Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

sunnuntai 24. maaliskuuta 2013

Malaysian GP: Team orders and huge drama!

This has been an extremely emotional day! I had to go for a long walk before starting to write my blog post as I´m totally overwhelmed with all kinds of thoughts after the eventful race... But first let´s look back to the start.

Kimi in his Lotus had been given a 3-place grid penalty for impeding Rosberg in the qualifying so the Iceman was dropped down to P10. The drivers started to the race with the intermediates as the track was partly damp and partly dry -just like in the qualifying yesterday. The first drama occurred at the start: Alonso tapped to the back of Vettel´s Hungry Heidi and broke his front wing. He didn´t come in to get a new nose as the team was hoping that the wing would last till it was time to put the slicks on. Well, the damaged front wing didn´t last that long! Already on the second lap the wing collapsed and Alonso went off causing a retirement for the Spaniard. Vettel was leading the race followed closely by his team-mate Webber.

Not all teams had problem-free pit stops. Force India had serious technical issues in the pit box with both of their cars! Both Di Resta and Sutil suffered from delayed pit stops and finally they both had to retire due to the technical issues. Hamilton in his Mercedes provided us a hilarious moment in his first pit stop as he headed straight into McLaren´s pit box! Button in his McLaren was also driving a strong race until he came to the pits and was sent on his way with a loose front wheel. So lots of action in the pits today!

Racing on the track wasn´t lacking action either! Kimi had a difficult race at the wheel of his E21. The Iceman had a poor start and he had to fight hard to make his way higher up in the field. He had an intense battle with Sauber´s Hulkenberg and they even touched while battling for position but finally Kimi got past. But Lotus was quite difficult to drive and in spite of making one pit stop less than others Kimi couldn´t make it higher than P7 today. Good points anyway!

The fight for victory seemed to be between the Red Bull drivers. Webber took the lead after the first pit stops but after the fourth and last pit stop Vettel joined right behind his team-mate. I was holding my breath not knowing if I dare to watch or not. The team-mates drove wheel-to-wheel several laps when there were about 10 laps to go. After the intense and thrilling battle Vettel made his move: he forced Mark to go wider than he would have wanted to get a better line to the next corner. And Sebastian took the lead! But against the team orders. The team had told both their drivers to hold position, which meant that Seb wasn´t allowed to overtake his team-mate. Mark had been told to turn down the engine and look after his tyres. So Sebastian chose to disobey the team orders! And what a drama this turned out...!

The Mercedes duo was in a very similar situation. Hamilton and Rosberg were fighting for a podium finish. They too had intense battle going on and they made overtaking moves on each other. Until they were given a team order as well: hold position and no overtaking! Rosberg behind his team-mate seemed to be faster and he was moaning on the team radio about the situation. Nico was asking a permission to get past Hamilton but Brawn said "negative". No wonder Nico was very frustrated! He would have deserved the 3rd place!

So Vettel and Webber made it a double victory for Red Bull. Hamilton finished 3rd and his team-mate Rosberg 4th. Massa came 5th followed by the Lotus duo. But after the race the atmosphere on the podium was ice cold! Webber was obviously furious because of his team-mate´s overtaking manoeuvre. Hamilton felt sorry because he said Nico should have been on the podium instead of him. What a drama!

I feel an urgent need to write a few lines about the team orders seen today. I feel that Vettel did nothing wrong. The race doesn´t end when there´re 10 laps to go. The race isn´t over until the chequered flag wags! This was the second race of the season so it wasn´t question of some decisive moments in the championship battle! The F1 drivers are there to race and to win! It´s in their blood to try to overtake their rivals and gain success! These team orders are definitely a bad thing for the sport. It´s not allowed in any other sport to make a deal before a match which team is going to win. The same applies to F1 in my opinion. You should be standing on the podium because you´ve done a better job than your rivals and because you´ve been faster. It shouldn´t be decided by any team who will stand on the podium and who won´t! That´s not sports any more! And I don´t see any reason why Vettel should apologise for winning the race! Like the Finnish F1 expert Mika Salo said on TV, if the situation had been between Vettel and Alonso or Hamilton for example, it would have been completely acceptable for Vettel to overtake his rival. I can´t understand why it´s so different when it´s his team-mate in question! F1 is about racing your rivals, including your team-mate! And to be extraordinary and successful you just have to push the boundaries sometimes.

I understand Mark´s disappointment and frustration. He relied on his team-mate obeying the team orders. But the point is that those team orders shouldn´t be given at least not at this stage of the season. Team Principal Horner has often stated that there´s no number one driver in the team but the drivers are treated equally. That means they should be allowed to race until the chequered flag. Sebastian really wanted to win today and he completely deserves the victory. I understand that in general you should act like the team tells you. I mean you should respect your boss. But there´s always an exception proving the rule... And I have to admit that I feel attracted to this rebel attitude that Sebastian has shown today. What makes you a winner is the ability to take risks. Even though they sometimes evoke very contradictory feelings.

lauantai 23. maaliskuuta 2013

Malaysian GP / Qualifying: Sebastian on pole again!

