Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

sunnuntai 30. heinäkuuta 2017

Hungarian GP: Amazing 1-2 for Ferrari despite Sebastian´s steering problems!

The race day turned out the hottest day of the GP weekend, the temperature being 30 degrees Celsius. When the lights went out, both Ferraris took an excellent start. Sebastian held on to his lead, with Kimi right behind his teammate. Verstappen took a stunning start from P5, and the flying Dutchman made his way past both Silver Arrows drivers. Also teammate Ricciardo managed to overtake Hamilton going into Turn 1. However, Turn 2 was a different story. Verstappen had gone wide in Turn 1, and teammate Ricciardo saw his opportunity to get past his teammate. The Australian was already slightly ahead of Max. However, Max was stubborn to hold on to his 3rd place and braked way too late into Turn 2. This caused a lock-up, and Max´s RB13 ended up crashing into the sister Red Bull of Ricciardo. The impact caused terminal damage to Ricciardo´s RB13, and the Australian was out of the race. Safety car was deployed. This was definitely the worst case scenario for the Red Bull teammates! It was a mistake from Max, who had been too passionate to defend his position by any means necessary. Some laps late the stewards handed him a 10-second time penalty for causing the collision.

Safety car came in on lap 5, and the race got underway again. The Ferrari duo´s pace seemed dominant, and the Silver Arrows were unable to match the red cars´ performance. However, soon after the re-start Sebastian started to suffer from steering problems, which seemed to get worse, as the race evolved. Hamilton, on the other hand, had problems with his team radio, which wasn´t working properly.

Bottas was the first top driver to pit for a fresh set of soft Pirellis. The Finn´s pit stop left a little to hope for, but it was good enough to keep the Finn ahead of his teammate Hamilton, who pitted a lap later. Ferrari reacted to Mercedes´ strategy, and they called Sebastian in on the very next lap. Kimi was leading the race, and the Iceman kept banging fastest lap times. There would still have been life left in Kimi´s tyres, but the Finn was called in shortly after Sebastian´s pit stop. Kimi re-joined the track right behind his teammate. Had Kimi stayed out a couple of laps longer, he would have benefitted from the overcut and got ahead of Sebastian.

Verstappen, who hadn´t pitted yet, was leading the race. Mercedes´ second stint on the yellow-marked soft rubber made the Silver Arrows utterly alive. Hamilton had rapidly closed the gap to teammate Bottas. It also seemed to be only a matter of time, when the Mercedes pilots were about to attack the Ferraris in the lead. Kimi was questioning on the team radio, whether Sebastian was driving on full throttle. Sebastian´s pace was affected significantly by the steering issues. He was told on the team radio to avoid kerbing, which made his driving very challenging indeed.

Verstappen pitted as late as lap 42. Due to his 10-second penalty, he re-joined the track in P5. With almost 30 laps to go, the top four -Sebastian, Kimi, Bottas and Hamilton- was separated by a few seconds only! As Hamilton clearly seemed to have more pace than his teammate Bottas, the team asked the Finn to let Hamilton through. If the Briton turned out unable to challenge the Ferraris, he would give the position back to Bottas. Valtteri proved to be a true team player and let Hamilton pass him. Immediately the Briton pulled away from his teammate and started hunting down the Ferraris.

Kimi was right at his teammate´s tail, the Iceman being clearly faster than Sebastian. Kimi kept asking on the team radio, whether this was the right strategy from the team, as Hamilton was closing frighteningly fast and started putting serious pressure on the Finn. But there were no team orders at Ferrari; Sebastian really needed the victory to extend his lead in the drivers´ championship standings!

Towards the closing laps of the race, there was hair-raising battle between Sebastian, Kimi and Hamilton, who were all within DRS distance from each other. But overtaking at Hungaroring was almost impossible, unless you made a big mistake. Verstappen had also closed the gap to Bottas, but not even the flying Dutchman was able to make an overtaking move this time. There were about five seconds separating the Mercedes teammates when starting the final lap, so I was very sceptical about Hamilton giving the position back to Bottas. But in the last sector of the very final lap the Briton clearly slowed down and let Bottas past going into start finish straight! This was a very sportsmanlike move from the triple world champion. So it was amazing 1-2 for the Italian-based team, and Bottas made it two Finns on the podium! Kimi has now been on the podium in Hungary for the massive eight times in his career! No wonder Kimi was voted as the Driver of the Day, which was very well deserved!

