Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

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!

tiistai 28. marraskuuta 2017

Abu Dhabi GP: Bottas led Mercedes into a dominant 1-2!

Last weekend it was time for the season finale under the setting sun of Abu Dhabi. Once again I was at hospital with my son. To my deep disappointment I missed all free practice sessions and the qualifying! I don´t even remember, when I´d have missed qualifying during these 24 years of Formula 1 passion! The mobile application I had used before didn´t work this time so I had to settle for reading the results in the news. I felt absolutely heartbroken not to see the qualifying live!

It was a highly impressive qualifying for Valtteri Bottas, who made it on pole for the third time this season! And this time gloriously by driving, not due to Hamilton´s misfortune or mistake! There was a clear 0.172s gap between the Mercedes teammates at the end of Q2. But there was nothing the Ferrari teammates could do to challenge the Silver Arrows for a front row grid slot. Sebastian qualified third, already half a second down on the pole-setter Bottas. Kimi had shown promising pace in the qualifying as well, but in the closing stages of the final session Red Bull´s Ricciardo got the upper hand on the Iceman, claiming P4 and leaving the Finn in P5. Teammate Verstappen completed the third row for Red Bull. The flying Dutchman was already a second off the pole-setter´s pace. The pink-liveried Force Indias locked down the fourth row, Perez having the upper hand on teammate Ocon. McLaren´s Alonso and Williams´ Massa rounded out the top ten.

Luckily I managed to watch the race on my cell phone. Pole-setter Bottas kept his head ice cool at the start and held on to his lead. It was amazing how superb starts the top six drivers all took, as the pecking order remained unchanged. Mercedes were having a double lead, with Sebastian, Ricciardo, Kimi and Verstappen following close behind. Kimi seemed hungry to get past Ricciardo but overtaking proved a very difficult task at the Yas Marina Circuit. World champion Hamilton was close to his teammate but making it into DRS distance seemed impossible. Soon it was obvious, that the Mercedes duo was out of Sebastian´s reach, as the German Ferrari ace was unable to match Mercedes´ lap times.

Red Bull´s Verstappen was the first top driver to pit on lap 15. The Dutch Red Bull ace opted for a fresh set of red-marked supersoft Pirellis and re-joined the track in P9. Ferrari reacted right away and called Kimi in on the following lap. The Iceman opted for a similar tyre strategy. Ferrari´s strategy proved successful, as Kimi re-joined the track ahead of Verstappen. Ricciardo pitted on lap 20; in spite of a slightly delayed pit stop the Australian managed to stay ahead of Kimi, when re-joining the track. However, Red Bull´s reliability issues continued! Almost instantly after his pit stop, the "Smiling Avenger" had to retire the race due to a hydraulic problem.

Sebastian pitted on lap 21 and the race leader Bottas a lap later. Hamilton stayed out driving as fast as he could; was the Briton going to make it ahead of his teammate due to overcut? Hamilton came in three laps later, but in spite of a flawless pit stop the Finn managed to keep his lead. There were only two seconds separating the Silver Arrows. Hamilton was determined to attack his teammate. The Briton made it within DRS distance from the Finn, but Valtteri made sure, that Lewis had no chances to make a move. Bottas responded by improving his pace. Sebastian, on the other hand, was driving quite a lonely race in P3. He was already 15 seconds down on the race-leading Finn and teammate Kimi was 10 seconds behind Sebastian.

Further back in the midfield Renault´s Sainz had a catastrophic pit stop on lap 34. The Spaniard was driving an excellent race, but the pit stop led to a loose wheel, and Sainz had no option but to retire. Quite an unforgivable mistake from the Renault team.

