Thursday, April 7, 2011

F1-Geeks Track Analysis Malaysia


I forgot how intoxicating this track is. Maddening at times, its complexity starts to unravel as you race it and it suddenly becomes a thrill ride of multiple-apex challenges that become incredibly rewarding when you get them right.

A very wide track that lends itself to overtaking, the Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix circuit in Kuala Lumpur is one of the most technically difficult. It has some cool elevation changes and two extremely long straights connected with a hairpin. Very cool.

This week we’ll get Tim’s take on this course as well. For those keeping score, I out-qualified Tim and finished over 100 seconds behind him.

Let’s get on with it.

Turn one is just lunacy. Lunacy I tell you. You head into this thing at about 185MPH and then cut in hard while slowing to 47MPH. Yes, I hear you saying “Dude. The hairpin at turn 9 is a little slower.”

Shut up.

By the time the field gets to turn 9 they are single file(1). At turn one, they will likely be three across. This turn was maddening in it’s sneakiness. The trick was to act like a badass and turn in way to early. Turns out “way too early” is just right.

After you Goldilocks that corner it’s a pretty good time accelerating out of that S and hitting 150 through the turn 3 curve.(2)

Turn 4. Oh how I feared you, but oh, how I kicked your ass. This was one of the few corners that I got down cold and let me tell you rocketing through 5 and 6 in the 150s and feeling the tires start to slip at 6 was damn fine. Some might say “butter”.(3)
7 and 8. Much like Janus(4) this can be considered one entity with two parts. I never got this corner down. I still found it fun to shoot through but would like to have had more practice here.
Hard on the brakes for 9, the turn here actually has a bit of a bank and you don’t have to slow down as much as you think you do.
Getting the next section right wasn’t easy but it wasn’t so hard that you ended up in the gravel. That is, until 14. I always got this wrong and started the first straight from practically a dead stop.(5)  You pray to whatever gods you do that there is plenty of paved run-off at 15 and you rocket down the straight getting ready to start it all over again.
Just a quick note about the Pit Entry. Every year I watch this race the camera on the start/finish straight and when a driver goes into the pits I think they’ve lost control. It’s a fast entry and 90 degrees to the track. Very cool.

Tim's Take -

This was the first, of hopefully many, opportunities Fred and I had to run a track together before a race to prepare ourselves for the coming weekend.  What a great time that was!  There is something sublime about competing with your friends on an ultra cool computer game while you're miles apart.  But hey, I don't need to tell you people that, right?  You're all true geeks.

Before I start I should clarify something for you all.  I suck at racing games.  You could say that I suck at racing games to the same degree that Stalin was a bit of a control freak.  Mind you, I'm getting better, but I still need traction control and some brake help just to stay on the course.  So while it's true, I did beat Fred in the race, it wasn't all that even.  He's racing all he-man-woman-haters-club style with no assists on but his race suit and the hair on his chest.  That said, on to the track...

Whoever designed turns 1 and 2 are certifiably nuts.  My prediction is carnage.  I don't know how you send 24 cars* into that turn with any hope that they'll all make it out.  I never sorted it out.  I ran wide, I cut it short, I did everything you can possibly do on those two corners except get them right.  I was usually alone and I still almost took out the whole field!

The rest of the track was hit and miss for me.  I would get some corners some times and totally screw them up the next lap around.  There was a section of the track though, where I hit my stride.  Starting with the gentle curves of 5 and 6, and then on into the double apex 7 and 8.  I nailed them.  Not just once but repeatedly. And if felt good my friends, very good.  I wish I understood why those 4 corners just made sense to me, but I took them like I was channeling Sir Jackie Stewart.

Unfortunately, Jackie abandoned me just before the hairpin at turn 9.  For some reason, I managed to do very well with the hairpin between the straights.  That one always felt good.  One thing is certain, and that is it's going to be just awesome watching all the drivers negotiate all these corners with deft precision this weekend.  And to make it that much more interesting, they're likely going to have to do it in the wet.

*Hopefully HRT can make the cut this round.
(1)Unless Webber is approaching Vettel. He’ll need to pull alongside of him to ram him into the gravel.
(2) Professionals make it to 150 here. I’m sure I was too busy scrubbing gravel off my tires.
(3) Some might get punched in their goddamn pie-hole for that too.
(4)The two headed Roman god of doors, gates, and double apex corners. Handy, with the ladies, legend has it that Janus’ prowess at double-apex corners came from his ability to simultaneously evaluate his line while lining himself up with the next corner.
(5)Not a huge deal because I was so far behind Tim, he could have pulled over, made a virtual banana split and dropped the peel at the pit entry and restarted before I caught up to him.

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