Scuderia Ferrari goes into this weekend’s second round of the championship in Malaysia well aware that the region’s conditions will test both drivers and machines.

The Scuderia enters this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix after a mixed weekend at the Australian Grand Prix season-opener. After both SF15-T racers qualified well up the order, Sebastian Vettel went on to finish third on his Ferrari debut, while teammate Kimi Räikkönen was forced to retire when his left-rear wheel came loose.

The Italian team has pegged itself as the ‘best of the rest’ behind the leading works Mercedes’, and it is expecting the characteristics of the Sepang International Circuit to suit its cars this weekend.

“Normally, we assess the tracks based on two parameters: the level of aerodynamic downforce required and the power needed from the power unit,” Technical Director James Allison told Ferrari’s official website.

“And if one looks at just these two parameters, Sepang is very similar to Melbourne. Therefore, the car’s competitiveness ought to be similar. However, in Malaysia, it’s much hotter and more humid and this is a factor that stresses both the car and the tyres.

“Furthermore, usually a sudden storm can require an immediate change of strategy; everyone is constantly monitoring the weather but reaction time is more important,” he concluded.

The extreme conditions present a unique challenge for all of the teams, who run on a knife-edge trying to balance the cooling of the complex V6 turbo hybrid power units without affecting the cars’ aerodynamics.

A typical solution is to enlarge the radiator intakes and create a series of cut-outs over the cars to allow hot air to escape, but this usually comes at a cost of greater drag, and therefore reduced straight-line speed.

With just five power units available per car over the season, no one can afford to have a failure so early in the season.

“We have various demands to manage: reliability and performance, the latter both in terms of power and aerodynamics,” Ferrari’s chief designer Simone Resta explained.

“We are still in the early stages of the season, therefore we need to establish and accurate understanding of our true level: in Melbourne, we managed a good top speed, which could be very useful on the two long straights of the Sepang circuit.

“At the moment, our pace is pretty good too and at a circuit like this, where tyre degradation is very high, it could prove to be an advantage for us.”

 Image via XPB Images

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Michael Terminello

Journalist at MotorsportM8
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