Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

sunnuntai 25. maaliskuuta 2012

Malaysian GP: Surprise winner in chaotic conditions!

I had considered it pretty odd that we had seen no rain during the GP weekend in Malaysia. I had been happy about it too soon! The rain started to fall 10 minutes before the lights went out. Everyone on the grid was on the intermediate tyres. Both McLarens had a strong start and Hamilton was able to stay in the lead. Schumacher had close battle with Lotus´s Grosjean and they hit each other which forced both of them to pit. The conditions were absolutely terrible in some areas and soon all the drivers pitted to put the full-wets on. Sauber´s Perez was the first driver to do so and he benefitted hugely from the wise call. Perez rose to third right behind the McLarens!

Due to the intensified rain the safety car was deployed and just after a couple of laps behind the safety car the race was red flagged on lap nine. I consider it kind of a wonder that no other driver except Grosjean drove off the track and had to retire the race due to the monsoon! Button described the last sector "being a lake" on team radio so that told a lot about the amount of water on the track! It took an hour before the rain had decreased so that the race could be restarted.

After the restart it was Ferrari and Fernando Alonso who had the perfect pit stop strategy! Alonso pitted at exactly the right time and was able to take the lead. Hamilton´s pit stop was slightly delayed because he accidently shut down the engine of his car and it took some extra seconds before he got back to the track. Button had an unlucky clash with HRT´s Karthikeyan. After the race the Briton admitted that he accepted full responsibility for the clash. He locked the rears and was just unable to avoid hitting the Indian. Button damaged his front wing and an extra pit stop cost him dearly putting him at the back of the grid!

Finally the track had dried enough and the drivers pitted to put the slicks on. Alonso was leading the race but the Mexican Sauber driver Perez was catching him very quickly! Perez managed to make the gap to Alonso less than a second but then he made a mistake and went wide! So it was Alonso who took the victory at Sepang today! Who would have believed it before the race? It´s obvious that Ferrari definitely doesn´t have the best car at the moment but they surely had the best strategy in the very acceptional circumstances today! I feel kind of ashamed of my yesterday´s blog post: I wrote about the current pecking order and I didn´t even mention Ferrari among the four top teams!! Though I guess everyone agrees that in more "normal" conditions Ferrari would have had no chance to fight for the victory!

The driver of the day was definitely Sergio Perez! Though he made a mistake and lost his chance for the victory I appreciate his attempt! I´m impressed by his courage and passion to try and overtake Alonso and not to settle for the second. That´s what true Formula 1 racing is all about! Hamilton finished 3rd and Red Bull´s Webber 4th. Kimi drove an impressive race by driving to the chequered flag 5th scoring valuable points :) Kimi was able to set the fastest lap time at the end of the race so there´s definitely potential in the E20! Off the track "the incident of the day" has been the free ice-creams given in the circuit media centre as a courtesy of certain Mr Räikkönen...! Kimi and ice-cream became legendary in Malaysia in 2009 when after retiring the race Kimi went to get an ice-cream from Ferrari´s fridge ;) Kimi´s sense of humour is utterly awesome!

But then: what happened to my favourite driver Sebastian Vettel today? He didn´t have the perfect race, actually quite the opposite! After the last pit stops he was driving in P4 behind Hamilton until... he was lapping the Indian HRT driver and they had a clash which lead to Vettel suffering a left-rear puncture! The clash destroyed the German´s race and he finished the race 11th not scoring any points! In addition to the clash with Karthikeyan Vettel also lost all the radio communication at the beginning of the race so in the chaotic conditions it made his race extremely difficult. Karthikeyan was penalised for the clash after the race and he was given a drive-through (which meant 20 seconds added to his time) but it doesn´t comfort Vettel who lost a handful of valuable points today! I hope Sebastian will be able to turn all these setbacks into success in China in three weeks.

I have to admit I really needed a 8-kilometre walk in the forest after the race! I was extremely happy for Kimi, he has now proved that he has what it takes to fight for the podium finishes! But I shared Sebastian´s frustration for the absolutely unnecessary clash with Karthikeyan... Alonso is leading the championship and Vettel with no points scored today is 6th... Red Bull has a lot of homework to do so that they can turn a whole new leaf in China! But whatever happens on the track... Winning or losing, success or obstacles on the way, I will always support Sebastian! Roll on China!

P.S. I still have to write a few words about  Vettel´s incident with Karthikeyan. Sebastian lost his temper after the race and called the Indian "an idiot" and "a cucumber" which I consider completely unnecessary. This reminds me kind of the season 2010 when Sebastian was involved with a few clashes as well and had very strong reactions... Red Bull has lost the edge in 2012. Now that the RB8 doesn´t have the dominant performance like its predecessor did it´s up to the driver to get the best out of it. I hope that Heikki (Huovinen) turns out to be as skillful psychological coach as Tommi (Pärmäkoski) turned out back in 2010... Back then Seb managed to learn from his mistakes and turned all the setbacks into huge success and was able to maintain his feet on the ground. There are three weeks to calm down and get over this! There are 25 points to be caught in China again :)

lauantai 24. maaliskuuta 2012

Malaysian GP / Qualifying: A glimpse of Kimi´s real pace!

