Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

sunnuntai 23. marraskuuta 2014

Abu Dhabi GP: Hamilton is the 2014 world champion!

There was some extra excitement in the air when the lights went out today as the championship-deciding season finale was about to get underway. And what a staggering start Hamilton got from P2! He started like a rocket and stormed to the lead leaving his team-mate Rosberg in second place. Bottas in his Williams also got a lousy start as the Finn had some issues with his clutch so Valtteri lost 5 positions at the start! His team-mate Massa benefitted from Valtteri´s poor start and the Brazilian made his way up to P3. Both Red Bulls started to the race from the pit lane as they had been excluded from the qualifying due to the front wing infringement. Both Vettel and Ricciardo were on the prime tyres as well as the Force India duo Hulkenberg and Perez, Vergne in his Toro Rosso and McLaren´s Magnussen.

Kimi had a promising start and the Iceman made his way up to P5, which made me really happy. But on lap 5 the Finn lost positions both to his team-mate Alonso and Kvyat in his Toro Rosso. So it seemed to be another difficult day in the office for Kimi! Kvyat was the first driver to retire as the Russian faced a technical failure on lap 16. At that point Hamilton had a 2,6 -second lead over Rosberg with Massa third some 5 seconds behind Rosberg. The Red Bull duo and Magnussen were the only drivers who still hadn´t pitted.

On lap 24 dark clouds started to gather over Rosberg´s title hopes. The German made a small mistake and went wide, which made the gap to Hamilton increase almost into 4 seconds. Only a lap later Rosberg suddenly lost power and the team told him on the radio that he had an ERS failure! What a dramatic turn in terms of the championship battle! Rosberg was able to continue racing but his lap times were seriously slower than his rivals´! It soon became inevitable that Rosberg was going to lose positions one by one. Massa at the wheel of his Williams was the first man to overtake the unlucky German and the Brazilian Williams pilot made his way up to P2! Bottas was over 10 seconds behind Rosberg but it was just a matter of laps when the Finn would move ahead of Rosberg.

On lap 28 it was Maldonado´s turn to face technical issues as the Venezuelan suffered a splashy engine failure and his E22 caught massive flames. With some 10 laps to go Massa pitted for the second time for a fresh set of supersoft tyres and when he rejoined the track there was a 10-second gap to Hamilton, who was leading the race. Massa drove lap times second faster than Hamilton and he managed to decrease the gap into 3 seconds but Hamilton didn´t even have to try to drive as fast as he could have. Ricciardo at the wheel of his RB10 also had to do a late second pit stop so Bottas´ 3rd place was secured.

With only a few laps to go Rosberg had dropped down to P13 and was out of points. The team urged him to drive to the pits and retire the race as there were so many technical issues in his car due to the ERS failure but Rosberg told his team that he wanted to drive to the chequered flag. That was such an honourable gesture from the German, something that a real racing driver would do in spite of losing his chances to win the title! So Hamilton cruised to the victory with the Williams duo Massa and Bottas completing the podium. Ricciardo finished 4th, Button 5th, Hulkenberg 6th, Perez 7th, Vettel 8th, Alonso 9th and Kimi 10th. At the checkered flag Rosberg was finally in P14. There´s not much to celebrate about Sebastian´s and Kimi´s results so I´m actually looking forward to the nest season already.

So Lewis Hamilton is the 2014 world champion! The Briton won 11 races this season whilst his team-mate Rosberg won only 5 so there´s no doubt that Hamilton really deserves the crown. Although Nico has been faster in the qualifying sessions in general, Hamilton has had the upper hand in the races. And it was so heartwarming to see Nico congratulating his team-mate after the race in spite of the huge personal disappointment. Nico proved to be a real professional and a sportsman who is able to handle a defeat, not everyone can do that! I´m sure Nico will be twice as hungry to win the championship next year!

So this is it: the last race of the season is over and Sebastian is no more a Red Bull driver! I can´t fully realize that yet. As there´s going to be a long off-season ahead, I´m going to look back at Sebastian´s years at Red Bull and write a blog post on the most memorable memories I have of those years so stay tuned! :)

lauantai 22. marraskuuta 2014

Abu Dhabi GP / Qualifying: Rosberg on pole for title-deciding season finale!

So this is it: the very last GP weekend of the year! I feel so bittersweet because this will be the very last race for Sebastian Vettel as a Red Bull driver. Although this season has been filled with difficulties Sebastian has had so many glorious and shining years in the team. One era comes to an end when Sebastian crosses the finish line tomorrow and takes off his helmet. I am excited about his future at Ferrari but I haven´t got used to the idea of Sebastian in the red suit -just not yet.

