Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

sunnuntai 27. toukokuuta 2012

Monaco GP: The tightest and the dullest race of the season!

Before the lights went green I had a hunch that this was going to be Mark Webber´s day. And the Australian had a brilliant start and reached the first corner ahead of Mercedes´s Rosberg. Not every driver avoided a crash though! Grosjean crashed with Schumacher which lead to the Frenchman spinning and his race was over. Not the first time this season when something like this happens to Grosjean! Because of the incident some cars had no other choice but to shortcut the chicane to avoid hitting Grosjean´s car. Vettel was one of those who benefitted from that and he was in P4 after the first corner! This was investigated by the stewards but it lead to no further action. In my opinion that was also the right call because it would have been absolutely impossible to say how many positions Vettel for example should have given back... And a drive through penalty would have totally destroyed his race!

The teams knew there was a mild chance of rain during the race so the teams´ race strategies were based on the information that the rain would start to fall on lap 28. So it seemed it was going to be quite a long first stint for everyone because the teams wanted to change the intermediates at the first pit stop. But the rain didn´t come! Rosberg was the first top driver to come to the pits and everyone had to react on his move. Vettel on the soft tyres was able to stay out and maintain his excellent lap times. At first he managed to increase his lead over his team-mate but it never increased up to 20 seconds which would have been enough for him to maintain his lead after the pit stop...! Vettel rejoined the track right ahead of Hamilton and was 4th in the race!

There came a few drops but the rain kept away till the end of the race! The gaps between the first 6 drivers were absolutely minimal. The top 6 was separated by 6 seconds only: Webber took the victory and Rosberg and Alonso completed the podium places. Vettel finished 4th followed by Hamilton and Massa who drove an excellent race after the lousy beginning of the season. Though it was intense wheel-to-wheel battle, it was somehow lacking all the real excitement because in Monaco you just can´t overtake if your rival doesn´t make any mistakes... So in that way we saw the dullest race of the season so far no matter how tiny the gaps were!

Heikki Kovalainen in his Caterham drove a tremendous race, his very best of the season! Heikki was one of those lucky ones who benefitted from shortcutting the first chicane and he got past McLaren´s Jenson Button who had a poor start. And Heikki in his red Angry Bird helmet was able to keep the Briton behind him the whole race! After the pit stop he rejoined the track just ahead of Button but the Finn closely blocked Button´s all attempts to overtake him! Fantastic driving from Heikki who finished the race 13th! The another Finn Kimi didn´t have such a splendid day at the office... He was struggling with the lack of grip but managed to bring the E20 to the chequered flag in 9th place. Valuable championship points anyway!

So it´s Alonso leading the drivers´ championship but only by 3 points. The Red Bull team-mates Vettel and Webber share the second place with 73 points each... Once again when the Red Bull seems strong the other top teams have started talking about the legality of the RB8. Now the latest topic has been the spots in the floor of the chassis located near the rear wheels which are said to improve downforce.  It just proves that the other teams experience Red Bull as a serious threat! ;)

lauantai 26. toukokuuta 2012

Monaco GP / Qualifying: Who says Schumi is too old for Formula 1?!

After such a chaotic beginning of the season I had no clue what to expect from Monaco! The hectic Q1 had just got underway when my mother-in-law and father-in-law came for a visit! My husband had cautiously suggested previously that they would come AFTER the qualifying, I mean I have to admit that I´m not a very good hostess when the thrilling Formula 1 action is on... Sorry in-laws but when there´re Sebastian and Kimi on the track fighting for positions my focus is primarily (totally) on them! I did cook dinner and bake a cake when the qualifying was over and my pulse was back to normal again ;)

The only surprise in Q1 was what happened to Perez. He hit the kerb and apparently something in the steering got broken and he hit the wall which meant he was out of the qualifying. Kovalainen in his Caterham was very very close to making it in to Q2, only 47 thousandths separated him from Vergne! The red angry bird didn´t fly quite fast enough today! ;)

