We spent all winter searching for answers, yet all the first race in Melbourne seemed to give us was more questions. So, in hope we head to Malaysia expecting nothing but definitive verdicts (again).
Sepang gives the F1 circus its first taste of a conventional grand prix track, so (weather permitting) its fair to expect a clearer picture to emerge over the weekend. But doubts over how conclusive the Australian GP form was are not in reference to the head of the field. Red Bull was suspected of holding something back in winter testing, and so it proved. The only question hovering over Milton Keynes now is 'Was there even more in reserve?' Don't bet against it.
But Malaysia will be more important for those trying to align themselves in the chasing pack. McLaren stole a march as Ferrari and Mercedes left Australia scratching their heads, and Martin Whitmarsh's troops will be determined to take advantage of its surprisingly good start.
McLaren will want to look forwards rather than backwards, but a lot of teams in the midfield are adamant that their cars don't require fundamental changes to get on the pace.
All eyes will be on Red Bull as Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber go to work with KERS back on the cars in Friday practice. The team hopes to run the system throughout this weekend, and it is likely to be of far more benefit than it was at Albert Park. But it's not a given that KERS will be alive and well on the Red Bulls when the weekend reaches its business end.
The low-key debut of the adjustable rear wing (DRS) was met with calls to reserve judgement until it is seen in action on a proper track. Well, Sepang is just the ticket. The number of straights mean that an effective DRS will give a huge benefit in qualifying, and the two long straights separated only by the final corner should offer a much greater opportunity for the wing to be of use to the chasing drivers.
So, the potential is there for the combination of KERS and the DRS to make it very difficult for anyone to get away at the front. But Sebastian Vettel managed just fine without KERS in Australia (take a look at his gap as he leaves the first corner to jog your memory), and the DRS can't be used for the first couple of laps. By then, the Malaysian Grand Prix could already be all about the battle for third place.
Much like the DRS - the impact of the fragile Pirelli tyres was not as great as expected in Australia. That's not likely to be the case again this weekend. High temperatures and several long radius corners and low-speed traction zones are going to put far more stress on the hard and soft compound tyres.
Pirelli refuted suggestions from the teams in pre-season that four pitstops would be the norm in 2011. But even the Italian firm has hinted that four stops could be required in the heat of Malaysia. The penalty for a stop is huge due to Sepang's long pitlane, so look for teams weighing up the compromise of hanging on to a dying set of tyres or taking the hit of trawling down the pitlane for fresh rubber.
|DRIVERS' FORM GUIDE|
|Driver||Australia 2011||Abu Dhabi 2010||Interlagos 2010||Korea 2010||Japan 2010|
|Paul di Resta||10|
|DRIVERS' HISTORY - SEPANG|
|Paul di Resta|
From the forum
Even if there are great unknows with regards to how much time McLaren can find just with being more familiar with the MP4/26, they have some new bits, so they should be closer to Red Bull. Perhaps being "just" half a second off pole can translate to them matching or perhaps even be a tad quicker in the race. I wouldn't mind.
If Red Bull don't use KERS they will be eaten alive anyway as the run down to the first corner is quite long, so it doesn't matter if they qualify 1st and 2nd.
If we get rain or even monsoon type conditions on race day then frankly you can throw away the form book. All bets are off and that could be exciting.
|Join the debate: Forum Malaysia preview|
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