Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

maanantai 16. huhtikuuta 2018

Chinese GP: Verstappen destroyed Sebastian´s race!

Yesterday´s Chinese GP was... quite a race! I had looked forward to a red-coloured race. I have to say I "saw red" during the race, but not in the way I had hoped for!

Drama started to unravel already at the start. Kimi in P2 got a better start than teammate Sebastian on pole. Sebastian saw that and made things uncomfortable for Kimi by blocking him, going into Turn 1. Due to Sebastian´s move Kimi first lost a position to his compatriot Bottas and then also to Red Bull´s Verstappen, who had started to the race on the ultrasoft compound! Sebastian had hoped that the red team would have maintained their double lead after the start, butin reality his move had led to a very different situation. However, I really can´t blame Sebastian for his move. Every driver concentrates on his own race and in the heat of the start it´s impossible to predict, what kind of consequences a certain move might have. However, Kimi had dropped down from P2 to P4. Hamilton was fifth.

Sebastian was controlling the race in the lead, as Bottas was already three seconds adrift. Verstappen seemed unable to match the Finn´s pace and was already eight seconds down. Kimi, on the other hand, wasn´t fast enough to challenge the Dutchman for P3. At this point everything looked so promising for Sebastian!

Red Bull opened the pit stop roulette in terms of the top teams on lap 18. And what a pit stop strategy the energy drink team had! They made a double stop, as both Verstappen and Ricciardo drove into the pits on the very same lap. It was an impressive effort from the Red Bull team to make two stops in a row! Both Red Bull aces opted for the white-marked medium Pirellis, which indicated a one-stop race for them. Hamilton pitted on the following lap, and teammate Bottas a lap after his teammate. Both Silver Arrows switched to the hardest compound as well. Sebastian and Kimi now had a double lead in the race.

However, Ferrari had no choice but to react to Mercedes´ strategy, and they called Sebastian in. But Bottas benefitted from the undercut, making the Finn snatch the lead, as Sebastian re-joined the track on a fresh set of medium Pirellis. Sebastian was right at the Finn´s tail, but Bottas seemed to have a grasp on the victory. At this point it seemed, that Ferrari were going to "sacrifice" Kimi´s race to increase Sebastian´s chances to win the race. Kimi stayed out on the worn tyres, although his lap times were significantly slower than the top two´s.

By lap 26 Bottas and Sebastian had closed the gap to Kimi. The Iceman did everything he could to hold his compatriot back, to give his teammate a chance to overtake the Finnish Mercedes ace. However, a lap later Bottas made a classy move on Kimi and took the lead. Sebastian moved ahead of his teammate immediately and attacked Bottas, but the Finn defended his position like a lion.

Kimi pitted not until on lap 28 for a fresh set of medium tyres. At this point it seemed, that the Iceman´s race was ruined. He re-joined the track in P6, 10 seconds behind Red Bull´s Ricciardo. I was sad for Kimi, as he had lost two positions at the start due to his teammate´s move, and now the team "sacrificed" his race to make his teammate win. That´s F1 racing but it didn´t sound very fair!

Lap 30 was the turning point in the race. There was a weird-looking incident, where the Toro Rosso teammates collided in Turn 14. Gasly hit his teammate Hartley, leaving a lot of debris on the track. After the race it turned out to be a miscommunication issue, as the teammates were to switch places at some point of the race, and Gasly thought Hartley would give way in Turn 14. However, the Toro Rosso collision brought safety car out, and Gasly was handed a 10-second time penalty for causing the collision. Bottas and Sebastian had already passed the pit entry, when safety car was deployed, but Red Bull reacted right away and called their drivers in for another double stop. Both Verstappen and Ricciardo opted for a fresh set of yellow-marked soft tyres, which was a genius strategy. Due to the Red Bull duo´s pit stops Hamilton moved third and Kimi fifth.

The re-start took place on lap 35. Bottas made an excellent job and held on to his lead. Soon Kimi was in trouble with Ricciardo, who was on the fresh soft tyres. There was a huge difference in terms of the grip of those two cars, and there was nothing Kimi could do to prevent the Australian to attack him. Ricciardo made a stunning move and passed Kimi. Meanwhile Ricciardo´s teammate Verstappen was challenging Hamilton for P3. But once again the flying Dutchman was lacking patience, and he made a move in an undoable place! Verstappen went off and dropped down to P5. Unfortunately this was only the first stupid move from the Dutch Red Bull ace!