The battle for positions in Q2 was utterly intense. The Lotus duo Grosjean and Räikkönen looked soooo quick in the morning in FP3 but in the qualifying both of them seemed to be struggling with their car, Kimi more than his team-mate... Kimi had to use a set of super soft tyres already in Q1 and in Q2 he was hardly able to reach P10 and make his way through to the final section of the qualifying! But Kimi´s final attempt was so much worth seeing! He absolutely squeezed everything out of his car and I simply love Kimi´s racing attitude. Kimi is a guy who never gives up! But he wasn´t the only one struggling on the streets of the principality. This turned out to be the second qualifying in a row for Button to be knocked out from Q3! Button qualified 12th whilst his team-mate Hamilton made it easily in to the Q3! Vettel at the wheel of his RB8 seemed to be struggling with his car as well and he managed only to reach P9 just ahead of Kimi...

The Q3 was breath-taking in many ways. At so many occasions I´ve heard people wondering if Schumacher is too old for Formula 1... Is it even possible for a 43-year-old to reach the same level of performance as his much younger rivals? Today Schumi showed all his critics that these talks are absolutely rubbish! Schumacher in his Mercedes AMG snatched pole today!! It is such a shame that Schumi has a 5-place grid penalty from Barcelona (due to the crash with Senna) so it will drop him back to P6 tomorrow. But truly impressive effort from the 7-time world champion no matter what!

Mark Webber showed that there´s true speed hiding inside the RB8 by making it into front row! And actually Mark will start on pole tomorrow due to Schumi´s penalty. Rosberg completed the perfect day for Mercedes by starting in P2 for tomorrow´s race. The second row will be Hamilton and Grosjean. Schumi will be in P6 and Alonso alongside him. Kimi qualifying 8th was kind of a disappointment for me but he had difficulties with getting his tyres warmed up...

But what was heart-rending for me was the fact that Sebastian Vettel set no lap time in the Q3! In the morning he seemed competitive indeed but after the qualifying the German said that they had made some changes in the set up which turned out to be a wrong choice... Sebastian says he pins his hopes on the race strategy but I can´t help thinking about how difficult overtaking is in Monaco... So which is more important: a better grid position or saving tyres for the race? If I´m asked there´s no point in saving tyres if you can´t get past your rivals! Sebastian also stated that he´ll choose a different tyre strategy for the race which means that he´ll start the race on the soft tyres whilst all the other drivers in the top ten will start on the super softs. It´s true that the harder compound gives you a few extra laps in the first stint compared to your rivals but what if there´s a safety car? I´m sure we´re not going to see a race without anybody hitting the walls! And in addition to these doubts I´m simply gutted that I didn´t see my favourite driver taking everything out of the car at the most crucial stage in the qualifying!

Maldonado in P9 will also be dropped back on the grid due to penalties. The Venezuelan was given a 10-place grid penalty due to his incident with Perez this morning in the FP3. The team also decided to change the gear-box in his car which lead to dropping him back 5 more places on the grid... I know I´m a F1 fan not an expert but I can´t help wondering about these penalties... Why did Schumi get only a 5-place penalty for his crash whilst Maldonado got 10 places? How was it worse how the Williams driver crashed with Perez this morning? Just doesn´t seem logical to me!

sunnuntai 13. toukokuuta 2012

Spanish GP: A new winner again!

Before the race got underway my instinct told me that it was definitely Kimi´s turn to win today and that Maldonado wouldn´t make it to the chequered flag... My instinct turned out to be pretty wrong!

Alonso got a dream start and he was able to overtake Maldonado immediately. Kimi´s start was impressive as well as he was able to get past his team-mate Grosjean right away. Unfortunately Kimi´s race pace wasn´t as strong as I had hoped it to be and the Iceman couldn´t quite keep up with the pace that both Alonso and Maldonado had. Soon it became obvious that the battle for the victory would be between the Spaniard and the Venezuelan...

Once again Schumi was involved with an incident that lead to retirement from the race. On lap 13 Schumi tried to overtake Senna in his Williams and ended up hitting the rear of Senna´s Williams... So both of them were out of the race! Afterwards the stewards drew the conclusion that it was Schumi at fault and he was handed a 5-place grid penalty at Monaco in two weeks.

