Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

maanantai 23. lokakuuta 2017

US GP: Not even the perfect start helped Sebastian to beat Hamilton!

The show built around the US GP was absolutely amazing. Many celebrities had joined the paddock, such as the former president Bill Clinton and the 8-time Olympic medalist, Usain Bolt. The driver presentation made by the legendary Michael Buffer was an impressive part of the staggering show. The sun was shining and there was huge excitement in the air.

The start uphill into Turn 1 was absolutely thrilling. Sebastian took a perfect start and managed to get past title rival Hamilton going into Turn 1. What a promising start! I was so happy to see Sebastian snatch the lead from Hamilton. Bottas in the second Mercedes managed to keep his 3rd place, but Kimi lost his 5th place to Force India´s Ocon. Ricciardo in his RB13 was putting serious pressure on Bottas, and an overtaking move seemed to be only a matter of time. However, the Finn was stubborn to keep his 3rd place, doing everything he could to defend it. Bottas´ compatriot Kimi was doing a fantastic job as well, as the Iceman made a move on Ocon and snatched the 5th place back already on the second lap of the race.

Unfortunately Sebastian wasn´t able to pull away from Hamilton. Instead, the Briton banged fastest lap times, and on lap 5 he was already within DRS distance from the German. Sebastian seemed to be struggling with the tyres. On lap 6 Hamilton made his move at the back straight and made it past Sebastian; it was almost an easy-looking move, which I found quite surprising. After losing the lead to Hamilton, Sebastian was unable to match the Briton´s pace.

By lap 10 Red Bull´s Verstappen, who had started the race on the red-marked supersoft Pirellis, had made his way from P16 up to P6 already. The flying Dutchman was literally flying! What a phenomenal overtaking show this young Red Bull ace put up! Teammate Ricciardo was the first top driver to pit on lap 12. The Australian switched to the red-marked supersoft rubber and re-joined the track in P6. But this time it was Ricciardo, who was hit with a technical failure. On lap 16 the Australian suffered a sudden engine failure and his race was over.

By lap 20 both Mercedes and Ferrari had called their drivers in for their first pit stops; they all opted for the yellow-marked soft rubber. Verstappen at the wheel of his RB13 was now leading the race. However, Hamilton was right at the Dutchman´s tail and on the fresh tyres it was quite an easy task to overtake Verstappen. After getting overtaken he came in on lap 26, re-joining the track in P5. Meanwhile, Kimi was closing the gap to his fellow countryman Bottas.

Verstappen had an aggressive pit stop strategy, and the flying Dutchman pitted for the second time on lap 38. He re-joined the track in P5, having lost no positions due to his second pit stop. Ferrari reacted right away and called Sebastian in on the following lap. The German re-joined the track in P4 behind his teammate, who had closed the gap to Bottas. It was going to be an intense battle between the Finns! At the finish straight on lap 42 the inevitable happened; Bottas had no chance to defend his position on the dying tyres; the Iceman attacked and moved past his compatriot. What an excellent move from the Iceman! He was driving a superb race indeed.

With five laps to go, Sebastian was lurking right at Bottas´ tail. Mercedes´ one-stop strategy seemed to be a costly call for Bottas, who had absolutely no chance to keep the determined German behind him. It was an exciting overtaking move indeed, as having moved past Bottas into Turn 1, Sebastian also made a close move on McLaren´s Vandoorne, who got lapped by Sebastian. It was a classy move from Sebastian! Kimi was only a couple of seconds ahead of his teammate, so it was only a matter of time, until Kimi was asked to give way to his teammate. The Ferrari teammates switched positions already on the following lap. Meanwhile, also Verstappen had stormed past Bottas, who was struggling badly on his out-worn tyres. The Finn pitted for the second time only three laps before the chequered flag, as there was no threat coming from behind.

The final lap was utterly hair-raising. Storming Verstappen had closed the gap to Kimi and was already within DRS distance from the Iceman. The flying Dutchman was passionate about getting on the podium and was determined to attack the Finn before the chequered flag. And in the final corners it happened! Max drove to the inside of Kimi and made it past! What a bitter-looking moment for Kimi indeed! Max had driven a sensational race; what an entertaining final lap! But as Verstappen prepared for the podium ceremony, it was announced, that Max had been given a 5-second time penalty for gaining advantage by leaving the track when overtaking Kimi! This meant, that Max lost his third place to Kimi! It was an awkward-looking moment in the pre-podium room, as Kimi was brought in and Max was brought out... What a drama!