Ricciardo was absolutely flying on his fresh soft tyres, and on lap 40 the Honey Badger made a move on Hamilton and passed the reigning world champion! I can only imagine, what was going through Sebastian´s mind at that time. Also Verstappen had made it past Hamilton, and both Red Bull drivers were storming towards the lead... On lap 42 Sebastian´s nightmare materialised, as his ex teammate Ricciardo stormed past the German, claiming P2 already. The Australian was utterly on flames! He had already smelled Bottas´ blood and the chase had begun!

With 13 laps to go, Verstappen made his second mistake, which had dramatic consequences. Max made a thoughtless overtaking move on Sebastian in Turn 6, ending up crashing into Sebastian´s SF71-H! That was a stupid move, which cost both drivers dearly! However, due to this collision, Kimi´s race was saved, as the Iceman moved third. Verstappen was given a 10-second time penalty for causing the collision. I was proud of Sebastian, who kept his head cool and said on the team radio, that he didn´t even need to comment Verstappen´s manoeuvre.

Meanwhile, there was a dramatic turn in the lead. With some ten laps to go, Ricciardo had hunted down Bottas, who had no chance to defend his lead on the worn medium tyres. What a rise the Australian had made after the safety car, making his way from P6 to the lead! Ricciardo crossed the finish line as the race winner. The Finns had a tight fight for P2, but Bottas had the upper hand and finished the runner-up, with Kimi completing the podium. I was very happy for the Iceman; he definitely deserved the podium finish! Hot-headed Verstappen finished in P4, and the 10-second penalty cost him one position only, dropping him in 5th behind Hamilton. Hulkenberg finished 6th for Renault. Poor Sebastian was struggling badly after the collision, and the German got passed by McLaren´s Alonso on the second last lap, finishing in modest P8. What a huge injustice, that in spite of the penalty, Verstappen finished the race ahead of Sebastian!

I have looked up to Max Verstappen a lot in the past. I´ve admired him for his courageous moves and his passion on track. Unfortunately there´s only a thin line between courageous moves and stupid manoeuvres. I was so angry at Verstappen after the collision! However, Max saved my respect for him by his action after the race. Max humbly admitted his mistake and had apologised to Sebastian immediately after the race. Max certainly knew, that without the stupid move, he would have been there to fight for the victory with his teammate! Sebastian kept his head cool and didn´t start calling Max any names after the race. Sebastian has had outbursts of his own in the past, so he was wise enough to understand, that these things can happen sometimes. But still, it was so unfair, that Max finished the race ahead of Sebastian!

Sebastian now has 54 points in the drivers´ championship standings, whilst Hamilton has 45 points. Bottas in third has 40 points and Ricciardo in fourth has 37. Kimi has now 30 points. The situation in terms of the constructors´ standings is extremely interesting, as Mercedes leads by one point only! Red Bull in third is now 30 points down on Mercedes.

The round 4 takes the F1 circus to Baku, Azerbaijan, which was the venue of huge drama last year. Let´s see, what the grand prix holds this year.

lauantai 14. huhtikuuta 2018

Chinese GP / Qualifying: The red team shone in Shanghai!

This weekend I´ve had my F1 studio at hospital. Today I woke up early, made myself a cup of coffee and put my head phones on. I was trying to keep quiet when watching the qualifying, as my son was still sleeping next to me. But it was extremely difficult, as the shootout for pole was a staggering thriller!

After Ferrari had been dominating in the heat of Bahrain, I expected Mercedes to bounce back in the cooler conditions of Shanghai. I was absolutely amazed to see, that it wasn´t the case! Sebastian at the wheel of his Loria went fastest on his first run, followed by his teammate Kimi, who was three tenths down on him. Bottas was the leading Mercedes, massive seven tenths down on pace-setter Sebastian! Teammate Hamilton was surprisingly a second off the pace! Against all odds the cooler conditions of Shanghai appeared to hamper Mercedes. Red Bull, once again, faced reliability woes. Ricciardo had had a suspected turbo failure in the last free practice, and the team did everything they could to get the Australian out in Q1. There were only three minutes in the clock, when the Honey Badger headed out from his pit box. Ricciardo managed to scrape through to Q2, but just two places above the drop zone. The top eight (Vettel, Räikkönen, Bottas, Verstappen, Hamilton, Perez, Hulkenberg and Ocon) sat out the second runs. Toro Rosso´s Gasly couldn´t repeat his Bahrain heroics, as his final lap in Q1 was only good enough for 17th, whilst teammate Hartley was the last driver to make it through to Q2. Other drivers eliminated from the second segment were the Williams duo of Sirotkin and Stroll and the Sauber duo of Leclerc and Ericsson.