Qualifying was such a pleasure to watch. The venue is so perfect: I couldn´t think up any place more perfect to end the Formula 1 season! The scenery at twilight is absolutely breathtaking: the setting sun, artificial lights and thousands of lights in different colours make the venue almost magical. There was still some day light left when Q1 got underway. Teams started to the first session with different tyre strategies: to my surprise the Mercedes duo had chosen the supersofts right from the beginning but Ferrari, McLaren and Williams made their first runs on the yellow-marked soft tyres. Towards the end of the session everyone switched to the supersofts except Bottas at the wheel of his FW36 and in spite of his tyre choice the Finn was in P7 in the time sheets. This time there were 20 cars taking part in the qualifying as Caterham had managed to collect enough money to make it in Abu Dhabi. This meant 15 fastest made it into Q2 at Yas Marina. Both Lotus drivers were knocked out of Q2, so were Gutierrez in his Sauber as well as the Caterham drivers. The title contenders Hamilton and Rosberg were the fastest men on track.

Things began to get tight at the top in Q2. Hamilton was still topping the time sheets but the Williams duo Massa and Bottas had excellent pace and they pushed Rosberg down to P4. Rosberg had made a mistake on his final run so although the German hasn´t admitted that he would feel any pressure, that still might be the case... But it was a pleasure to see that Williams could actually match Mercedes´ pace. My favorites on the other hand had to really do their best to make it through to the final session as Vettel couldn´t make it higher than P9 and Kimi barely made it among the top ten in P10. Magnussen in his McLaren was the first man to be eliminated from the decisive last session whilst his team-mate Button made it easily among the top ten. Same implied to the Toro Rosso duo as well: Vergne was out of Q3 whilst his team-mate Kvyat made an impressive job and made it through to Q3.

Rosberg wasn´t the only Mercedes driver to fall into an error today. Rosberg took the provisional pole as Hamilton locked up his brakes on his first run and was unable to set a competitive lap time. Kimi was the only driver to make only one run in the final session. Although Hamilton had topped the time sheets in the two previous sessions Rosberg proved having the upper hand in the decisive session: the German snatched pole by 3 tenths of a second over his team-mate Hamilton! Bottas in his Williams made staggering fastest sector times in sectors one and two but couldn´t quite match Mercedes´ pace in the last sector and the Finn qualified in P3 being only a tenth of a second off Hamilton´s pace! So a very familiar P3 for the talented young Finn. Massa in P4 secured the second row for Williams. Ricciardo qualified in P5 with his team-mate Vettel alongside him in P6. Kvyat who will replace Vettel at Red Bull next season continued his brilliant job by making it in P7 on the grid. Button made it in P8 and the Ferrari duo was left in P9 (Kimi) and P10 (Alonso). What was slightly comforting was the fact that Kimi managed to outqualify Alonso. But I couldn´t help wondering how come there were 7 tenths of a second separating the Red Bull team-mates in favor of Ricciardo! Although this soon turned out to be quite irrelevant...

As I´ve just read on the official F1 website that both Vettel and Ricciardo have been excluded from the qualifying for excessive front wing flex! How can a thing like this happen in the last race of the season? The season started with the fuel-flow scandal and now the season seems to be ending with a front wing episode... Can´t believe Sebastian´s career at Red Bull will end like this! The front wing breach means the Red Bull duo will start to the race from the back of the grid! (The only positive thing about this is that Kimi will make it two places higher on the grid.) With Renault engine it will be hard to make it through the field to score points... So not a very glorious race I´m afraid. But this kind of fits this year so well: it has been difficulties after difficulties throughout the entire season. But one thing I´m sure about: Sebastian will move to Ferrari as a stronger and more determined driver than ever before! (And on Thursday it was finally confirmed that Ferrari is the team where Sebastian will be heading to!)

Rosberg has every opportunity to win the race as he already conquered pole position. But winning isn´t enough for the German to clinch the title if Hamilton finishes 2nd. I´m sure Rosberg is very happy about Bottas´ impressive pace and he certainly hopes that the Finn will make it ahead of Hamilton in tomorrow´s race! I personally don´t have any strong feelings in terms of the championship battle as I don´t have a favorite to take the title. I just hope there won´t be any technical failures for either one of the title contenders tomorrow so that who ever wins the title would do it it by driving! I´m going to enjoy every second of the race as after tomorrow there will be devastating four months ahead without any Formula 1 action!! 

sunnuntai 9. marraskuuta 2014

Brazilian GP: Nico from pole to victory after a tight fight!

Everyone expected to see a rain-hit race at Interlagos but against all odds the sun was shining in the blue skies when the cars stood on the grid ready for the race. Sutil in his Sauber had qualified 13th but due to some "technical changes" the Sauber pilot started to the race from the pit lane. Grosjean, Kvyat, Hulkenberg and Sutil were the only drivers who had chosen the prime tyres whilst all their rivals started to the race on the option tyres.