By winning the US GP Hamilton extended his championship lead into 66 points in the drivers´ championship standings. It means, that winning the championship is still mathematically possible for Sebastian, yet again extremely unlikely and against all odds. However, it was very heart-warming to see both red-suited Ferrari aces on the podium. In spite of losing the third place, I was happy for Max, too. That guy definitely knows, how to put up an entertaining show! It was a bit surprising how Hamilton´s one-stop strategy worked in a perfect way, whereas Bottas had to settle for disappointing P5 as a similar strategy didn't work for him. Ocon made it a superb P6 for Force India, and Sainz had a strong debut for Renault by finishing 7th. Force India´s Perez, Williams´ Massa and Toro Rosso´s Kvyat rounded out the top ten. And by the way, Mercedes has now officially secured their fourth consecutive constructors' championship, which came as no surprise.

What do I think about Max´s penalty? The rules in F1 always seem to cause a lot of talks. On one hand, it was allowed for the drivers to exceed the track limits, even though the drivers gained advantage when doing so. But on the other hand, it´s a different thing when overtaking is at hand. As far as I understand, the drivers aren´t allowed to leave the track and gain advantage when overtaking. For sure Max´s overtaking move offered a great show, and giving a penalty right after the chequered flag is just the opposite. But no matter the penalty, it doesn´t take anything away from Max´s absolutely outstanding performance in the race, storming from P16 up to P4!

sunnuntai 22. lokakuuta 2017

US GP / Qualifying: 11th pole of the season for unstoppable Hamilton!

It was midnight in Finland, as the qualifying got underway at the Circuit of the Americas. After the Japanese GP my family has been hit with a serious health issue regarding my youngest son, so it has been extremely hard to concentrate on anything else, including Formula 1. I have stayed awake at nights, so I felt extremely tired, as the qualifying started. But of course I wanted to see, how my favourites Sebastian and Kimi were going to perform on the Texan soil.

In Q1 both Mercedes and Ferrari came out on the supersoft Pirellis, whereas the rest opted for the softest compound. For the US GP weekend the ultra soft compound has been exceptionally pink-marked to spread the breast cancer awareness. In spite of the tyre choice, Hamilton went fastest in the first session. Red Bull´s Verstappen was second on the ultra soft Pirellis. Bottas was third and the Ferrari duo of Sebastian and Kimi fourth and sixth, both on the harder tyre compound. Carlos Sainz, who had switched from Toro Rosso to Renault after the Japanese GP, had an excellent debut for the new team. The Spaniard had beaten his teammate in two free practice sessions, and on his last run in Q1 he jumped fifth. Pierre Gasly (who had other duties in Japan) had been replaced by Brendon Hartley at Toro Rosso, and for a moment it seemed, as if the New Zealander was going to make it through to Q2. However, in the dying moments of Q1 he dropped from 15th to 18th. Hartley has also been given a 15-place grid penalty for using additional power unit elements. In addition to the Toro Rosso rookie, out of Q2 were the Sauber duo of Ericsson and Wehrlein and Haas´ Magnussen. Stewards penalised Magnussen with a 3-place grid drop for impeding Perez after Haas mistakenly told him that the Force India behind was not on a fast lap. Williams´ Stroll was given the same penalty for impeding Haas´ Grosjean.

In Q2 responsible for the only exception in terms of the tyre choice was Red Bull´s Verstappen, who opted for the red-marked supersoft tyres. The Dutchman had been handed a 15-place grid penalty for the use of additional power unit elements, which explained the Red Bull ace´s tyre decision. Once again it was Hamilton, who set the pace. Teammate Bottas made Mercedes´ performance look extremely strong, as the Finn was second, only two tenths down on his teammate. Sebastian was struggling with getting into the rhythm; in spite of being fourth fastest, he was already massive eight tenths down on pace-setter Hamilton. Kimi showed strong performance, edging his teammate in the second session. In the closing stages of Q2 drivers went up and down the order, but when the music stopped it was Williams´ Massa who had the 11th chair and was the first faller in Q2. Eliminated from the last session were also Toro Rosso´s Kvyat, McLaren´s Vandoorne, Haas´ Grosjean and Renault´s Hulkenberg, who didn´t record a lap time, saving his engine for the race. The German had also been given a 20-place grid penalty for using additional power unit elements. Also Vandoorne has a 5-place grid penalty for the same reason.