All in all, the team spirit varied a lot from team to team. Red Bull faced the catastrophy of the teammates colliding with each other. However, I was happy to see, that Max admitted his mistake after the race, which hasn´t always been the case. I´m sure he learned a lession today. In terms of Mercedes, I was impressed with their team effort today. I´m convinced this wouldn´t have worked out last year! Had Rosberg been asked to let Hamilton through, no way Nico would have obeyed the team order! It seems, that Finns are perfect teammates; where there´s a Finn in the team, there´s harmony inside the team! Ferrari, on the other hand, wanted to secure the maximum points for Sebastian, who really needs every point possible to extend his lead in the championship standings. Thanks to his victory, the margin to Hamilton is now 14 points.

I was so happy to see such a dominant Ferrari today. Both Sebastian and Kimi made me over the moon with their phenomenal 1-2! This was the perfect way to start the summer break of four weeks. Gosh, I´m going to miss Formula 1 action in the upcoming weeks! Sebastian and Kimi, have a fantastic summer holiday! Enjoy your time off, you have definitely deserved it! But before the summer break... Hope you have a heck of a party tonight!



lauantai 29. heinäkuuta 2017

Hungarian GP / Qualifying: Staggering front row lockout for Ferrari!

I knew the Hungaroring suited the red cars well, so I was quite confident in terms of qualifying. But I also knew that chief rivals Mercedes weren´t going to give up on pole without a fight. And what a qualifying it turned out!

Ferrari proved their performance already in Q1. Sebastian went fastest on the super soft tyres. Red Bull had also taken a step forward in terms of pace. Verstappen in his RB13 was only 22 thousandths of a second down on Sebastian, followed by Kimi in his SF70-H. Mercedes seemed to struggle a bit with their pace in the heat of Budapest. Eye-catching was the performance of Paul Di Resta, who was a last-minute replacement for Williams´ unwell Felipe Massa. Di Resta hadn´t been driving an F1 car since Brazil 2013; considering this it was impressive, that the Scot was only seven tenths down on his teammate Stroll. Unfortunately both of them were out of Q2, along with Haas´ Magnussen and the Sauber duo of Wehrlein and Ericsson.

Hamilton´s difficulties continued in the second session. The Briton went wide at Turn 4 on his first run. Sebastian, on the other hand, set a magical lap time on his first attempt. The German seemed to be on flames on the Hungarian soil. After a few not-so-successful races it was absolutely heart-warming to see such a strong and dominant Sebastian. Once again Verstappen was able to match Sebastian´s pace quite well, as the flying Dutchman was only two tenths down on the Ferrari ace. Both Ferrari and Red Bull drivers stayed in the garage at the end of the session, whilst the Mercedes teammates came out for the second run. Hamilton went fastest by a tenth of a second to Sebastian. Verstappen was third and Kimi fourth. McLaren had also made an improvement in terms of pace, as both Alonso and Vandoorne made it among the top ten. Toro Rosso´s Sainz took the last spot in Q3. This time the pinks didn´t make it in Q3. Along with Ocon and Perez eliminated were Renault´s Palmer, Toro Rosso´s Kvyat and Haas´ Grosjean.

Sebastian was absolutely untouchable in the last session. He set a blistering lap time -a new outright lap record for the Hungaroring! Bottas in his Mercedes was second, already over three tenths down on the storming Sebastian. Title rival Hamilton, who had been targeting a record-equalling 68th pole, abandoned his first attempt after sliding off the road at Turn 4. The Briton repeatedly complained about vibration on the team radio. Kimi, too, had a lock-up on his first run, and the Iceman was six tenths down on his teammate, ending up in modest P5 on his first run. Hamilton managed to improve his lap time on his second run -but he only made it in P3! Kimi underlined Ferrari´s dominance as he lapped just 0.168s slower than his teammate to complete the Italian team´s third front row lockout of the season! Without a small mistake in the middle sector Kimi could have challenged his teammate for pole. Bottas was the quicker of the two Silver Arrows drivers, lapping 0.2s slower than Sebastian. The Mercedes drivers had to settle for the second row this time. Verstappen was the quicker of the Red Bull teammates, who were never quite in the mix for pole. Once again Renault´s Hulkenberg was impressive seventh, followed by the McLaren duo of Alonso and Vandoorne. Toro Rosso´s Sainz rounded out the top ten.