There was no big drama at the start: Rosberg stayed in the lead with his team-mate Hamilton right at his tail. Massa maintained his 3rd place with his team-mate Bottas right behind the Brazilian. Both of my favorites suffered at the start: Kimi lost a position to Sauber´s Gutierrez and Sebastian dropped down two places as both McLaren´s Magnussen and Alonso in his Ferrari managed to get past the German. Already on the opening laps it was obvious that tyre degradation was going to be a huge issue as the track temperature was 50 degrees Celsius! Maldonado in his E22 and Massa in his FW36 were the first drivers to pit for a set of medium compound tyres already on lap 6.

On lap 10 Hulkenberg in his Force India was leading the race with Toro Rosso´s Kvyat 2nd as neither one of them had pitted yet. Massa was handed a 5-second stop-and-go penalty due to speeding in the pit lane, which questioned his chances to keep his 3rd place in the race. Kvyat and Sutil came into the pits on lap 18 and the situation in the lead returned to normal.

The race was very eventful in terms of the pit stops. Bottas had a catastrophic second pit stop: the Finn lost many valuable seconds as he apparently had problems with his safety belts and one of the mechanics had to fix the problem. At the same time Hamilton faced drama at turn 4: the Briton lost control of his car and went wide but managed to bring the car safely back to the track without hitting anything. Rosberg managed to increase his lead up to 7 seconds due to Hamilton´s spin. Force India´s Perez was also handed a 5-second stop-and-go for the same reason as Massa: speeding in the pit lane.

Kimi had already jumped as high as P3 on lap 31 until the Iceman made his second pit stop five laps later. His pit stop didn´t go to plan, either! Kimi´s F14T was dropped down too early and his front right tyre hadn´t yet been attached. This cost Kimi dearly! Ricciardo had to face a bitter sweet disappointment as well as the Australian had to retire the race on lap 40. He had a brake disc failure and there might have been a suspension failure as well so Ricciardo had to limp to the pits and face the cruel situation: his race was over.

On the second half of the race Bottas at the wheel of his FW36 faced more trouble. He failed to defend his position against both Hulkenberg and Räikkönen and when the Finn pitted for the third and final time the pit stop was delayed again by at least 5 seconds! That must have been utterly frustrating for Bottas, who has got used to podium finishes recently and now had to fight to score even one point. Also Bottas´ team-mate Massa had an eventful third and last pit stop: the Brazilian drove to McLaren´s pit box until he noticed his error and parked into his own pit box! That was quite a comic episode.

After the final pit stops Rosberg was still in the lead but Hamilton was already within DRS zone. It seemed that Hamilton wasn´t going to let his team-mate win the race easily. With less than 20 laps to go Massa made an impressive overtaking move on Force India´s Hulkenberg and snatched P3 from the German. The Brazilian home crowd cheered loudly. Räikkönen and Hulkenberg both had a 2-stop strategy whilst all the other top drivers pitted three times. With 10 laps to go Kimi had no chance to hold back Button, who had much fresher tyres than the Iceman. Also Sebastian managed to get past his next year´s team-mate at the same time.

With still 5 laps to go Alonso had chased down his team-mate with fresher tyres and tried to find a place to overtake the Finn. Kimi, however, was very persistent and did everything he could to keep the Spaniard behind him. And Kimi did it with style -he changed his line only once in a corner and left his team-mate enough room in every corner -no dirty moves. Kimi defended his position with such passion but a few laps later there was nothing to do: Alonso opened his DRS on the main straight and moved ahead of the Iceman. But it was so cool to see such passionate driving from the Iceman! :D

Although Hamilton was within DRS reach during the closing laps he had no real opportunity to make an overtaking move on his team-mate. So Rosberg won the Brazilian GP and decreased Hamilton´s championship lead to 17 points. Massa finished 3rd on his home soil, which he absolutely deserved. Button finished 4th, Vettel 5th, Alonso 6th, Kimi 7th, Hulkenberg 8th, Magnussen 9th and Bottas 10th. What an eventful race! Both Sebastian and Kimi showed passionate and skillful driving today so I´m very happy with P5 and P7, although I´d always prefer to see these guys on the podium ;)

So there´s only one race left and the championship fght will go down to a wire in a fortnight. In two weeks´ time we´ll know who is going to be the world champion 2014!

P.S. I love the F1 broadcasts by the Finnish MTV! It was so entertaining to watch Oskari Saari interviewing Red Bull´s team principal Christian Horner for Finnish TV before the race. Oskari Saari was asking about the engine freeze situation and how things are evolving. Horner answered that they were actually nowhere in terms of the engine freeze discussion and all they had been doing was just drinking lots of mineral water. At this point Saari suggested that maybe they should put something else into those bottles than mineral water to solve things out in a better way. It was so hilarious! It´s always a pleasure to watch Saari´s interviews as he has such a relaxed way of doing his work and especially with Christian Horner things often go a bit out of control ;D Can´t wait for the interviews at Abu Dhabi! I haven´t heard any Finnish comments from Sebastian for a while so that would be a perfect end to this season at Abu Dhabi ;)

lauantai 8. marraskuuta 2014

Brazilian GP / Qualifying: Only 33 thousandths of a second separated polesitter Rosberg and Hamilton!