Hammer time continued in the last segment. The Briton took provisional pole by over four tenths to his teammate Bottas, who had set the fastest time on sector one but dropped back on the other two. After the first runs Kimi was third and Sebastian fourth. Red Bull seemed unable to match Mercedes´ and Ferrari´s pace, as Verstappen and Ricciardo were almost a second down on pace-setting Hamilton. Sebastian was the big improver on the second runs, as the German jumped second, being only 0.239s down on Hamilton, who was unable to improve his lap time on his last flyer. Bottas, too was unable to improve, which meant losing his front row grid slot to Sebastian. Ricciardo and Kimi set identical lap times for Red Bull and Ferrari respectively, the Australian claiming P4 and the Iceman P5. Verstappen qualified 6th but will drop down to the back of the pack due to his grid penalty. Force India´s Ocon yet again showed his class by qualifying 7th ahead of Sainz, who was delighted to place 8th on his Renault debut. McLaren´s Alonso qualified 9th ahead of Perez in the second pink car.

So it was the 72nd career pole for Hamilton, his 11th this season and 3rd in a row. It´s quite an impressive statistics, but I was extremely happy to see Sebastian putting his Ferrari second on the grid. As there isn´t a realistic chance for Sebastian to win the world championship this year, I just hope to see a magnificent race from him. No expectations this time. Hopefully he has a lot of fun on track, which converts into a strong result. That I hope for the Iceman, too.

sunnuntai 8. lokakuuta 2017

Japanese GP: Broken spark plug broke my heart!

I write this blog post utterly heartbroken. There was so much to be expected from the race after yesterday´s qualifying, but the reality showed its ugly face today. I feel out of words due to pure sadness.

Dark clouds started to build up over Ferrari already before the start. Sebastian reported about a spark plug issue already on the installation lap. The Ferrari mechanics did everything they could to fix the problem before the start -and it seemed, that they had succeeded in their work. But it was so hectic with fixing the car, that Sebastian missed the Japanese national anthem, which all drivers were obliged to attend.

As Sebastian was able to start from P2, I was confident, that the spark plug issue had been successfully fixed. The lights went out, and pole-setter Hamilton maintained his lead. Sebastian held on to his second place, although Verstappen had made his way past teammate Ricciardo, and the flying Dutchman was aggressively lurking right behind Sebastian. And soon Max made his move and overtook Sebastian, moving second. Meanwhile, Kimi had a battle of his own. The Iceman had taken a mediocre start from P10, and Renault´s Hulkenberg was challenging the Finn on the opening lap. Kimi ended up wide, going off track. He lost many positions and dropped down to P14. Ferrari´s setbacks seemed to continue.

Sebastian was in serious trouble on the main straight, as both Red Bulls and Force India´s Ocon flied past Sebastian in a heartbeat! Poor German was lacking power, which clearly indicated, that the spark plug issue hadn´t been successfully fixed! Sebastian had dropped down to P6. Meanwhile Toro Rosso´s Sainz had lost control of his car and crashed into the tyre wall, which caused safety car to come out.

The race was back on after a couple of laps. Mercedes´ Bottas had it easy to make his way past Sebastian, whose race had turned into the worst nightmare. On lap 4 Sebastian was called in to retire the car. I was devastated! I couldn´t believe, that a reliability issue was going to make Sebastian lose the world championship! I wanted someone to pinch me, that I would wake up from this horrible nightmare! It was absolutely unacceptable, that once again a reliability issue had ruined Sebastian´s race!

Luckily Kimi put up a staggering overtaking show. On lap 8 Sauber´s Ericsson crashed into the wall, nose first. Virtual safety car was deployed. As soon as the VSC ended, Kimi attacked Renault´s Hulkenberg, moving 8th. Meanwhile, both Ricciardo and Bottas managed to get past Force India´s Ocon, who had had an excellent start to the race. Kimi´s overtaking streak continued, as the Iceman first made a move on his ex-teammate Massa and then another move on Force India´s Perez, jumping already 7th in the race.