Towards the end of the race the battle for victory really intensified. Hamilton was putting serious pressure on his teammate, who had clearly decided to win the race. There was only one mistake, that Valtteri made on the closing laps, a small lock-up. Other than that, the Finn made it impossible for his teammate to try a move. And Valtteri drove to the chequered flag as the race winner for the third time this season. In addition to taking pole and race win he also set the fastest lap time in the race, which made the weekend absolutely perfect for the cool-headed Finn. Hamilton had to settle for P2. There´s a revealing statistical detail in terms of Hamilton´s world championship seasons; after securing the world championship, Hamilton has never won a race during that season! This time, too the newly crowned world champion seemed to have lost his sharpest edge. Sebastian kept his 3rd place till the end and Kimi made it a very decent result for Ferrari by finishing 4th. Kimi´s P4 and Ricciardo´s retirement meant, that Kimi moved 4th in the championship standings, leaving Ricciardo 5th. Verstappen finished 5th for Red Bull and Hulkenberg 6th for Renault. Once again both Force Indias proved highly reliable, as the pinks finished 7th and 8th, Perez having the upper hand on his teammate. McLaren´s Alonso and Williams´ Massa (who was driving the very last GP of his F1 career) completed the top ten.

All in all, the season finale was kind of an anti-climax, as Hamilton had already clinched the world title in Mexico. The Yas Marina Circuit doesn´t offer many chances for overtaking, which made the last race of the season kind of boring. So now the 2017 season is officially over, although the drivers still run tyre tests for Pirelli today and tomorrow. So no more F1 racing for four months... The beginning of the 2018 season I´ll still be watching at hospital but I´ll definitely continue updating my blog! Many thanks for all my readers for following my blog! 

keskiviikko 15. marraskuuta 2017

Brazil GP: Sensational victory for Sebastian!

Me and my Finnish Formula 1 friend Heli Vepsäläinen at C More F1 studio with the Finnish F1 team: Tomi Tuominen, Toni Vilander and Ossi Oikarinen.
My bet on the top three: Vettel 1st, Verstappen 2nd and Bottas 3rd.

I had an exceptional race Sunday. I was still in hospital with my son, who was treated there because of an infection. However, my sister had arranged me a belated birthday surprise, a chance to visit the Finnish C More F1 studio in Helsinki! I was allowed to ask a friend to join me, so I went to the studio with Heli Vepsäläinen, whom I had met a few months earlier at the Santander event in Helsinki. We share the devoted passion for Formula 1 racing, so it was fantastic to meet her again. It was a memorable moment to meet the Finnish F1 team and get a live glimpse on how the Formula 1 broadcasts are made.

The race start was absolutely electrifying. Sebastian took a staggering start from P2 and snatched the lead! What a perfect move from the German! Bottas was second and his fellow countryman Kimi third. A lot happened on the opening lap. Red Bull´s Ricciardo spun in Turn 2 and dropped down to the back of the pack. Haas´ Magnussen and McLaren´s Vandoorne collided, which ended the race for both of them. Haas teammate Grosjean had a collision with Force India´s Ocon, which lead into the first ever retirement in Ocon´s Formula 1 career. Safety car was deployed. Hamilton had had a stunning opening lap, as the Briton had made it 14th already, having started to the race from the pit lane.

The re-start took place on lap 6. Sebastian held on to his lead, with the Finns Bottas and Kimi right behind him. Home hero Massa was driving an excellent race, as the Brazilian made it past McLaren´s Alonso at the re-start, moving 5th already. On flames was also Hamilton, who was absolutely storming through the field. On lap 21 the Briton jumped already 5th, having impressively made it past home favourite Massa. Now the hot question was: would Hamilton be able to make it on the podium? There were 10 seconds to Verstappen´s P4 and 17 seconds to the lead.

The top four pitted around lap 30; all of them opted for a fresh set of yellow-marked soft Pirellis. The pecking order remained unchanged after the pit stops. Hamilton was now leading the race, as the Briton had started to the race on the more durable soft rubber, which meant a longer first stint. Sebastian got his lead back, as Hamilton came in on lap 44, switching to the supersoft compound for his last stint. He re-joined the track in P5. Red Bull´s Ricciardo pitted on the very same lap, with a similar tyre strategy. The Australian dropped down to P8 after his second pit stop.

