Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

sunnuntai 31. heinäkuuta 2011

Hungarian GP: mistakes made by all top drivers... except Button!

What an epic race in Hungary today! The conditions were very unusual from those we´ve been used to see in Hungary in previous years. The circuit was wet so all the drivers started the race with the intermediate tyres. Vettel got a very decent start keeping both Hamilton and Button behind him. But the German wasn´t able to maintain his lead for long... Hamilton was pushing extremely hard behind the Red Bull driver putting pressure on him. And then it happened on lap 5 at turn 2... Vettel made a mistake and went wide and Hamilton passed him! At that time I was sitting on the sofa screaming my voice off...!

There was no uncertainty about Hamilton´s speed. He pulled off from Vettel immediately after overtaking him and made a clear gap. Vettel seemed to be in difficulties at the beginning of the race, he had hard time to keep the other McLaren driver Button behind him! And the circumstances were tricky, no doubt about it. Vettel wasn´t the only driver to make a mistake! Also Alonso got wide at least a couple of times and Hamilton had a spin aswell which caused a dangerous situation. Paul Di Resta in his Force India was about to crash into Hamilton´s car when he tried to turn his car to get back on the track... Button was able to overtake his team-mate at this stage and after this we saw some very entertaining wheel-to-wheel battle between the two McLaren drivers! They kept it fair which was a pleasure to see!

The light rain started on lap 47 and it caused different decisions made by the teams. Hamilton came to the pits to put the intermediate tyres on like many other drivers did, too. That was a wrong call! Button on the other hand had put the soft tyres on and was leading the race! Hamilton had to change back to the softs after only a few laps and he also got penalised because of the situation with Di Resta earlier on the race so he was given a drive through penalty. Hamilton lost positions due to the penalty but he wasn´t going to give up...! On the closing stages of the race Hamilton was able to overtake Mark Webber and finished the race 4th! Without the mistakes and the penalty he would certainly have fighted for the victory, he showed some unbelievable pace indeed!

Button was the only top driver not to make any clear mistakes today and he had the perfect tactics aswell. He totally deserved to win today. What an awesome way to celebrate his 200th grand prix! Vettel seemed a bit disappointed at the press conference after the race. He clearly wasn´t satisfied with the 2nd place, he thought the win would have been in reach... But in terms of the championship standings it really doesn´t look bad for Vettel. He managed to increase his lead making it up to 85 points! That´s utterly amazing, I would say! Alonso finished 3rd today. The Ferraris didn´t turn out to be as competitive as I thought they would be. At the start both Alonso and Massa had hard time to fight with the Mercedes drivers!

Heidfeld´s retirement was spectacular but scary. His Renault Lotus caught fire on lap 25 just after his pit stop! There was even a small explosion when the officials tried to put down the fire. No wonder Heidfeld tried to get out of his car as soon as possible! More retirements occurred today than we have seen at the previous races this season as also drivers like Schumacher and both Lotus drivers retired due to technical failures.

Neste Oil Rally Finland

Once again we saw an absolutely thrilling and eventful rally in Finland! This time I couldn´t make it there to watch the event live so I followed the rally both on TV and on the internet. From the Finnish point of view the rally didn´t have a very promising start as Ford´s Mikko Hirvonen crashed to a tree on the very first stage and damaged his car costing him dearly. At the end of the day one Mikko´s position was somewhere far beyond 40 or something! The Frenchmen instead, Loeb and Ogier in their Citroens, had a perfect start to the rally...

Once again tactics played a significant role during the rally. On Thursday both Ogier and Latvala slowed down on purpose not to be the first car on the road on the following day. So it was Loeb who was cleaning the roads again on Saturday. I was so happy to notice that his road position appeared to be no disadvantage for him! Luckily the overnight rain had helped to compact the gravel surface and Loeb was able to make staggering stage times on the first loop of stages! Ogier tried his best to chase his team-mate and Ford´s Jari-Matti Latvala wasn´t far behind, either...

A few words about Hirvonen then. He was like a completely different driver on Friday! I´m not sure if his crash was caused by a technical issue or if it was his own mistake but the driving he showed on Friday was unbelievable! He set the fastest time on almost every stage! And it didn´t take very long for him to be among the top ten... Can´t help thinking if Mikko had won the rally without the unfortunate crash on Thursday...