I had high hopes for today´s qualifying. Kimi at the wheel of his E21 was the fastest man on track in yesterday´s FP2 so Kimi seemed to be flying at Sepang. Kimi has had a very strong start to this season and I was sure that the Iceman was going to be right there on the very front to fight for pole today! My another favourite Sebastian was only some thousandths of a second behind Kimi yesterday so I was prepared to see a staggering fight for pole in the sunny and humid conditions at Sepang.

When the qualifying started the conditions were dry. Q1 was full of surprises. First of all, Adrian Sutil in his Force India was topping the standings after the first session! Who could have expected that to happen? Another disappointing surprise was the fact that Bottas in his Williams wasn´t able to make it through in to Q2 whilst his Venezuelan team-mate Maldonado was 14th fastest. It´s never a good thing to get beaten by your team-mate no matter how difficult the car is to drive. Just hoping to see better drive from Valtteri in tomorrow´s race! I was also worried about Sebastian´s pace. The German was quite on the edge in Q2 because he was only 15th fastest in the first session.

The light rain started in the middle of Q2. Conditions were tricky as one part of the track was damp and the other part still dry. And conditions like this always tend to cause surprises. This time, too. Sebastian seemed to be struggling with his pace also in the second session and he was only 9th fastest when the rain hit the track. That certainly helped Sebastian as none of the drivers were able to improve their times in damp conditions. One of the top drivers suffering from the conditions was Kimi´s team-mate Grosjean who was unable to make his way through to the final session. The Frenchman has been facing difficulties the whole weekend and hasn´t been able to find the right set-up to his E21.

The fight for pole turned extremely interesting as the track was partly damp and partly dry and the drivers went out on intermediates. Lap times got better and faster lap by lap. At the end of Q3 it was Sebastian at the wheel of his Hungry Heidi who managed to set the fastest lap time! And this time it wasn´t question of fractions of a second but Seb was 9 tenths faster than Massa who snatched P2 today! Alonso in P3 got beaten by his Brasilian team-mate again! Hamilton in Mercedes qualified 4th, Webber 5th and Rosberg 6th. Kimi´s performance was a slight disappointment as the Iceman wasn´t able to qualify higher than P7. I can´t help wondering what has happened to Kimi´s E21 after yesterday. I mean Kimi had the perfect pace yesterday but already in the FP3 this morning the pace had suddenly and mysteriously disappeared somewhere... But Kimi has had such a strong start to this season so I´m confident that the team will find the pace by tomorrow´s race! Kimi has every opportunity to make a handful of wonders tomorrow ;) I have a strong feeling that the Iceman is now better and more competitive than ever before! It´s not only about the perfect car as his team-mate hasn´t been able to make the E21 fly. There´s something about Kimi...! I´ll be surprised if the "Man of few words" doesn´t stand on the podium at the end of the day!

What could be expected from tomorrow´s race...? There´re definitely two key factors that play a crucial role: tyres and weather! Will Lotus be able to make one pit-stop less than their rivals like they did in Australia? The conditions are different to Australia as the temperatures are much higher in Malaysia. And will there be three, four or even more pit-stops? I can´t wait to see. I have to say that I´m a bit worried about Red Bull´s tyre degradation. I´m expecting it to be higher than Ferrari´s. I wouldn´t be surprised to see Ferrari being able to match Lotus´ pit-stop strategy. Sebastian on the other hand has been complaining loudly about the tyres so they still have work to do in terms of the tyres! And then there´s weather: will it be hot and sunny or will there be rain in the race? In Malaysia you never know for sure.

sunnuntai 17. maaliskuuta 2013

Australian GP: Kimi won the season-opener with a perfect strategy!

The first wake-up was at 2 am so literally in the middle of the night to watch the Q2 and Q3 which had been postponed for today due to the weather conditions yesterday. Red Bull were as strong as I expected: Vettel took pole position and his team-mate Webber completed the first row by being second fastest! Hamilton in his Mercedes managed to pull out a fantastic lap qualifying 3rd. The Briton was followed by the Ferrari duo Massa in P4 and Alonso in P5. Hamilton´s team-mate Rosberg made it to P6. Lotus´ performance was a slight disappointment to me as Kimi was only 7th fastest today and his team-mate Grosjean 8th. But I knew Kimi would be up there to fight for a podium finish!

Then I went back to bed and woke up 4 hours later to watch the season-opening Australian GP. You could really feel the excitement when the lights went out. The start is always a heart stopping moment! Vettel was able to maintain his lead whilst his team-mate Webber had a lousy start and lost many positions. Both Ferraris had excellent starts. After the first corners Massa was second and Alonso third. Kimi in his Lotus had a dream start as well and during the first three laps the Iceman was able to gain three positions and make his way up to 4th place!