Hamilton was absolutely flying on his fresh supersoft tyres. On lap 57 he was already within DRS distance from Verstappen. Usually Max is known to be a very difficult driver to overtake, but this time even Max was toothless against Hamilton´s storming attack. Max was struggling with his worn tyres, and Hamilton made his move a couple of laps later, snatching P4 from the flying Dutchman. With ten laps to go, Max insisted to pit for the second time; the extra pit stop didn´t cost the Red Bull ace any positions, but Max re-joined the track in P5.

Kimi was only five seconds ahead of Hamilton in P3. Hamilton smelled Kimi´s blood and began his chase. With six laps to go, the Mercedes ace had closed the gap to the Iceman, which allowed him to use DRS. However, Kimi kept his head cool as ice and blocked Hamilton´s every attempt to try an overtaking move. Kimi´s defensive driving was absolutely brilliant. Sebastian drove to the chequered flag as the race winner, with the Finns Bottas and Räikkönen completing the podium. It was such a pleasure to see both Ferrari aces on the podium! What an absolutely sensational victory for Sebastian; I was so happy for him! Thanks to Kimi´s impressive driving, Hamilton was left in P4. However, starting from the pit lane and making it 4th was an outstanding performance from the newly crowned world champion. Verstappen finished 5th and teammate Ricciardo 6th. Williams´ Massa, who drove his last home Grand Prix, finished an impressive 7th, having made it past McLaren´s Alonso on the final lap. Force India´s Perez and Renault´s Hulkenberg rounded out the top ten.

There seems to be certain magic in terms of me visiting the F1 studio. My first time at the F1 studio was at the time of Bahrain GP 2012, which was won by certain Sebastian Vettel. And look, who won the Brazil GP on Sunday ;) Kimi, too has been on the podium on both occasions. In Bahrain 2012 the Iceman was second and in Brazil he was third! So this means I should be at the F1 studio every GP weekend, hahaha! :D

Me and Heli with the Finnish F1 commentator Niki Juusela after the race.

sunnuntai 12. marraskuuta 2017

Brazil GP / Qualifying: World champion Hamilton crashed out on his first flyer!

I´ve been at hospital with my son since Wednesday, so once again I´ve been watching the GP weekend events on my cell phone. I´m sitting on the hospital bed opposite my son. He´s drawing a gift to his father, as it is Father´s Day in Finland today. I´m tapping this blog post on yesterday´s thrilling qualifying.

There was huge drama already in the opening stages of Q1. There had been some rain before the qualifying, which had made track conditions a bit slippery. Both Mercedes drivers came out on the supersoft tyres at the beginning of the first session. But already on his very first flyer, the newly crowned world champion Hamilton suddenly lost control of his Silver Arrow and crashed out in Turn 6! The Briton´s qualifying was over before it had actually started. What an unexpected turn indeed! The session was red-flagged for some ten minutes. As the session was resumed, both Ferrari drivers came out on the yellow-marked soft tyres, whereas all the others opted for the supersoft compound. Sebastian went fastest right away, in spite of the harder tyre compound. Both Ferraris seemed to be flying, as only a moment later Kimi banged the fastest lap time. Red Bull´s Verstappen, on the other hand, reported about a possible power unit issue on the team radio. However, the flying Dutchman was able to set competitive lap times. The Finns Räikkönen and Bottas topped the timesheets, Valtteri being only 0.047s down on his fellow countryman. The most positive surprise in Q1 was Williams´ Massa, who jumped 4th at the very end of the first segment. In addition to the world champion Hamilton, out of Q2 were the Sauber duo of Wehrlein and Ericsson, Toro Rosso´s Gasly (who will also have a 25-place grid penalty due to the use of additional power unit elements) and Massa´s teammate Stroll, who had  suffered from technical issues in the morning´s free practice session and had had a gearbox change before the qualifying.

