Sepang is becoming a modern classic – although it’s a relatively new circuit, it’s one of those tracks that drivers enjoy going back to. The conditions are like nothing else they experience throughout the season, the circuit is quite technical and fun to drive, and the atmosphere is always great.
Although it’s traditionally seen as a high-speed circuit which isn’t usually something that the McLaren package favours, they do have a good car under braking which is necessary to handle the tight corners after the long, fast straights.
Many think of Singapore being tough because it’s the longest race of the year, but Malaysia will almost certainly be the hottest race on the calendar. Not only that, but the humidity is immense and the cockpit reaches very high temperatures.
As for the drivers, they are all well equipped for these conditions as part of their training, but it does take its toll by the end of the weekend.
According to Jenson Button, they definitely need to be in peak physical fitness to cope with the heat.
The Brit is ready and excited to get out there and start his 300th grand prix, and hopefully have better luck than he did in Singapore!
Jenson, your 300th grand prix, only the third driver to do it, it’s a big number. What does your place in Formula One history mean to you?
That’s a good question that deserves a very long answer and I’m not going to give it to you here. It means I have been around for a hell of a long time. I remember when Rubens got to 300 – it was unbelievable that he’d reached 300 grands prix. I was like, “I’m never going to race for that long”. I remember when I started in 2000 – I’m not going to give you my life story – but when I started in 2000 I remember speaking to my dad and he said: “How long do you think you’re going to race for?” and I said: “No! I’ll be done by the time I’m 30 years old.” And here I am at 36 and this weekend I’m starting my 300th grand prix. It definitely sucks you in, Formula One. It doesn’t let go for a long time, as long as you are performing. So it’s been a great ride to 300. Lots of ups and downs, as every career will have, and the important thing is that you stay on top of those bad times and you enjoy the good times as much as you can, because you never know how long they are going to last. A very exciting career to this point, 300 races, and if any of these guys can achieve it around me, fair play to them, because it’s a long time doing the same thing.
Now, Honda have said, going into this weekend, they’re going to review whether to use updated power units, presumably with tokens used, during the weekend at some point. What will be the decisive factors and what would you personally like to do from a strategic point of view looking at this race and at their home grand prix in Suzuka?
Obviously they don’t want to take any penalties in Suzuka, which is completely understandable. It’s basically our second home race. Here – I can’t speak for the other car – but I personally won’t be having a penalty. It will be a normal weekend for me.
How will the new tarmac affect your way of driving during the Grand Prix? Have you done your track walk yet?
Er, no, but I’ve seen lots of pictures. It’s dark so that’s a major difference. I think it’s going to... with the temperatures that we see here anyway are very high, so if it’s clear then the temperatures are going to be very high on track, which obviously has quite a big effect on the way the tyres work. It’s very smooth, from what I see. Obviously we’re going to try and watch every practice session that runs today. You get a better understanding. What else? And the last corner is obviously very different with the off-camber but yeah, I don’t know if it’s similar to Sochi or not but it seems like it, the bitumen, the way that the asphalt is. So it might be a completely different circuit, but we won’t know until tomorrow, probably get a bit of an understanding from watching GP2 and GP3.
What is your best Sepang memory?
Yeah, I won here which was a pretty good memory, back in ’09. It was also quite a strange race. The rain was so severe that we had to red flag the race and it wasn’t restarted. I won the race but I got half points which was a bit of a pain. It’s always been a great circuit to race on, it’s also the place where I scored my first podium in 2004. I was running in third place in 2002 as well. On the last lap my suspension failed and handed the third place to Michael Schumacher. So that would have been my first podium. So this place... I’ve got lots of memories from here.