David Coulthard likened grand prix racing in Malaysia to attempts to reproduce the species in a sauna. In other words, unless there was a very good reason, you would not want to do it. As afternoon temperatures in Kuala Lumpur nudged 100F, precipitating early evening rains of the monsoon variety, it was not hard to sympathise with the drivers' lot on Sunday, when values inside the cockpit are expected to top a debilitating 130F.
Three years ago Britain's Justin Wilson left the circuit attached to a drip to combat the effects of dehydration. Last year Malaysia equalled the record track temperature of 132F shared by Bahrain, Argentina and the United States. Though the drivers are better prepared than ever, the danger of racing in extreme heat was the major talking point in Sepang yesterday.
"It's like having to do some physical exercise in a sauna effectively, and unless it was having sex I cannot imagine why anyone would want to do anything in a sauna," Coulthard said.
"You definitely lose performance in these conditions. You are not going to be as sharp in your reactions, your mental capabilities drop off as your body dehydrates. You just can't battle against that. You just get on with it because you are focused, but in normal life you would be admitted to hospital with severe dehydration. We just get a cold towel and a glass of water and you guys think, 'Ah, you don't do anything for your money'."
On Sunday, drivers can expect to shed a gallon in fluids, mostly through the sweat glands, sometimes by other means. Jenson Button will consume five litres of liquid before the race and one litre during it to offset the effects of dehydration. "It makes a massive difference,' he said. ''I didn't have a drink here a couple of years ago and I was so dehydrated I was shivering and getting cold in the car and then you start to lose your eyesight."
Whatever the weather, Coulthard will start the race with a 10-place penalty on the grid after confirming an engine change after the opening grand prix in Bahrain. It was not a brilliant advert for Ferrari engines. Coulthard's Ferrari-powered Red Bull will have Felipe Massa's Ferrari for company after the Scuderia decided on the same course of action.