And it was tactics again at the end of Friday. Now also played by Loeb. He took a 10-second penalty on purpose but his rivals Ogier and Latvala were aware of his act and managed to drop time making Loeb clean the roads again... which Loeb really didn´t seem too happy about! But it turned out that the conditions on Saturday morning weren´t a disadvantage for Loeb after all. I´m sure Ogier would have been able to challenge his team-mate for real without the puncture he suffered on the final day. Latvala also managed to pass Ogier thanks to his improved driving :)

The power stage in Laajavuori was shown on TV and it was epic to watch. The fast Finnish roads are difficult to drive but they suit the Finns for sure! Hirvonen snatched the fastest time on the power stage getting 3 extra points. He finally managed to finish the rally 4th which was an excellent achievement indeed. The second fastest was Latvala in his Ford leaving Ogier 3rd. So it was second win in Finland for the 7-time world champion Loeb!! He completely deserved to win, he was the first car on the road on all three days and he drove flat out all the time! Latvala did a great job, too finishing second but he still needs to improve his driving. On some stages he is terribly fast but on other stages he isn´t that consistent...

lauantai 30. heinäkuuta 2011

Hungarian GP / Qualifying: Vettel back on pole!

Already last weekend in Germany we saw that the three top teams (Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari) were very close to each other and had a very similar race pace. So I knew the battle for the pole position was going to be thrilling in Hungary! And thrilling it was!

No actual surprises in Q2 today. Both Renaults were out of Q3 so they seem to have taken a step backwards. But Perez in his Sauber making his way to Q3 was a positive surprise and it shows the promising potential the Mexican driver has :) His more experienced team-mate Kobayashi instead didn´t make it to Q3.

Hamilton was the only top driver in Q2 to set his fastest lap time on the soft tyres while the others had put the super softs on and his lap time looked frightenly fast indeed being only a tenth slower than Vettel´s set on the super softs! In Q3 it was also Hamilton who seemed to have the pole within his grasp after the first fast laps. The Ferraris seemed very competitive aswell but what was surprising was that it was Massa who was able to set a faster lap time than his team-mate Alonso! This hasn´t happened for a while... The McLarens were extremely strong but no pole for Hamilton after all! Sebastian Vettel came and showed everyone that he hasn´t definitely been cracking under pressure by conquering the pole! Outstanding achievement after the tame German GP last weekend! So it was P2 for Hamilton again and P3 for his team-mate Button leaving Massa 4th, Alonso 5th and Webber (who suffered from some kind of KERS problem I guess...) back at 6th place.

I´m sure it´s going to be intense battle for the victory tomorrow. Hamilton has had some very impressive starts this season so Vettel has to be able to take a perfect start to maintain his lead into the first corner... And the Ferraris, especially Alonso will fight hard to make his way to the lead. And looking from the tyre point of view... Button may be in a good position as it´s him who is very good at nurturing his tyres...

keskiviikko 27. heinäkuuta 2011

Red Bull Show Run in Helsinki

Kimi Räikkönen driving on the streets of Helsinki.
The very first time I heard there was going to be an event where Kimi Räikkönen was going to drive his WRC car on the streets of Helsinki I knew I was definitely going to be there! It was something too awesome for words! I´ve been a passionate Kimi fan for many years and I actually got to see the man live last summer at Neste Oil Rally in Jyväskylä. But I just couldn´t wait to see him drive again...!
Sebastien Loeb driving a crosskart for the first time in his life!
What made the event sound at least as interesting as Kimi´s presence was the fact that the 7-time rally world champion Sebastien Loeb was going to drive in Helsinki aswell! I´ve always felt great respect for Loeb, he´s truly the best rally driver there is at the moment! I admire his humble and down-to-earth attitude. As far as a man with such success as Loeb has is concerned, an attitude like that cannot be taken for granted. What Kimi and Sebastien have in common is the absolute overwhelming talent in motorsports! No matter if Kimi is driving a Formula 1 car, a WRC car, a snow mobile or a NASCAR car he´s always unbelievably fast! Like Loeb, too... In Helsinki he was at the wheel of a crosskart for the very first time in his life and what thrilling driving he showed to the audience... Absolutely fantastic!!
Kimi & Sebastien waving for the fans.

