Following mixed fortunes for the team at the season opener in Melbourne last weekend, the BMW WilliamsF1 Team are now looking ahead to the second round of the 2004 FIA Formula One World Championship during which they hope to achieve a more rewarding result at Malaysia’s Sepang circuit on Sunday 21st March.
Located south of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s cosmopolitan capital, the Sepang circuit is a state of the art, purpose-built facility, one which guarantees drama both on and off the track. Each 5.543 kilometre lap of the 56 lap race is complex to the extreme.
A low grip but smooth track, Sepang demands high downforce in the set-up. With speeds reaching 200mph on the two fastest straights and falling to as low as 50mph through the tight, twisting corners, Sepang is a technically challenging circuit for both man and machine. However, with overtaking opportunities at an optimum for a Formula One track, next weekend’s race will provide a perfect stage for the drivers and a thrilling spectacle for the fans.
Climatic conditions will undoubtedly play a part in the outcome of the 2004 Malaysian Grand Prix. Renowned for its unpredictable weather, Malaysia’s uncomfortably high humidity levels carry the constant threat of monsoon-style downpours. However, Sepang’s equatorial location also ensures acute temperatures which should suit the Michelin-shod runners and therefore provide the BMW WilliamsF1 Team a favourable platform for a successful weekend.
“Malaysia will be a lot hotter than Australia, but there is always the risk of the daily tropical thunderstorms that are so common to the area. Kuala Lumpur is a challenging, high downforce circuit for the drivers with several changes of direction through the medium and high speed corners,” said Sam Michael. “There are also three slow speed corners to negotiate and four straight sections which reward engine power. There is also considerable scope for overtaking at Sepang with three opportunities over the course of a lap.”
Since Melbourne, the team have made some developments to the car which will hopefully improve their performance in Malaysia. They have already devised a tentative pit-stop strategy from which they will elect which of Michelin’s two tyre compounds to run with. With the new regulations, strategy has really changed since last season and is now a fine balance of risk versus gain when determining when to bring the drivers in for the first pit-stop of the race. But, they are currently lying second in the Constructors’ Championship, with nine points, heading into the Malaysian Grand Prix, and are therefore looking to build on this with a strong result.