Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

sunnuntai 26. toukokuuta 2013

Monaco GP: Nico from pole to victory!

The sun was shining in a clear blue sky when it was time for Formula 1 action in Monte Carlo. The top five remained the same at the start: Rosberg held his lead, Hamilton followed closely his team-mate, Vettel in P3, his team-mate Webber in P4 and Kimi in P5. For the first 20 laps this year´s Monaco grand prix seemed a bit dull: no overtaking, just driving "as a train". Until...

lauantai 25. toukokuuta 2013

Monaco GP / Qualifying: Mercedes´s one-lap magic continues!

Against all odds the sun had disappeared when it was time for qualifying and it was drizzling! So the conditions seemed quite tricky. Already in the morning in FP3 we saw several crashes to the barriers. Grosjean in his E21 managed to crash his Lotus even twice! The first hit to the barrier lead to a puncture of his left-rear tyre but second time the Frenchman broke his car pretty badly and it was uncertain if the team was able to repair the car by the qualifying. Massa also made a mistake and crashed his Ferrari into a barrier. The Brazilian´s F138 was so badly damaged that he seemed to be out of qualifying.

When Q1 got underway it was still drizzling and the track was damp. Everybody started to the first session with the intermediates on. Q1 was unpredictable and the lap times improved lap by lap when the track got drier and better. The fastest man in Q1 was Williams´s Pastor Maldonado! Who could have predicted that!? Also Maldonado´s team-mate Bottas got through in to Q2, which can be considered an excellent result for the Williams team which have been struggling with their pace. First time this season that both Williams drivers make it in to the second session! Caterham´s Diego van der Garde made an impressive job as well by qualifying 15th, which is the highest grid position ever achieved by a Caterham driver!

During Q2 the track conditions kept improving lap by lap. At the end of the session the track was dry enough for the slicks. The Red Bulls seemed extremely quick whilst Alonso in his Ferrari didn´t seem too competitive in the changing conditions. Kimi at the wheel of his E21 looked much stronger in the second session. Vettel was the fastest man on the track in Q2 and he was followed by Kimi in his Lotus. The Q2 was a glimpse of my dream coming true: oh how much I would have wanted to see these two drivers on the front row! Both Williams drivers were out of Q3. Bottas qualified 14th and Maldonado 16th. Impressive work from the Finn who didn´t have the latest updates in his car! Kimi´s team-mate Grosjean had shown earlier that he has the pace needed but still he was unable to make his way through in to the final session and qualified only 13th.

My sweet illusion of having Sebastian and Kimi on the front row faded away as soon as Q3 got underway. Somehow Mercedes were able to "release their beast" and there was no stopping of the Mercedes duo today, either! On the supersofts Mercedes´s magic was back and Rosberg made it on pole for the third time in a row! His team-mate Hamilton once again completed the first row. Sebastian at the wheel of his Hungry Heidi made it in P3. His most dangerous rivals will start behind the German: his team-mate Webber in P4, Kimi in P5 and Alonso in P6. Knowing that the race pace is still Mercedes´s weakness it really doesn´t seem bad from Sebastian´s point of view!

No other track compares to Monaco. It truly is a legendary street circuit with all the glamour. I just wish I could be sitting on one of the luxury yachts eating strawberries and drinking champagne and keeping my fingers crossed for the super fast Sebastian and for Kimi who is cool as ice. So far Kimi has admitted that he has heard that there´re always good parties at Monaco. If he is successful tomorrow, I´m pretty sure that the Finnish pranksters the Dudesons might put up a party for the Iceman ;) There´s some mystery involved with Kimi´s Monaco helmet. There´s a picture of James Hunt on Kimi´s helmet but the picture was covered in the morning´s practice session because it was said not to be allowed by Ecclestone as according to him it reffered to the film Rush, which tells the story of James Hunt. The picture emerged back on Kimi´s helmet when it was time for qualifying. I wouldn´t be surprised if Kimi had said that he didn´t care what Ecclestone thought! Classic Kimi. Like he had also said that he would throw his phone away if he could!

lauantai 18. toukokuuta 2013

Tyre talk!

