Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

sunnuntai 30. kesäkuuta 2013

British GP: What a dramatic race!

What a dramatic British GP we saw today! Once again I was so overwhelmed with strong emotions that I really needed a zumba class right after the race ;) Dancing to entertaining music and moving my hips was a perfect way to calm down before sitting down and writing the blog post, hahaha ;)

The start under the sunny British sky was entertaining. Sebastian made his way past Rosberg immediately but Hamilton managed to maintain his lead. Kimi in P8 also took a stunning start and gained two positions making his way up to 6th. Grosjean collided with Webber (why I am not surprised by this at all... ;) ) which caused damage to Webber´s front wing and dropped the Australian down to P15.

First drama occurred on lap 8 when Hamilton in the lead suffered a left-rear puncture. It cost the Briton dearly as he dropped down to the last place after his pit stop. Only a couple of laps later Massa in his Ferrari shared Hamilton´s fate: the Brasilian also had a left-rear puncture! Luckily both of them managed to keep their cars on the track. Unfortunately this wasn´t the last left-rear puncture today: on lap 15 only a few laps after Massa´s incident Toro Rosso´s Vergne faced a similar puncture. The situation started to look pretty dangerous on the track. No one really knew what caused the punctures. Red Bull suspected that they were caused by hitting the kerbs. After Vergne´s puncture safety car was deployed as there were so much debris on the track. We heard on the team radio that also race leader Vettel had had some cuts in his left-rear tyre when the German had pitted for the first time.

The battle for the victory seemed to be between Sebastian and Mercedes´s Nico Rosberg. But Formula 1 is an unpredictable world: sometimes your victory can be taken away from you in a heart beat! That´s what happened to Sebastian today. On lap 41 when there were only 10 more laps to go a sudden gear box failure hit Sebastian´s RB9 and the Red Bull driver had to park his car on the start/finish straight. I was so gutted for Sebastian! I know he would have won the British GP! But this is motor racing: DNF´s happen for everyone at some point. Today it hit Sebastian. I couldn´t do anything but to scream "oh no" on my home couch! (Even my sons ran downstairs to see what had happened as I was so noisy, hahaha!) Luckily every cloud has a silver lining: Sebastian can afford losing a victory as he´s leading the championship with quite a remarkable gap over his rivals.

Due to Sebastian´s retirement on the start/finish straight safety car was deployed. Rosberg, Grosjean, Massa, Webber and Di Resta pitted to get a fresh set of tyres on. Rosberg leaded the race and the situation behind the Mercedes driver was this: Räikkönen, Sutil, Ricciardo, Webber, Perez, Button, Alonso, Hamilton ja Grosjean. Lotus decided not to take Kimi in for new tyres. That turned out to be a huge tactical mistake! Webber managed to pass both Ricciardo and Sutil in no time with the fresh tyres. During the closing laps Kimi lost 3 positions! The Iceman had absolutely no chance to fight against his rivals who had fresh tyres. The Finn was overtaken by Webber, Alonso and Hamilton! Rosberg took his second win of the season and Webber finished 2nd. Alonso competed the podium and Hamilton drove to the chequered flag in P4. Kimi finished 5th, Massa 6th, Sutil 7th, Ricciardo 8th, Di Resta 9th and Hülkenberg 10th. Without the tactical mistake Kimi would have been fighting for a podium finish! An unforgivable mistake from the team!

Sebastian is still topping the standings in terms of the championship but his lead has decreased to 21 points. Another DNF would mean the lead slipping away from the German Red Bull driver. One thing is for sure: there´ll be an awful lot of talk about the tyres next week! Also Perez in his McLaren had a left-rear puncture at the end of the race so this tyre issue clearly was a major safety issue. Obviously something needs to be done before somebody gets hurt! It is still unknown what caused the punctures today. The issue needs to be solved before the German GP next weekend!

British GP / Qualifying: Hamilton took pole in front of his home crowd!

The 3-week break had felt like an eternity so I was more than happy that this weekend it was time for the British GP. Luckily the weather seemed to show its brighter side when it was time for qualifying: the sun came out so it kind of looked like summer although there were only about 20 degrees Celsius.