All the top drivers started the race with supersofts so the first stint was less than 10 laps for most drivers. The key to the victory was the pit-stop strategy. All the other top drivers had a three-stop strategy except Kimi at the wheel of his E21 who stopped only twice! Sutil in his Force India also had a different strategy as the German started the race with the medium compound and used the supersofts at the end of the race. Until the last stint it seemed to be a well-working strategy but on the closing laps the supersofts got blistered and Sutil lost many positions.

Alonso was able to get past Vettel in the second pit-stops. The Spaniard pitted a couple of laps later and got ahead of the German Red Bull ace. But one thing was very clear: Kimi was unstoppable today! He was able to manage his tyres in a perfect way and did only two stops today, which was the key to the victory. Tyre management is a huge advantage for Lotus. Alonso gave everything he could trying to catch the flying Finn at the end but Kimi was out of reach. The Iceman even made the fastest lap at the end of the race! Kimi took a sweeping victory today, Alonso finished 2nd and Vettel 3rd. Massa was 4th, Hamilton 5th and Webber 6th. Force India had a strong weekend: Sutil drove to the chequered flag in P7 and his team-mate Di Resta in P8. Button in his McLaren was able to score only two points by finishing 9th so McLaren is definitely struggling with their car!

Bottas´ race debut can be considered quite decent. The Finn finished 14th today with a car that is very difficult to drive. But Bottas made no mistakes and brought the car to the chequered flag unlike his team-mate Maldonado who made a mistake and went wide which lead to his retirement from the race. Rosberg also had an electrical failure in his car and he was out of the race as well.

lauantai 16. maaliskuuta 2013

Australian GP / Qualifying: The touch of the new season

Oh gosh how I had missed intense Formula 1 action during the off-season! I was absolutely overwhelmed with joy yesterday morning when I woke up to watch the very first free practice session of the year! No matter it was extremely early morníng in Finland, watching the new cars on track while having a large cup of coffee and some coffee flavoured ice-cream made my day absolutely perfect!

After the free practices I was convinced that Red Bull would be the team to beat in the qualifying! I had a vision in my head that if there was anybody who could possibly prevent the Red Bull duo from making it a front row lock-out it would be Kimi in his staggeringly fast E21! But when the qualifying got underway it definitely didn´t go to this plan of mine! The qually got a very unexpected turn due to heavy rain and Q2 and Q3 were delayed for tomorrow morning.

Q1 started in wet conditions after it had first been delayed three times. What a chaotic 20-minute session! The drivers started the session with full wets and when the track got drier they switched to intermediates. There were many offs in Q1. Hamilton didn´t have the best possible start to his career in Mercedes as the Briton was among the first ones to spin. He damaged his rear wing when hitting a barrier but luckily he was able to continue and set a time fast enough to make through Q1. Massa´s pace had looked very strong in the practices but he also went off in the slippery conditions and broke his front wing which had to be changed. All the rookies except Bottas had difficulties to keep their car between the white lines. Both Caterham drivers van der Garde and Pic spun and went off and the Mexican Sauber driver Gutierrez was unable to continue the qualifying after his crash. So the offs were not only due to lack of experience though I have to say I wasn´t surprised at all to see the Caterham drivers or Gutierrez to face difficulties!

Q1 was definitely a messy lottery. Rosberg in Mercedes managed to set the fastest time and topped the timesheets. Alonso was second fastest followed by Grosjean, Perez and Webber. Due to the hardcore conditions we didn´t see the true pace of drivers like Kimi and Vettel. 16 drivers made through Q1 and the Venezuelan Williams driver Maldonado was the first one to be knocked out of Q2. His team-mate Bottas made a strong and convincing debut and was the only rookie to make it in to Q2. Absolutely fantastic work from Valtteri! Especially as the FW35 was a very difficult car to drive as both drivers struggled with getting the tyre temperatures up.

At the end of the day I´m not completely sure if the decision of delaying the two final sessions for tomorrow was down to the amount of water on the track or the descending twilight but anyway, the Q2 will get underway at 2 am Finnish time! Rain isn´t expected tomorrow but in terms of weather forecasts you never know what´s really going to happen.

To me it seems that Red Bull and Lotus are the strongest teams at the moment. I´ve been positively surprised by Mercedes´ performance! They have been fast in the winter tests also before but now they have looked extremely competitive in the free practices as well. Ferrari is in a good position as well. McLaren has caught my eye in a disappointing sense. They seem to be struggling with their new car and unable to understand either the behaviour of the car or the new Pirelli tyres. The pecking order of the midfield is hard to tell. In terms of the backmarkers to me it seems that Marussia have been able to develop their car whilst Caterham´s performance has got worse than last year. They should have signed Heikki for this season instead of the paydrivers! Heikki´s experience in developping the car would have been priceless, something that two unexperienced drivers can´t bring to the team no matter what kind of money loads they bring!