Five rounds completed and still 14 more to go. The beginning of this season has been extremely intense: Ferrari, Lotus and Red Bull are the top teams at the moment and only 4 points are separating Vettel and Räikkönen in the championship standings. Still the number one topic this far has been the current tyre compounds provided by Pirelli. There have been endless talks about the tyres... Some teams are satisfied with this year´s compounds, others are dissatisfied indeed.

Red Bull have given the most clamorous opposition in terms of this year´s tyres. Red Bull have had difficulties to make the tyres last as long as they would have wanted to. The tyres have been a clear weakness for the team whilst Lotus and Ferrari haven´t suffered from the tyre degradation as much as the reigning world champions. In Spain for example Alonso won the race with a 4-stop strategy and many people said 4 pit stops are too much. Vettel said after the race that he wasn´t going the pace of the car but the pace of the tyres. We also saw another problem considering the tyres: delamination. That was a clear safety issue.

After all this criticism Pirelli´s motorsport director Paul Hembery has stated that there´ll be tweaks in terms of the current tyres. Immediately after this statement started the talks about going back to last year´s tyres. Lotus´s team principal Eric Boullier was quite upset about the thought of that possibility. Now the FIA have intervened in the situation and ruled that changes are allowed to be made only on safety grounds. This means only alterations necessary to prevent a repeat of the rear tyre delaminations that have struck at the last few events. The FIA have made it very clear, however, that it will not tolerate any changes aimed at reducing the number of pit stops or decreasing the tyre degradation.

So I guess the changes made will be quite minimal and I´m confident that the Canadian GP (when the new tyres will be introduced) won´t turn the battle for the championship upside down. The changes on safety grounds are very justified. The delamination of the tyre could cause a serious accident and I´m sure all teams are willing to accept changes that are made on this ground. Safety comes always first! But tyre degradation is a whole new issue. It is contradictory though, that cannot be denied. In my opinion teams like Lotus, Ferrari and Force India should be given all the credit they deserve for developping a car that is very gentle for the tyres. Lotus for example have designed their E21 completely around the new tyres. Their success mustn´t be taken away from them! It would be totally wrong to bring back the last year´s tyres only because some teams haven´t managed to do their work as perfectly as some other teams have. F1 is about designing a car as close to perfection as possible regarding tyres and other important aspects. Tyre degradation is a problem that must be solved by the teams that suffer from it -it´s not Pirelli´s problem as long as it isn´t a clear safety issue!

I understand Red Bull´s concern about the racing aspect. It doesn´t feel like racing if the only thing you can think about during a race is the tyres and how you can save them. It doesn´t feel like racing if you can´t drive as fast as you could because it´s all about nursing your tyres. And Formula 1 is all about racing! You should go flat out and challenge your rivals to wheel-to-wheel battles and not letting someone pass you because otherwise you would destroy your tyres. But the point is that the tyres are the same for everybody. If your car doesn´t match with the tyres then the team should improve and develop the car. Easily said than done. Easy for me to say as I don´t have a clue about any technical details! I know that´s anything but a peace of cake!

No matter how minimal the changes will be, if Red Bull wins the constructors´ championship at the end of this season, there´ll be endless talks about these tyre changes. How Red Bull pressed Pirelli in the issue and so on... Though I guess all these talks have mainly been created by the media. Pirelli´s motorsport director Hembery has said that he hasn´t got any phone calls from Red Bull´s team principal Horner but all the fuss about Red Bull pressing Pirelli has been created by the media.