After such a dominant qualifying, I don´t expect anything less than a 1-2 for Ferrari in tomorrow´s race! Sebastian really needs the victory to extend his lead in the championship standings, going into the summer break. Hopefully there won´t be any tyre issues this time... A clean start will be the key to a successful race. I really hope to see Sebastian standing on the top step of the podium! Accompanied by teammate Kimi and certain Max Verstappen please! ;)

sunnuntai 16. heinäkuuta 2017

British GP: 4th consecutive win on home soil for Hamilton!

The sky was grey, but conditions were dry, as the lights were about to go out at Silverstone. Due to the stoppage of Palmer´s Renault there had been another formation lap before the start. I was extremely worried about the conditions of Sebastian´s SF70-H, as there was smoke coming from the rear of his Ferrari. Verstappen, who was alongside him on the grid, reported on the team radio, that Sebastian´s brakes were on fire! Luckily everything seemed normal after the start. Hamilton and Kimi both got a superb start. Behind those two it was extremely tight between Sebastian and Red Bull´s Verstappen. The flying Dutchman had the upper hand in the end and managed to make it past the German. Bottas, who had started from P9, had gained two positions right away and was in P7. This time there was a first-lap incident between the Toro Rosso teammates Kvyat and Sainz. Fighting for positions, Kvyat hit the kerb and lost control of his car and ended up crashing into Sainz! The Spaniard was out of the race, but Kvyat was able to continue the race. Safety car was deployed. Later on in the race the Russian was given a drive-through penalty for re-joining the track unsafely after the incident.

After a couple of laps the safety car came in, and the race was back on. Bottas made it past Force India´s Ocon and jumped P6. Two laps later the Finn made a move on Renault´s Hulkenberg and passed the German in style. There was no doubt, that Valtteri was going to fight for a podium place. Things got heated between Verstappen and Sebastian. The Ferrari pilot seemed to be faster than the Red Bull ace, but Max is known as a driver, who can´t be overtaken easily. Sebastian made a move on the Hangar straight but Max wasn´t going to give up on his third place. A lap later Sebastian made another move, making his way ahead of the Dutchman. But Max drove absolutely fearlessly and was stubborn to defend his position by any means necessary. He went wide but re-joined the track ahead of Sebastian. What a breath-taking battle between my two favourites!

As there was no overtaking Verstappen, Ferrari called Sebastian in on lap 19. The pit stop was almost perfect, and Sebastian re-joined the track on soft Pirellis in P6. Red Bull reacted to Ferrari´s strategy right away and called Max in on the following lap. There was a small difficulty with attaching the rear-left tyre, and Max re-joined the track behind Sebastian. This was a genius strategy from Ferrari, as Sebastian benefitted from the undercut. Kimi had been able to match Hamilton´s pace surprisingly well, and the Iceman was doing excellent job. Kimi pitted on lap 25, also for a fresh set of soft tyres. Kimi re-joined the track ahead of teammate Sebastian.

Mercedes reacted immediately and took Hamilton in. Teammate Bottas, who had started to the race on the soft compound, pitted not until on lap 32. His last stint was looking competitive, as he opted for the red-marked super soft tyres. Bottas re-joined the track in P4. Hamilton was leading the race with a clear margin, Kimi was second and Sebastian third. There were about five seconds separating the red-suited drivers, and for some reason Sebastian seemed unable to match his teammate´s pace.

With ten laps to go, storming Valtteri had closed the gap to Sebastian and made it within DRS distance from the championship leader. The Finn was determined to pass Sebastian. He made a move on the Hangar straight, getting alongside the German already. Sebastian had a lock-up going into the next turn, but just barely managed to keep Valtteri behind. This was true racing! And a lap later Valtteri did it; he made a successful overtaking move on Sebastian and jumped third. Now his eyes were on his fellow countryman Kimi, who was 8 seconds ahead of Valtteri.

What a dramatic turn the race took three laps before the chequered flag. Suddenly Kimi suffered a front-left puncture, which forced the Iceman to come in for an unscheduled pit stop! Red Bull made a pre-cautionary pit stop as well and called Verstappen in. Kimi was now fourth in the race. What a shame! Kimi had driven such an impressive and strong race, and without the unlucky puncture he would have finished in P2! But unfortunately this was only the beginning... As only a lap later also Sebastian suffered a front-left puncture! How was this even possible, that both Ferraris were hit with a similar problem? Sebastian limped into the pits, but the unlucky German dropped down to P7 due to his extra pit stop. What a disappointing and horrifying end of the race!

