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Who’s got the nerves to bag the Malaysian Grand Prix?

Mercedes Formula One car driving past Malaysian flag

A professional racing driver gives insights what battles you fight off the track and what could be the deciding factor for winning the Malaysian Grand Prix.

It has been two weeks since the Singapore madness and its aftermath continues to linger on. Another wet race weekend should fire up the audience and the drivers, who will compete in tough conditions allowing no mistakes on hot and slippery tarmac. Being knocked out at the start of a race is surely no fun and none of the drivers would want to be heading for collision again.
Sports Gazette asked a professional racing driver about the physical and psychological battles while racing and if that could be this weekend’s deciding factor.

Dominik Kraihamer is a 27-year-old driver who competes in the FIA World Endurance Championship and has already driven on the Sepang International Circuit. He knows its pitfalls: “The g-force here (the strain on a driver’s body when accelerating) is very high due to its long straights separated by a super tight hairpin turn. It is also devastatingly hot and humid so it gets pretty exhausting.”

With conditions that challenging, it is surely not an advantage having to deal with frustrated colleagues and heated tempers after Sebastian Vettel triggered a collision with Ferrari teammate Kimi Räikkönen and Red Bull wonder kid Max Verstappen.

Dominik, however, sees that as a motivation: “The rivalries were made clear, and this is important, otherwise there wouldn’t be any ambition and we would just drive around and be like ‘oh well that’s how it is now then, can’t do anything about it’.”

Being better than the other ones is what drives those guys forward, the gasoline to their motor. “Motorsport is a very egoistic sport. You have to continue with full speed. There is no room to start being careful because if you show weakness they (drivers) will eat you alive”, admits the Austrian. He is sure Vettel will not slow down this weekend.

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Yet, he should be careful after all. “In my opinion, Hamilton will win Malaysia and secure the championship because he is so consistent, makes little mistakes and just keeps away from all problems”, explains Dominik. He adds: “Vettel on the other hand is quick tempered, which leads to mistakes.”

But with Mercedes being far off the pace during testing on Friday, it could open the way for a Vettel comeback – or even another chance for Red Bull. Silver Arrows boss Toto Wolff admitted to the media “there is a gremlin in the car, a fundamental issue”.

With Mercedes struggling with technical issues Malaysia could become a Ferrari vs Red Bull show. If the motorsport gods keep their cool and allow a bit of sunshine, Vettel could have a massive advantage with Ferrari simply having a better car.

We know we should never praise the day before sunset, especially not in Malaysia. The chance of a shower is at 70% and this could be Verstappen’s magic moment.

“I have known Max personally for some years now and he is an incredible driver and person. He can be a bit self-assertive and should pace himself. But when he does, he is unstoppable”, assures Dominik.

So thinks Red Bull principal Christian Horner, who told the Telegraph that “he appears to have an almost sixth sense in the wet” and “he doesn’t seem intimidated by it in any way and is prepared to explore all the boundaries of the circuit”.

The Dutchman has shown it in Brazil in 2016 and in China this year, where the rain allowed him to race on top of the podium after starting from 16th position.

It has been long since Formula One was that exciting and since more than two teams were competing on almost the same level. The last race being held on Sepang International Circuit has all the predispositions of being one that will be remembered.



Ena Bilobrk
Ena was born in Munich to a Croatian family, which helped making contacts in the small country’s sporting world from early on. The wish for pursuing a career in sports journalism carried her all the way to London, where the 22-year-old studied journalism at the University of Westminster. During her degree Ena wrote articles for Dalmatinski Portal, a Croatian news website, which included reporting on the Croatian national team playing Argentina in a friendly match at Boleyn Ground in November 2014. A work placement with Sky Sports News followed; there, she translated Jürgen Klopp’s first interview as Liverpool manager - initially in German - making Sky the quickest media outlet to have his managerial words in English. During the placement Ena also regularly wrote articles for the broadcaster’s website. Covering the ATP finals and the Race of Champions, both in 2015, boosted her confidence and she got to publish her first by-line on the Guardian's website. After graduating from Westminster she decided to move back to Munich to broaden her expertise in German sports. Ena spent the time back home working for Sky Bundesliga and FC Bayern Basketball. Eventually she decided to return to the (grass) roots of journalism training and started a masters degree in Sports Journalism at St Mary’s University Twickenham where she is currently writing for the Sports Gazette. Ena writes about European football, tennis, motorsport and makes occasional side trips to the world of rugby and cricket.
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