Q1 was pretty much business as usual. Unfortunately the Finnish Williams driver Bottas was beaten by his team-mate this time and the Finn was the first one to be knocked out of Q2. In spite of William´s upgrades they haven´t been able to make a leap forward, which is really a shame as Bottas would deserve so much better with his skills!

Q2 meant battling for the place among the top ten. Both Toro Rossos seemed extremely competitive! Mark Webber had announced on Thursday that he´ll retire from F1 at the end of this season which launched all the speculation about who will be the one to replace the Australian. There have been three names that have come up in that regard: the current Toro Rosso drivers Ricciardo and Vergne and Kimi Räikkönen who doesn´t have a contract for next year. It seems to me that this news has been a huge boost for the Toro Rosso duo as Ricciardo was 5th fastest in Q2! Vergne unfortunately made a mistake on his flying lap and he was unable to make his way through in to the final session. Both Force India drivers also made it easily in to the top ten! Unlike Button in his McLaren who was the first one to be knocked out of the Q3. Massa in his Ferrari was 12th and didn´t make his way through, either. Kimi in his Lotus made it just barely among the top ten the Iceman being 10th fastest in Q2.

There was no doubt about the fastest car at Silverstone today. Once again the Mercedes duo was simply unbeatable! This time it was Hamilton´s turn to take pole in front of his cheering home crowd. His team-mate Rosberg made it a front row lock-out for Mercedes so the silver arrows were in a class of their own. Red Bull´s Vettel was 3rd fastest followed by his team-mate Webber in P4. Force India´s Di Resta qualified 5th but due to the underweight car the Briton was disqualified from the qualifying and he´ll start to the race from the pits. Ricciardo in his Toro Rosso qualified 6th but due to Di Resta´s disqualification the Australian will start from P5. Force India´s Sutil will start from P6 so Force India´s pace has been more than impressive! Unlike Ferrari´s: Alonso seemed to be lacking pace and the Spaniard was only 10th fastest! Lotus seemed also to be struggling with their pace in spite of their development work. Grosjean qualified in P8 and Kimi in P9.

There has been a lot of talk about Lotus´s "magic device", the passive double DRS system that the team calls simply the "Device". Kimi has been running with the mysterious "Device" that should improve straight line speed significantly but his team-mate Grosjean hasn´t had it in his car. The results are very controversial: Grosjean finished ahead of the Iceman despite not having the magical "Device" in his car! And more significantly, both Kimi and Grosjean had the same straight line speed no matter of whether the "Device" was used or not! So in this light things don´t seem so awfully good for Lotus tomorrow. But I´m confident that Lotus will have strong race pace and miracles are possible as far as this team is concerned!

Although Mercedes got an impressive advantage from the secret tyre test with Pirelli (which lead only to a very mild punishment that Mercedes isn´t allowed to take part in the young drivers´ test at Silverstone in July and both Mercedes and Pirelli were reprimanded) I don´t believe that their tyre issue has been entirely fixed. In other words I believe Sebastian has every chance to win the race tomorrow! His closest rivals Alonso and Kimi are far behind in the back. Sebastian has a good chance to strengthen his lead in the championship standings if everything goes to his plan tomorrow!

Formula 1 world is all about rumours. The juiciest rumours at the moment consider the replacement of Mark Webber at Red Bull. If I´m asked I don´t see how the Toro Rosso duo Ricciardo and Vergne could ever compare to Kimi Räikkönen in any circumstances! And now when it seems that Lotus is unable to keep up with their car development work if compared to other top teams the decision looks like to be an easy one for Kimi. He wants to have a winning car and at this stage Lotus seems unable to provide the Iceman with such a car! Red Bull also has much more money to run their team but not even in F1 money automatically makes you happy. All I can say is that at this point I could easily see Kimi switching to Red Bull. But the rumours have just begun... I´m sure there´s plenty of more to come! And Kimi doesn´t need anybody´s advice: the Iceman knows what he´s doing and he decides when it´s time to do so.