Hamilton took his 4th consecutive win on his home soil; now the Briton has won the British GP already five times in his career. Bottas made it the second 1-2 of the season for Mercedes, which meant maximum points for the Silver Arrows. Kimi finished on the podium despite the unlucky puncture. This time Verstappen managed to finish the race; P4 was a great result for the Dutchman. Teammate Ricciardo, who had started to the race from the back of the grid, managed to make it as high as P5, which was a magnificent job from the Australian. No wonder he was voted as the Driver of the Day. Hulkenberg finished sixth for Renault, followed by disappointed Sebastian in P7. The pinks scored points as well, as Ocon finished 8th and teammate Perez 9th. Massa scored the last point for Williams.

Sebastian´s puncture meant bad news for his championship lead; Sebastian´s lead has now shrunk from 20 points into one point only! Valtteri is now 22 points down on his teammate. Mercedes has further increased their lead in the constructors´ standings, as the Silver Arrows are already 55 points ahead of their closest rival Ferrari. This is only the halfway point of the season, but I certainly feel a bit worried for Sebastian and Ferrari... Mercedes have emerged stronger and stronger every race. The red team has to bounce back in Hungary!

lauantai 15. heinäkuuta 2017

British GP / Qualifying: Hamilton took the 67th pole position of his career!

In Britain the weather often tends to play a major role during the GP weekend. So was the case in terms of today´s qualifying. It was raining, as Q1 got underway, so the first session started in damp conditions. Both Ferrari and Red Bull sent their drivers out on the green-marked intermediate tyres, whilst their rivals initially opted to slick tyres. However, the conditions turned out too tricky and slippery for slick tyres; soon everyone pitted for the intermediate tyres. This time the unlucky Red Bull pilot was Daniel Ricciardo, whose RB13 stopped on the track due to a suspected turbo failure, when there were 10 minutes in the clock. The session was red-flagged. When the session was resumed, the track kept improving towards the end of the session. A do-or-die, last-minute lap from Alonso after a switch to dry rubber saw McLaren top a thrilling Q1 phase! Verstappen was second for Red Bull, Hamilton third for Mercedes and Hulkenberg fourth for Renault in the mixed conditions. Williams´ Stroll was the first driver to be eliminated from Q2, along with Haas´ Magnussen and the Sauber duo of Wehrlein and Ericsson. Ricciardo -already carrying a 5-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change- will start from the back of the grid.

The start of Q2 had seen everyone move to slick tyres after earlier rain. Mercedes´ Bottas was notably the only man to set his fastest lap time on soft rather than super soft tyres. The Finnish Mercedes ace had also been given a 5-place grid penalty due to a gearbox change -similar to Ricciardo. The Q2 tyre choice means, that Valtteri will be the sole top-ten runner to start Sunday´s race on the more durable rubber. Similar to the end of Q1, the track kept improving lap by lap. The crowd favourite Hamilton absolutely owned the second session. The Briton topped the time sheets with a huge 8-tenth margin to his teammate Bottas. The Mercedes duo was followed by the Ferrari teammates Sebastian and Kimi. Vandoorne out-qualified his teammate Alonso for the first time in his career, as the Belgian was the last man to get through to Q3. In addition to Alonso, out of Q3 were also Renault´s Palmer, the Toro Rosso teammates Kvyat and Sainz and Williams´ Massa. Alonso´s qualifying performance was of little significance, as the Spaniard will drop to the rear of the grid thanks to penalties totalling 30 places due to power unit element changes.

In Q3 Hamilton put on a staggering display for his home fans, taking provisional pole with a two-tenth margin to Sebastian. Bottas was third and Kimi fourth; the Finns were separated by only five hundredths of a second! Verstappen in his Red Bull was clearly off the pace, as the Dutchman was over a second down on Hamilton. The shootout for pole came down to the final runs. Bottas had a big lock-up on his final Q3 run, which cost him the front row grid slot. Hamilton on the other hand was flying in front of his home crowd; the Briton improved his lap time by six tenths! Hamilton took the 67th pole position of his career -and with the biggest margin of the season so far! Kimi drove impressively as well, as the Iceman made his way on the front row! Half a second separated these two. Sebastian qualified third, two tenths down on his Finnish teammate. Bottas had to settle for P4 due to his mistake; thanks to his penalty he will drop down to P9 on the grid. Verstappen qualified fifth -1,5 seconds down on pole-setter Hamilton! Hulkenberg took a superb sixth for Renault. The Force India teammates Perez and Ocon were 7th and 8th. Vandoorne scored his best grid position to date, qualifying 9th, and Haas´ Grosjean rounded out the top ten.

