By Thomas Dodd
- Round 15 of Formula 1 World Championship set to take place at Sepang in Malaysia
- Brit Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) arrives with 28-point advantage over Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) at top of Drivers’ Standings
- Pierre Gasly will make debut on Sunday after replacing Daniil Kvyat at Toro Rosso
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA – After the chaos and rain of Singapore two weeks ago, Formula 1 stays in Asia as the world title fight enters the home straight. Here’s five questions we might see answered this weekend.
Can Palmer back up Singapore?
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, but the Brit’s drive to sixth in Singapore may just be the start of something. Despite having the raw end of the reliability deal at Renault this year, Jolyon Palmer has been outclassed by teammate Nico Hulkenberg.
However, now on the look for a drive next season and off the back of his career best result, there is only reason for optimism and with openings starting to appear on the Grid in 2018 too, there will be no better motivation to display his talents from here on in. It is almost certainly his last chance.
Will Ferrari bounce back?
If they want to have a Drivers’ World Champion for the first time since Kimi Raikkonen in 2007, then they simply have to. Seeing Sebastian Vettel lose more ground to Lewis Hamilton in the title race around Sepang is not an option for the Prancing Horse, particularly with Valtteri Bottas looking a very tricky obstacle to overcome in terms of protecting Hamilton.
Ferrari may have to repeat a performance from Malaysia’s first Grand Prix in 1999, when Michael Schumacher and Eddie Irvine outfoxed McLaren to claim a one-two and set a title showdown in Japan. The gap at the top stands at 28 points with 150 still to play for. But time is running out. And how much will that opening lap coming together have affected Vettel going forward?
Red Bull Max Verstappen stay out of trouble?
In a week which saw the Milton Keynes-based team sign a sponsorship deal with British Supercar manufacturer Aston Martin they would do well to in order to impressive their new client. Particularly with a potential engine deal in the works too. Max Verstappen’s shenanigans mean he is 70 points behind Raikkonen in the championship standings and level with Force India’s Sergio Perez – in a car far superior.
Arguably still one of the most talented racers on the grid, the Dutchman needs to get into a race to try and resurrect his dismal season to this point. The car has been getting quicker and quicker with every race, and finally looks ready to make the front of the grid a six-way scrap.
How will Pierre Gasly fare?
Daniil Kvyat’s time in Formula 1 is almost certainly up, and it’s time for the Red Bull Junior Programme to unleash another one of its until-now caged Bulls on Motorsport’s top table. Former Formula 2 champion Pierre Gasly will get his chance for the rest of season alongside Carlos Sainz Jnr, and with the Spaniard moving to Renault next year the Italian outfit will be hoping the Frenchman will provide the first half of their line-up decision for 2018 too.
There’s nothing to suggest the 21-year-old will be out of his depth, and while it might be too much to expect miracles this weekend it will be another chance for a young gun to stake their claim and get their foot in the F1 door.
Will the Malaysian Grand Prix go out with a bang?
It might not be the last time the circus sets up its tents just outside the Malaysian capital, but the circuit has not appeared the calendar for next year, meaning Sunday’s 19th running of the event could prove to be its curtain call. It’s brought us humidity, monsoons and drama – last year providing Nico Rosberg with an open door to the title after Hamilton’s engine failure mid-race.
Since its debut in 1999 the circuit has been a permanent fixture on the Formula 1 world tour and despite the extremely variable weather will likely be missed by drivers and teams alike. Hopefully, Sunday provides a fitting finale.
The Malaysian Grand Prix takes place between 29 September to 1 October.
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