It´s almost 3 a.m. in the middle of the night here in Finland when I´m writing this. A good thing about being on a holiday is that you can let yourself to be carried away with all the F1 related emotions and you can focus on blogging in the middle of the night! I can´t wait to see what will happen in the race. Fingers crossed for Sebastian and Kimi :)

maanantai 10. kesäkuuta 2013

Canadian GP: A glimpse of Sebastian´s superiority!

The track was dry and the sun was shining when the race was about to start. The weather was much warmer than in the qualifying so I was anticipating a strong race for Kimi at the wheel of his E21. Unfortunately the reality didn´t match my expectations very well!

Williams´s Bottas starting from P3 lost two positions right at the start when both Rosberg and Webber managed to get past the Finn. Only a moment later also Alonso in his Ferrari had overtaken Bottas and unfortunately but quite predictably that was just a start. Bottas lost position by position - and not due to lacking skills or experience! The reality showed rudely how lousy the FW35 is! The car was lacking pace desperately and unfortunately there was absolutely nothing Bottas could do about the situation! Such a shame as the man has huge potential in terms of skills!

Sebastian kept his lead right from the start and immediately the Red Bull ace started to build a clear gap on Hamilton. Kimi in his Lotus faced difficulties right from the very beginning of the race. The Iceman had some issues with his brakes and there was no way the Finn could match the speed of the top three cars! It seemed like Lotus´s pace had suddenly vanished somewhere. After the race Kimi said that at some points of the race he lost his brakes completely but luckily they came back. Kimi also had a delayed pit stop which didn´t make the Iceman´s race any easier.

By lap 30 Sebastian had already built a 17-second gap over his closest rival Hamilton so the German had a superior lead! At this stage I knew there was nobody or nothing that could take away Sebastian´s chances to win the Canadian GP for the very first time! Sebastian had such a sweeping pace that on lap 34 he already lapped Kimi in his Lotus! I was enjoying Sebastian´s performance a great deal but I had hoped for a different kind of a race for Kimi...

On lap 37 Sebastian´s team-mate Webber was lapping Caterham´s Van Der Garde when the Dutchman hit Webber´s car and the Australian´s front wing was damaged. Van Der Garde was handed a 10-second stop and go penalty for the collision. Not the only incident for the Caterham driver who ignored the blue flags later when Sauber´s Hulkenberg was lapping him. Another collision caused by Van Der Garde and both drivers were out of the race! Van Der Garde will face a 5-place grid penalty for Silverstone.

sunnuntai 9. kesäkuuta 2013

Canadian GP / Qualifying: a sensational drive from Valtteri Bottas!

It´s long after midnight in Finland when I´m writing this blog post. I have come down with a terrible cold and I feel awful. But the fact that it´s once again a GP weekend always cheers me up. And what a qualifying day this has been - filled with absolutely delightful surprises!

The conditions were tricky and cold when the qualifying got underway. The track was damp and it started to drizzle so intermediates was the only right tyre choice. Even the Q1 held a couple of surprises. One of them was the sensational drive from the Finnish Williams driver Valtteri Bottas. The tricky conditions seemed to fit him perfectly: the Finn knew exactly how to keep his FW35 between the white lines and he ended up being 4th fastest in the first session! Another surprise was that Kimi´s team-mate Grosjean was unable to make his way through in to Q2 today. The Frenchman qualified 19th, even Caterham´s Charles Pic was able to qualify ahead of Grosjean! Lotus clearly seemed to be lacking speed in the damp conditions but Kimi made it easily in to Q2 and so should have his team-mate! The dark clouds are definitely gathering around Grosjean now. Today´s qualifying performance was just another setback for him.

Q2 showed us that Williams´s Bottas wasn´t just lucky when he managed to pull out a perfect lap in Q1. The Finn was able to maintain his promising and convincing speed in the second session. Q2 was red flagged when there were only about two minutes left in the clock due to Massa´s crash which seemed to be his own fault. At the re-start everyone wanted to get out as quickly as possible and get as good track position as possible so Kimi at the wheel of his Lotus for example didn´t re-start from the fast lane of the pit exit. The Toro Rosso duo, McLaren´s Perez and Williams´s Maldonado chose this approach as well. At the closing stages of Q2 some further suprises followed: both McLarens were out of Q3 and so was Bottas´s team-mate Maldonado! Perez qualified 12th, Maldonado 13th and Perez´s team-mate Button 14th. But both Toro Rossos made it in to the top ten and so did Bottas who was once again the 4th fastest man on the slippery Gilles Villeneuve circuit!