It´s actually very difficult to describe my emotions during the exceptional event. On one hand I have to say a part of me was extremely sad seeing flags flown at half mast due to the terrible tradegy taken place in Norway. On the other hand the event was the absolute highlight of my summer which I had looked so much forward to... Personally I really want to say thank you to both Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastien Loeb for taking part in the event!! I completely understand that especially Kimi is no fan of media what so ever but I doubt he can ever understand how much he means to such a huge amount of fans...! For a fan like me it was really a dream come true to see him drive in front of my eyes :) Work for him but ultimate enjoyment and entertainment for me and all the other Kimi fans!!
Me getting an autograph from the 7-time rally champion!

What was more than I could ever have dreamt of was Sebastien Loeb showing up just opposite me giving an autograph to me...!! I have been asked how I felt at that specific moment... Impossible to describe with any English words that I know...! Sebastien Loeb is definitely a man whose autograph I have been dreaming of for a long time! My collection includes autographs from racing drivers like Mika Häkkinen, Michael Schumacher, Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastian Vettel... And now I have also Loeb´s autograph :) An event like the show run in Helsinki is utterly unique because it brings the drivers close to fans. At WRC rallies or Formula 1 races a normal person like myself doesn´t have any chance to get close to the drivers to be able to ask for an autograph so I´m totally speechless about my experience of standing opposite the 7-time rally world champion... I got such mixed emotions after that I had hard time following the German GP on TV in my hotel room a little later on!

I enjoyed every moment of the 2-hour event and had absolutely the time of my life...! Last but not least... Kimi burning some rubber ;) Thank you Kimi and Sebastien! You may not know but you´ve made thousands of people extremely happy... including me :)

tiistai 26. heinäkuuta 2011

German GP: Formula 1 racing at its best!

Writing about the German GP is kind of difficult for me due to a couple of things. First of all, like I wrote on the previous blog post, it was the first race for a very long time that I wasn´t able to watch live on TV! So I didn´t see the whole race, just a 1-hour summary broadcast of the highlights. And on the other hand... I guess I was partly on some other planet whilst watching the race because I had just witnessed Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastien Loeb driving live on the streets of Helsinki! And standing opposite the 7-time rally world champion and getting his autograph made my heart pound and my thoughts wander... So overwhelming emotions for me on that Sunday afternoon!

The German GP, however, was Formula 1 action at its very best! The battle for the victory was as exciting as it could possibly get :) Now I just have to praise Hamilton´s performance, it was absolutely outstanding! Taking the lead right after the start was more than I could have expected from the McLaren driver! Which meant another lousy start for Mark Webber... Three poles this season and three failed starts!

The battle between Alonso and Vettel was intense indeed. Vettel wasn´t able to maintain his position as 3rd because thanks to the DRS Alonso was able to overtake him easily. All I can say, it seemed to me that Vettel´s performance wasn´t as good as we all have got used to see. And then on lap 9... Vettel went wide, not much but still enough to cause him spin... An easy looking mistake from him which cost him positions. His team-mate Webber, Alonso and Hamilton were battling for the victory but Vettel was clearly out of that struggle. After the second pit stop he managed to close the gap to Massa who was on 4th place at that stage. But Vettel wasn´t able to overtake... Until at the last pit stop when he pitted at the same time with Massa and Vettel managed to get ahead of him. Vettel has kind of reputation that he can´t overtake on the track and this race certainly didn´t make the reputation any better.

Hamilton was the first to put on the hard tyres which was the right choice. When Alonso pitted Hamilton was able to take the lead. Second win of the season for Hamilton! No doubt about that the right man won. Hamilton´s performance was absolutely outstanding and after the practices I could never have believed he could be that fast! It was almost touching to hear Hamilton´s comments on the team radio and at the press conference. He was truly happy about his win and it´s always touching to see such genuine emotions!

Alonso finished 2nd and Webber 3rd, leaving Vettel 4th and Massa 5th. Though Vettel had the worst race of the season on his home soil, 4th place is no bad achievement! I agree with Hamiltons´s words after the race: nobody can be perfect all the time! Making mistakes is what makes us humans... And finishing 4th made Vettel lose only 3 points of his lead in the championship standings, the man is still leading with 77 points! But to be honest, I felt weird not to see Vettel sitting at the press conference after the race... I missed his comments and that adorable smile of his :)

lauantai 23. heinäkuuta 2011

German GP / Qualifying: The worst spot on the grid for Vettel this season!

The qualifying for the German grand prix held many surprises. One of them was that there was no rain! The forecast said the chance for rain was very high. But instead the whole qualifying session was driven in dry conditions! Which doesn´t mean it´s going to be dry tomorrow when the race takes place...