And then there´s this question: how many pit stops are too many? I don´t think 4 pit stops at Barcelona were too much. The race was extremely entertaining and the battle for the podium places was thrilling. And the conditions vary depending on the circuit. Teams also learn about the tyres all the time when the season proceeds so "too many pit stops" doesn´t sound a ground good enough for the changes anyway.

sunnuntai 12. toukokuuta 2013

Spanish GP: Fernando Alonso made history in front of his home crowd!

Before the race I had my suspicions about Mercedes´s race pace. I was convinced that the battle for the victory was going to be between three drivers, none of them driving for Mercedes: Kimi, Vettel and Alonso. My expectations didn´t turn out to be completely wrong...

 Before the lights went out I was extremely worried about Alonso, who was starting from P5 right alongside Kimi. And my concern turned out to be very much to the purpose as Alonso has taken some superb starts during this season. And the Spaniard didn´t fail this time, either! In spite of the fact that Kimi managed to take a very decent start, by turn 4 Alonso had overtaken both Kimi and Hamilton and made his way up to the third place! Rosberg was leading and Sebastian at the wheel of his RB9 had gone up to second.

On the opening laps Mercedes´s race pace seemed pretty decent. But it turned out to be an illusion after all. Kimi made a staggering pass on Hamilton on lap 8 and by lap 15 he had gone past Rosberg also. And after that Mercedes´s race was a catastrophy: losing positions one by one! Kimi´s team-mate Grosjean also faced a major setback at the beginning of the race. On lap 10 the French Lotus driver had to retire after there was something seriously wrong with his rear right suspension.

After the first pit stops Alonso managed to make it ahead of Vettel. And that was the beginning of Alonso´s triumph in front of his Spanish fans... Sebastian couldn´t match Alonso´s speed today. In the half point of the race Kimi closed his gap to Sebastian and made an easy-looking overtaking move on the German on lap 34. So the Iceman was in P3 at this stage of the race.

Although Alonso had a 4-stop strategy there was nothing and no one that could prevent the Spanish Ferrari driver from winning today. I couldn´t have believed in my wildest dreams that Alonso could have won starting from P5! So history was made by the skillful Ferrari driver -there´s no denying that. Alonso´s team-mate Massa had a perfect strategy as well: starting from P9 he made his way up to the podium by finishing 3rd! Who could have predicted that!? This shows the fact that Ferrari is probably the best team in Formula 1 in terms of race strategy and tactics. Kimi proved that success was possible with a different strategy: the Iceman stopped only three times and he finished second today. Sebastian drove to the chequered flag in P4 followed by his team-mate Webber, who had had another lousy start to the race (losing 4 positions at the start) but thanks to a clever strategy choice was able to finish the race in P5. Rosberg finally finished the race 6th but Hamilton didn´t manage to fight his way even to the points after starting from the first row!

The situation in the championship standings couldn´t be any more exciting! Kimi managed to decrease the gap between him and Sebastian and now the gap is only 4 points! After winning today Alonso made a huge leap closer to these two in the standings and now the Spaniard is only 17 points off Sebastian in the lead. Which means that one win or one failure can make everything go around! Red Bull is still leading the constructors´ championship with 131 points but Ferrari and Lotus are not far behind (Ferrari have 117 points and Lotus 111 points).

Monaco GP in a fortnight will be a whole new adventure. It´s such a different circuit compared to all the other circuits and with a very few chances to overtake Mercedes won´t suffer from the lack of race pace as much as they have everywhere else. There has been a lot of talk about the tyres because the current tyre compounds make it impossible for the teams to drive as fast as the potential of the car would allow. This is a contradictory dilemma which especially Red Bull have been complaining about a lot recently. Sebastian said after today´s race that he wasn´t going the pace of the car but the pace of the tyres. And I agree that it´s not racing in a matter of fact! It´s acceptable that the tyres are a key factor and you have to try to make them last as well as possible but the race shouldn´t be ALL about the tyres! Formula 1 racing makes you think that you should be faster than your rivals and go as flat out as you can. So in my opinion it´s very legitimate to claim changes to the tyre compounds. Even Pirelli´s Hembery stated after the race that some changes need to be made as Alonso´s race was nearly ruined by a puncture just before his first pit stop. And even though Alonso was running on a 4-stop strategy! And during this GP weekend we´ve also seen twice how the surface of a tyre has come off, which is another alarming factor and could lead to a serious accident. So the question of the tyres will be in the air...

lauantai 11. toukokuuta 2013

Spanish GP / Qualifying: a front row lock-out for Mercedes!