Sebastian reported about a light drizzle, as Q2 got underway. Red Bull´s Ricciardo was the only driver to come out on the soft Pirellis. The tyre strategy came down to the 10-place grid penalty, which the Australian had been given for the use of additional power unit elements. After Hamilton´s early crash, teammate Bottas really stepped up and raised his level. The Finn really started to shine on the Brazilian soil. He topped the timesheets after the first runs, with the red dynamic duo lurking behind the calm Finn. However, Sebastian went fastest on his second run and left Bottas second. Luckily there were no issues with Verstappen´s power unit, and the Dutchman was 3rd and Kimi 4th. Eliminated from the final segment were Force India´s Ocon, the Haas duo of Grosjean and Magnussen, McLaren´s Vandoorne and Toro Rosso´s Hartley, who hadn´t set a lap time due to a 10-place grid penalty, which the Briton had been given for using additional power unit elements.

The final session was absolutely hair-raising. Sebastian proved his top form by taking provisional pole by 0.082s to Mercedes´ Bottas. Kimi was third, already four tenths down on his teammate. Red Bull proved unable to match the pace of the top two teams, as Verstappen was seven and Ricciardo already nine tenths down on the pace-setter Sebastian. The rain slightly intensified before the final runs, but in the end, it didn´t have an effect on the track conditions. Unfortunately Sebastian didn´t manage to improve his lap time on his last flyer. According to his own words, he "chickened out" in the braking into Turn 1, where he lost the crucial time. Bottas, instead, drove a phenomenal, almost perfect lap and snatched pole from Sebastian by 0.038s! It was the third career pole for the Finn and a new track record. Kimi made it a splendid result for the red team, as the Iceman qualified third, only two tenths down on his compatriot. Verstappen completed the second row. Ricciardo qualified 5th, but will drop down to P15 due to his grid penalty. Force India´s Perez, McLaren´s Alonso, the Renault duo of Hulkenberg and Sainz and Williams´ Massa rounded out the top ten. Massa would have made higher up in the standings, hadn´t he been impeded by Renault´s Sainz. According to Massa´s words, Sainz had even admitted having done it deliberately, as the Brazilian had impeded him in one of the free practice sessions!

Once again the start will play a crucial role in the race. Will Bottas be able to keep his head cool and maintain the lead? I´m sure both Sebastian and Kimi are hungry to challenge the Finn for the lead. Hamilton will start to the race from the pit lane, as the Briton has had a power unit change. How high up will the new world champion make it in the end? Good points are definitely within his reach, but I´m not sure about the podium. The weather forecast says it´s going to be a lot warmer in the race, which is said to benefit Ferrari the most. We´ll find out about it in a few hours... I´m really looking forward to an entertaining and action-packed race! Forza Ferrari!

lauantai 4. marraskuuta 2017

Mexico GP: Hamilton secured his fourth world championship!

I´m writing this blog post not until a week after the Mexico GP. That´s because my world has turned upside down after my 11-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer two weeks ago. I spent last weekend at the hospital with him, as he was given his first treatment. I watched both the qualifying and the race on my cell phone, but since my son was feeling very sick, it was very hard to concentrate on anything else.

In terms of the pecking order, the qualifying was certainly interesting. The Mercedes teammates Hamilton and Bottas were topping the timesheets in Q1, the Finn being only six hundredths of a second down on his teammate. However, the real eye-catcher was McLaren´s Alonso, who made it fifth in the first segment, being only 0.29s down on pace-setting Hamilton. In Q2 it was Red Bull´s Verstappen, who was absolutely flying. After the first runs the Dutch Red Bull ace was massive half a second faster than Hamilton. However, teammate Ricciardo seemed unable to match his teammate´s pace, the Australian being as much as a second off Verstappen´s pace. Sebastian did a fantastic job as well, as the German jumped second on his second run, only 0.3s off Verstappen´s pace.

In the last segment it was obvious, that Verstappen was extremely hungry for pole. The flying Dutchman took provisional pole by 0.259s to Sebastian. I already thought, that Max was going to grab his maiden pole! Hamilton was third, whereas teammate Bottas was unable to set a lap time on his first flyer, as Verstappen impeded him. However, no penalties were given. Kimi was only 8th after his first run, and the Iceman was massive 1.6s off Verstappen´s pace. It was on the second runs, when the magic happened. Sebastian put together a phenomenal lap with a perfect first sector (where he had previously lost time compared to Verstappen) and grabbed pole by 0.086s to Max! What an outstanding lap it was! Max was so gutted for being deprived of his first-ever pole! Hamilton had to settle for P3, the Briton being four tenths down on pole-setting Sebastian. Teammate Bottas completed the second row. Kimi qualified in P5, surprising 0.75s down on his teammate. Ricciardo had mystically lost his pace in the qualifying, as the Australian was only able to make it 7th. This was the first pole for Ferrari in Mexico since 1970 and the 50th career pole for Sebastian!