Both Mercedes and Ferrari opted for a similar tyre strategy in Q2, as both top teams came out on the yellow-marked soft Pirellis. The red team showed excellent performance on the more durable rubber as well; Kimi topped the timesheets after the first runs, with teammate Sebastian second. Bottas was six tenths and Hamilton a second down on the Iceman. Red Bull, even though they made their runs on the purple-marked ultrasoft compound, were unable to match Ferrari´s and Mercedes´ pace. The Mercedes teammates made their second run on a fresh set of soft tyres. It seemed, as if Mercedes had found their "party mode" again, as Hamilton went fastest. Bottas jumped second, a one-and-a-half tenths down on the Briton. Both Kimi and Sebastian came out on the ultrasofts and were both on course to go quicker, but they aborted their laps. This meant, that all top four drivers will start to the race on the softs. Haas´ Magnussen was the first driver to be knocked out of the pole shootout, whilst teammate Grosjean in P6 made it among the top ten. Force India´s Ocon, the McLaren duo of Alonso and Vandoorne and Toro Rosso´s Hartley were out of the last decisive phase.

Kimi was absolutely on flames in Q3. For the 99 per cent of  the last segment it looked like Kimi would become the oldest pole sitter in 25 years! The Iceman took first blood, setting the fastest time in all three sectors, which meant a new track record at Shanghai. Teammate Sebastian was over a tenth off the pace after his first run. However, Mercedes seemed to be struggling more on the softer tyres, and the Silver Arrows were both four tenths off Kimi´s staggering pace. Red Bull were even further behind, as Verstappen was six and Ricciardo seven tenths adrift. It was obvious, that it was down to the Ferraris to battle it out for pole. And what a battle it turned out! On his second attempt, Kimi blitzed the first two sectors, but Sebastian was only 0.098s adrift! Sebastian had an absolutely magical last sector, and the German snatched his 52nd career pole by 0.087s to the Iceman! So Sebastian made it a new track record again! Once again Bottas was the leading Mercedes in third, leaving teammate Hamilton 4th. Red Bull locked out the third row, with Verstappen 5th and Ricciardo 6th. Hulkenberg made it 7th for Renault and Perez 8th for the pink Force India. Renault´s Sainz and Haas´ Grosjean completed the top ten.

Kimi is definitely in an impressive form, as the Iceman has made it on the front row in all three races this season! This was the second successive front row lock-out for the red team, which has made me think, whether it´s really true, that Mercedes are losing their dominance in the sport. Kimi´s compatriot Bottas has showed superb performance as well. The Finn has out-qualified his teammate in four qualifying sessions out of five! I´m sure both Sebastian and Kimi have high hopes to win the race tomorrow. I am happy to see either one of them on the top step of the podium! Kimi would definitely deserve the win after all the difficulties! However, I believe Mercedes´ race pace is better than their single-lap pace, and for sure they will put up a tight fight for the victory. Can´t wait to wake up tomorrow morning to watch my heroes fight for the glory in the land of dragons!

maanantai 9. huhtikuuta 2018

Bahrain GP: Glorious win for Sebastian but a pit stop tragedy for Kimi!

If the season-opening Australian GP was described as a boring race with no overtaking, yesterday´s Bahrain GP was definitely something else. What a thriller of a race!

Hamilton in P9 was the only top ten driver to start the race on the middle compound, whilst everyone else was on the red-marked super soft Pirellis. When the lights went out, the drama started. Sebastian on pole took a splendid start and held on to his lead. Kimi instead, who was starting on the dirtier side of the track, had a lot of wheel spin and lost his second place to his compatriot Bottas. Ricciardo in his Red Bull was fourth and the Toro Rosso sensation Gasly was fifth.

Red Bull had a pitch black start to the race. Verstappen, who had taken a rocket start, was already challenging Hamilton for P9 on the second lap. The flying Dutchman seemed to have "all or nothing" attitude, as he attacked the Briton extremely aggressively. Max´s move lead into contact between these two. Hamilton in his W09 got away from it undamaged, but Max got a rear-left puncture and had to limp into the pits. However, his RB14 was too severely damaged, and the Dutch Red Bull ace had to retire a few laps later. Meanwhile teammate Ricciardo faced a nightmare of his own. Suddenly his RB14 was hit with a complete shutdown, and the Australian had no choice but to park his car on track. What a catastrophic race for the energy drink team! Due to Ricciardo´s retirement, virtual safety car was deployed.

