Williams-BMW, McLaren-Mercedes and Renault head into the Malaysian Grand Prix determined to improve on a disappointing first race in Australia. But what are the teams' chances of stemming the red tide?

Williams-BMW, McLaren-Mercedes and Renault head into the Malaysian Grand Prix determined to improve on a disappointing first race in Australia. But what are the teams' chances of stemming the red tide?


World champion Michael Schumacher led home team-mate Rubens Barrichello in a Ferrari one-two in a one-sided race in Melbourne two weekends ago. However, the three teams tipped to end Ferrari's five-year title-winning reign - who all use Michelin tyres rather than Ferrari's Bridgestones - believe the warmer and more humid weather at Sepang could give them an edge.


Williams-BMW driver Juan-Pablo Montoya this week said: "We immediately started working on the car after our disappointing race in Australia so we could be competitive for this race and close the gap on Ferrari.


"The hot temperatures should be favourable for our car, our Michelin tyres should perform much better in the warmer conditions and I have been keeping fit so the humidity and heat don't worry me too much," the Colombian added.


McLaren-Mercedes had a nightmare race in Australia, with last year's championship runner-up Kimi Raikkonen failing to finish and his Scottish team-mate David Coulthard trailing home in eighth place.


Raikkonen, who scored his first and only grand prix victory at Sepang last year, was disappointed with his team's performance in Australia after their encouraging early pre-season form faded to put them at the back of the Ferrari-chasing pack.


"I've got good memories of Malaysia because I won my first race in F1 here last year," Raikkonen said. "I would like to repeat the result, but the main focus for this weekend is to work on improving our performance from Australia and hopefully scoring some points to kick-start our season."


Spaniard Fernando Alonso was the "best of the rest" in Australia with third place for Renault and, after claiming his first ever podium at Sepang last year, he is looking for a repeat performance this weekend.


"From what we saw last year we should have a good car and the tyres should work even better in the hotter temperatures," said Alonso. "But the important thing in these first races is to be reliable, finish and score points."


The hopes of the three teams are strengthened by the fact that Ferrari has not won in Malaysia since 2001, but, as CARtoday.com reported on Tuesday, the Italian giant is ignoring claims that the cars will not perform so well this weekend.


Bridgestone technical manager Hisao Suganuma said: "We have tested long and hard for races like Malaysia and the time has come to see if we have done our homework.


"Consistency in the heat is one area to take into account when developing tyres for Sepang and a significant part of our winter development programme was dedicated to making sure we are competitive in the heat this year," he added.

Original article from Car