Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Sepang International Circuit, 2014

F1 lap times in Malaysia slowest since first race

2014 Malaysian Grand Prix

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Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Sepang International Circuit, 2014Lap times at the Sepang International Circuit last weekend were the slowest since F1 first visited the track 15 years ago.

There have been no major changes to the circuit configuration since the first Malaysian Grand Prix. The quickest lap last weekend, set by Nico Rosberg during the final practice session, was the slowest F1 has gone at the circuit since the inaugural race in 1999.

Had qualifying been run in dry conditions it’s likely Rosberg would have been quicker, based on the normal track evolution at Sepang.

But he would not have found the six seconds which separated his best time and the quickest ever lap of the track, Fernando Alonso’s 1’32.582 set in his V10-engined Renault in 2005.

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There are signs the current cars are already getting quicker. Last weekend’s fastest lap was 2.9 seconds of the 2013 pace – half a second closer than the cars were in Australia.

And the teams are expected to find a lot more time. Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery suggested they could gain up to four seconds over the course of the year.

Top speeds

As was the case in Australia, the cars are significantly quicker in terms of straight-line speed this year – up by more than 16kph in the speed trap.

The slower speeds at intermediate two, which is positioned shortly after turn 11, reveals how the cars are carrying less speed out of corners but accelerating more quickly when they get onto the straights:

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The next race is in Bahrain where the teams tested extensively pre-season. The fastest lap of the test, set by Felipe Massa, was within a second of last year’s pole position time.

However Massa did that lap on super-soft tyres, which will not be available this weekend. The teams will be able to use the soft tyres, which are likely to be around a second slower per lap.

Update: This article has been revised to correct an error – the 2014 lap time was quicker than that set at the first race.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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95 comments on “F1 lap times in Malaysia slowest since first race”

  1. I say we should wait for next year before these sort of graphics become anywhere near relevant.

    1. Paul (@frankjaeger)
      2nd April 2014, 13:49

      +1, the first year of a regulation overhaul tells little in terms of future evolution. Although these graphics are interesting to see where the grid is at atm

    2. so, we are never going to better the 2004/05 lap times?

      1. What most people are forgetting is F1 used the Bridgestone grooved tyres from 1997 until 2008; the main of which was to slow down the cars. So in reality the cars of today are another couple of seconds slower than the benchmark V10’s of 2004/5 season.

        1. Mr win or lose
          3rd April 2014, 21:28

          I don’t think grooved tyres make that much of a difference (technically speaking, their smaller contact patch is somewhat compensated by higher load on the contact patch). What did, however, made a huge difference, was the tyre war. For example, in 2001 the laptimes decreased by over two seconds per lap due to softer tyres. After the tyre war the tyres became more durable, so the laptimes went up again. Furthermore, when comparing 2010 to 2011, it seems that the Pirelli tyres are even intrinsically slower than the Bridgestone tyres (indicating that they are by no means any softer).

  2. Talking about progress.

    F1 cars became too slow. Everybody talks about new regulations, but there were big regulation changes in the past too, and yet still this year’s cars are slower than 14-15 years ago.

    Yes, this year’s cars are much more technologically advanced, but it doesn’t demonstrate that newer technology makes race cars fast enough for it to be pinnacle of motorsport. Actually, with every rule change they are getting slower. Maybe after 10 years there will be another huge rule regulation change and cars will be powered with electric engines.

    I already started to lose interest in F1 this season. And domination of one team is not the biggest issue. When Schumacher was dominating in his Ferrari days, it was interesting to watch it because of pure speed and sound of F1 cars (at least, they looked fast). Now it’s just a bit faster than GP2 and doesn’t have exciting sound (80s era turbo cars had better sound). Teams have spent millions of pounds over the winter building these cars and it wasn’t really worth it. So something needs to be changed.

    1. I’d rather have a race last as long as it does rather than cars with an average speed of 200 mph, making the race basically over before it’s begun. In 20 years the highest speed of road production cars hasn’t improved drastically. I like the new cars (except the dangerous noses). Formula One needed change to stay relevant to road vehicles.

      1. In 20 years the highest speed of road production cars hasn’t improved drastically

        But their performance around a race track certainly has.

      2. In 20 years the highest speed of road production cars hasn’t improved drastically.

        400 kph+ Road cars? Also not in terms of pure speed but how much they can carry around a corner, current cars are light years away from what you had in the 90s.