For some drivers the issue seems to be, whether it´s possible to overtake. For others the issue is, how many cars you can overtake with one move. I´m not a fan of Hamilton, but what he did on lap 5, was incredibly amazing. On the finish straight the Briton attacked his rivals and passed three cars with just one move! McLaren´s Alonso, Force India´s Ocon and Renault´s Hulkenberg had no choice but to witness, how the reigning world champion made his way up to P6! What a feeling it was to see four cars driving side by side, with sparks flying from all of them! That was an epic moment indeed. Hamilton had begun his hunt, and by lap 8 he had already made it past Haas´ Magnussen and Toro Rosso´s Gasly, moving 4th already.

Sebastian seemed to be in control of the race, as the gap to Bottas was 2-3 seconds. On the other hand, Kimi seemed unable to challenge Bottas for the second place. Sebastian pitted from the lead on lap 19; he opted for a fresh set of soft Pirellis and re-joined the track in P4. Teammate Kimi pitted on the following lap for a similar tyre choice. Bottas pitted a lap after his fellow countryman but had a different tyre strategy. The Finn switched to the white-marked medium tyres, which made it obvious, that he was on a one-stop strategy. Bottas re-joined the track in P3.

Teammate Hamilton stayed out due to his harder tyres and was leading the race. However, Sebastian kept banging fastest lap times and was catching the Briton rapidly. Hamilton´s tyres were done, so in no time Sebastian was right at the Briton´s tail. There was no way Hamilton could prevent Sebastian to make a move and take the lead. The Briton drove into the pits and switched to the hardest compound available, similar to his teammate. Hamilton re-joined the track in P4, 25 seconds down on the race leader Sebastian.

On lap 36 Kimi was called in for his second pit stop. But what a catastrophy the pit stop turned! For some reason Kimi´s rear-left tyre was still unremoved, as the Iceman was given green light to go. This lead into a scary-looking incident, as one of the mechanics got run over by Kimi! Kimi was immediately told on the team radio to stop, and his promising race was over. The mechanic was seriously injured, as he got a shinbone and fibula fracture and was taken to the hospital for surgery. What a disappointing and frightening turn in the race! I felt so sorry for Kimi, who would probably have finished on the podium. The team needs to investigate thoroughly, what went wrong in the pit stop, as an incident like this mustn´t happen again! I hope the mechanic has a speedy recovery!

Kimi´s second pit stop proved, that Ferrari had planned a two-stop strategy. Would Sebastian stop for the second time or would he try to go till the end? With 15 laps to go, it seemed, that Bottas was unable to match the German´s pace. But in Formula 1 things can change rapidly... With ten laps to go, Bottas was significantly faster than Sebastian and started to decrease the gap frighteningly fast. Sebastian´s tyres were clearly done, but a second pit stop would have dropped the German down to P3. With three laps to go, the Finn was already within DRS distance from Sebastian. My heart was pounding and I crossed my fingers, that Sebastian would be able to defend his lead! Valtteri got one chance to try a move but luckily it didn´t prove successful. Sebastian crossed the finish line as the race winner! Bottas finished the runner-up, with teammate Hamilton completing the podium. But what really caught my eye, was Pierre Gasly, who finished the race in P4. What a superb result for the Frenchman! It was heart-warming to see the Toro Rosso team members celebrate like they would have won the race. Haas, too showed their performance, as Magnussen finished excellent 5th. Hulkenberg finished 6th for Renault, and both McLarens scored valuable points as well, as Alonso finished 7th and Vandoorne 8th. Worth mentioning is definitely Sauber´s Ericsson, who finished the race in P9 and scored the first points for the Swiss team.

Sebastian has had the most perfect start to the season, as he has won both GPs and scored the maximum 50 points! Hamilton is second in the standings with 33 points and Bottas third with 22 points. But who would have predicted, that Alonso would be fourth after two races? The next race is already around the corner, as the F1 circus will move to China this week already. I hope Sebastian will be able to keep up the momentum, but Ferrari definitely has some home work to do in terms of the pit stops. In my opinion, Verstappen needs to take a good look in the mirror to get his focus back on the basics again. There´s only a very thin line separating on-track courage from stupid and arrogant manoeuvres. Red Bull have some serious reliability issues to solve as well.

Everything is looking very promising for the red team at the moment. In Bahrain Sebastian won purely by driving, not by luck. Hopefully Ferrari will be the team to beat also at Shanghai!

sunnuntai 8. huhtikuuta 2018

Bahrain GP / Qualifying: A sensational front row lock-out for Ferrari!

