Teams and Drivers
17. P.De la Rosa
Debut home race for Yoong
Malaysian GP - Minardi - Preview [10/03/02 - 02:17]
he first FIA Formula One World Championship Malaysian Grand Prix took place on the impressive new Sepang circuit, near Kuala Lumpur in 1999. Malaysia, however, is by no means a newcomer to the business of international motorsport. In 1985 it hosted a round of the World Sports Car Championship on the Shah-Alam circuit and is a regular stop on the World Motorcycle Championship schedule.
The new 3.443 mile Sepang circuit, immediately adjacent to Kuala Lumpur's international airport, is a purpose-built state-of-the-art facility which really put Malaysia on the Formula One map and sets dramatic new standards. Much of the design work was carried out by renowned German architect Hermann Tilke, who has worked on many Formula One circuit projects in close co-operation with the Circuit Department of the FIA.
The track layout demands a maximum downforce set-up and although turn five is very quick, there are plenty of slow speed hairpins as well. The pit complex includes 30 separate garages, including 15 team rooms, and a unique double-fronted grandstand overlooks both the front and back straights seats 30,000 spectators.
When Malaysia joined the Formula One World Championship trail in 1999 it was the first new country to be included since the Hungarian Grand Prix joined the calendar 13 years earlier. The Sepang circuit facilities include a mall with retail outlets and even prayer rooms. Elsewhere on the circuit, away from the start/finish grandstand complex, there are facilities for a further 100,000 fans.
For the KL Minardi team, it will be their second home race in as many weeks with the majority of the team's sponsorship coming from Malaysia. For Alex Yoong, it will be his first ever home race and after teammate Mark Webber's superb fifth place in his race in Australia last weekend, the young Malaysian driver is hoping for similar success, however he is not expecting it.
"Malaysia's Friday practices is a continuation of our winter test program as we had yet to do any set-up tests so far. The changing weather in Melbourne didn't help us getting very far in this area," Alex explained. “Do not expect the same result for Malaysia although we'll be wishing for it. I think we are still the only team without power steering and with the cars' improved downforce, it can be difficult with the expected heat in Malaysia. We'll look forward to having it when we get to the European races."
Stoddart and Webber
This will also be the team's second visit to Malaysia in as many weeks. En route to Melbourne for the season opener they stopped off to officially launch the team's sponsorship package at Kuala Lumpur International airport, only a couple of miles from the circuit.
A few small modifications have been incorporated into the cars as a result of the information gathered in Melbourne. Most of the team flew straight to Malaysia but Giancarlo Minardi and some colleagues returned to the factory. The team is currently testing in the Fondmetal wind tunnel, working on the aero package for Imola and some set-up for Sepang.