        1. 1993. McLaren F1 – 386km/h
          2014. Hennessey Venom GT – 435km/h
          There you have it. I don’t see any lightyears, less than 50km/h if my math is correct and it always is…

          1. Corrado (@)
            2nd April 2014, 18:37

            Not really. Thing is the McLaren F1 was more like a “unique car” on the market looking at the top speed. Today, there’s quite a number of cars that can achieve 400km/h, not to mention the tuned cars -> 1000HP being something normal.

          2. The amount of power/R&D/technology advancement needed to achieve that extra 50 kph isn’t linear… it’s exponential… so yes, it is lightyears

          3. How is a 12.7% increase not significant? What kind of pace of development are you expecting?

    2. Actually, with every rule change they are getting slower.

      This is true.

      However, there have been more and more calls for overtaking to be increased. To do this, the cars must be able to run closer to each other, which requires a reduction in downforce (top-generated, anyway).

      So every recent rule change has tried to reduce downforce. This will, obviously, increase lap times, as the cars must slow down more for corners. And that (plus the tyres) is where most of the time has been lost this season, not the engines.

      1. @drmouse I can bet that ten years ago cars had even less downforce than they have now. So it’s not the problem of downforce. They made new engines technologically advanced, but they forgot that inovation is not all about engine, but also suspension, wheels (which are still only 13 inches) and other stuff. These areas are very restricted and lack inovation.

        1. I’ll agree with that. I’m the first to advocate for a more open formula, encouraging innovation rather than stifling it.

          The problem, for me, is that most people are blaming the engines for this year’s lap times increasing. I assumed you were doing the same, and I apologise if you weren’t.

          1. A more open formula will be over before we know it. Perhaps with a proper budget cap, that is in reach of what Marussia and Caterham can do, it is possible. But otherwise teams will go broke in the blink of an eye.

          2. I blame engines just partly, they are not bad (just a bit too silent) but focus was put just on them and other areas were forgot.

        2. I can bet that ten years ago cars had even less downforce than they have now.

          the cars of 10 years ago likely had more overall downforce because they had all the flaps, winglets etc… each giving x points of downforce.

          the wider front wings today produce more downforce in that area of the car but without the flaps & all that the bodywork around the rest of the car is probably producing far less.
          narrower rear wings with a shallower wing angle are also likely producing less than the wider rear wings or 10 years back.

          modern diffusers are also far less efficient so theres another area of downforce loss.

          1. the cars of 10 years ago likely had more overall downforce

            Not according to Adrian Newey.

        3. What? Ten years ago was 2014, when all the fastest lap records were done! 2004 cars were the fastest of F1 history, they had lots of downforce, drag and power!

    3. I’m not bothered at all with their current speed. In 2013 the cars were on paper much faster during the entirety of any weekend, nevertheless they were coasting so much they looked to be cruising, this weekend in Malaysia without the critical fuel management of the 1st gp, to my eyes this cars looked much faster as they looked back in 99 when cars were much much lighter. Above all I think the recent top speed marks of the engine freeze were slightly embarrassing because even in this set of rules the F1 cars are the fastest around but the same couldn’t be said of the top speed of the engine freeze period.

    4. I think you’re conflating the new technology with slower lap times. The slower lap times are because they’ve removed so much downforce. They are faster in the straights and have more power for acceleration so the new power units are not causing the slower lap times.
      As @drmouse points out, they are trying to reduce downforce so that we ahve more overtaking. People have been complaining for years that F1 was too boring because it was a series of parade laps. The F1 “purists” say: So what, that is racing and only the best drivers should be able to do a pass.
      But if F1 is to grow, then it has to attract a wider fan base and that requires overtaking.
      Formula 1 sites have a higher proportion of dedicated fans so there are more “purists” and they are much more vocal. They sit on these blogs and see that “everybody agrees with my view” because they are speaking to an audience which is more likely to hold their own view than the general population. And you denounce those of us who say we like the new engines and racing and say we don’t like “real racing”. And I’m not speaking directly to you @osvaldas31 on all these points, but more to that population in whole.
      The general public (where F1 is looking to grow more fans) is more inclined to be excited about overtaking and more “action” as they view it. If we want the sport to thrive and teams like Sauber, Williams, Marussia and Caterham to be around, then we’re going to need a wider fan base and more money coming into the sport.