The weather forecast said that there was 100 % certainty for rain in the afternoon at Interlagos. However, there were only a few drops falling when Q1 got underway. The teams seemed to be sure that there was no threat of rain showers as they didn´t rush out when the session went green. The Williams drivers were the only ones to make their first runs on the white-marked medium tyres, which was quite surprising. Even the Mercedes duo Rosberg and Hamilton set their first lap times with the soft compound of Pirellis. In my opinion they would have easily made it into Q2 with the harder compound tyres. Since both Marussia and Caterham were still missing from the grid, 14 fastest made it into Q2. Rosberg topped the time sheets with his team-mate second. Massa in his Williams seemed to be on fire in front of his home crowd. In the few previous races the Brazilian has been clearly beaten by his Finnish team-mate Bottas but now Massa has magically found some pace as fans have been cheering for him on his home soil. Vettel in his RB10 didn´t make it any higher than P13, which was quite worrying. Grosjean, Vergne, Perez and Maldonado got knocked out of the second session, which was no surprise for me.

It was very tight between Mercedes and Williams in Q2 as well. Again it was Rosberg who set the fastest lap time but his team-mate Hamilton was left 4th in this second session! Massa stormed to P2 being only four hundredths of a second slower than the German Mercedes driver. Also Bottas made it ahead of Hamilton, which gave me a bit of hope that there could actually be a fight for pole in the final session. What raised my hopes as well was that Kimi was faster than his team-mate Alonso, which had been kind of a trend during this weekend. I was happy to watch Kimi´s driving: the problems with the front end of his F14T seemed to be overcome. Alonso only barely made it into Q3 being the last of the top ten. Both Saubers as well as Hulkenberg in his Force India and Kvyat in his Toro Rosso were out of Q3. For some reason Kvyat was unable to set any kind of lap time during Q2.

The final session held tension, excitement and lots of entertainment. Ferrari were the only team to make only one run in the 12-minute session. It was obvious that both Rosberg and Hamilton tried to extract the absolute maximum out of their cars to make it on pole. When the session started Rosberg had a firmer grip on the pole position as the German claimed the provisional pole. In his second run, however, Hamilton deprived the pole from his team-mate. But only for a very short moment! Rosberg finished his second run shortly after Hamilton and snatched pole by only 33 thousandths of a second! That fight was really an enjoyable one to watch. Massa qualified in P3, which made him extremely emotional in front of thousands of fans. Bottas completed the second row. Button in his McLaren made it in P5, which was quite an impressive achievement for the Briton. Vettel finally qualified 6th, which is not bad if considering that he managed to beat his team-mate Ricciardo, who will start to the race from P9. Magnussen qualified 7th, Alonso 8th and Kimi was left in P10. Kimi´s result was slightly disappointing as the Iceman´s pace had seemed so promising in both free practice sessions and in the first two qualifying sessions.

Rosberg left no room for any suspicions: the German was the fastest man on track in all three practice sessions as well as in all qualifying sessions. So it seems that the German has at least one hand on the championship throphy in spite of the fact that he´s 24 points off his team-mate. I´m sure Rosberg has learnt from what happened at Austin last week and he won´t let Hamilton pass him -at least not without a fight. The weather will surely play a role in the race tomorrow: rain is expected at some point in the race. I´ve been wondering if Red Bull´s lack of performance was due to the fact that they had wet-weather set-up in their cars in the qualifying. That would make sense as especially Ricciardo´s pace seemed so lame today. Wet race would favor Red Bull but certainly not Ferrari. One thing is for sure though: the championship battle won´t come to an end tomorrow but it will go down to the very last race of the season until we know, which one of the Mercedes team-mates will be crowned world champion this year.

Some how I feel so empty as there have been four consecutive years when Sebastian Vettel has taken the championship title. Emotionally there´s something missing from my own thoughts this year as he isn´t there fighting for the title at the moment. I´m so used to the tradition of baking a championship cake for my colleagues at work and I wouldn´t like to break this tradition. So I have ended up with a whole new idea so that I wouldn´t have to let go of this cake tradition: as Sebastian will be moving to Ferrari (though it still hasn´t officially been confirmed), I´ll bake "the best line-up ever" cake or something like that... I´ll post a photo on my blog when I do that ;)

Still I´m so excited about the race. Thumbs up for Kimi and Sebastian! (And secretly for Bottas, too).

maanantai 3. marraskuuta 2014

US GP: 10th victory of the season for Hamilton!