By lap 26 race leader Hamilton and both Red Bulls had pitted for a fresh set of soft Pirellis. Bottas, who had started the race on the more durable soft rubber, was now leading the race. Hamilton was right at his teammate´s tail, and Verstappen was putting serious pressure on the Briton. Mercedes made a tactical call, and Bottas let his teammate past, trying to slow down Verstappen. Kimi pitted on lap 29 -for a fresh set of super soft Pirellis. He re-joined the track in P6, just barely ahead of Force India´s Ocon. Compatriot Bottas pitted a couple of laps later -for a similar tyre choice.

After the pit stops there was only a 2.5-second gap between Hamilton and Verstappen, but otherwise the gaps between the top five were quite big. Ricciardo in P3 was already 10 seconds down on his teammate and Bottas was another 10 seconds behind Ricciardo. Kimi was already 15 seconds down on his fellow countryman.

On lap 47 Williams´ Stroll was hit with a sudden front-right puncture, which caused him to go off track. Losing control of his FW38 due to the puncture almost made him hit Ricciardo´s RB13, but luckily the contact was narrowly avoided. Once again virtual safety car was deployed. With four laps to go, the race was back on. The battle for victory and other podium places intensified on the closing laps. Verstappen had made it within DRS distance from Hamilton, and Bottas had closed the gap to Ricciardo. However, hitting traffic on the final lap prevented Verstappen from attacking Hamilton. Both Alonso in his McLaren and Massa in his Williams ignored the blue flags and made it difficult for the top two to get past. After the race Alonso was reprimanded and handed two penalty points for ignoring the blue flags.

Hamilton took his 61st career win, extending his lead into crushing 59 points in the championship standings! Verstappen continued his fantastic podium streak by finishing the runner-up. I was so happy for Max, whose driving was absolutely phenomenal. Teammate Ricciardo completed the podium; it´s already the Aussie´s 9th podium this year. The Finns finished fourth and fifth, Bottas having the upper hand on his compatriot. Ocon and Perez scored P6 and P7 for the pink team. Haas duo of Magnussen and Grosjean made an excellent job by finishing 8th and 9th. Williams´ Massa rounded out the top ten.

The cruel mathematics says, that Hamilton will secure the world championship in Austin, Texas, if he scores 16 points more than Sebastian. This means, that winning the world championship is no longer in Sebastian´s own hands. I can only imagine, what is going through Sebastian´s mind at the moment. I feel his disappointment, and I find it only understandable, that he escaped the post-race interviews. This must be a truly bitter and crushing moment for Sebastian to realise, that without a pure miracle, he won´t win the world title this year. Ferrari has built a truly outstanding and competitive car, which has performed fantastically. Nevertheless, reliability has been the Achilles heel in terms of the red car, especially after the summer break. But losing the championship doesn´t only come down to the team, but to Sebastian himself. He has made mistakes, which have cost him an awful lot of points. But this is not the time to point fingers at anyone or look for who is guilty. Now it´s time for the team (Sebastian included) to put their heads down, wrap their sleeves and continue the hard work.

I always thought, that the season 2010 has been the most difficult time in Sebastian´s Formula 1 career. I was surprised to be wrong about that! The most difficult moment so far has been the Brazilian GP 2009, when Sebastian lost his chances to win the world championship that year. The current situation reminds of that year. During the Red Bull years, since 2010, Sebastian has always been the driver to win the championship, not to lose it. I definitely feel his pain! After the race I went to the shower to cry (so that nobody would see it...)! I´ll turn 40 next week, and I know that this isn´t the kind of behaviour expected from a 40-year old woman, but I live Formula 1 with all my heart! And it hurts so much to see Sebastian out of the title race!

lauantai 7. lokakuuta 2017

Japanese GP / Qualifying: Untouchable Hamilton earned his first-ever Suzuka pole!

The Malaysian GP weekend had already been dramatic for Ferrari, and coming to Japan, the drama seemed to continue. Kimi had lost control of his SF70-H and crashed out in FP3, which had caused quite a massive damage to his Ferrari. Before the qualifying it was still uncertain, whether the team would be able to fix the car in time for the qualifying. In addition to that, the shunt had caused damage to the gearbox as well, which meant an unscheduled gearbox change and a 5-place grid penalty for the race!

