F1 Power Rankings: Malaysian Grand Prix

After seemingly rare two-week break to start the 2013, the 2014 Formula One World Championship is back for the second race of the season. After the race on the streets of Melbourne’s Albert Park, it’s to a Hermann Tilke designed racing circuit for the first time this season. The real battle for the World Drivers’ Championship begins this weekend. Who has the upper hand?

f1-nico-rosberg-helmet-2014#1 Nico Rosberg (Last Race #3)
While most drivers and teams are focusing on the heat and reliability, Keke’s kid is focusing on dealing with changing weather conditions: “Normally the weather is seen as the biggest challenge here but this season is different, with reliability the focus of everyone’s attention. Of course, it will still be hot, humid and probably wet at some stage too, so it should be a fascinating weekend.”

f1-lewis-hamilton-helmet-2014#2 Lewis Hamilton (LR #1)
Lewis is hoping that he starts this race with six cylinders instead of five: “I’m looking forward to bouncing back after a tough weekend in Australia. Although it was not the result we were hoping for, every setback is a chance to learn more about this new car, which is important as they’re incredibly complex machines. I know the team at Brackley and Brixworth is pushing harder than ever and I’ll be doing the same.”

f1-valtteri-helmet-helmet-2014#3 Valtteri Bottas (LR #7)
You know who impressed me the most last time out? #BO77AS! He was just about the only one who could pass all race. He was stupidly dominant coming through the field. It’s a shame that he had to come through the field because of breaking his right-rear wheel after hitting the wall. Still, he seemed like one of the few drivers giving ten-tenths all race. If he avoids problems, he’ll be on the podium this weekend.

f1-kevin-magnussen-helmet-2014#4 Kevin Magnussen (LR #10)
K-Mag impressed in his first Formula One race and wants to add to the points tally. He’s certainly hitting all the correct talking points early in his career: “We showed in Australia that we can score good points if our car is reliable, and we need to consolidate that over the next few races – and one of the ways to do that is to make sure that we’re bringing new parts to the track as fast as, if not faster, than our chief rivals.”

#5 Fernando Alonso (LR #5)
Pirelli motorsport boss Paul Hembery talks about the big surface change between Albert Park and Sepang that will make tyre management important. It’s not just the heat that’s different: “We go from the smooth asphalt in Melbourne to a highly abrasive surface, and from the relatively cool conditions of Albert Park to much higher ambient and track temperatures. This of course will be as much of a challenge for the new cars as it is for the drivers, and we mustn’t forget that we are still at a very early point in the overall learning curve.”

f1-felipe-massa-helmet-2014#6 Felipe Massa (LR #2)
Phil doesn’t agree with me about the Sepang Circuit. He says that the results here aren’t necessarily indicative of performance over the rest of the season: “Malaysia is a nice place to race, it’s a hot and humid race which makes it a physically tough one for the drivers. The heat also has a big effect on the tyres and how quickly degradation happens. These extreme temperatures means Malaysia is less like any other circuit we will race at.”

f1-jenson-button-helmet-2014#7 Jenson Button (LR #8)
JB calls Sepang a driver’s circuit and immediately starts talking about how the car is the deciding factor. No wonder why Jeremy Clarkson gives out about drivers’ intelligence: “Sepang is a great driver’s circuit, and even if we don’t have the overall downforce we want, we should have the balance and driveability to make the car work. And that’s really encouraging, because it means we go into a race weekend knowing that we can usually get the maximum from the car during the sessions and the race.”

#8 Nico Hulkenberg (LR #4)
The Hulk talks about the difference between driving a 2013 and a 2014 car: ” It’s a bit slower because of the regulations and you feel the loss of downforce compared with 2013. Overtaking also seemed to be quite difficult, unless you are following a car that is really struggling. For example, you could see that Fernando couldn’t really make a move on me.”

#9 Sebastian Vettel (LR #9)
The four-time reigning and defending World Drivers’ Champion doesn’t move in this week’s power rankings. Part of that has to do with his teammate’s (tainted) performance last week and the fact that one race really hasn’t proven much. Okay, I say that after admitting to going all in on #BO77AS. Still, much like Alonso could work magic with awful Ferraris, if anyone can find pace in a Renault, it’s Vettel.

#10 Kimi Raikkonen (LR #6)
The Iceman says to keep calm and develop on: “The team is united, we know what we have to do and how to go about finding more performance. We also know this development process will not happen overnight and so we must be patient and concentrate hard on our work without watching what the others are doing. I’m sure that, if we work in the correct way, then right from the next race in Malaysia, the results can definitely be better.”