Pole-setter Hamilton was briefly under stewards´ investigation after the session for possibly blocking the Haas of Romain Grosjean early in the final phase, but the officials quickly decided that no action was warranted. Tomorrow´s race will certainly be extremely interesting. The British weather won´t probably fail to produce some extra excitement for the race, as there is a 50-percent chance of rain during the race. I was so happy to see such a strong and convincing qualifying from Kimi, who has been given a lot of criticism for his tame performance during this season. Tomorrow Kimi will have a superb chance to challenge Hamilton at the start. In case of mixed conditions, Red Bull´s Verstappen will shine. He has the courage to overtake even in slippery and wet conditions. The wetter it gets, the more surprises there will be... Can´t wait for the lights to go out!

sunnuntai 9. heinäkuuta 2017

Austrian GP: Valtteri Bottas from pole to victory!

When the lights went out at Red Bull Ring, pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas got a perfect start. It was so perfect, that it seemed like a jump start, as Bottas´ reaction time was only 0,2 seconds. Sebastian was right at the Finn´s tail. Unfortunately the other Finn´s start left a lot to hope for. In Turn 3 Kimi lost positions both to Red Bull´s Ricciardo and Haas´ Grosjean and dropped down to P5. There was also a first-lap incident between three cars. Toro Rosso´s Kvyat made a last minute braking and hit Alonso´s McLaren. Their contact made Alonso hit Red Bull´s Verstappen. Both Alonso and Verstappen were out of the race. Kvyat was given a drive through penalty later on in the race for causing the collision. Nevertheless, Verstappen had faced difficulties already at the start, as the Dutchman was hit with a clutch failure, which caused a poor start; so even without the collision with Alonso it would have been unlikely for the unlucky Dutchman to finish the race. It´s unbelievable, that Max has had five retirements in seven races! I feel so gutted for the flying Dutchman, I definitely understand his frustration. On the other hand I know, that he´s time will come...

Luckily Kimi managed to get past Grosjean quite quickly so the Iceman gained one position back. Meanwhile Hamilton was making his way through the field. He made an overtaking move on Perez and jumped sixth. Some laps later the Briton attacked Grosjean and was already in P5. Teammate Bottas was in a class of his own in the lead. Sebastian seemed unable to match the Finn´s pace. Kimi was struggling with the performance of his car, as there was an issue with a sensor. The team gave instructions on the team radio, what Kimi should do to fix the problem. However, the issue turned out to be a difficult one to fix.

By lap 19 Hamilton had decreased the gap to Kimi and the Briton was already within DRS distance from the Iceman. Tyre degradation seemed quite high -even for Hamilton, who had started to the race on the super soft Pirellis. Valtteri in the lead was banging fastest lap times one after another, although also he reported on the team radio, that his tyres were blistered. Hamilton was the first top driver to pit on lap 32, which was a bit surprising in terms of his tyre choice. Naturally the Mercedes ace opted for a fresh set of ultra soft tyres. Red Bull´s Ricciardo pitted two and Sebastian three laps later -both for a fresh set of super soft tyres. For a moment the Finns had a double lead in the race, as Valtteri was leading with Kimi second.

Valtteri drove an amazing 42-lap stint on his blistered ultra soft tyres, until he pitted for the first and only time. Kimi pitted not until a couple of laps later -for red-marked super soft tyres as well. The battle for podium places was tightened towards the end of the race. Sebastian had closed the gap to Valtteri lap by lap and he was right at the Finn´s tail when starting the final lap. Valtteri´s rear-left tyre was badly blistered, which affected the Finn´s pace on the closing laps. The other fighting couple was Ricciardo and Hamilton. Hamilton had gotten within DRS distance from the Australian and did everything he could to make it on the podium. The battle between Valtteri and Sebastian brought me a flashback of Sochi; and like in Russia, Valtteri managed to take victory. However, it was fantastic to see such a strong performance from Sebastian! It was a great battle for the victory. Ricciardo was also utterly happy about his fifth consecutive podium finish. Hamilton had to settle for P4 and Kimi for P5. To be honest, I had hoped a little more from Kimi, as he had started to the race from P3. Behind the top drivers Grosjean in his Haas made an excellent job by finishing 6th. Once again the pink team scored important points, as Perez finished 7th and Ocon 8th. In spite of the catastrophic qualifying both Williams drivers made it in the points (Massa 9th and Stroll 10th).

