A lap around Sepang
By Pedro de la Rosa
March 16, 2004

McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa, has been busy pounding the tarmac at the Valencia circuit in Spain this past week as the Woking squad look to correcting problems faced in the season opening Australian Grand prix a week ago.

Next on the agenda is the Malaysian Grand Prix and while the Spaniard hasn’t had a lot of experience here he gives his opinion on the Sepang circuit.

"Sepang is a very nice circuit, which is incredibly modern with excellent facilities for spectators and team. The circuit is very interesting with lots of different types of corners. The track is really wide and flat and although some corners are slow, the wide radius on the entry and exit of the track enables us to take these corners faster than the same type of corner on another circuit."

"Down the pit straight into the first corner which is quite slow, you need hard braking and have to sacrifice some speed on the exit in order to get a nice wide line in to the next corner which is like a left hand 2nd gear hairpin. It's a funny corner because there's sort of a drop on the track so the inside front wheel completely leaves the ground. There is also a change of height in the track so it's necessary to run over the curb as much as you can to get a clean exit."

"Power is required early as there's bad traction and the rear end of the car can be unstable coming out of here. It's very flat through the next bends so no problems really even in the wet. Langkawi corner is another 90 degree angle which you arrive at quite quickly in 6th gear and brake hard down to 2nd gear using the edge of the inside corner completely.”

“It's important this is precise as the next 2 corners are the most difficult of the track with fast entry but then it's hard to get the car back over to the left. You can go nearly flat out into Genting corner as it's taking in 4th gear so very high speed and challenging which is always nice."

"Next is KLIA curve which is a funny corner as you have to break into the apex and then accelerate for a while and brake again into the next corner. Sometimes you can miss the second corner if you go in too fast as it's quite tight, not especially nice, but important to power early out of it. This leads to a left hand hairpin, which isn't nice in a Formula 1 car as far too slow for me, as you brake hard and cannot accelerate out until the car is completely straight otherwise you will end up destroying the rear tyres very quickly."

"It's then flat out up through to Berjaya Tioman corner and then steady braking for Kenyir Lake corner which you get to in 3rd and then down to 2nd. It can be difficult as it's a blind corner with quick braking so makes the rear end heavy. Next up to 4th gear and then there's a very nice left hand corner and with a little left foot braking into it, it is very smooth so then you can take the right hand turn flat out."

"The following corner is again difficult as you have to brake hard on the load so much but must brake in a straight line and then turn the car into the corner in 2nd gear and accelerate quickly into the back straight, which is nearly as long as the pit straight and an important place to gain time. It's then into the last corner from 6th gear braking hard down to 2nd. It's a quicker hairpin than you'd expect with good traction on the way out as the track has a lot of grip. Then you're back into the pit straight and there you go, around again!"

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