After the events of Singapore blew the championship open, Lewis Hamilton now has a 28 point lead from Sebastian Vettel heading to Sepang.
Malaysia is next with some big questions hanging over a few teams as they venture into one of the most hottest races on the calendar.
This year will sadly be the last ever Malaysian F1 Grand Prix so can F1 end their annual trips on a high?
Can Hamilton extend lead?
Hamilton will be keen to extend his lead at a track where he goes well at, having recorded five podiums here in ten visits.
He still managed to score points in four of five races when he wasn’t in the top three. Last year however saw another engine blow out in a season where reliability cost him the title.
If he hadn’t suffered retirement here, he could of easily took the title for the third season running after winning four of the five following races.
Now having experienced a difficult title fight against Ferrari and Vettel, Mercedes and Hamilton has started to push forward and build up a solid lead after seizing control two rounds ago.
Will unreliability come back to bite him a year on or will his lead continue to grow?
Will Ferrari bounce back?
Ferrari will be hoping to bounce back here after suffering their first ever double first lap retirement.
Vettel will of had a fortnight of reflect on his ‘Schumacher’ start line chop tactic, which caused the melee between him, Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen and took all three out.
The weather forecast for this weekend is poor and to the Prancing Horse, it looks reminiscent of 2012 when they headed to Sepang after a miserable previous race (Australia – underperforming car) and won a wet thriller with Fernando Alonso from Sergio Perez.
Will that prove to be an omen in a small way for Ferrari?
At a time when most teams are turning their attention towards 2018, Force India are bringing aerodynamic and engine upgrades.
Singapore saw contrasting fortunes as both drivers exited in Q2 before Perez drove a brilliant race to fifth in tough conditions. Esteban Ocon however struggled to tenth and a well deserved point.
This time out, they will have a stronger engine and chassis so expect to see them consolidate their fourth place in the Constructors Championship.
The big question will be whether they can close the gap to Red Bull, who are their next targets on current form. Red Bull however are closing in on Ferrari so who looks set to be the strongest team in coming races?
Can Gasly deliver?
Toro Rosso has replaced Daniil Kvyat with Pierre Gasly for at least the next two races.
The original plan was to pair both drivers up if Carlos Sainz was able to make his loan move to Renault with immediate effect.
Sadly it wasn’t possible due to Jolyon Palmer’s “watertight” contract meaning that the team had to make the decision that they have done.
Given that Gasly has been busy challenging for the Super Formula title in Japan, the pressure will be on to deliver this weekend.
Formula One is however a much more difficult series to master so it will be interesting to see how he adapts throughout the weekend.
My main concern is that with the weather forecast, perhaps Toro Rosso would be wiser to hold off the driver swap because they need a solid experienced pairing for the predicted wet weekend, rather than risk a rookie making a mark for the wrong reasons in torrential conditions.
As referenced above, the weather forecast isn’t looking good.
With this being Malaysia, rain is never far and looks set to rain not pour all weekend long.
Saturday’s qualifying session falls later than FP2 and the race so could potentially be run in intermediate conditions.
Ultimately, rain is expected to be lurking throughout every session, particularly during Friday and Sunday.
Should we have a wet race, expect things to be interesting especially if get a start similar to Singapore.
Given the track’s characteristics, I can see Mercedes and their customers producing strong results in the wet.
This is because they seem stronger in wet conditions as proven at Monza but Ferrari will probably be up there, having ran their engines on less power in Italy.
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