Sebastian is now 20 points ahead of Hamilton in the drivers´ championship standings. It is worth noting, that after today´s victory Valtteri is only 15 points down on his teammate. This means Valtteri will be a serious contender in the fight for the championship! Hamilton should definitely be aware of this super fast Finn´s performance and talent! Now it seems, that once again Mercedes has the upper hand on the red team in terms of pace and performance; Mercedes has 287 points to Ferrari´s 254 in the constructors´ standings.

I love these back-to-back races, as the Formula 1 circus will move to Silverstone already next week. This July is so perfect -three weekends out of four are GP weekends! :)

lauantai 8. heinäkuuta 2017

Austrian GP / Qualifying: Bottas clinched his second career pole!

As the Formula 1 circus moved to Spielberg, Austria all eyes were still on Sebastian Vettel since his deliberate collision with title rival Hamilton in Azerbaijan GP. On Monday (which happened to be Sebastian´s 30th birthday) Sebastian attended the meeting at the FIA´s  Paris headquarters. After the meeting the FIA announced that there was going to be no further action over Sebastian´s clash with Hamilton. The Ferrari driver had taken full responsibility for his actions and publicly apologised for his mistake. He was very much aware of the fact, that he hadn´t been setting a good example. Sebastian was also committed to devote personal time to the education of drivers in junior formulae. In light of these developments it was decided, that the matter was closed. There has been a lot of talk about Sebastian escaping any further sanction for his deliberate collision. Personally I´m satisfied with how things evolved. For me as a true fan of Sebastian the most important thing was, that he admitted his mistake and took full responsibility. I was impressed by the letter Sebastian wrote on his website and how he publicly apologised to his fans and the whole motorsport world. This kind of a role model, who admits his mistakes and publicly apologises for them, I´m willing to look up to with admiration and respect! In my opinion Sebastian handled the difficult situation on his best behaviour and I´m sure he has learned a lot from it.

So onwards to the qualifying in Spielberg. Q1 saw different tyre strategies. Both Sebastian and Kimi came out on red-marked super soft Pirellis, as well as Bottas in his Mercedes. Teammate Hamilton, on the other hand, opted for the purple-marked ultra soft compound. However, Kimi´s first effort hadn´t produced a lap time competitive enough, so the Iceman had to make a second run at the end of the session -this time on the ultra softs. Hamilton was topping the timesheets, but Kimi jumped second on his final run. Sebastian and Bottas, who had both sat out the second runs, were third and fifth. They were surprisingly split by Toro Rosso´s Sainz. Palmer in his Renault was the first faller in Q1. A complete disaster of a day saw the Williams teammates Massa and Stroll stuck in 17th and 18th! Both Saubers were also out of Q2, which was no surprise unfortunately.

Q2 saw Hamilton run Pirellis´ super soft tyres, whilst all his rivals were on the ultra soft Pirellis. Hamilton had been given a 5-place grid penalty for a gearbox change for the race, so the tyre choice was to guarantee the best possible race strategy for the Briton. Hamilton´s pace was impressive, as he was second fastest, only 0,15s down on teammate Bottas, in spite of the harder tyre compound. Sebastian was able to improve his lap time on his second run, and the German jumped second. Hamilton was third, Verstappen fourth and Kimi fifth. Haas´s Grosjean caught my eye, as the Frenchman was able to make it as high as P7. Teammate Magnussen had suffered a suspension failure already in Q1, which had ruined the Dane´s qualifying. Both McLaren drivers, Renault´s Hulkenberg and Toro Rosso´s Kvyat were eliminated from the final session.

Q3 saw an exciting start, as Mercedes´ Bottas took provisional pole. However, Sebastian was only four hundredths of a second down on the Finn! Hamilton was third and Kimi fourth, followed by the Red Bull duo Ricciardo and Verstappen in fifth and sixth. However, the end of the decisive last session was kind of an anti-climax. A late on-track stoppage for Haas´s Grosjean and then an off for Red Bull´s Verstappen prevented improvements in the dying seconds of Q3 as these incident brought out the yellow flags. So it was second career pole for Valtteri Bottas! I was so happy to see such a strong performance from Sebastian after the catastrophic Azerbaijan GP. Hamilton qualified third, but he will drop down to P8 due to his gearbox penalty. Kimi qualified fourth, but due to Hamilton´s penalty the Iceman will start to the race from P3. This time Ricciardo (P5) out-qualified his teammate Verstappen (P6). Grosjean kept up his excellent work in Q3 and qualified 7th. The Force India teammates Perez and Ocon and Toro Rosso´s Sainz rounded out the top ten.