I woke up to a perfect Saturday morning: Formula 1 action enjoyed with a lot of coffee! Once again I had high hopes for Vettel as Sebastian had been second fastest in the final practice session in the morning... I also kept my fingers crossed for Kimi that he could get the maximum out of his car as he was hit a 5-place grid penalty due to a gearbox change yesterday...

Q1 held no surprises, neither negative nor positive ones! Unfortunately it was no real surprise to me that Caterham was once again out of Q2! It must be quite frustrating for Heikki, I mean he´s considered to be a highly talented and skillful driver and still his team hasn´t been able to show any kind of improvement from last year :( In my opinion Heikki would definitely deserve better! In Formula 1 it doesn´t unfortunately help no matter how good a driver you are if you have a lousy car... The midfield is still out of Caterham´s reach!

Q2 turned out to be a Kimi Räikkönen show! At the beginning of the second 15-minute session Kimi was able to set a mesmerising fastest lap time which lasted at the top until the end of the Q2! At Albert Park last week Kimi failed at the qualifying due to his own mistake and a communication issue but today we saw a glimpse of Kimi´s real pace! The Iceman is back!! All his rivals should be wary of that tomorrow when the race starts!

The result of the Q2 today proves the current pecking order pretty clearly: the four top teams at the moment are McLaren, Mercedes, Lotus and Red Bull. Both drivers of these teams made it to the Q3 today. Alonso with Ferrari and Perez with Sauber completed the top ten today. There has been a lot of talk about the innovative F duct used by Mercedes but despite the controversial device neither Nico nor Schumi was able to snatch pole today! Second pole of the season for Hamilton and Button made it a front row lock-out for McLaren. Schumacher was able to outdo his team-mate by taking P3 leaving Nico 8th. The Red Bull driver Webber starts alongside Schumi tomorrow. Kimi managed to set 5th fastest time in Q3. According to his own words he could have fought for pole without some little mistakes on his last attempt... The penalty puts the Iceman in P10 tomorrow but I´m sure we´re going to see lots of aggressive overtaking by the Iceman tomorrow!! :)

Vettel was 6th fastest today and had a different tyre choice from his rivals in Q3. Vettel set his lap time on the hard compound whereas all the others in top ten used the medium tyres. Vettel was far from satiesfied after the qualifying and he said he couldn´t get all out of his car today. The tyre choice may turn out to be a clever choice tomorrow as the medium tyres are less durable than the hard ones... I haven´t seen Vettel so serious after qualifying for a looong time! Red Bull really seems to be struggling with the performance of the RB8... The glorious moments of the last season are definitely over for Red Bull and they have to improve a lot! Still I´m expecting to see a strong race from Sebastian tomorrow! In Australia he also started from P6 and finished 2nd so I don´t see why he couldn´t reach podium tomorrow as well :)

Last December when I wrote about Sebastian´s trainer Tommi Pärmäkoski deciding not to continue his work as Seb´s trainer in 2012 I speculated if the decision would have some kind of an effect on Sebastian´s career. I can´t help thinking about that now. Now when the era of the exhaust blown diffusers is over Red Bull´s dominance has also vanished. It means they have to work very hard and improve a lot if they want to achieve victories during this season. So Sebastian has to struggle much more than during last season. And the change of the trainer... I don´t question Heikki Huovinen´s competence, not at all, but Tommi and Sebastian just seemed to be the perfect team...! And Tommi made Sebastian get the best out of him as a driver... I hope the team work between Heikki and Sebastian works as perfectly but still I would say that it´s extremely difficult to replace Tommi! Formula 1 is a huge puzzle which consists of both smaller and bigger pieces... All pieces have to match before you can succeed. Though the trainer doesn´t drive the car  I would say that he still has a significant role behind the success. As the season goes forward I guess we´ll see how things evolve... Hope all the pieces in the puzzle of Sebastian´s successful season will match as soon as possible!

sunnuntai 18. maaliskuuta 2012

Australian GP: Button took victory in an epic race!

I was so excited about the season-opener that I woke up an hour too early this morning! The race was definitely worth waiting for as it turned out to be filled with high speed action and intense battle on the track!

The start was staggering. Button was able to pass his team-mate right after the start and  took the lead. Vettel had an impressive start from P6 and was able to overtake both his team-mate (who still doesn´t seem to have got rid of the bad starts...) and Nico´s Mercedes. Vettel had close battle with his compatriot Schumi and after trying to make a move on him the first time Vettel went wide into the grass but luckily he was able to return quickly back to the track. Only a little later Schumi made the same mistake and Seb was able to move up to 3rd. After a strong start Schumi had to retire due to a gearbox problem. Grosjean in his Lotus had a poor start and he had to retire the race very early after Maldonado crashing into him and destroying the front suspension of his car. Very unfortunate for the Frenchman, who started in P3!