The start was absolutely breath-taking. In Turn 1 my heart jumped into my mouth, as Sebastian first hit Verstappen and then Hamilton! The Briton got severe front wing damage and a puncture and had to pit immediately. Sebastian, too had a significant damage to his front wing, and he had no other option but to pit for a new nose. Both drivers opted for a fresh set of yellow-marked soft tyres. What a start to the race; both title contenders had dropped down to the back of the pack! Verstappen instead was leading the race with Bottas second and Force India´s Ocon third. Kimi had also dropped down at the start, losing positions to Ocon, Perez and Hulkenberg. The Iceman was in P7. Ricciardo´s difficult weekend continued, as the Australian had to retire already on lap 6 due to a power unit issue.

By lap 21 both Force Indias and Renault´s Hulkenberg had pitted, which benefitted Kimi, who had a longer first stint. The Iceman moved already third! On lap 22 there was a bizarre moment, as race leader Verstappen lapped Hamilton, who was shown blue flags! This definitely hasn´t happened too often in the previous years. Three laps later it was teammate Bottas´ turn to lap his teammate. By lap 29 Sebastian had already made his way through the field to P10. But it wasn´t enough! Sebastian needed P1 or P2 to keep his title hopes alive!

Lap 33 saw a hectic pit stop roulette. Both Verstappen and Bottas pitted from the lead, both opting for the red-marked supersoft compound. Kimi pitted, too -but for a fresh set of soft Pirellis. Hamilton pitted for the second time already, for supersoft Pirellis. So did Sebastian, choosing an aggressive strategy. The German Ferrari ace opted for a fresh set of purple-marked ultra soft tyres, which foreshadowed a flying last stint.

Towards the halfway point of the race Verstappen was still leading the race, followed by the Finns Bottas and Räikkönen. Ocon was fourth and Williams´ Stroll fifth. By this time Sebastian had already made it up to P8. Hamilton had had it difficult to make it through the field, and the Briton was stuck in P15. With 20 laps to go, Sebastian made an aggressive overtaking move on Force India´s Perez and jumped 6th already. Sebastian seemed absolutely determined to fight for every point available. Four laps later Sebastian made a self-confident move on Williams´ birthday boy Stroll, who proved unable to prevent storming Sebastian from taking the fifth place. Lap by lap it seemed more inevitable, that Hamilton was going to clinch his fourth world championship at the end of the race.

On lap 57 Hamilton moved 10th, whereas title rival Sebastian stormed past the pink Force India of Ocon, jumping fourth in the race. Teammate Kimi was in P3 but already 24 seconds ahead of Sebastian. The German kept banging fastest lap times, but the gap was too big. There was nothing Sebastian could do to make it higher than P4! With three laps to go, Hamilton managed to overtake Alonso after a tight fight and move 9th.

Verstappen took stunning third victory in a dominant style. I was very happy for the flying Dutchman; he definitely has magical talent and raw speed! Bottas finished second, and Kimi made it two Finns on the podium. After the first-lap collisions Sebastian drove a brilliant race, although P4 wasn´t enough to keep the championship hopes alive. Ocon finished 5th, Stroll impressive 6th, Perez 7th and Haas´ Magnussen 8th. P9 made Hamilton the first-ever British F1 driver to win his fourth world championship! That is an impressive achievement indeed.

Even though we already know the name of the 2017 world champion, there are two more rounds to go. I don´t know, whether I´ll be watching those at home or at hospital, but I´ll always keep my fingers crossed for my red-suited heroes. Hope to see tight wheel-to-wheel racing in the remaining races!

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.