It was a dream come true to see Ferrari dominate qualifying under the floodlights in Bahrain! The red team set the pace right from the first session. The Ferrari aces Kimi and Sebastian opted for the yellow-marked middle compound, and Kimi was top of the charts, with teammate Sebastian only a tenth of a second off the pace. Mercedes´ Bottas was the quicker one of the Mercedes drivers, although the Finn ran the middle compound as well, whilst teammate Hamilton opted for the red-marked super soft Pirellis. Red Bull´s Verstappen was 4th on his first run, which turned out to be the Dutchman´s last as well. On his second flyer, Max lost control of his his RB14 coming out of Turn 2 and hit the barrier nose first. The flying Dutchman´s qualifying was over, and the session was red-flagged. It seemed like a mistake of his own (which he doesn´t usually make!) but in his post-qualifying comments Max accused a horsepower spike for causing the crash. However, the crash meant a very modest P15 on the grid for Max. On resumption, the top six (Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull) sat out the second runs. Magnussen in his Haas was the best of the rest, as the Dane made it 7th in the opening phase. Teammate Grosjean faced bittersweet fortunes, as the Frenchman was the first driver to be knocked out of Q2 after making a small mistake on his last flyer and setting an identical time to McLaren´s Alonso. Both Sauber drivers and the Williams teammates were out of Q2. However, it caught my eye, that the Russian rookie Sirotkin was the faster of the Williams teammates (P18), as Stroll turned out to be the slowest driver on the grid.

The shocking news before qualifying had been, that Hamilton had been handed a five-place grid penalty for the race due to a gearbox change on Friday. With the Briton hampered by the grid penalty, he and Mercedes opted to run the softs in Q2, giving the reigning world champion an alternative strategy as he will start the race on that tyre. Sebastian went fastest on the super softs, but actually Hamilton´s pace looked more convincing on the middle compound, as the Briton was second, only a tenth of a second down on the pace-setting Sebastian. In spite of the tyre choice, the Briton was the fastest man on the second sector! The Ferrari duo´s pace was so impressive, that no second run was required. The star of the session was Gasley, who put the Honda-powered Toro Rosso into Q3 for the first time this year in ninth! Teammate Hartley, who damaged his front wing when he hit a bird early in the session, just missed out in 11th. Force India´s Perez and the McLaren duo of Alonso and Vandoorne were eliminated from the final segment as well.

In the past six years the Sakhir Circuit has suited the Silver Arrows perfectly, but this time Ferrari seemed to have the upper hand. The shootout for pole was absolutely hair-raising. Kimi took provisional pole, as teammate Sebastian made a mistake at the final turn. There were only 95 thousandths of a second separating the red warriors! Hamilton was third, only a tenth off the pace. Bottas was also close, two tenths off pace in 4th. The Finn managed to improve his lap time on his second flyer, jumping second. But his joy was premature. Sebastian put together a staggering lap and took his 51st career pole in the darkening night of Bahrain! Kimi made it a sensational front row lock-out for Ferrari. The Iceman´s track position had left a little to hope for, and the Iceman was 0.143s down on his teammate. Bottas was the leading Mercedes in third, only two hundredths of a second down on his compatriot. Hamilton had to settle for P4, which will turn into P9 on the grid due to his penalty. Ricciardo qualified 5th for Red Bull, and the sister team´s Gasley made it a sensational P6. Haas´ Magnussen, Renault´s Hulkenberg, Force India´s Ocon and Renault´s Sainz rounded out the top ten. Sebastian´s driving was very close to perfection; this was the sensational first non-Mercedes pole in Bahrain in six years!

I can´t wait for today´s race! I don´t know what has happened to the Silver Arrows after Australia, but they are definitely struggling with their performance at Sakhir. I´m cautiously optimistic and hopeful in terms of a Ferrari 1-2. The Sakhir Circuit certainly offers more chances for overtaking than Melbourne did, but I don´t know if Hamilton still has realistic chances to make it on the podium. At least without Ferrari hitting trouble... I can´t wait, what Max Verstappen will be capable of from P15. He has had a trouble-filled start to the season, as he spun in Australia and crashed out in yesterday´s qualifying. But I´m quite convinced that he´ll offer quite an overtaking show today. It´s interesting to see, how the top teams manage to save the super soft tyres in the hot conditions. Hamilton´s different tyre choice may be an advantage, especially because Mercedes have proved their pace on the middle compound. But to be honest, I would be very very disappointed not to see Sebastian or Kimi on the top step of the podium today!

sunnuntai 25. maaliskuuta 2018

Australian GP: Lucky Sebastian took superb victory!

There were blue skies and 24 degrees Celsius, as the cars headed to the formation lap. Mercedes had been forced to change the gear box on Bottas´ W09, which had caused a 5-place grid drop for the Finn. This meant modest P15 for the Finnish Mercedes pilot. It was so exciting to see the lights go out for the very first time this season!