Personally I didn´t expect much from the McLaren duo on the basis what I had seen at the practice sessions. Their pace seemed very tame and I was sure neither of the McLaren drivers was going to make it to the front row. But when the qualifying got underway, these two appeared to be like from a different planet! Especially Hamilton whose performance was strong indeed. Hamilton seemed to be surprised himself, too when he was told he had grabbed P2!

And who took pole position today... No, it definitely wasn´t Sebastian Vettel in front of his home crowd! It was his team-mate Mark, who has risen to a whole new level after the team order row at the previous race. Mark managed to pull out a superb lap and snatched the pole by only 55 thousandths. Like Mark said after the qualifying, the circuit seems to suit him extremely well. But another noteworthy fact is that in spite of taking three poles during this season Mark hasn´t been able to lead even one lap at the race! Let´s see if he will be able to change that tomorrow... I´m sure Hamilton will try everything he can to overtake Mark at the start!

How about the championship leader Vettel, what happened to him? He ended up 3rd on the grid which is the worst spot on the grid for him during this season! Should we be worried...? I don´t think so. I guess normally many drivers would be extremely satisfied with the 3rd spot. But on the basis what we´ve seen during the first half of the season it´s understandable to feel at least a bit disappointed. Vettel´s superiority has been so scathing that you start to take these pole positions and first-row finishes for granted... Which you shouldn´t do of course!! Neither life nor Formula 1 can be perfect all the time so there are both ups and downs... And I´m sure there has to be downs for superb Vettel aswell. But he´ll fight tomorrow, that´s for sure. And it is extremely healthy to see his team-mate challenging him so strongly. It´s interesting to see what will happen when Vettel is pushed to the limit by his team-mate!

Let´s not forget the Ferrari drivers. Although I predicted it would be Alonso who would challenge the Red Bull drivers for the pole it wasn´t the case. In final standings Alonso was 4th and his team-mate Massa 5th. But the Ferraris will be strong and competitive at the race so there´s going to be an intense battle for the victory I hope!

What is less important maybe but interesting for me as a Finn is the fact that there´re now three F1 drivers with a Finnish physiotherapist. In addition to Vettel also Hamilton and Buemi have Finns as their physios :) So I guess Tommi (Vettel´s physio) has started an interesting trend among the F1 drivers :) Which is kind of flattering and tells a lot about the Finnish expertise in the field!

sunnuntai 10. heinäkuuta 2011

British GP: A team order from Red Bull!

The start of the British grand prix couldn´t have been more exciting! The conditions were quite tricky as one part of the circuit was wet and the other part dry. All the drivers had decided to start to the race on intermediate tyres. My heart was pounding when the lights went off and what an outstanding start Vettel took from P2! He reached the first corners leading the race with his team-mate following closely behind him. Vettel managed to pull out a decent gap very soon and everything seemed to go according to the manuscript until the second pit stop on the 28th lap... Vettel was leading from Alonso when the pair came in to pit on the same lap. Vettel´s rear wheel gun had a problem and his car had to be jacked up again to attach the tyre which cost him dearly and allowed Alonso through in to the lead! I almost stopped breathing when saw Sebastian spending seconds and seconds in the pit...!

The first disappointment was to see Heikki retire due to a mechanical problem. Such a shame, I´m sure the mixed conditions would have suited well for him! And Trulli retiring a little later made Lotus´s weekend perfectly unsuccessful! Can´t do much more than just hope better success for the team in Germany in two weeks...!

The race was entertaining for sure! It was really enjoyable to watch Alonso and Hamilton battling against each other and making overtaking moves! But if Vettel had a bad day looking from a pit-stop point of view, the day was certainly not much better for the McLaren driver Button who was driving in front of his home crowd! Button left pit with a loose front tyre and had to retire the race due to the pit-stop mistake!

Alonso was able to pull away when Vettel got stuck behind Hamilton after his second pit-stop. I was screaming on the sofa when watching the young German trying to overtake Hamilton and them almost touching each other... I was actually relieved to see Vettel pitting which was a good choice. But I was screaming again in the closing laps when Webber got right behind Vettel and was able to use the DRS to try to overtake his team-mate...! Those last laps felt like an eternity and I was sooo happy to see Seb coming 2nd to the chequered flag with Webber just 0.4 seconds behind him! So it was a sweeping victory for Alonso today. The pit-stop mistake leaves me wondering if Alonso had won the race without it happening but I know it´s in vain. Alonso deserved the win today and that´s that.