      1. joc_the_man
        2nd April 2014, 23:10

        When you take away the most loved trademarks of the sport you will loose more people than you add. I personally doubt there are enough Prius lovers appreciating the fuel-flow limits and fuel load limits…to me as a F1 fanatic for 25+ years I cannot get my head around the idea that this is COOL, RACING or anything positive for the sport.

    5. @osvaldas31 – “Yes, this year’s cars are much more technologically advanced, but it doesn’t demonstrate that newer technology makes race cars fast enough for it to be pinnacle of motorsport.”

      If speed is the only measure of being the “pinnacle of motorsport”, then you may be correct. But, look at how the newer technology is achieving the speed that it has so far just 2 races into these new regs. With far less downforce, 2 less cylinders, smaller motors, heavier cars and using much less fuel the new cars are lapping fairly close to the times of last season. It is difficult to escape the level of accomplishment that has already been achieved with this new formula and with more to come with nearly every race this season. These are exciting results in a very short time. F1 is now in a position to advance new technologies for the consumer car market.

      So, how is the “pinnacle of motorsport” really defined?

      1. Seemingly the term “pinnacle of motorsport” is redefined every time that the die-hard fans need to rail against changes to the sport, or alternatively needs to invoke the term to attack the sport.

    6. @osvaldas31 Look at the incredible increase in speed from 1999 to 2005 in the first graph, more than likely we’ll see a similar trend in years to come with the current regulations.

      1. Lucas Wilson (@full-throttle-f1)
        2nd April 2014, 19:24

        I didn’t realise the 2010 cars were so fast!

        1. @full-throttle-f1 That’s the year they really got the double diffusers working.

    7. Osvaldas, if you’re loosing interesting in F1 this season, it can only mean you’re not a genuine F1 fan! I’m extremely interested in the racing and find the technical aspects of the new regulations very interesting, not to mention the fact there’s changes in which teams/drivers are having/not having success!
      Don’t forget you can’t have progress without change! Just keep an open mind and everything will be OK.

  3. Before people start crying for a change, keep in mind that slower cornering speeds and higher straight line speed means more/longer braking zones. That equates to more/better passing opportunities. Which is what everyone’s been striving for with all these changes, right? I dislike DRS like many, so putting everyone on the same level with less aero and higher speeds seems like a fair challenge and the way most in line with the spirit of racing to increase overtakes.

    1. Joe (@joetoml1n)
      2nd April 2014, 14:47

      Personally, I would rather go back to 2010, my favorite season.. With 3 “top” teams, durable tyres, not excessive (DRS) overtaking, stable regulations, faster cars and good action, 2010 was a classic IMO.

      1. Joe (@joetoml1n)
        2nd April 2014, 14:49

        My repsonse was in return to the “what everyone’s been striving for with all these changes”.. I haven’t, I liked what we had.

      2. So we stay in 2010 forever? The games got to change every now and again so it doesn’t stagnate, new regs means new opportunities for other teams and suppliers to shine.

        1. Joe (@joetoml1n)
          2nd April 2014, 19:15

          Oh I fully agree that change was necessary for F1 to survive as the “pinnacle of motorsport” and I know it will be better in the long run for the sport.. My point was just that I wasn’t striving for this Formula, I would always “strive” for a 2010-esque formula, but I do understand the need for the new regulations.

        2. Mr win or lose
          3rd April 2014, 21:35

          Imagine 2010 with Vettel being as dominant as he was in 2011. That would have been so extremely boring. 2010 was a good year, but only because there was a 5-man battle for the title.

          1. Did you know that in the 2010 season, no driver won a race while in the lead of the championship?!

  4. SubSailorFl
    2nd April 2014, 14:21

    Get rid of the fuel flow limit, give them more durable tires, and 20 more liters of fuel.

    1. “Get rid of the fuel flow limit” — yes, it’s immature technology and unpoliceable. It is also unnecessary for “green” reasons given an overall fuel limit per race. It would also allow DRS to be dropped.
      “give them more durable tires” — sort of; for road relevance purposes, get rid of single suppliers. A tyre “war”, properly managed, could bring cost down and race quality up. I’m tempted to add that wheel/rim sizes should be unregulated, but that discussion is maybe for another day.
      “and 20 more liters of fuel.” — certainly for this, the first, year of the new engines give them a bit more; maybe not 20 kg, but five or ten would be reasonable, down to 100 next year.

