PETALING JAYA: With the season opening race in Melbourne churning up unexpected results, the stage is set for an even more exciting Petronas Malaysian F1 Grand Prix at Sepang in two weeks' time.
Sepang International Circuit (SIC), the organisers for the upcoming seventh edition of the Malaysian GP, believe their event will present a real challenge to the drivers, especially with the new tyre and engine rules coming into play.
In Sunday's Australian GP, pole-sitter Giancarlo Fisichella held off a late charge from Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello to bag his second GP career win.
Teammate Fernando Alonso made it a double cheer for Renault when he worked his way through the traffic from 13th to take the final spot on the podium.
Former McLaren driver David Coulthard gave the Red Bull team (formerly Jaguar) a splendid finish in their debut race when he romped home in fourth place.
SIC general manager Ahmad Mustafa is confident interest from the local and overseas fans have been stirred up for the Malaysian GP in Sepang after what transpired in Melbourne.
“It was a very interesting race, especially with the new two single-lap qualifying sessions.
“The aggregated qualifying rules did play a big part in determining the outcome of the race. Fisichella came out at the right time in the first qualifying session (Saturday) before rain fell. He also had the right tyre and took advantage of his pole position to win the race.
“Now the cars will have to use the same engines for the Malaysian GP and the teams will have to stick to one set of tyres for the whole weekend. It will certainly be taxing on the engine and tyres, especially for the Malaysian GP, which usually takes place under hot and humid conditions.
“The race in Sepang will surely be interesting and I will not be surprised if we see some unfamiliar faces finishing among the top eight,” he said.
Ahmad also feels F1 fans will be keen to see whether the top drivers like seven-time world champions Michael Schumacher, who crashed out, Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya will be able to bounce back.
“The drivers and teams were still jittery over the new rules and Melbourne was sort of an experimental ground for them.
“I believe they will have better strategies and be more prepared when they come to Sepang.”
He is confident ticket sales will pick up over the next two weeks. SIC have sold nearly 30,000 tickets so far.
“Sales are almost 30% better than the corresponding period last year.”