But what really leaves me with mixed emotions is the team order given by Red Bull! The team instructed Webber in the final 4-5 laps to maintain positions which clearly meant that he wasn´t allowed to overtake Vettel. We´ve seen several team orders in Formula 1 over past years and this year they aren´t even against the rules so why mixed feelings? I tell you why. I never ever could expect a team order from RED BULL and at this point of the season!! That´s one of the things I´ve always admired and respected about the team that they give equal chances to their drivers to fight for the victories... Even at the end of the previous season when Webber got more points than his team-mate there were no team orders given to Vettel at that stage! So why now? Vettel had a 77-point lead before this race and there´re 10 more rounds to go! Don´t Red Bull trust Mark Webber? I find it as a vote of no confidence when team principal Horner said after the race that they didn´t want to risk such a load of points. I´m sure (or pretty sure at least...) that Webber wouldn´t have tried anything stupid at the end! And Vettel having a KERS problem... No matter how huge a Vettel fan I am, Webber should have been allowed to try overtake his team-mate! I completely understand why Webber ignored the message given by the team because there was no actual reason to do so... My opinion only but I was sooo disappointed to see this happen! The team that plays fair play and gives both drivers equal chances... Not any more :( I had to cool down my emotions after the race by having a swim in a lake in nice cool water!

lauantai 9. heinäkuuta 2011

British GP / Qualifying: A front row lock-out for Red Bull!

I´m having a glass of strawberry flavoured sparkling wine and thinking about the upcoming British Grand Prix. This weekend there has been more talking about technical details related to teams making best use of hot exhaust gases directed into cars´diffusers in order to generate more downforce than concentrating on pure racing! And the rule change by FIA just before the British GP as  the FIA claimed that exhaust blowing should be cut to just 10 percent while off the throttle... But on the other hand Mercedes engines are enjoying a greater percentage due to realiability issues. But this is about all that I understand of the matter! So many rule changes so rapidly... It´s hard to know what´s going on, no matter how closely you follow the F1 world. Like Webber said at the post-qualifying press conference, most fans can´t understand even 0.1 percent of these technical details... Which I absolutely agree and I won´t even try to analyse the effect of these technical rule changes! I´m a Sebastian Vettel fan from the bottom of my heart and I wish all the success for him no matter engine mapping clampdown, exhaust gases directed to the diffuser or other things that a simple person like myself can´t absolutely comprehend!

About the qualifying session then. First of all, I have to say I was very delighted indeed to see the extremely talented Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo to make his F1 debut! Though making your debut at the wheel of Hispania isn´t the best possible starting point. I mean even for a very gifted guy like Ricciardo it´s extremely difficult to convince others of your talent when the car isn´t even near a competitive one! But at least it makes you humble when starting with a team that is so far away from the top teams... It reminds you of the fact that nothing can be taken for granted in Formula 1 and it takes more than just talent to succeed! It surely would have been easier to show your talent at the wheel of Toro Rosso for example... But I wish all the best for Ricciardo for tomorrow´s race and I´m sure he´s one of the guys that we´re definitely going to hear more of in the future!

A mixed session like Mark Webber told after the qualifying! We saw some light rain like we usually do when going to Silverstone... The Lotus driver Heikki Kovalainen made his way to the Q2 which was a heart-warming surprise indeed. His closest rivals weren´t able to improve their laptimes at the end of Q1 thanks to the rain but no matter what the circumstances were, Heikki deserved his place in the Q2! It´s kind of funny how it seems that driving a less competitive car has made him a better driver! Hope Heikki would score some points tomorrow :)

In spite of all the fuss on the off-throttle diffuser ban it was another front row lock-out for Red Bull Racing! Mark Webber snatched the pole position while his team-mate Vettel qualified 2nd! Alonso in his Ferrari got the 3rd spot on the grid and his team-mate qualified 4th. What was quite disappointing was to see Hamilton as far as on the 10th place! McLaren seemed to be in some sort of difficulties although Button got himself the 5th place. But Maldonado in Williams and Di Resta in Force India instead were able to grab the best spots on the grid this season by finishing 6th and 7th! But will there be anybody who will be able to undermine Vettel´s domination tomorrow? Webber has obviously found more speed in the last few races. It will surely undermine the harmony within the Red Bull team if Webber is able to beat his team-mate... We´ll see!