The top three took an excellent start. Hamilton held on to his lead, although Kimi almost had a chance to challenge the Briton going into Turn 2. Sebastian followed his teammate closely. Red Bull´s Verstappen, who started the race on the super soft compound, lost a position to Haas´ Magnussen, who jumped 4th. Bottas in P15 wasn´t able to gain any positions at the start and was stuck in his starting position. Williams´ rookie Sirotkin was the first driver to retire already on lap 5. The unlucky Russian suffered a brake failure.

On lap 9 Bottas managed to make a move on Force India´s Ocon, moving 13th. At the same time, Red Bull´s Verstappen faced drama. The Dutchman suddenly lost control of his RB14 and had a 360-degree spin in Turn 1. He lost positions to both Haas´ Magnussen and teammate Ricciardo, dropping down to 8th. Since the spin Max suffered from severe over steer and his RB14 seemed very difficult to drive. It was hard work to keep the car on track.

Ferrari were able to match Hamilton´s pace, and the gaps between the top three were only about two seconds. Haas was driving a brilliant race, as Magnussen was 4th and teammate Grosjean 5th. However, the American-based team had no chance to keep up with Kimi. The Iceman was the first top driver to pit on lap 19. He opted for the yellow-marked soft tyres, which was the hardest compound available for the weekend. Mercedes had no choice but to take Hamilton in as well; the Briton opted for a similar tyre choice. Sebastian stayed out instead, as he was in no hurry to pit. His P3 was comfortably secured, as the Haas duo was over 25 seconds down on the German.

What a huge drama the successful Haas team faced right after their pit stops! There were difficulties in attaching Magnussen´s rear-left tyre, and right after the pit stop the Dane had to stop the car and retire. Only two laps later, during Grosjean´s pit stop, there was an issue with his front-left tyre, and also the Frenchman had to retire the car after re-joining the track! Virtual safety car was deployed due to Grosjean´s retirement, and Sebastian pitted from the lead on lap 27. Sebastian, too opted for a fresh set of soft Pirellis. I was absolutely amazed to see, that Sebastian re-joined the track ahead of Hamilton, maintaining his lead! What a genius pit stop strategy from the red team, to keep Sebastian out in case of a (virtual) safety car! Hamilton, too couldn´t understand, what had just happened! Sebastian got lucky with the virtual safety car this time. Once he had got a grasp on the victory, I knew, he wasn´t going to let it slip through his fingers!

As it took time to get Grosjean´s car removed from the track, safety car was deployed. The re-start took place on lap 31. Sebastian held on to his lead, but it was obvious, that Hamilton was going to challenge the Ferrari ace sooner or later. Kimi instead had it difficult to match his teammate´s pace. Due to Haas´ unfortunate retirements, Red Bull´s Ricciardo was right at Kimi´s tail, and the Australian was definitely hungry to make it on the podium in front of his home crowd.

Sebastian and Hamilton banged the fastest lap times alternately, which foreshadowed a tight battle towards the closing laps. With some 10 laps to go, the Briton had already made it within DRS distance from Sebastian. However, Hamilton´s intense effort made him lock his tyres; in a blink of an eye the reigning world champion was over two seconds adrift. Hamilton, as well as his teammate Bottas, had an overheating issue with the power unit, which forced the Briton to back off at the end of the race. The issue seemed quite significant, as Kimi managed to decrease the gap to Hamilton into 1.5 seconds on the final lap! On the other hand, Ricciardo was putting serious pressure on the Iceman, but the Melbourne circuit offered very little chances for overtaking, so the Honey Badger had to settle for P4. McLaren had an impressive opening for the season, as Alonso finished 5th and teammate Vandoorne 9th, getting both cars in points. Verstappen finished 6th for Red Bull and Hulkenberg 7th for Renault. Teammate Sainz completed the top ten, which made the day pretty great for Renault as well. All in all, P8 was all Bottas could do after the catastrophic qualifying yesterday.

I had hoped for a red-coloured race, so my hopes were definitely answered! Only a Ferrari 1-2 would have made the day more perfect than this! What an amazing way to kick off the new season! I was overwhelmingly happy to see Sebastian standing on the top step of the podium, accompanied by the Iceman. It´s so great, that F1 is finally back; I have missed these adrenaline-filled race weekends so much! All the best for Sebastian and Kimi this season; I hope it´s going to be a bright red season!

lauantai 24. maaliskuuta 2018

Australian GP / Qualifying: Hamilton blew his opposition away by storming on pole!