In terms of the fight for the pole there were a couple of critical factors: first of all, you had to choose your track position carefully. If you get stuck in the traffic you can wave pole good-bye. Second, tyre management is crucial. Who gets the tyres warmed up and makes no mistakes gets the pole. And today it was Red Bull´s Sebastian Vettel who made it on pole! It´s his third pole in a row in Canada. Still, the German world champion has never won a race there! Sebastian´s driving was such a pleasure to watch today: although he told at the press conference after the qualifying that driving had been extremely difficult in those conditions, it never looked like that on TV! Sebastian seemed to control his RB9 perfectly well so you could easily get mistaken that driving an F1 car on a damp track would be easy... It obviously takes talent and talent this young German definitely has! I was soooo happy to see Sebastian snatch the pole right ahead of Hamilton who completed the first row. But P3... I couldn´t ever have imagined in my wildest dreams that Valtteri Bottas would be capable to put his Williams in P3! But that´s exactly what the skillful Finn did today. Absolutely sensational! We´re definitely going to hear a lot about this guy in the future. This didn´t happen because Williams was a good car. Everyone who has watched the first 6 races knows that FW35 isn´t such a car. Williams has been struggling during the entire season. This happened not only because of the mixed conditions but also because of Bottas´s personal and unique skills! Wow, his performance was absolutely breath-taking! Bottas beat drivers like Mercedes´s Rosberg (4th) and Red Bull´s Webber (5th) and it really takes talent to do something like that! Superb indeed!

Kimi on the other hand faced a challenging qualifying. He was only able to qualify 9th on the grid and even Vergne in his Toro Rosso was able to make his way ahead of the Iceman. Lotus was in trouble with their speed: Kimi was two seconds slower than Sebastian at the wheel of his RB9! Further setbacks occurred after the qualifying: Kimi was handed a 2-place grid penalty for his illegal re-start from outside the fast lane in Q2. Ricciardo was also handed a similar grid penalty. I hope the weather will be dry, sunny and warm tomorrow so it would benefit Lotus. Kimi is definitely a fighter who is able to turn setbacks into success so he has every chance to score good points! I´m convinced the Iceman will equal Schumacher´s 24 consecutive race finishes in the points when the Canadian GP is over!

Tomorrow is also a turning point in terms of the "Pirelli-gate": the secret tyre test run by Mercedes and Pirelli after the Spanish GP in May. Mercedes keep insisting that they didn´t benefit from the test in any way but I believe otherwise. Already at Monaco all Mercedes´s problems with their tyre management were gone! If the situation continues like that also in Canada there´s no question about the possible benefit what-so-ever! And all the secrecy around the test like Rosberg and Hamilton driving with different helmets so that they won´t be recognised... This certainly won´t help my suspicions go away at all.

I have been thinking a lot about Grosjean´s current situation with all the mistakes and setbacks. All the drivers are fit enough to succeed and win races and they all know how to drive an F1 car, there´s no doubt about that. But success isn´t only about the physical skills, it´s also about the psychological aspect. Some drivers face setbacks but they are able to get over them and turn their difficulties into huge success. Look at Sebastian for example. He faced massive setbacks in 2010 before he won his first world title. Like the Turkish GP in 2010 when Sebastian collided with his team-mate and how he made some other stupid mistakes on the track... But he wasn´t haunted by his mistakes but turned them into victories! The secret behind this may not be easy to understand. Why does Grosjean seem unable to get over his setbacks? Why is he stuck in the negative circle of following failures and mistakes? At the end of the day this charasteristic is what separates the drivers. There´s something absolutely unique about the way Sebastian copes with his disappointments and negative experiences.