Both Hamilton and Sebastian came out on the yellow-marked soft tyres, whereas the rest had super softs. Mercedes´ Bottas had a true moment of scare on his first run, as the Finn hugely lucky got away with a massive slide into the dirt in Degner 2. Against all odds, Ferrari had managed to fix Kimi´s car, and the Iceman was released from the pits with 11 minutes remaining. Hamilton had set the pace in spite of the harder rubber, but Kimi set an excellent lap time, jumping second. Verstappen in his RB13 was third, so the pecking order seemed extremely interesting. Q1 came to an explosive end, as Grosjean lost control of his Haas after putting a wheel over the kerb. The session was red-flagged. With 1m 18s remaining, the session was not restarted. The unlucky Grosjean was the first faller in the first session, followed by Toro Rosso´s Gasly, Williams´ Stroll and the Sauber duo of Ericsson and Wehrlein.

Q2 saw different tyre strategies as well. The Finns were using the soft Pirelli tyres, whereas everyone else opted for the red-marked super soft compound. Kimi´s and Valtteri´s tyre choice made sense, as both Finns had been given a 5-place grid penalty for gearbox changes. Hamilton underlined Mercedes´ dramatic return to top form in Suzuka, as the world championship points leader edged Sebastian by over six tenths of a second! Bottas went third fastest, and Kimi was sixth. Kimi´s lap time proved competitive enough, and the Iceman decided to sit out the second runs. So did the Red Bull duo of Verstappen and Ricciardo. In spite of the second runs, the top six remained unchanged. McLaren´s Alonso was the last driver to make it among the top ten, which made his teammate Vandoorne the first faller in Q2. Out of Q3 were also the Renaults of Hulkenberg and Palmer, Haas´ Magnussen and Toro Rosso´s Sainz.

In the decisive last session Hamilton stamped his authority all over the place. The Briton took provisional pole by crushing 4.5 tenths to title rival Sebastian. Hamilton´s pace was absolutely mind blowing; I knew that pole was out of everyone else´s reach. After the first runs, teammate Bottas was third, Ricciardo fourth and teammate Verstappen fifth. However, Ricciardo was already a second down on Hamilton! Kimi made a mistake on his first attempt, going wide, which ruined the Finn´s first attempt. Hamilton even improved his lap time by a couple of hundredths on his second run, earning his very first pole in Suzuka. Bottas improved his lap time on his second flyer as well, which made the Finn jump second. Sebastian did everything he could on his second flyer, but P3 was the maximum result today. Ricciardo was the faster Red Bull driver today, qualifying fourth. Verstappen was fifth, and Kimi had to settle for P6. Kimi was already massive 1.1s down on pole-setter Hamilton. The fourth row was locked down by the pinks, Ocon edging teammate Perez this time. Williams´ Massa qualified 9th, and McLaren´s Alonso completed the top ten.

However, various grid penalties will mix up the provisional starting order. In summary, penalised for using additional power unit components are Toro Rosso´s Sainz (20 grid places), McLaren´s Alonso (35) and Renault´s Palmer (20). The Finns, meanwhile, get 5-place drops for above-mentioned gearbox changes. This means, that Bottas will start to the race from P6 and Kimi from P10. Sebastian, on the other hand, will start to the race on the front row alongside Hamilton. Suzuka is known to be a difficult circuit to overtake, which underlines the importance of a great start. Sebastian really needs to deliver tomorrow and finish the race ahead of Hamilton! It´s very interesting to see, what kind of a role the tyre strategy will play tomorrow. I definitely hope, that Ferrari´s fortunes will turn around, and both red-suited aces will make it on the podium! Forza Ferrari!

sunnuntai 1. lokakuuta 2017

Malaysia GP: Kimi out, Sebastian from P19 to P4!

All Kimi had hoped for the Malaysia GP was, that he would make more than 100 meters in the race this time. To Kimi´s crushing disappointment his hopes weren´t answered! Kimi´s problems started already on the installation lap, as the Iceman reported on the team radio about loss of power. The Ferrari mechanics pushed the car into the garage and made everything they could to get Kimi in the race from the pits. But there was nothing the team could do; Kimi was out of the race before it had actually started! What a catastrophic turn after Sebastian´s difficulties already in the qualifying! Once again Hamilton had one contender out of his way...

The start was electrifying. Hamilton held on to his lead, with Verstappen right at his tail. Bottas took a superb start and made it past Red Bull´s Ricciardo, moving third. McLaren´s Vandoorne took a magnificent start from P7, jumping up to P5. At the end of the opening lap Sebastian had already made his way up to P13! There was clearly a lion unleashed! Sebastian had started to the race on the more durable soft rubber, which was possibly giving him an advantage at the end of the race.