The McLaren drivers were out of sight, Button leading the race and Hamilton following him some seconds behind. The Ferraris didn´t seem as bad as the qualifying suggested yesterday. Alonso had a strong race finishing 5th while Massa´s pace and performance was more than poor! Massa ended up retiring the race after colliding with Senna in his Williams. I´m starting to have difficulties trying to describe Massa´s driving... At least it can´t possibly get any worse than it currently is!

Kimi´s performance instead was absolutely brilliant! He started the race in P17 but finished 7th! Kimi had plenty of exciting wheel-to-wheel racing and I´m sure he enjoyed every minute of it! Battling against others has been the thing that Ice Man has been missing from Formula 1 and today it seemed as if he hadn´t been away at all... I mean his skills in overtaking are still there and he did fantastic job on the track! Kimi had tight racing with the Saubers, especially with Kobayashi.

The safety car was deployed on lap 38 due to Petrov´s Caterham stopping in the main straight after losing power steering. After the re-start Kobayashi was able to overtake Kimi moving up to 9th. Vettel had passed Hamilton at the second pitstops and splitted the McLarens. Webber managed to recover from the bad start and was 4th behind his team-mate. Maldonado in Williams had a great race and he was in P6... until he crashed on the FINAL lap due to a mistake of his own! So a lot of harm caused by Maldonado today! Kimi was able to snatch three positions on the last lap (Nico had a puncture on the final lap and Kimi passed Perez on the final turn) and finished the race 7th gaining 6 championship points! Alonso finished 5th, Kobayashi 6th and Perez 8th so strong performance from the Sauber team! Williams seems to have the pace as well but mistakes like Maldonado´s shouldn´t happen!!

lauantai 17. maaliskuuta 2012

Australian GP / Qualifying: surprises and disappointments!

This is finally the weekend I´ve impatiently been waiting for many months already! Yesterday it was just wonderful to get up at half past three in the morning and sit down on the couch to watch the first free practice of the year! There´s absolutely no more perfect way to start your morning than by watching thrilling Formula 1 action! :)

Actually I didn´t know what to expect in the qualifying today. Honestly speaking, I had high hopes for Red Bull though common sense kept saying to me that the fairy-tale that took place last year is extremely unlikely to happen again... I kept my fingers crossed for Kimi as well, the winter tests gave a very promising impression on the performance of the E20. I also wished all the best for the Finnish Caterham driver Heikki Kovalainen who has absolutely the most awesome helmet on the grid! But not even the stunning red Angry Bird could make him any quicker than the usual 18th! So my hopes and the reality didn´t quite match this time!

The first shock stroke already in Q1 when Kimi made a mistake on his last flying lap and was therefor knocked out of Q2! I read that Kimi had some communication issues with his team as well and he didn´t know how much time he got left to start a new lap... And he didn´t make it before the chequered flag! Very disappointing indeed because the E20 seems to have huge potential in terms of speed... So Kimi will start in P17 tomorrow due to Perez being penalised for a gear-box change. But I´m sure we´re going to see plenty of aggressive overtaking in the race tomorrow so I wouldn´t be surprised if Kimi scored some points!

On the basis what we saw in the winter tests all the experts said that things didn´t look very bright for Ferrari. And today we can easily say that they are in big trouble! Saying anything else would be lying! Alonso had a spin in Q2 because he went wide to the grass and he was stuck on the gravel and unable to continue the qualifying. It was a clear mistake from him which he didn´t want to admit after the qualifying. But it just shows how difficult the F2012 is to drive! His team-mate Massa was able to finish the Q2 but was only able to reach P16! Despite the spin Alonso got P12. There has been a lot of talk about Massa´s position at Ferrari and if I´m asked I definitely think that he should have got fired a looong time ago! He has had plenty of chances to show what he´s capable of and he has miserably failed almost every time!

It was very interesting to see which teams and which drivers could make their way through to top ten. McLaren drivers seemed even stronger than in the tests! Also Mercedes drivers Nico and Schumi were predicted to be among the ten fastest drivers. And of course the Red Bull duo... Lotus had also been very quick in the tests and Grosjean showed in the qualifying that their performance was real. Also Hulkenberg in his Force India and Ricciardo in Toro Rosso were among the top 10.

No pole for the reigning world champion! Hamilton was able to snatch the pole and his team-mate Button made it a one-two for McLaren. But who would have expected Romain Grosjean to take P3?? So Lotus´s potential is very real, not only an illusion created during the winter tests! Just can´t help speculating how high Kimi would have gone without the mistake of his own... Schumi will start alongside Grosjean and the Red Bull drivers are in P5 (Webber) and P6 (Vettel). Red Bull definitely has some catching up to do! But I do put my confidence in Vettel and I´m sure he has a strong race tomorrow. Despite the two titles he´s hungry to win more :)