The heat and humidity will also take it out on the drivers, particularly the rookies. The experienced guys know what to do and wear. PUMA’s performance wear has always been exceptional in this regard. The drivers make sure they have lots of on-board water and wear cooling suits, and eat the right foods. As a team boss I ensured they did simulations with the heat turned up to 100 degrees to acclimatise to the conditions.
But it is the newcomers like Paul di Resta, who is not used to these conditions, about whom I am a bit nervous. Other than that I don’t have any real concerns about driver fitness.
I see the race as being a straight fight between the Red Bulls and Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes, but the last three will need to get their acts together quickly if they want to make a big fight of the championship. Fernando Alonso seems to be confident there is a lot more to come from Ferrari, and I certainly hope he is right.
But it is behind them that a real battle is developing. My man of the race in Australia was Sergio Perez; what he did was almost unbelievable: the whole race on a single stop. He managed to shade his Sauber team-mate Kamui Kobayashi, whom I really like. This morning when I interviewed Perez, he said, ‘It is now my obligation to lead this team’, which I thought was a massive show of self-confidence from a guy who’s only done one grand prix.
Who knows, he can be the future, a sort of Michael Schumacher. He is already well known in Mexico, and Bernie (Ecclestone) has told me he is looking at a Mexican Grand Prix.
We cannot forget, must not forget, the drive Vitaly Petrov put in to finish third. Renault was a team in chaos after Robert Kubica’s rally accident, and I have to say it is seldom you see a driver come on so strongly in the absence of a team leader. For sure the Renault is very fast, but I think the Toro Rosso is also very good. The same can be said about the Sauber.
What I think is interesting is that there is a lot of superb talent on the grid, probably more than we’ve had for many years, and the drivers are a lot closer than before. The cars are also closer, except I have to add Red Bull currently seems to have an advantage, and Sebastian Vettel is driving superbly.
Mark Webber had poor race in Australia, but that seems to be his bogey track because he always seems to suffer at home. I think he should be good here in Malaysia, and he certainly got his weekend off to a flying start by being fastest in both Friday sessions.