everyone is really on the limit and so is the car. The track is very high speed with some great overtaking opportunities, but in some places it is quite difficult to stay close enough to the car ahead. The Malaysian Grand Prix with our double victory last year was one of the best races of the season for the team, we had a great car and great pace. The race with both Kimi and Felipe was good fun, hopefully the race will be as entertaining again this year!"

Can you outline the physical preparations you have made specific to the heat and humidity of the Malaysian race?
LH: "For Malaysia it is very difficult to prepare physically for the race, even more so this year, you cannot begin to imagine how hot it gets in the car. Last season we had the test session and a couple of weeks off so we were able to go to a hot country and train there to get acclimatised. This year we are going straight from Melbourne to Sepang, which gives us a couple of days to get used to the extreme heat. We have had a bit of a head start with the temperatures in Melbourne. The focus is always on making sure you are well hydrated, last year I was drinking up to four litres a day in the days building up to the race. It was the hardest race I have ever competed in last year, even with all that preparation and really trying to look after your energy beforehand."

How are you spending your time between Australia and Malaysia?
LH: "We don't really have much time, I left Australia on Monday and flew straight to Malaysia. The focus in the early part of the week will be training and acclimatisation; this also includes adjusting to the time difference. We will make sure we are eating at the right time and so on. Otherwise, I have nothing else planned. The hotel is quite far away from the Kuala Lumpur, as it is located very close to the track, so I plan to stay in the city for a couple of days. I didn't see it at all last year, so I will take a look around, try some Malaysian food."

Following the performance of the team in Australia, what are your expectations going into Malaysia?
Heikki Kovalainen: "My target is to build on the fifth position from Melbourne. We were really competitive all weekend, and I was making sure I kept relaxed and didn't put any additional pressure on myself. I now have my first race with the team under my belt, apart from the safety car it went really well and we are now going to push harder in Sepang. The car was really quick and we now have to work hard to take that performance to Malaysia."

You scored your first Grand Prix point at Sepang last year; does the track layout suit your driving style?
HK: "I hope so! I think your driving style has to suit all the tracks if you want to be winning races and fighting for the Championship. I consider Malaysia last year my first proper race in Formula 1, so I have some good memories from there. It is a very interesting track, very wide with some great corners. It is a cool place to go and I am looking forward to the race."

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