As Sebastian now has nine penalty points on his licence, he can´t afford any mistakes in tomorrow´s race. Sebastian surely benefits from Hamilton´s penalty, but you can never write the Briton out from the podium fight. The strategy will be interesting for sure. Hamilton will start on the slower tyre compound, but how much longer will he be able to run on his first stint? And how well will he be able to match Ferrari´s and his teammate´s pace? Can´t wait to find out the answers tomorrow! Hoping for a brilliant & successful race for both red-suited drivers! And hope to see Max Verstappen finally finish the race for a change!

sunnuntai 25. kesäkuuta 2017

Azerbaijan GP: Ricciardo claimed victory in a chaotic race!

First of all, I´m going to take a few deep breaths before I start writing down my thoughts on today´s race. I´m still riding the emotional roller coaster caused by the Formula 1 action in Baku! Who needs thrillers or action films, when you can watch the Azerbaijan GP?! What an eventful and action-packed race! And not all turns were the ones I was hoping for.

The first drama took place at the start. Hamilton in his Mercedes took a clean start and held on to his lead. Kimi from P3 had a rocket start and was challenging his countryman Bottas for the second place. Going into Turn 2, Kimi was already slightly ahead of his compatriot. However, hitting the kerb made Bottas´  Mercedes jump and hit Kimi´s Ferrari! Kimi crashed to the wall, which caused significant damage to his front wing. Bottas instead had a front right puncture and the Finn had to pit for a fresh set of tyres and a new front wing. Re-joining the track, Bottas was already a lap down! This looked like a difficult race for Valtteri.

Surprisingly Red Bull´s Ricciardo pitted already on lap 6. The first-lap incident had caused some debris on the track, and some debris had gotten in the brakes of Ricciardo´s RB13, and they needed to be cleared. Hamilton was leading the race with a clear 3-second margin to Sebastian. Force India´s Perez was impressive 3rd, but Red Bull´s Verstappen was right at the Mexican´s tail. Verstappen´s driving was once again extremely convincing, but as soon as it seemed that Perez´s third place was threatened, Verstappen was hit with a technical failure! I felt so gutted for the flying Dutchman, who has already faced four DNFs in eight races due to technical failures! I find that quite unacceptable. On lap 12 Verstappen´s RB13 stopped on track due to an oil pressure issue. Also Kvyat´s Toro Rosso had stopped on track a couple of laps earlier, and safety car was deployed. All top drivers pitted for a fresh set of soft tyres.

Bottas benefitted from the safety car, as he was allowed to overtake all cars and take his place at the back of the pack. Safety car came in on lap 16 -but only for a very short while! The re-start was everything but clean and once again there was debris on the track. Safety car was back out! All drivers complained about safety car driving around dangerously slowly. And what a dramatic turn the race took right before the second re-start! Coming into Turn 15, Hamilton slowed down so significantly, that Sebastian crashed into the Briton´s rear, breaking his front wing! Sebastian got totally caught by the heat of the moment. He drove alongside his title rival showing his hands -and then deliberately hit Hamilton´s car! The re-start took place and the race was back on. The emotions were running extremely high!

Behind the heated title rivals there was drama as well. At the re-start there was a collision between the pinks, as Ocon made an over optimistic move on teammate Perez, which lead into contact between the Force India partners. Perez´s race was over, and Ocon lost several positions as well. Behind the pinks there was Kimi, who unfortunately hit the debris on the track and suffered a rear right puncture. The Iceman managed to limp into the pits, but there was severe damage in his SF70-H, and the Finn had no choice but to retire. At this point Hamilton was still leading the race with Sebastian second. But it was absolutely unbelievable to notice, that Massa was third and his Williams teammate Stroll was fourth! Who could have expected that to happen?