Finally the long winter hibernation was over and it was time to start the engines again! What an awesome feeling it was to wake up in the morning, knowing that it was time for the season-opening qualifying! A large cup of dark-roasted coffee, coffee-flavoured ice-cream and Formula 1 action made my morning perfect again.

In Q1 everyone came out on the purple-marked ultrasoft tyres. Kimi at the wheel of his brand new SF71-H showed top form right from the beginning and went fastest on his first run. Teammate Sebastian hit the traffic on his first flyer, which prevented the German to match the Iceman´s lap time. However, with five minutes remaining in the clock, Mercedes´  Hamilton put together a superb lap and topped the timesheets, leaving Kimi over two tenths adrift. Renault proved to had taken a significant step forward in terms of performance, as Sainz made it as high as P6 on the closing stages of the first segment. Hamilton´s teammate Bottas was left in P8 in the opening session. Quite expectedly, out of Q2 were the Toro Rosso duo of Hartley and Gasly, the Sauber duo of Ericsson and Leclerc and Williams´ rookie Sergey Sirotkin.

Q2 saw different tyre strategies and tight battle in terms of the top three teams. The Red Bulls mixed it up in the second session, with Verstappen and Ricciardo the only two drivers opting to run the super softs in the session, giving them an alternative strategy as they will start the race on that tyre. Hamilton went fastest on his first flyer, leaving closest rival Kimi four tenths adrift. However, Sebastian seemed to have found the rhythm on his second attempt, and the German topped the timesheets! Hamilton was only a tenth down on the flying Ferrari ace, followed by his teammate Bottas. The Red Bull duo of Verstappen and home hero Ricciardo could easily make it into the decisive last segment, in spite of running the harder compound. Eye-catching was the fact, that the pink Force India´s performance had dramatically dropped from last year! Both Perez and Ocon were eliminated from Q3, alongside the McLaren duo of Alonso and Vandoorne and Williams´ Stroll.

You could really feel the tension and the excitement, as the final segment got underway. And what a dramatic turn the final session got! After starting his very first flyer, the rear-left tyre of Bottas´ W09 touched the grass on Turn 2 and the Finn lost control of his Mercedes, causing him to crash heavily into the wall! The session was red-flagged, and Bottas´ qualifying was over. What a frustrating moment for the Finn, who had had high hopes for the season-opening qualifying! It took some time to clear the vast amount of debris that had been scattered across the track. As the session resumed, there was electrifying battle between the top three teams. After the first runs Mercedes´ Hamilton, Ferrari´s Sebastian and Red Bull´s Verstappen were all separated by 61 thousandths of a second only! The shootout for pole couldn´t have been any more exciting!... Until Hamilton came out for his second attempt. The Briton blew his opposition away by improving his lap time by eight tenths! It was an absolute masterclass by Hamilton. A very well-deserved fifth successive pole position in Australia. Kimi´s top form continued through out the qualifying, and the Iceman made it on the front row, although over six tenths down on the pole-setter Hamilton. The battle between the red warriors was extremely tight, as Sebastian qualified third, only a hundredth of a second down on his teammate. So it was very strong performance from the red team indeed! Verstappen and Ricciardo qualified 4th and 5th, but the Australian has been handed a 3-place grid penalty for a speeding offence in practice. This will drop him to eighth in the race starting order, handing Magnussen Haas´s best-ever grid slot in fifth. Magnussen´s teammate Grosjean will start alongside his teammate on the third row. It still remains to be seen, whether Bottas´  W09 needs a gear-box change, which would cause a grid penalty. It really was mixed fortunes for the Silver Arrows in qualifying today!

Statistically pole position doesn´t play as major a role in Melbourne as it plays on some other venues. Although Mercedes´ (Hamilton´s) qualifying pace was in a class of their own, the race pace of the three top teams should be more evenly matched. Kimi and Sebastian have every chance to challenge Hamilton for victory, if not a 1-2! It´s interesting to see, whether Verstappen´s different tyre strategy will help the Dutchman to gain positions in the race. If there is rain in the race, it will definitely benefit the flying Dutchman and increase his chances to make it on the podium. No matter whether Bottas starts from P10 or further back on the grid, the Finn will have a huge challenge ahead of him. A mistake like today´s never looks good. But the fact is, that everyone makes mistakes at some point. The crucial thing is, how Bottas is able to turn a setback like this into success and not to let the mistake haunt him. Competing against a teammate like Lewis Hamilton easily makes you try too much, which leads into making mistakes. Looking forward to an intense race, hopefully coloured in red!

lauantai 24. helmikuuta 2018

Bring Your Passion to Maranello!