      1. “Get rid of the fuel flow limit” — yes, it’s immature technology and unpoliceable. It is also unnecessary for “green” reasons given an overall fuel limit per race. It would also allow DRS to be dropped.

        They cannot get rid of the fuel flow limit fairly. The engines have been designed for this limit. If they drop the limit, it would allow extra fuel, boost, and power from the engines, which could disadvantage, e.g., Merc, who have done a great job designing engines for these rules, and advantage one of the other engines. This would be grossly unfair.

        They also cannot get rid of the fuel flow sensor as that is used to determine compliance with the overall 100kg limit. Remember that (AFAIK) it applies only to the race, not to the laps getting to the grid, the parade lap, or the in lap after the chequered flag. There is no other way for them to determine the amount of fuel used during the race.

        Please stop with this “drop the flow limit” garbage! Changing the rules mid-season is unfair (although it may be acceptable for extreme safety reasons). In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if that was why RB were complaining so loudly about the sensors: They believe that they would get a performance advantage from removing the limit. If they were as bad as RB are saying, other teams would be complaining just as loud.

        1. “Please stop with this “drop the flow limit” garbage!” Please do not opine that my opinion is “garbage” — we are both entitled to look at facts and come to differing conclusions. You look at the possibility that it might “disadvantage, e.g., Merc” while I look at the possibility that it might improve F1 as a competitive sport, and therefore the pleasure and excitement of the “spectacle” for fans.
          Please also read 29.5 of the Sporting Regulations that are clear about the 100kg limit. This has nothing at all to do with fuel flow.
          And lastly, I have no idea if other teams are “complaining just as loud.” You’re quite right if you mean that the media are not reporting it; but do you know if other teams have had more discreet communications with the FIA?

          1. Please also read 29.5 of the Sporting Regulations that are clear about the 100kg limit. This has nothing at all to do with fuel flow.

            It may have nothing to do with fuel flow, but it is measured by the fuel flow sensor. Otherwise they would have no way to tell how much fuel they had used in the race only.

            The main point however is that changing the rules mid season should not be done*. The cars are designed to the regulations. Changing them mid season would be incredibly unfair.

            *as I said, exceptional safety grounds could justify a change.

    2. You forgot probably the most important part, get rid of team radio for all but critical issues.

      Tired of this chess game and delta driving.

      1. Michael Brown (@)
        3rd April 2014, 14:01

        I don’t understand why people want team radio banned. The FIA is to blame for creating this formula.

    3. joc_the_man
      2nd April 2014, 23:22

      SubSailor, spot on. Why don’t you mail Mr Todt or Mr Whiting abt this? The FIA heads decides and I know they will evaluate after 4 to 5 races. Window of opportunity to influence.

  5. hugo-the-rabbit
    2nd April 2014, 14:34

    The lap times will get slower. From 99 to 08 the races had splash and dash racing due to re fueling and from 09 till the present day every time a team finds a clever way to get more downforce it is banned the next year.

    1. Mr win or lose
      3rd April 2014, 21:46

      In-race refueling doesn’t have a “positive” influence on the fastest lap of the weekend (which is usually performed in the free practices or qualify, not in the race). Actually, the 2003 qualify rules possibly even had a “negative” influence on the fastest lap of the weekend (as the qualify performance was impaired).

      PS. 2009 had refueling too.

  6. There you go, new Formula 1, everybody.

  7. There seems to be an issue with passing this year. Either there is a large discrepancies between the engines, or the new tires are really giving teams a head ache. The race in Malaysia was extremely boring as few overtaking maneuvers happened. Alonso’s move on the last couple of laps is the only one I can recall. I just seems that when pushed to the limit, as in an attempt to overtake someone, the tires are just degrading too quickly. As some have already voiced, I think degradable tires have to go as we already have livelier cars. DRS should also be axed next season.

