Malaysian Grand Prix: Preview

With six races left in this year’s championship it is all to play for for this year’s title. While it is looking like the Constructor’s championship will once again be heading to Mercedes, this year’s world championship is as close as ever, with only 8 points separating Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.

In recent weeks various issues have prevented a genuine face off between the two drivers. While Rosberg’s consistency this year has been staggering, when Hamilton gets everything right he has that extra level that puts him ahead of his German team-mate. But is this dynamic changing?

Rosberg’s storming performance in Singapore indicates that he is starting to believe he can finish top. The German blew world champion Hamilton out of the water – the result and performance were even more impressive considering he has never won this race before.

Over the last month Rosberg has had a new found confidence to match his speed, taking a full 75 points; it is really the first time where Rosberg has appeared to have all the ingredients to take the title in a straight fight.

Sepang, Malaysia is another track where Rosberg has never won; however, five of Rosberg’s eight pole finishes this season have been F1 firsts. It is impossible to right him off.

This race has all the makings of a great one, it’s the perfect occasion to see whether Rosberg can come out on top in a wheel to wheel battle against Hamilton – who cannot let Rosberg tighten his grip on the title.

Early indicators from the P1 and P2 show the Mercedes are in good position to claim the 1 2 this weekend. Hamilton returned to the head of the timesheet for the first time since Monza, however, Ferrari and Red Bull have also shown strong form at the start of the weekend. Weather will be a key factor this weekend, with thunderstorms predicted ahead of the weekend.

Red Bull will be looking forward to conditions which will suit them better, and the rain might be the only variable that stops Mercedes securing a third straight Constructor’s. Last year Mercedes were dominated by Ferrari in the dry conditions, however they have seemingly fixed their issues from Singapore and Scuderia’s form so far this season put the Silver Arrows as firm favourites for this weekend.

While Red Bull will be hoping their Renault upgrades can make them a force to be reckoned with this weekend, Sebastian Vettel will be hoping to recreate his 2015 win. Catching Mercedes and interrupting the title battle in the dry will prove difficult, so bring on the rain!

The fight for fourth might not be as exciting as the battle at the top, but just one point separates Force India and Williams, with a huge amount of prize money on the line. Force India have been winning the duel in recent months but Williams will fancy their chances in Malaysia with fewer slow corners. Fourth is perhaps more crucial, considering their third place finish in the last two seasons.

Neither teams can afford to shift their focus to 2017. One thing is for sure this weekend: it will be extremely intriguing to see how the race pans out. Can Rosberg extend his gap at the top or will Hamilton reel him in? Who will come out on top in the battle for fourth? This race for me will set the tail end of the season up nicely.

Amar Metha

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