I don´t know if anyone noticed but this weekend I didn´t write a blog post on the qualifying session. That´s because I had plans for the weekend and I was visiting my twin sister with my sons and couldn´t watch the qualifying live on TV. Actually I wasn´t too gutted about not seeing the qualifying as Vettel had stated already after the Russian GP that he would probably skip the entire qualifying session due to the power unit change. The German had already used all five power units that are allowed for the season and taking the 6th power unit meant that Vettel would have to start to the race from the pit lane. And I also had an intuition that Kimi would be struggling with his F14T so I was quite happy to settle for reading the results on my phone after the qualifying.

However, I got back home by the time the race took place! Sebastian had attended Q1 because there had been a threat that the FIA would exclude him from the race on the basis of the 107 % rule if he hadn´t set a competitive lap time in the qualifying. And as a huge Vettel fan I also immediately thought of all the Vettel fans who had come to the circuit to see their idol drive. Sebastian completed only three laps in Q1, which still must have been a huge disappointment to the fans out there! Qualifying had been business as usual: Rosberg in his Mercedes had conquered pole with his team-mate Hamilton 2nd and a 2nd row lock-out for Williams team, this time Massa being the faster of the Williams drivers. Thus the grid lined up: Ricciardo in his Red Bull 5th, Alonso in his Ferrari 6th, Magnussen in his McLaren 7th, Räikkönen 8th (Button had qualified 8th but due to a 5-place grid penalty the Briton was dropped down to P12), Sutil in his Sauber 9th and Maldonado in his Lotus completing the top ten. There were only 18 cars on the grid at Austin as both Caterham and Marussia were unable to arrive in the USA due to massive financial problems. They´ll also be out of the Brasilian GP next week!

The lights went out and Rosberg maintained his lead with Hamilton right at his tail. Bottas took a poor start and lost the 3rd place to his team-mate Massa. There was drama already on the opening laps: Perez in his Force India collided with Sutil in his Sauber and both drivers were out of the race. Also Kimi´s Ferrari got hit by Perez´ Force India and there was a lots of debris on the track! Safety car was deployed and Sebastian, who had started to the race from the pit lane pitted twice during the safety car switching first to the soft tyres but then back to the white-marked mediums! Obviously the German had suffered a puncture due to the debris on the track. The race wasn´t looking good for Sebastian at that point!

After the restart Bottas tried to challenge his team-mate for the third place but the order remained unchanged. Ricciardo made his way up after a bad start and jumped to P5 already by overtaking Alonso in his Ferrari. Kimi was in P7 but the Iceman´s pace didn´t seem too promising. Massa and Ricciardo were the first top drivers to pit on lap 15. Massa chose a fresh set of soft tyres whilst Ricciardo switched to the medium compound tyres. Bottas and Rosberg pitted a lap later but Ricciardo managed to undercut the Finn and made his way up to P3!

On lap 24 it finally happened: Hamilton snatched the lead from his team-mate! Somehow the passing move looked so easy. Rosberg stated after the race that he had had difficulties with getting into the rhythm so after losing the lead the German couldn´t challenge his team-mate for the victory anymore. At the same time Kimi´s lap times were looking very slow. Once again Kimi was in trouble with the front end of his F14T and his car seemed to be sliding all over the place! Against all odds Lotus had suddenly found some impressive pace and it was really painful to watch how Grosjean managed to overtake the reigning world champion in the half way point of the race!

With 5 laps to go Vergne in his Toro Rosso forced his way past Grosjean at the wheel of his E22 and forced the Frenchman off track. A couple of laps later Vettel passed Kimi and took P12. The German had pitted already four times during the race! At this point it seemed that a points finish was out of Sebastian´s reach. But the fresh set of soft tyres helped Sebastian to make his way through the field at the end of the race. No one could prevent Hamilton from taking his 10th win of the season and the 32nd of his career! Rosberg finished 2nd and Ricciardo made it in P3 due to Massa´s delayed pit stop. Massa finished 4th and his team-mate Bottas 5th. Alonso took P6 and Sebastian finally drove to the checkered flag in P7, which was absolutely the maximum result considering the fact that he had to start to the race from the pit lane. Magnussen in his McLaren finished 8th and Vergne 9th but due to the 5-second penalty given for colliding with Grosjean the French Toro Rosso driver was dropped down to P10 and Maldonado finished 9th.

Hamilton´s win lifted the Briton 24 points clear of his team-mate in the championship standings. Now the fight for the desired crown is officially between the Mercedes team-mates as Ricciardo is now mathematically out of the fight. Brasilian GP takes place already next Sunday and then there´ll be the season finale at Abu Dhabi with the double points... I´m, however, not passionate about the championship battle as I don´t care which one of the Mercedes drivers takes the title. I don´t have high hopes in terms of Ferrari´s performance at the end of this season so I´m kind of waiting for the next year to arrive!

