When Malaysia hosted its very first Formula One race seven years ago, it was viewed with much intrigue. The F1 fraternity had not visited a new nation since Australia was added to the calendar back in 1985.
Circuit designer Hermann Tilke © XPB/LAT
Sepang was the first circuit designed entirely by Hermann Tilke, after his previous efforts were concentrated on modifying existing circuits. Subsequently, Sakhir, Shanghai and Istanbul have increased to four the number of tracks on the calendar that are wholly developed by the German. All of his creations have been in nations that never previously held an F1 event.
Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso are the only two drivers to start a Malaysian GP from pole position. In addition to his massive 0.947-second advantage in qualifying in 1999, Schumacher was on pole by 0.463 in 2000 and 0.641 in 2004, as well as taking pole in 2002 with a year-old chassis (the F2001), so Sepang clearly lends itself to Schumacher's style of driving.
It was that sort of previous form that really exposed Ferrari's shortcomings to the world in last year's race, when Schumacher could only qualify 13th and limp home in a lowly seventh, again in a year-old chassis.