In February 2018 Ferrari announced a contest named Bring Your Passion to Maranello. Ferrari fans all over the world were asked to film a short video, which would express the passion for Ferrari with a special talent. Something about the video also had to give a hint, which country the fan was from. The minute I saw this contest on social media, I knew I had to take part in it! Passion for Ferrari sounded like "my thing", although making videos necessarily didn´t. As a crazy Finn I got the idea to film my video by a frozen lake and go swimming in the icy water in the middle of the cold Finnish winter! The prize of the contest was absolutely breath-taking: the makers of the 15 most original and creative videos were to fly to Maranello Italy and take part in the unveiling of the 2018 Ferrari F1 car! To my surprise I ended up being the only participant from Finland.

On Friday, February 16, I was at hospital with my youngest son, who was recovering from a big operation on his leg. I was packing our things, as we were heading home after spending nine days at the hospital. Suddenly my cell phone started to ring and I saw a foreign number and the text "Bologna" on the screen. My heart started to pound immediately. I couldn´t believe my ears, when I heard that I had been picked as one of the contest winners and I was to fly to Maranello already on the following week! I got so carried away with excitement and happiness that it was extremely difficult to get my things packed before our taxi arrived to pick us up!

I guess my face tells all about my feelings!
I flew to Bologna via Frankfurt on Wednesday, February 21st. I was picked up at the Bologna airport along with a British Ferrari fan Ikenna Anugwom. It was about 45-minute drive from the airport to Maranello. It felt absolutely unbelievable to arrive in the legendary Maranello, the home of the Ferrari history!

In addition to me and the British Ikenna, our group of the contest winners included fans from Italy, Russia, Lithuania, Austria, France, Venezuela, Greece, San Marino, Spain and Indonesia. We had a memorable welcoming event at the Ferrari Store, which was quite a paradise for the passionate Ferrari fans like us!

On Wednesday evening we had dinner at Ristorante Montana, which is a truly legendary restaurant in Maranello. And what a dinner it was! The food was delicious and it was really nice to get to know Ferrari fans from all over the world. But I have to say it was a bit difficult to concentrate on eating, as there were people like Kimi Räikkönen, Sebastian Vettel and Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene walking around us! It was an utterly amazing dinner indeed!

On Thursday morning I bumped into the Ferrari reserve driver Daniil Kvyat at the hotel lobby. For the first thing in the morning, we headed to the Ferrari museum. It was thrilling to learn about the history of the legendary Ferrari and to see all the amazing cars from different decades. We also got a chance to try the Ferrari simulator. It was a lot of fun, although I have no skills in terms of any video games! Crashing out in high speed at the Monza track felt like it would have happened in real life! Gosh, I was feeling hot and my arms were hurting after only a few laps in the simulator!

We also had a pit stop challenge at the museum. It was really exciting to try to make the pit stop as fast as possible. I have to admit I wouldn´t make a very good pit crew member, as it took 9 seconds from us to change the one tyre, hahaha! What another memorable experience, giving an inside glimpse into the Formula 1 world!

On Thursday we had lunch at another legendary restaurant, Ristorante Il Cavallino. Before eating here, I didn´t even know, that there was specific Ferrari wine! Usually I don´t drink red wine, but this one had to be tasted just because of the logo on the wine bottle!

The unveiling of the brand new, shining SF71H was a breath-taking event. I felt so grateful, honoured and privileged to be there and see the 2018 Ferrari challenger live among the very first people! My emotions were running so high, that my legs were shaking, when I sat and waited for the event to get underway. SF71H looked absolutely stunning with the shining red colour! After the official event I had a chance to talk to Sebastian shortly. I had hoped to get a photo with Kimi as well, but this time it didn´t work out. But I don´t complain; it will be my mission in the future, hahaha!

I made friends with Sheena, who had come all the way from Indonesia!

Giacomo (Italy), Igor (Russia), Nikos (Greece), Joaquin (Spain), Pascal (France), Karam (Austria), Omar (San Marino), Simas (Lithuania), Ikenna (UK), Lorenzo (Italy), Stefano (Italy), me (Finland), Laura (Italy), Sheena (Indonesia) and Omar (Venezuela). All passionate Ferrari fans!                                                                                                                                  

I have no words to describe how I feel about the trip. It was definitely once-in-a-lifetime experience! I´m forever grateful, that I got this chance. Maranello was a true paradise for our group of Ferrari fans! The passion for Ferrari could be sensed in every conversation; it was so awesome to meet like-minded people representing different cultures. In addition to the passion for Ferrari, we all had another thing in common, too: deep appreciation and gratitude for the two fairy-tale like days we had just had!