Malaysian Grand Prix preview: Alonso’s McLaren return in sizzling Sepang

Come rain or shine in Malaysia there is always a surprise. All eyes this weekend, for a change, will not be on the battle of the Mercedes pairing out in front, but a certain Spaniard in a silver McLaren Honda. This weekend marks the return of Fernando Alonso who last raced for McLaren in 2007.

Malaysia Grand Prix 2015

Alonso was forced to miss the opening race of the season after he suffered a concussion in pre-season testing following a highspeed crash at the exit of Turn Three in Barcelona. The team were forced to replace the injured double world champion with reserve driver Kevin Magnussen who failed to take the start in Australia after his engine blew up on the way to the grid.

As well as Alonso making his return to the cockpit, Williams welcome back Valtteri Bottas this weekend. The Finn injured his back in qualifying and had to sit out of the Grand Prix on Sunday after he failed an FIA test on the morning of the race.

The Sepang Circuit is one of the toughest on the F1 calendar. Not only is it a circuit that is filled with medium to high speed corners it is also a physically demanding race. The air temperature and humidity sucks the life out of the drivers with temperatures in the car at times exceeding 30 degrees, Some drivers even struggle in the closing stages to make the end of the race.

Not only is the race difficult but also the car; heavy braking events at the start and end of the lap put a huge deal of stress on the brakes as well as the temperatures, testing out just how good the cooling works on the cars. 

Lewis Hamilton

The long straights will play into the hands of the leaders Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton having won the race last year on his way to the championship in convincing fashion.

The 3.4 mile lap starts with a heavy breaking event, the exit of Turn One taking the driver into Turn Two and then instantly followed by Turn Three. Turns Five and Six see the drivers flick the car left then right at an incredible 150 mph which puts a great amount of strain on the front tyres. Turns Seven and Eight is a double right-hander which leads downhill onto the slow left hand chicane of Turn Nine. Turn 12 is a high speed left-hander, almost instantly followed by the medium right-hander of Turn 13 that sends the driver onto the back straight where the DRS detection point is.

Whilst Mercedes are the obvious favorites heading into the weekend, they are wary of the threat from behind from the likes of Ferrari and Williams.

The performance of the teams in the midfield will be something to keep an eye on. Will Sauber be able to continue the form that they showed in Melbourne after Felipe Nasr’s fifth place on his debut? Also where are Red Bull in the pecking order? Daniil Kvyat, like Magnussen, also failed to make the start in Australia after his gear box cried enough on the reconnaissance lap.

Force India made it into the points at the season opener but with a car that they are struggling to get to grips with it could be a struggle to repeat the seventh place finish for Nico Hulkenberg and the tenth place for Sergio Perez. Toro Rosso and their rookies put on a strong showing at Albert Park so could a points finish be on the cards for Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz? 

There looks to finally be some good news on the Manor Marussia front. The team failed to turn a wheel last time out in Australia but the former Marussia team look to be taking part in the weekend. The team were hit with issues throughout the season opener and were forced to sit out the weekend. It looks as if they have finally got their act together, meaning we should see a full quota of cars take the start, unlike Australia where only fifteen cars made the start. 

Despite a threat of rain, the forecast is suggesting a typical Sepang weekend; temperatures on Friday could reach 38 degrees with slightly cooler temperatures for race day at 35.


Showers are a daily occurrence around the circuit at this time of year and could cause havoc. It is usually a case of when the rain arrives at the circuit, not if. If the rain hits during either the race or on qualifying for Saturday we could be in for a few surprises. If the current forecast is anything to go by then we will see rain in the late afternoon over each of the three days.

Prediction: Whilst rain looks to be on the cards it is hard to see anyone topple Mercedes. At a circuit that plays into the strengths of the Silver Arrows it looks as if we are on for yet another one-two finish. Hamilton looks bulletproof and it will take something quite special from Nico Rosberg or anyone to beat him.

Do you think Mercedes will walk away with this one again or will the rain cause an upset? Leave your comments below.