During the second pit stops Maldonado was able to take the lead from Alonso. Kimi was the last of the top three to come and change the final new set of primes and the last stint of the Finn was extremely impressive! He was able to decrease the gap to Alonso by even two seconds a lap! Both Alonso and Maldonado struggled with their tyres at the end and on the closing laps Kimi got right behind Alonso but there simply weren´t enough laps left for him to overtake the Ferrari driver! But it was such a pleasure to watch Kimi chasing Alonso lap by lap and second by second! You could actually see how Kimi was able to "taste the blood" as he was closing the gap metre by metre... Highly entertaining F1 racing! So well deserved podium place for the Iceman although he was disappointed with the 3rd place and didn´t hesitate to show it.

Hamilton´s performance was strong again. He started the race from the back of the grid but managed to finish 8th and score some points even though he once again had one delayed pit stop again. Vettel´s race wasn´t problem free either. At the beginning of the race it seemed that he could easily battle for P4 or P5 but he was handed a drive through penalty for ignoring yellow flags. He also had a problem with his front wing so the change of the nose meant a little longer pit stop. But I loved to see Vettel not giving up but fighting for every position that was there to be taken! The German made staggering overtaking moves on Rosberg and Button for example. Vettel finally finished 6th which was the maximum that could be reached after all those setbacks.

So five rounds and five different winners from different teams so far! The battle for the championship is unbelievably tight! Maldonado took his maiden victory which must be a truly special moment for him :) Williams has taken a significant leap forward! Last season you would have been considered crazy if you had said that you can win races with Williams next year! Times change so fast in the F1 world...

There was a frightening fire in the Williams garage after the race! An electrical problem in the fuel rig caused the fire but luckily there seems to have been no serious injuries. So there´re Vettel and Alonso leading the championship with 61 points... Kimi jumped 4th in the drivers´ standings and Lotus is only some 14 points behind McLaren in the constructors´ standings...

lauantai 12. toukokuuta 2012

Spanish GP / Qualifying: Where on earth did Maldonado come from?!?

In the middle of a personal mess I was soooo delighted and overwhelmingly happy that the Spanish GP weekend was finally here! I had an exceptional GP Saturday though because I was unable to watch the qualifying live on TV. My sister-in-law held a birthday party for their two kids today so I went there with my sons. I have to admit that I felt pretty anxious drinking coffee and checking the clock which was about half past three... I knew there was (hopefully) intense battle going on and I could just hope things would work out well for Sebastian and Kimi... I could hardly wait to get home and watch the recorded qualifying session! And I do have to say the qualifying session at Circuit de Catalunya turned out to be something against ALL ODDS!

Q1 was kind of a typical one. What was conspicuous though was the difference between the performance of the Williams drivers. Maldonado snatched P5 while his team-mate Senna was knocked out of Q2 being 18th! Senna had a good chance to improve his lap time in his last run but he went wide and that was the end of it for him! Not the first mistake that Senna has made! He clearly has difficulties to reach the same level as his Venezuelan team-mate has. I wouldn´t wonder if Frank Williams decided to give the promising young Finn Valtteri Bottas a chance to prove what he´s capable of at the wheel of Williams... Bottas has showed he has the speed by being faster than his team-mate in the free practice sessions on several Fridays. I´m convinced Bottas would deliver better than Senna. Bottas is also a real racing driver who doesn´t need to pay for his seat so I do hope he´ll get a chance to show his talent during this season!

Q2 was an omen I have to say. I mean we have seen various names topping the timesheets after Q2 but where on earth did Pastor Maldonado come from?? He was the fastest man on the track. Surprises didn´t end there. Both Button and Webber were out of Q3! During the whole weekend Button has been complaining about a serious understeering problem but I was still surprised that he couldn´t make it to the Q3. Webber on the other hand made only one run at the beginning of Q2 and his time wasn´t simply fast enough. In terms of the pace of the team-mates it was Ferrari which caught my eye in Q2. Alonso was surprisingly quick be reaching P6 while his constantly under-performing team-mate Massa was out of Q3. I can´t help wondering how long Massa is allowed to continue his lousy efforts in the team until he will be replaced... It should have been done ages ago already!