I brought my laptop outside and I´m sitting at my back yard under the warm Finnish spring sun and I cannot imagine any other place more perfect where to write about the one thing I love so much: Formula 1 racing! So enjoying the warm sun and a cold bottle of blueberry cider I´m ready to go back to the afternoon´s qualifying session.

I had certain expectations in terms of the qualifying. During the 3-week break before coming to Europe all teams had tried to develop and improve their cars as much as possible. After the three free practice sessions at Circuit de Catalunya I have to say Williams seemed more competitive than three weeks ago in Bahrain. It really seemed they had taken an impressive leap forward and in my wild imagination I could even see Bottas fighting for to make his way through to Q3. So in that regard the qualifying was a disappointment, I can´t deny that. Bottas was the first driver to be knocked out of Q2 and Maldonado didn´t perform any better as the Venezuelan qualified 18th. Maybe Williams have been able to take a big step forward but so seem all the other teams as well...

Lotus´s Finnish ace Kimi Räikkönen was on fire from the very first session! Kimi´s driving was such a pleasure to my eye, he´s so incredibly good at what he does! In Q1 he would have set the fastest time but on his last run he was blocked by Sauber´s Gutierrez. This incident caused a three-place grid penalty for the Mexican (starting 19th tomorrow). There were some unexpected turns in Q2 as well. The battle between Kimi, Vettel and Alonso was extremely tight. All three men were separated only by some thousandths of a second! The Toro Rossos seem to have made some progress during the break but they didn´t, however, quite make it into the top ten. McLaren´s difficulties were all but over and Button qualified in P14. His Mexican team-mate Perez on the other hand made his way through to the final session by being 7th fastest. Another impeding incident occurred in Q2 as Red Bull´s Webber was blocked by Massa in his Ferrari and the Brazilian will also face a 3-place grid penalty due to the incident.

I truly trusted in Kimi´s chances to make it on pole today. In the free practices Mercedes´s pace had seemed to be kind of lost and I didn´t believe in their chances to conquer pole in Spain. But there the pace was - it seemed to suddenly appear from nowhere when it was needed and Rosberg took the pole in quite a dominant way! So second pole in the row for the German Mercedes driver. His team-mate Hamilton completed the first row for Mercedes. It´s almost magical how things can turn around in one night in the world of Formula 1! Vettel qualified 3rd and Kimi managed to make his way up to 4th place. The Ferrari duo made it on to the third row but due to the impeding incident Massa will be dropped from P6 down to P9. Kimi´s team-mate Grosjean will start in P6 and Webber in P7, Perez P8 and Di Resta P10.

I rely on the fact that Mercedes´s race pace has been anything but good during this season. So I don´t see that Rosberg or Hamilton have any real chances to fight for the victory tomorrow. The battle will more likely be between Sebastian, Kimi and Alonso. The tyre factor will certainly have a role of its own. Will Lotus still have an advantage in terms of the tyre degradation compared to their rivals... I hope so. Sebastian had a different tyre strategy in the qualifying today: the Red Bull ace used only option tyres so he has many fresh sets of  prime tyres for the race. An interesting choice indeed. Alonso is also a master of taking superb starts so the Spaniard is probably a dangerous opponent in tomorrow´s race in front of his home crowd. Vettel might face hard time to fight for the victory as Red Bull has had difficulties in saving tyres and make them last as long as for example Ferrari have. And then there´s always the possibility that the race will be driven in wet conditions!