Just a few days after Jenson Button's victory for McLaren at the season-opening race in Australia, the battle for the 2012 FIA Formula One Championship gets even more intense as we journey to Malaysia and the grand prix billed as 'The World's Hottest Race'. With in-car temperatures often edging above 50º C and with track temperatures to match, the race places huge demands on man and machine.
The energy-sapping heat and humidity aren't the only problems however. While quite smooth, the circuit's long straights and heavy-braking corners mean that the tyres, already hurt by the heat, also take a beating from the circuit surface. Car set-up is tricky too, and the combination of flowing sections, power-hungry straights and tight corners makes it a tough balancing act for the engineers. Finally, there's the weather to contend with. Heavy storms are a constant threat and can lead to major trouble, as we found out in 2009 when a torrential downpour led to the race being stopped after just 31 laps.
That race was, of course, won by Button on the way to the 2009 World Championship, and the question now is whether he can take a second win here and set himself up for another shot at the title. It won't be easy. In Melbourne, the Red Bulls recovered well after a tricky qualifying session to finish second and fourth in the race. Mercedes and Lotus, too, gave notice that, once minor issues are ironed out, they are ready to make the step up to championship contention. Further back the midfield looks incredibly tight with a number of teams all in the mix for points. And, naturally, Ferrari can never be written off. If Melbourne was a baptism of fire for the Scuderia's new car, then Fernando Alonso's fifth place showed they can stand the heat. And as we get ready for sizzling Sepang that can only be a good thing.
Length of lap:
5.543km Lap record
1:34.223 (Juan-Pablo Montoya, Williams-BMW, 2004) Start line/finish line offset
0.000km Total number of race laps
56 Total race distance
310.408km Pitlane speed limits
60km/h during practice;
100km/h during race
CHANGES TO THE CIRCUIT SINCE 2011
The verge on the exit of turn 8 has been re-worked in order to remove the bump in the grass which caused a problem in 2011.
The entire debris fence around the outside of turn 1 has been renewed.