Q3 was full of unpredicted surprises! Before the qually I predicted it would be either Hamilton or Vettel on pole at Barcelona so Hamilton conquering pole was no surprise at all. But Maldonado in his Williams completing the front row... Whaaat?!? I was aware that many teams had major upgrades for their cars at Barcelona but Williams making such a step forward can really be considered almost a miracle! And Alonso qualified in P3 which I really couldn´t see coming! It seems Ferrari has caught up quite a bit at least in terms of one driver... Lotus was strong again. Grosjean qualified 4th and Kimi 5th. But Vettel... where was he? He started two time laps but finished neither one of them which made him 8th on the grid because Schumacher didn´t set a lap time at all and Kobayashi had a technical issue at the end of Q2. After the qualifying Vettel stated that the decision not to set a lap time was made because it allows him a free choice of tyres for tomorrow´s race... I have to say as a passionate fan of Seb I´m disappointed with this! The tyre tactics play too significant a role in qualifying nowadays! I would have wanted to know how fast Sebastian would really have been!

After setting his pole lap Hamilton was told by the team to stop his car on the track. That lead to excluding the Briton from qualifying for not returning to the pits after setting his best lap! There wasn´t enough fuel in his car for a one-litre sample to be provided to the FIA. This means that instead of pole position Hamilton will start at the back of the grid! So there will be Pastor Maldonado on pole after all! I guess surprising isn´t a word good enough to describe today´s Formula 1 action... Breath-taking indeed!!

torstai 3. toukokuuta 2012

Lotus 1st, Red Bull 2nd, Ferrari 3rd: the true pecking order?

The three testing days at Mugello Italy have now been completed by the teams. So is there any new information about the pecking order? Which team will have the fastest car at Circuit de Catalunya next week and who will conquer the pole and win the race?

On Tuesday afternoon the circuit was hit by some heavy rain showers so that did have some influence on the teams´ testing programmes. Especially team Lotus changed their plans and announced that Grosjean would drive both on Wednesday and Thursday which meant that Kimi missed out the entire testing session! On one hand it´s understandable because the team lost some valuable time on Tuesday so they wanted to maximise the benefit of the outcome by using only one driver... On the other hand I´m sure Kimi´s skills to improve and develop the car would have benefitted the team a great deal! But if it had to be one driver only, I think it´s definitely Grosjean who needed the test days more than Kimi. Grosjean is a young driver who needs all the mileage he can get. Kimi seems to be "at home" in the car, he´s completely ready to drive it any time any where!!

Grosjean has topped the time sheets both on Wednesday and today so it seems Lotus really has the speed that it takes to win races this season! And the team is constantly developping the car and bringing new parts into it so I am about to get carried away with images of huge success and glory reached by the team (Kimi especially!)... I do believe that this test result isn´t a lie. Lotus really is a serious contender in both championships this year!

I am extremely glad to notice that Red Bull seems to be improving their pace race by race! Though Vettel still keeps saying that they have a lot of work to do their performance looks strong. And this result isn´t a lie either. I´m sure Vettel (and Webber) will be up there to fight for podium places when the lights go out at Barcelona!

What I find more surprising is that Alonso was 3rd fastest today and only a few tenths slower than Grosjean! Ferrari brought a new exhaust system into their car today and so far you can only speculate how it will affect Ferrari´s pace... Personally I don´t think that Ferrari would be ready to fight for the podium places next week but I´m convinced that we´re going to see a lot of improvement by the legendary Italian team this year! But gaining victories in normal weather conditions may be out of sight for a while!

How about Mercedes and McLaren? Mercedes seemed sooo strong in the very first races but are they improving as much as the other top teams? It´s interesting to see at Barcelona whether Nico and Schumi are still up there to challenge their rivals for pole. And McLaren then... The team´s decision to allow the test drivers drive all the three days raises many questions at least in my mind. Especially after Hamilton stating that he would have preferred to drive the test personally because at Bahrain he didn´t feel that comfortable in the car and there seemed to be many issues to be solved... Not that I would underrate the work done by the test drivers but I´m sure Hamilton and Button would have had more experience and knowledge to develop the car... So the real pace of the McLaren is still kind of a question mark when arriving in Barcelona.