Red Bull´s race pace was absolutely convincing. It was only a matter of time for Verstappen to challenge Hamilton for the lead. Max made his move on lap 4 and attacked Hamilton, snatching the lead from the Briton. Hamilton clearly decided to play it safe and didn´t defend his position too aggressively; he needed the points to strengthen his lead in the championship standings. After snatching the lead, Max started to pull away from the Mercedes ace consistently. Ricciardo was putting serious pressure on Bottas, who couldn´t anything but surrender to the "Smiling Avenger" on lap 9. By this time Sebastian had already made his way through the field up to P10 after overtaking Alonso in his McLaren.

On lap 21 Sebastian made a classy overtaking move on Perez´s pink Force India, jumping fifth already. The next target was Bottas in P4. Ferrari´s pace was much more competitive than Mercedes´ and Sebastian was closing the gap to the Finn extremely rapidly. Hamilton was the first top driver to pit on lap 27 -for a fresh set of soft tyres. In spite of the pit stop, the Briton re-joined the track ahead of Bottas and Sebastian. Verstappen pitted from the lead on the following lap -for a similar tyre choice. Surprisingly, also Sebastian pitted, in spite of starting the race on the more durable rubber. Sebastian switched to the super soft compound, which made him extremely fast on his second stint. Sebastian benefitted from the undercut, as Bottas pitted a lap later, snatching the fourth place from the Finn.

After the pit stops the situation in the lead had stabilised. Verstappen was leading the race, with Hamilton second, Ricciardo third and Sebastian fourth. Sebastian was absolutely flying on his fresh set of super soft tyres. He kept banging fastest lap times, being 1.5s faster than Ricciardo. It was only a matter of time, until the "fighting lion" would catch the escaping Australian. With ten laps to go, Sebastian had closed the gap to his ex teammate. The German was already within DRS distance from the Red Bull driver. However, setting lap record lap after lap had destroyed Sebastian´s tyres, and overtaking was everything but easy. Sebastian managed to make one attack going into Turn 1, but after that the overheating of the front tyres forced him to withdraw from the fight.

Max took his second career win, which was well deserved after all the difficulties during this season. I was very happy for Max, who got the best possible present for his 20th birthday. His driving was very enjoyable to watch. Hamilton made it the runner-up, extending his lead into 34 points in the championship standings. Ricciardo held on to his third place and completed the podium. Sebastian just barely missed the podium, but what a drive from the gutsy German! With that kind of fighting spirit and attitude he will definitely be fighting for the world championship! That was the driving, that makes me admire Sebastian so much! Bottas had to settle for P5 after a lame performance. Perez finished 6th for Force India, Vandoorne finished excellent 7th for McLaren, the Williams duo of Stroll and Massa finished 8th and 9th, and Ocon scored the last point for the pink team.

But what a bizarre episode took place after crossing the finish line! Sebastian decided to go in the outside of Stroll, to pick up the rubber on his tyres. Suddenly the Canadian decided to do the same, which made Stroll hit Sebastian´s SF70-H! In spite of the low speed there was massive damage on Sebastian´s Ferrari; poor Gina turned into a three-wheel wreck! Sauber´s Wehrlein stopped on the track and gave Sebastian a lift to the pits, although it isn´t allowed by the rules. After the race Sebastian commented the incident with a sense humour, but I just hope the damage won´t mean a gear box change or something else, which would cause a grid penalty for Japan!

Sebastian seriously proved his fighting spirit today. He showed that anything is possible, as long as you believe in it. I can´t wait for the Japanese GP, which is just around the corner! Bring it on!

lauantai 30. syyskuuta 2017

Malaysia GP / Qualifying: A turbocharger failure destroyed Sebastian´s qualifying!

For round 15 the Formula 1 circus moved to Malaysia, which will no longer host a GP weekend from next year on. Coming to the 19th Malaysia GP, the breaking news was that Pierre Gasly was to replace Daniil Kvyat at the wheel of Toro Rosso.

In Q1 both Mercedes and Ferrari came out on the yellow-marked soft tyres, as well as Red Bull´s Verstappen. All others opted for the red-marked super soft compound. There was a major shock in Q1 when Sebastian, having had an engine change after his problems at the end of the final practice, reported that he was limping into the pits. It seemed that his turbocharger had gone awol. What a moment of despair it was! His crew made everything they could to ready him for a desperate last-moment run, but it came to nothing. Sebastian was unable to set a lap time, and he was cruelly and inevitably out of Q2! It was so sad! I wanted to cry my eyes out.