At the moment I have one thought very clearly on my mind: I really want to witness that live when both Sebastian and Kimi will be testing the new Ferrari in the winter! I have never seen Kimi at the wheel of an F1 car and I don´t know how many seasons there will be for the Iceman so I guess I´d better do everything to make my dream come true until it´s too late! I really really hope this dream will come true. Life is short, you have to chase your dreams!

sunnuntai 12. lokakuuta 2014

Russian GP: Hamilton cruised to victory!

Before the inaugural Russian GP got underway there was a touching moment when all the F1 drivers gathered in the start line and formed a circle to express their support for Jules Bianchi, who was seriously injured last Sunday. It was a great moment of solidarity and unity. That moment naturally vanished when the lights went out and they were all racing each other.

The start was thrilling. Rosberg tried to get past his team-mate already in the first corner but he locked up his front tyres and went off track. The German managed to stay ahead of Hamilton but he had to give the position back to the Briton as Rosberg had gained advantage when cutting the corner. Locking up the tyres lead to a flat spot, which caused a lot of vibration and Rosberg had to pit already on the second lap! Rosberg switched to the white-marked medium tyres and he intended to go till the end with that set of tyres. However, Rosberg dropped down to P20. Bottas on the other hand, managed to maintain his 3rd place at the start and he could almost match Hamilton´s pace.

The big-name fallers at the start were Red Bull´s Ricciardo and Ferrari´s Kimi Räikkönen. Ricciardo dropped down behind his team-mate Vettel and Kimi lost three positions ending up in P11. Toro Rosso´s Kvyat also got a poor start from P5 and lost many positions on the opening laps. Alonso on the other hand took a stunning start and made his way up to P4. Ricciardo was called to the pits already on lap 11 for a fresh set of medium tyres. So Hamilton was leading the race with Bottas 2nd, Button 3rd and Alonso 4th. Rosberg was making his way through the field slowly but consistently.

As the tyre degradation was so low most drivers had a one-stop strategy. Bottas pitted in the halfway point of the race as his lap times started to get slower. The Finn rejoined the track right ahead of Rosberg who had pitted already on the second lap of the race. Rosberg´s overtaking move on Bottas looked easy although Bottas had quite decent pace. But somehow Rosberg managed to surprise the Finn and the Williams driver had no chance to defend his position. So it was double lead for the Mercedes duo again! At this stage I was sure that Rosberg would have to pit for a second time. I thought there was no way the tyres could last for over 50 laps!

By lap 38 Sauber´s Gutierrez in P9 still hadn´t pitted. Kimi put pressure on the Mexican and managed to overtake the Sauber driver. It was great to see that overtaking wasn´t completely impossible although Ferrari were clearly lacking straight line speed. In the Russian GP there was no need to save tyres but on the Russian soil fuel management played a major role. Force India´s Perez was told on the team radio that his fuel consumption was critical and the Mexican had to slow down to save fuel.

When there were 10 laps to go Hamilton had a 19-second lead over his team-mate, who had a 5-secong gap to Bottas in P3. At this time I was convinced that Bottas could chase down Rosberg, who had already over 41 laps old tyres! But against all odds Rosberg could push really hard and there was no sign of dying tyres. Bottas set the fastest lap time of the race on the final lap but couldn´t reach Rosberg. Unbelievable but true: Rosberg drove 52 laps with the same set of tyres, which hasn´t been done in any previous races this year!

Actually I found this race a bit boring (although I was very happy that there were no crashes to the walls!): once again 1-2 for Mercedes, who secured the constructors´ championship in Russia! Bottas completed the podium. It was a great effort from the Finn once again but in my heart I had hoped that he could have even split the Mercedes duo if not challenge both of them for victory. You could feel the significance of the inaugural Russian GP as it was the president of Russia Vladimir Putin himself who came on the podium to give the trophy to the race winner Hamilton!

McLaren succeeded well on the Russian soil as Button finished 4th and his Danish team-mate Magnussen 5th. The Dane made excellent job as he had started to the race from P11 due to the grid penalty. Alonso finished 6th right ahead of Red Bull´s Ricciardo, who had no chance to even try to overtake the Spaniard. This was quite a lame race for my two favourite drivers: Sebastian finished 8th and Kimi 9th. Perez in his Force India scored the very last point finishing 10th. Red Bull were lacking performance badly, so were Ferrari.