On lap 22 the race was red-flagged, as there was still so much debris on the track. Everyone drove into the pits to wait for the race to be resumed. I looked at Sebastian standing on the pit lane with his trainer Antti Kontsas and I couldn´t help wondering, what was going on in the German´s mind. I mean he must have realised, what a huge mistake he had made by deliberately hitting Lewis´ Mercedes! I definitely felt his anger for the front wing damage, but there was no way that could justify his actions! It was such a non-athletic act, not something you expect from a quadruple world champion! All I could think was, that Sebastian needed to calm down and get his head cool before the re-start.

During a 15-minute break the track had been cleaned of all the debris, and the race was re-started. Miraculously Ferrari had been able to fix Kimi´s car during the break, and the Iceman was back in the race! So was the case with Perez´s pink-liveried Force India as well. Ricciardo in his RB13 got a flying re-start, as the Australian made a phenomenal overtaking move, which made him pass both Williams cars! This meant the "Smiling Avenger" was already third in the race.

However, Hamilton faced an unexpected problem in the lead. His headrest was loose, which was a possible safety threat. The Briton was advised on the team radio how to get it attached, but there was no way Hamilton could fix the problem on his own. Being a question of safety, Hamilton was called into the pits, so that the team could attach the headrest properly. This meant, that Sebastian was almost handed the victory in the narrow streets of Baku! Almost... Because at the same time Sebastian was handed a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for dangerous driving! I can´t even describe how I felt when I saw the penalty on the TV screen! It was totally deserved, no question about that. But it broke my heart to realise, that without the penalty for the stupid mistake Sebastian would have won the Azerbaijan GP! It was totally in vain, that he lost the 25 points for the victory! Those can turn out to be extremely valuable points at the end of the season... I could nothing but wonder, how Sebastian had the nerve to question his penalty on the team radio.

Sebastian re-joined the track right ahead of title rival Hamilton. Against all odds, Ricciardo was now leading the race, Williams´ Stroll was second and Haas´ Magnussen was third! What a lottery the Azerbaijan GP turned out! Meanwhile Bottas was absolutely flying and the Finn was making his way through the field position by position. With ten laps to go, Valtteri had already made his way past Force India´s Ocon and was 3rd in the race. The Finnish Mercedes ace smelled Williams rookie Stroll´s blood and started his chase, although the Canadian had already opened a 12-second gap to the Finn. Bottas drove with such determination, that he closed the gap slowly but surely -second by second. Meanwhile his fellow countryman Kimi had to retire the race only a few laps before the chequered flag.

Ricciardo took his fifth victory, but what an incredibly exciting turn we saw at the finish straight a moment later. Bottas had made it into DRS distance from Stroll and made it past the Canadian right before the chequered flag!! It was an amazing recovery for Valtteri and definitely one of the most impressive overtaking moves ever! I was so so happy for Lance Stroll, who has managed to turn setbacks into success after huge loads of criticism! Sebastian finished fourth, ahead of Hamilton. Ocon finished 6th for Force India, Magnussen 7th for Haas, Sainz 8th for Toro Rosso, Alonso 9th for McLaren (!) and Wehrlein scored one point for Sauber (!).

Sebastian now has a 14-point lead in the drivers´ championship standings. It feels bittersweet, as the lead could have been 27 points! Also Ferrari is now 24 points behind title rival Mercedes. I have to admit that I was disappointed to watch Sebastian´s post-race interviews. The FIA has stated, that the data from Hamilton´s car has proved, that the Briton hadn´t braked or lifted his foot off throttle in Turn 15. Sebastian has also been given 3 penalty points due to his dangerous manoeuvre. So there isn´t any question about Sebastian´s guilt. In my opinion he should behave like a man -like a sportsman- and take responsibility for his actions. A quadruple world champion doesn´t deliberately hit another driver for any reason! Everyone makes mistakes, and the heat of the moment sometimes makes you do things that shouldn´t be done. Only admitting your mistakes allows you to learn from them! I hope Sebastian has a long look in the mirror after this and decides to learn from this human error. There are millions of people, who look up to him (me included) so it does matter, what kind of a message he gives to his fans!

I admire Sebastian from the bottom of my heart. My support for him is always there, even though I don´t always accept his on-track actions. Getting caught by the heat of the moment only proves his passion for racing. He has had his outbursts also before (Turkey 2010, Mexico 2016) and these make him vulnerable -human behind the wheel. But I believe in Sebastian, that he will learn from this, take responsibility and then move on. It´s difficult to put my emotions into words... There´s so much hatred and criticism on social media at the moment... All I want to say is, that hopefully Sebastian knows that there are fans, who stand by him, no matter what mistakes he makes!