PETALING JAYA: For Sauber Petronas drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Felipe Massa, the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix from March 19-21 at the Sepang F1 Circuit is a fitness survival test.
And they have started putting in the early mileage.
The Sauber boys arrived yesterday in Kuching, Sarawak to kick start the promotional activities for the Malaysian GP. They are scheduled to do a Formula One street demonstration around the Esplanade area in Kuching today.
The promotions will be exhausting. But the race proper, the drivers say, will be even more taxing.
Fisichella, who scored a career first win in the Brazilian GP last year, said: “I really like it (in Sepang) but I am not so keen on the temperature. It is too high for me and to do well in this type of condition, I really have to prepare for it.
“It is a very hard track physically. Most of the corners are quick – at least three-quarters of them. The G-force puts a lot of strain on your neck and shoulder muscles,” said Fisichella via e-mail.
The Italian finished in 10th place in Melbourne last week and is optimistic of his chances in Malaysia here.
“Our package is improving all the time, as we learn more about setting it up,” he added.
Massa, the young Brazilian who has often been compared to his legendary compatriot Ayrton Senna, is also looking forward to racing at the Sepang circuit again.
“Sepang is a very nice circuit. I really like the challenge it presents, as there are a lot of quick corners and quick changes of direction.
“One has to be extremely fit to drive in such hot and humid conditions. You need good tyres here because it gets so hot and also good chassis balance,” said Massa, who has been given another spell with the Swiss-based outfit.
To that end, the duo have been working hard on their fitness with team physiotherapist Joseph Leberer in Kota Kinabalu.
Massa definitely has good memories when it comes to the Malaysian leg.
“I got my first championship point after finishing sixth in the 2002 race here, the last time I was driving for Sauber.”
Sauber technical director Willy Rampf is expecting the car's engines to come under heavy stress in Malaysia.
“Cooling is a critical factor. We have to prepare our maximum cooling capacity with the bodywork.”
He confirmed that the Sauber cars will be running on similar specifications as they did at the Australian GP.
“There was no time for us to test between races and the first components from our new wind tunnel at Hinwil will not come on stream until the race in Imola (Italy). The high track temperature is very demanding for the tyres, but we are confident that Bridgestone will have a well performing tyre like in Melbourne.”