Hamilton, Verstappen, Bottas and Räikkönen were topping the timesheets in spite of using the harder rubber. Other notable Q1 moments were rookie Gasly impressively in the eighth place ahead of Renault´s Palmer, and even quicker than his Toro Rosso teammate Sainz. What a convincing debut from the Frenchman! Out of Q2 were the Haas teammates of Grosjean and Magnussen and the Sauber duo of Wehrlein and Ericsson, in addition to the unlucky Ferrari ace Sebastian.

Q2 saw everyone come out on the super soft Pirellis. Kimi went fastest on his first run, edging the birthday boy Verstappen by only five thousandths of a second. The Silver Arrows of Hamilton and Bottas were third and fourth. Both Kimi and Verstappen decided to sit out the second runs, as they obviously had no need to improve their lap times. The Finnish Mercedes pilot Bottas jumped up to the top on his second run at the end of the second session. Eliminated from the last session were both Williams drivers, Renault´s Palmer and both Toro Rosso pilots. This time Sainz led Gasly, but only by marginal 0.15s.

In the last decisive session Hamilton took provisional pole by 0.2s to Ferrari´s Räikkönen. Mercedes had been struggling with their pace in the free practice sessions, so it was a bit surprising to see such a strong performance from Hamilton in the qualifying. After the first runs Kimi was followed by the Red Bull duo of Ricciardo and Verstappen and Mercedes´ Bottas, the Finn being massive eight tenths down on his teammate. Mercedes had brought a new aero package to Malaysia, and Bottas had decided to use it on his car, whereas teammate Hamilton had decided to use the older specification. Verstappen improved his lap time on his last flyer, jumping up to third. Kimi showed Ferrari´s excellent pace at Sepang, the Iceman even setting the fastest time on sector 2. Such a shame, that Kimi had a little lock-up coming into the last corner, and the Iceman was only 45 thousandths of a second down on pace-setter Hamilton! Without the small lock-up, the pole would have been for Kimi to grab! Ricciardo qualified fourth, followed by Bottas, who was already six tenths down on his teammate. Force India´s Ocon, McLaren´s Vandoorne, Renault´s Hulkenberg, Force India´s Perez and McLaren´s Alonso rounded out the top ten. Kimi´s stunning performance made me happy, although I was so sad for Sebastian´s unfortunate qualifying-ending technical failure.

Due to the catastrophic first-lap collision in Singapore, Sebastian is already 28 points down on Hamilton in the championship standings. Today´s technical failure in the qualifying certainly doesn´t make Sebastian´s battle for the championship any easier. The German will start from the very back of the grid... No one has ever won the Malaysia GP outside the top ten! But history is there to be changed! Many people seem to believe that Sebastian´s fight for the championship is already over. Not me! No one knows, what will happen in tomorrow´s race and in the other remaining races. Hamilton has succeeded in everything he has done after the summer break, but every winning streak will come to an end at some point. Sebastian certainly can´t afford any mistakes, but he has a winning car and a lot of will power. Many people say that it requires a miracle, that Sebastian could win the championship. But I believe in this saying "It always seems impossible... Until it´s done!"  The fight for the championship is not over yet!

sunnuntai 17. syyskuuta 2017

Singapore GP: A heart-stopping start ruined Ferrari´s race!

What a race the Singapore GP turned out! And not in a positive way! Not at all! I have absolutely no words for my emotions right now!

It started to rain about half an hour before the start. The sky was covered with black clouds and there were flashes of lightning. The top three teams all opted for the green-marked intermediate tyres, whereas Renault and Force India for example opted for the full-wet Pirellis. I knew the start was going to be extremely crucial and exciting.