  8. I was watching races from 2004 and 2005 earlier today. Never mind the lack of passing, the cars were so exciting to look at just running by themselves! They were absolutely flying. Look at what we’ve ended up with 10 years later… The cars look so slow. Here’s a direct comparison between 2004 and 2014, it’s downright embarrassing:

    1. You’re spot on Roald. Watching your youtube comparison two things stick out.
      1. The Renault is about 7-8 seconds a lap faster (2014 is a snorefest)
      2. You can only hear the sound of one of the cars (I’ll let you guess which one)
      I agree this year’s regulation are nothing short of embarrassing. Hardly a true test and challenge for the drivers. Yes, there some extra dials on the steering wheel to press, and yes there’s some wheel spinning out of the corners – So what! Hardly a spectacle.
      I looked at the Malaysian fastest laps in the race going back to 2005. The fastest was in 2006 by Fernando when he did a 134,8 – whilst Lewis did a !,43.006 this year. That’s over 8 seconds.
      These new F1 regulations have to go a long way before they capture my interest again.
      Take a look at the results for Rate the Malaysian Race for 2014 – comes out at a pathetic 5.2. That’s got to be one of the lowest ratings ever.
      The number of spectators going to the Malaysian GP was down 25% on 2013 – reason given was due to the MH370. Yes that’s true but you can’t say there’s no other reason for spectator drop off. Let’s see how the Bahrain figures this week compare against last years to see if it’s a general trend that emerging.
      My conclusion – F1’s in some serious trouble; as the serious F1 fan has becoming disillusioned with the overall spectacle.

      1. Take a look at the results for Rate the Malaysian Race for 2014 – comes out at a pathetic 5.2.

        5.8 actually.

        1. Not exactly a number that’s going to excite too many people at the FIA, FOM or either of the 11 F1 teams the now is it?

      2. joc_the_man
        2nd April 2014, 22:53

        Atta, you are unfortunately so spot on. To me it is SAD TIMES. I still live in the (maybe utopic) hope that we will be able to influence FIA to at least change some of the complete madness. My 25+ years with F1 love tells me that we NEED to do what we can to influence the decision makers. I, as an example, have a mail correspondence with some of the FIA heads. We have to see how much PRIDE there is in the new regulations when they decide upon what to do. Feels like we are in an uphill…

        1. To me there’s a changing of the guard at F1 now. As a human you are always optimistic for a positive outcome; however the way these new regulations are panning out I doubt it.
          For a start Bernie’s time as head of FOM and thus the direction F1 takes from a commercial sense is coming to and end.

  9. So sad my favorite sport has become a development series. I watched a JB pole lap from 2004 and it shows just how slow F1 has now become.

    1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
      2nd April 2014, 18:12

      …and yet, based on the projected engine top speeds and testing times in Bahrain, we might see the fastest ever lap of Monza this year.

      1. @william-brierty Come on now, don’t get your hopes up. It’s not going to happen.

        1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
          3rd April 2014, 10:38

          @roald – Why won’t it when Mercedes claim that their engine has a top speed of over 230mph?

  10. The short answer: I don’t care if the lap times are slower.

    Elaboration: drivers fighting their cars is much more entertaining than the previous formula where drivers just put their foot to the floor and they remained glued to the track.

    1. Completely agree.

      The cars from 10 years ago may have been the ‘fastest’, But 2004 is widely regarded as one of the most boring seasons in F1’s history.

      The V10/V8 engines were super loud & all that but they were boring to watch been driven because they didn’t have much torque & were very drivable engines.
      Jenson Button was been interviewed on Sky back at Melbourne & he talked about how he’s never driven an F1 car thats had any torque & that he’s never had to really be too cautious with the throttle until now.

      That to me has been the greatest thing about the new power units, Drivers are having to actually drive them. They can’t just put there foot down, There actually having to be careful with throttle application & its bringing a lot more driver skill into the mix & I think thats a great thing.
      It was pointed out on Sky last weekend by Bruno Senna & Martin Brundle that corners at Sepang like turn 3 which used to be easy flat are now areas where drivers are having to really manage the increased torque & chase the throttle.

      The downforce loss brings in the same in the mid/high speed corners, Like the 6/7 sweepers at Sepang, In the past they were just about flat out while in 2014 drivers were actually having to drive them with the cars moving around & I found that a great spectacle to watch.

      The cars of 10 years ago were fun to watch from a pure performance standpoint, But from a racing standpoint they were boring to watch because they couldn’t race. Watching a driver plant his foot on the throttle & not have to worry about lighting up the rears too much or charging into a corner knowing he could go flat because of the downforce made for a boring spectacle.

      Watching the drivers fighting the power, Moving a