There´s now a 17-point difference between the Mercedes team-mates in favour of Hamilton. Ricciardo is already 92 point off the championship leader Hamilton but the Australian still has a mathematical chance to win the championship. Bottas is currently in the fourth place 54 points off Ricciardo. So now there´ll be a 3-week break until the F1 circus moves to Austin. Hopefully by then there´re some good news to tell about Bianchi!

lauantai 11. lokakuuta 2014

Russian GP / Qualifying: Hamilton claimed his 7th pole of the season!

It was only 6 days ago when the fatal Japanese GP took place. The Marussia driver Jules Bianchi is still lying at the Japanese hospital fighting for his life. No improvement in his condition so far: his condition is still critical but stable. There´s no guarantee that the Frenchman will recover from his injuries, which feels so cruel. Normally I love back-to-back races but now I´ve had difficulties to put my thoughts together. My thoughts are with Jules and his family and I can´t do anything but hope that he will recover from the serious head injury! At pre-school where I work we´ve been talking about guardian angels this week. I really really hope there´s one sitting beside Jules´ bed!

Nevertheless, the Sochi International Street Circuit is an impressive new venue for Formula 1 racing. It reminds me of Valencia, which is also a street circuit situated by the sea. The Sochi Autodrom is the third longest circuit on the calendar with long straights. It´s also technically demanding and due to the brand new asphalt there´s almost no tyre degradation. The drivers have found the track enjoyable to drive. Marussia participates in the GP weekend with one car only. Bianchi´s car is in the pit garage standing empty but scrutineered and ready to race. All drivers have a sticker on their helmet saying "Tous avec Jules!" Everyone wants to show respect and support for their colleague.

The qualifying for the inaugural Russian GP was exceptional tyre-wise. All drivers started to Q1 with the soft-compound tyres except Perez in his Force India and the McLaren drivers Button and Magnussen. Even the option tyres needed several laps before they were in the optimum temperature and produced competitive lap times. This meant that the drivers made a long stint with several laps but still some drivers had difficulties getting the tyre temperature up. Q1 proved a disaster for Massa in his Williams as the Brazilian was struck by a fuel pressure problem and duly was unable to make it into Q2. Hamilton and Rosberg topped the time sheets with Bottas 3rd in the other Williams. What was a delight to my eye was to see Kimi being one tenth of a second faster than his team-mate Alonso! Surprisingly Ericsson in his Caterham made it in P17 being ahead of Massa, his team-mate Kobayashi and Marussia´s Chilton.

McLaren had clearly managed to improve their pace since Japan and both drivers seemed competitive in Q2. The top three remained the same as in the first session: Hamilton fastest, Rosberg 2nd and the flying Finn Bottas 3rd. McLaren could almost match Williams´ pace with Magnussen 4th and Button 5th. Unfortunately there was another big-name faller in Q2 as Sebastian Vettel at the wheel of his RB10 struggled throughout Q2 and was left out in P11! Usually I`m very upset when something like this happens but now I was having so contradictory thoughts. Bianchi´s accident has been a cruel remainder of what happens when things go wrong in F1. It was also a horrific remainder of how everything can be taken away from you in a heart beat. No matter which team or driver you support you don´t wish a thing like this for anybody! So actually I wasn´t so upset that Sebastian faced a tough qualifying. I was so so happy that I was able to see him racing! Things shouldn´t be taken for granted. Success or not, I´m happy that I can cheer for Sebastian through ups and downs!

Q3 was a tense fight for pole. Rosberg took a firm grip on pole at the beginning of the final session and Bottas showed clear signs that he could really challenge the Mercedes duo and make it on the front row. Hamilton, however, managed to improve his lap time and Rosberg´s lap time left him two tenths of a second shy of Hamilton´s improved time. In the closing moments of the decisive last session Bottas showed how dangerous he really was. The Finn set overall bests in the first two sectors of his final run but he pushed too hard in the last sector. Bottas got loose in turn 17 and ended up going wide in the last corner so he couldn´t improve his time but made it in P3 (4 tenths of a second shy of polesitter Hamilton and only 8 hundredths of a second shy of Rosberg!) anyway. A superb effort from the Finnish Williams driver! Maybe he couldn´t have challenged Hamilton for pole but 2nd place might have been there to take... Bottas has really been on fire this weekend, his driving has been such a pleasure to watch!

Button in his McLaren also had a great qualifying making it in P4. Toro Rosso´s Kvyat drove an outstanding qualifying as well. The young Russian claimed a tremendous career-best 5th in front of his home crowd! Thus the grid will line up: Ricciardo 6th (Magnussen qualified 6th but the Dane will face a 5-place gris penalty due to a gear box change and will be dropped down to P11), Alonso 7th, Räikkönen 8th, Vergne 9th and Vettel 10th. Hulkenberg and Chilton have also been handed a 5-place grid penalty for gear box changes.