My heart almost stopped beating, when the lights went out! Sebastian only took an average start, opposite to his closest rivals Verstappen and Kimi. Kimi took a magnificent start, the best of the top three. Sebastian knew Max was going to challenge him into Turn 1, and the German naturally decided to defend his position. But defending his line, Sebastian moved significantly to the left, which lead into contact between the top three. In spite of the contact Sebastian drove into Turn 1 in the lead, but due to the contact Kimi lost control of his SF70-H and ended up crashing into Verstappen and taking them both out of the race! Sebastian had significant damage in his car as well, as the cooler of his SF70-H had seriously damaged. In Turn 3, due to the damage, Sebastian lost control of his car and hit the wall. There was an absurd moment, when Sebastian was driving on reverse, trying to continue his race. But his race was inevitably over. This was the first time ever in Ferrari´s history, that both cars were out of the race due to a first-lap incident! I was absolutely shocked. I couldn´t believe, what had just happened. I was convinced I was having a nightmare! In a heartbeat all my three favourites were out of the race. And Hamilton had been given the greatest gift of all -the lead in the race!

Safety car was deployed due to the collision. Red Bull´s Ricciardo was second in the race and Renault´s Hulkenberg was third. Perez in his pink Force India was fourth and Bottas in his Mercedes was fifth. Who would have predicted that to happen, especially Hulkenberg in P3? On lap 5 the safety car came in, and the race was back on. The rain had stopped, but there was still spray coming from the cars, which made the visibility poor. The full-wets turned out to be the right tyre choice at the re-start, and Bottas lost his fifth position to Renault´s Palmer, who was driving an excellent race.

The second safety car episode took place on lap 11. Toro Rosso´s Kvyat lost control of his car in the slippery conditions and ended up in the barriers, nose first. As safety car came out, Ricciardo pitted for a fresh set of intermediate tyres. The Australian re-joined the track in P3, so he lost one position only. Both Force India and Renault reacted to Ricciardo´s pit stop, and Perez, Ocon, Hulkenberg and Palmer were all called in to the pits. A switch to the intermediate Pirellis was made for all of them. Both Hamilton and Bottas stayed out, and due to the rivals´ pit stops the Finn had already made it up to P3.

The second re-start took place on lap 15. Hamilton held on to his lead, with Ricciardo second and Bottas third. Haas´ Magnussen was the first driver to pit for slicks on lap 25. Four laps later Ricciardo and Bottas also pitted for the dry tyres; Ricciardo opted for the red-marked super soft tyres, whereas Bottas switched to the ultra soft compound. Race leader Hamilton pitted a lap later for a fresh set of ultra soft Pirellis, similar to his teammate.

By the halfway point of the race Hamilton had been able to build a 10-second gap to Ricciardo, and Bottas was already 16 seconds down on the Australian. But there was one more safety car episode to come! Sauber´s Ericsson crashed into the barrier on lap 38, and his car stopped dangerously on the track. So safety car was deployed for the third time! Meanwhile, Renault´s Hulkenberg, who had been driving a superb race in P4, was hit with an engine issue, which dropped the unlucky German down to P10. When there were 11 minutes left in the clock (all 61 laps couldn´t be completed), Hulkenberg had to retire. The German now has the questionable honour to hold the record of most GP starts without a podium, which is now 129 races.

Hamilton drove to the chequered flag as the race winner. Ricciardo finished second and Bottas third. Sainz scored his personal best by finishing fourth for Toro Rosso. Perez took fifth for the pink Force India, and Renault´s Palmer was impressive sixth. This result was a total knockout for Ferrari, which lost this round by 0-40 to Mercedes. Sebastian´s catastrophic first-lap collision lead into Hamilton´s 28-point lead in the drivers´ championship standings! Which feels so bitter. This could be a turning point in terms of Sebastian´s fight for the fifth championship... Not to mention Ferrari´s fight for the constructors´ championship. The Red Team is already 102 points down on Mercedes in the constructors´ standings!

Social media is now full of opinions, accusations and judgement on who was at fault in the first-lap collision. 90 per cent of people seem to think it was Sebastian´s fault. And it hurts so much to read all those comments! But nevertheless, I can´t help but to agree. He was entitled to defend his position -but not by any means necessary! His unpredicted move to the left caused the collision between the top three. So in that way I agree with Verstappen, who said that it wasn´t a racing incident. The collision would have been avoidable! I feel out of words, I am so disappointed! I can´t anything but hope, that this collision won´t cost Sebastian the world championship this year. If it does... I think I will cry my eyes out!

However, in spite of today´s disappointment, there are six more rounds to go. And I believe in Sebastian with all my heart. I know he has the potential to convert a setback like this into success. Malaysia will be the next chance to chase the much-needed victory! And victories or no victories, I will always support Sebastian!