Red Bull Racing is hoping for another strong performance as Formula One heads to the Sepang circuit in Malaysia this weekend for the second round of the 2012 championship.

The back-to-back world champion Sebastian Vettel could manage only second in Australia last weekend, splitting the McLarens by passing a dejected Lewis Hamilton in the second pit stop phase, but seemingly unable to match Jenson Button's dominant pace.

Vettel said at Sepang on Thursday: "The Malaysia Circuit is actually more difficult than it seems. It has big run off areas and a broad track, meaning it appears easy, but it's not. The heat, high humidity and weather aren't the only challenges, as the main thing is to find the ideal car set up.

Fernando Alonso
Alonso admits that the Ferrari is down on pace, but some rain would given the team a better chance. (Reuters)

"There are two straights of almost one kilometre, but you also need a lot of wing on the car to create enough downforce for the corners, so it requires skill to find the right compromise. It's good to go there off the back of Australia and I hope we get another strong result."

Team-mate Mark Webber finished fourth in Melbourne last weekend, a personal best for the Australian at his home Grand Prix. Looking forward to Sepang, Webber said: "Malaysia is obviously very, very hot, so the track temperature is very hard on the tyres, which needs managing.

"The track is beautiful to drive on; you really get to feel the sensation of a Formula One car, particularly in the middle sector. It's a great venue and, as a track, it has different demands to the Melbourne circuit, so that's something we'll be looking to get on top of very quickly."

Meanwhile, Ferrari appears to be struggling with its F2012 car. Fernando Alonso managed to bring the car home in fifth place in Australia, but team-mate Felipe Massa retired from the race on lap 47, following an incident with Bruno Senna.

Felipe Massa
Felipe Massa walks through a rain-soaked paddock at Sepang. (Reuters) Reuters

Alonso said at the Sepang circuit on Thursday: "This is the longest race in terms of distance, but above all, it's the most tiring from the physical point of view: it is vital to be as well prepared as possible and, towards the end, that can also make a difference out on track."

With regard to the under-performing F2012, Alonso said: "There's no other way we can go about it, given that the F2012 is practically identical to what we ran in Australia. We will have to try and adapt it as well as possible, knowing it won't be easy. There are two points we will have to work on with great attention: finding the right compromise in terms of the aerodynamic balance and the tyre degradation."

The Spaniard spoke about the unpredictable weather Malaysia is famous for, with last year's race being abandoned due to extremely heavy rainfall. Ferrari will be hoping for some rain and maybe a safety car or two to increase their chances of a podium finish.

"There is no other place in the world, the Formula One world that is, where it can go from sunshine to torrential rain in the space of a few minutes," Alonso said. "Not even at Spa is the variability so acute. Those on the pit wall will have to keep their eyes peeled and look at the radar carefully to be ready for any possible change in the weather."