#11 Daniel Ricciardo (LR #12)
If you get disqualified for having a fuel flow greater than the allowable amount, then we can’t say with certainty how much of your performance was to be expected and how much was down to the fuel flow. Sure Danny probably didn’t benefit from a non-points finish all the way to second because of the fuel flow issue but we won’t know that for certain until this weekend’s Grand Prix.

#12 Sergio Perez (LR #11)
Checo wants a repeat of his breakthrough 2nd place in Malaysia this weekend. I want to wake up next to Candice Swanepoel. We can’t always get what we want: “I believe Malaysia can be a very good race for us. Let’s see how we can perform there. I think Melbourne was a more difficult one for us and with a hotter track and more rear tyre degradation for everyone we can be stronger. I’m counting the days to Malaysia to recover what we couldn’t achieve in Australia. I have good memories of this track and I want to build on my previous results there.”

#13 Daniil Kvyat (LR #20)
Danny Boy takes down memory lane. A rookie takes us down memory lane. What is going on? “The second race of the season is also the first track that I have visited before. I took my first ever single-seater win here for BMW in 2010 and actually this is also where I drove my very first single-seater race, so I have plenty of memories of this circuit. It’s going to seem very different this time, because there’s a huge step from Formula BMW to Formula One.”

#14 Jean-Eric Vergne (LR #17)
JEV is bored by the Sepang Circuit, brother. That’s a callback to Hulk Hogan’s speech at a pre-WrestleMania 8 breakfast in which he said he was leaving the WWF because he was bored. Way to put over the sport, brother: “It’s not one of my favourite tracks to be honest, as I don’t feel it has any particularly challenging characteristics. The best thing about this race is its unpredictable nature, because of the weather: you can start on slicks and within a few laps, you need extreme wets because of a heavy storm and that can be fun for a driver.”

#15 Adrian Sutil (LR #13)
With so much focus on the new cars, nobody has been talking much about the effect on drivers. Yo, Adrian has us covered: “Malaysia is one of the hottest races during the season, and, as a result, a challenge because of the high humidity. You have to be well prepared, as, especially at the end of the race, you notice the difference. Everyone should get through the race, but the drivers will be pushed to their limits.”

#16 Esteban Gutierrez (LR #14)
Steve has a different opinion on the Sepang Circuit’s asphalt than Pirelli. That’s why you’re a pay driver, my boy: “It will be interesting to get a feeling for the car with such different track characteristics. It is a smooth track, and less bumpy. It can give us a better feeling when braking, which is where we were struggling quite a lot during the whole weekend in Melbourne.”

#17 Max Chilton (LR #16)

#18 Jules Bianchi (LR #15)

f1-kamui-kobayashi-helmet-2014#19 Kamui Kobayashi (LR #18)
Kobayashi Maru has high hopes if they don’t have any practice reliability problems: “The way we bounced back in qualifying in Melbourne showed a little bit of what we can do, but without any real laps in FP1 or FP2 we only had a very small chance to fight. With a proper Friday and Saturday program we can give ourselves the opportunity to show the true pace of the car, and prepare much more for the race. ”

f1-romain-grosjean-helmet-2014#20 Romain Grosjean (LR #19)
This weekend’s plan for Lotus is to have a normal race weekend instead of a test. Good luck with that: “The race in Melbourne was basically a good, long test. It wasn’t easy for the guys but I’m happy we did a lot of laps in the race. We gathered some useful data and we will now improve using that data. The aim now is to have a straightforward weekend at Sepang, working through our proper schedule in free practice, then carrying the benefits from that over to qualifying and the race.”

f1-marcus-ericsson-helmet-2014#21 Marcus Ericsson (LR #21)
Marcus is absolutely hyped for this race: “I’m still just loving being in F1 and for race two to be a home race for Caterham and on a track I know and like, that’s just really good for me. It’ll be great to see how much Caterham means to the Malaysian fans, and I’ve been told the autograph session on Sunday will be one of the real highlights of the year, so there’s a lot to be excited about!”

f1-pastor-maldonado-helmet-2014#22 Pastor Maldonado (LR #22)
Big Money Pastor Maldonado just can’t be happy anywhere: “To be honest I’ve never seen anything like it. We started nowhere and we kept on having problems. With these cars, even little problems can take a very long time to fix. Some of the problems are very difficult to diagnose as they are electronic or software related. These all require so much time and focus… The season has not started the way we want, but I know everyone is working tremendously hard to ensure we get the team back to the top end of the grid.”

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