Scuderia Ferrari’s Sepang pit garage is busy preparing for this season’s 2nd Grand Prix with focus on both F14 Ts under the direction of Diego Ioverno, Head of Track and Car Assembly Operations.
It’s hot and humid, and a tough race in thes extreme weather conditions. Temperature in the cockpit can often reach 50 degrees. “The best way to prepare for this Malaysian Grand Prix is to arrive in Sepang a bit early,” said Scuderia Ferrari test driver Pedro de la Rosa. “In fact, it’s important for the body to adapt to the climate and drivers have to put up with having the air con down to a minimum in their hotel room and in the gym where they train, otherwise it’s pointless.”
Even testing the drinks system in the car is important. “In most cases, even if he doesn’t drink anything, a driver can comfortably finish a Grand Prix with no problem, because he is physically prepared for it. But in Sepang, the conditions are so extreme that not being properly hydrated can see a sudden drop in performance, with obvious consequences when it comes to the final result. In the past here, we have seen drivers whose drinks system has failed, losing time here by having to take on fluids from a bottle at the pit stop.” concludes De la Rosa.
Ferrari hopes to moved forward on the development front since Round 1 and face the degree of difficulty Malaysian GP offers head on. “Our car reliability was good, as was that of the power train, not just for the Scuderia but also for our customer teams,” says the team’s Deputy Chief Designer Simone Resta, looking back at Australia. “Another positive aspect that emerged from the Melbourne weekend is that we found the F14 T performs well in terms of cornering speed. However, we also saw that we were lacking a bit of top speed, which made it difficult to overtake other cars on track.”
Preparation includes a wide angle view with the first back-to-back pair of the season (Malaysia and Bahrain). Reviewing data from the Australian Grand Prix was backed by work done by engineers in Maranello related to high temperatures encountered in Malaysia. “Sepang is a very difficult track because it has many high speed corners,” continues Resta. “That means aerodynamics is a key factor as always. We can be sure of having to deal with very high temperatures so cooling and reliability will be important. Another aspect of the weekend will be adapting the car to the new tyres Pirelli has brought for this track.
“Reliability is always the most important factor for us: without a reliable car you cannot win titles,” adds Resta. If reliability is the first priority, then performance follows hot on its heels and that involves getting the car to work more efficiently. “Efficiency affects all areas of the car, starting with the engine and the power unit as a whole, where it means getting more power from the same amount of fuel,” explains Resta. “The same concept can also be applied to other areas such as aerodynamics where efficiency means finding more downforce but with less drag.” All areas of the car in fact are subject to the search for efficiency in order to deliver improved performance and Resta has a simple formula to sum up that task. “We are always looking to hit the same target for less effort.”
“It clearly has greater scope for development than our cars from the past few seasons, which is good news,” concludes Resta. “However, on a race weekend, we can only try and get the most out of what we have to work with at the track and in Malaysia, then in Bahrain a week later, we will keep moving forward down that path.”
2014 Malaysian Grand Prix is the 16th race at Sepang’s 5.543 kilometre track. Ferrari has secured 6 wins here, equal to a 40% success rate. Sepang’s journey began in 1999 with Michael Schumacher back to the cockpit after his Silverstone accident. He replaced Mika Salo at Ferrari.
It was the 15th race of the 1999 Formual One season. Eddie Irvine had a title shot, and Michael took pole when qualifying. On race day he let Irvine go by and held Mika Hakkinen (McLaren) at bay. In 2000, Schumacher won, and again in 2001, and 2004. Kimi Raikkonen won for Ferrari in 2008. In 2012, Fernando Alonso won in his F2012. 2009 Malaysian GP is also the last race to be red flagged and not restarted, with half points being assigned.