Toro Rosso´s performance has looked impressive and one thing especially caught my eye: both Toro Rossos made it among the top ten in terms of the straight line speed but neither one of the Red Bulls did the same! They both have a Renault power unit so this makes me wonder a bit... Kvyat even made it ahead of Ricciardo, which is quite an impressive achievement. And Sebastian has been struggling with his RB10 once again so I´m expecting a tough race. Kimi´s car on the other hand has looked a bit better than in Japan where the Iceman was struggling with the front end of his F14T. But I´m definitely expecting to see Bottas challenging at least one of the Mercedes drivers and why not both of them! I´m sure we´ll see an entertaining race tomorrow. Just hoping everyone will have a safe race!

sunnuntai 5. lokakuuta 2014

Japanese GP: A tragic end to the rain-hit race!

This time the weather forecasts were completely accurate: heavy rain started moments before the race was about to start and track conditions were extremely tricky and slippery as there was lots of standing water on the track. The race started behind safety car with everyone having the full-wets on but visibility was so bad that the cars could go only 80 km/h and the race was red-flagged after two laps. All cars arrived in the pit lane and the race was delayed by 20 minutes. Luckily the rain stopped and the race got re-started behind safety car. Alonso in his Ferrari was the first driver to retire from the race: his F14T stopped on the track on lap 3 when the Spaniard suddenly lost all power in his car.

On lap 9 the conditions had finally improved so much that the safety car came in and the race was finally on! Only a lap later McLaren´s Button thought the track was dry enough for the intermediate tyres and the Briton was the first driver to pit for the green-marked intermediates. That proved to be the right call. Button is known for his excellent intuition in terms of the tyres and mixed conditions have always suited him well. A few laps later all the top drivers pitted for a fresh set of intermediate tyres.

After the pit stops the situation remained unchanged in terms of the lead: Rosberg was leading the race with his team-mate Hamilton right at the German´s tail. Button had jumped third thanks to his genious pit stop strategy. Vettel had managed to get past his team-mate during the pit stops. Williams were struggling a lot in the wet conditions and suffering from the lack of grip whilst both Red Bulls seemed to fly especially in the fast corners! Massa had no chance to hold the Red Bull duo behind although DRS wasn´t enabled at this stage of the race. Red Bull had so much more downforce in the high speed corners that overtaking looked easy. Vettel was the first to overtake Massa and Ricciardo did the same only a short moment later. After getting past Massa it was only a matter of time when Sebastian managed to chase down Bottas in the other Williams. It was an easy task as the Finn was two seconds slower than the Red Bulls! Bottas shared his team-mate´s fate and couldn´t defend his position against the Red Bull duo. At this point I was so glad to see how competitive Sebastian was in the wet after yesterday´s tough qualifying!

Kimi was in P9 when he pitted for the second time on lap 24. Kimi´s pit stop was delayed by 8 seconds as there were difficulties with the attachment of his front right tyre. Kimi´s F14T just seemed to lack pace: a few laps on the fresh tyres seemed competitive but the pace dropped significantly after that. The delayed pit stop meant the Iceman had it difficult to even fight for a points finish today.

In the halfway point of the race the conditions had improved in a way that DRS was enabled, which meant that finally Hamilton got his chance to challenge his team-mate for the victory! On lap 29 it happened: Hamilton made a bold overtaking move on Rosberg who suffered from strong oveersteering issues and took the lead!  Hamilton instantly pulled away from his team-mate after that.

Button´s third pit stop also got delayed by a few seconds and due to the delay both Ricciardo and Vettel managed to get ahead of the Briton. By lap 38 it had started to rain lightly and a lap later I had a very scary moment when I saw Sebastian going wide in the slippery conditions. Luckily he didn´t lose any positions and was able to rejoin the track safely. By lap 41 the rain had increased so much that using DRS wasn´t allowed anymore. Track conditions deteriorated and Magnussen in his McLaren pitted for a fresh set of full-wet tyres.

The incident on lap 43 was the beginning of what turned into catastrophic series of events. Sutil in his Sauber was still driving on the intermediate tyres but due to the aquaplaning he lost the control of his car and crashed into the tyre wall. There were yellow flags but no safety car was deployed until a couple of laps later.  On lap 46 the commentators told on TV that there was also an ambulance on the location where Sutil had crashed and that Marussia´s Bianchi was also out of the race. At this stage I had no idea what had happened. All of a sudden the race was red-flagged on lap 47 with 7 more laps to go and all the cars came into the pits. Soon there was more information: Bianchi had also lost the control of his car and crashed his car into the recovery vehicle, which was lifting Sutil´s Sauber off the track. There was no TV footage of what had happened but I got very scared. Bianchi had lost the control of his car at high speed and crashing into a crane sounded extremely dangerous and frightening... There were also some track marshals there and maybe involved in the crash...

This is actually completely irrelevant at the moment but Hamilton won the race with his team-mate Rosberg second. Vettel was in P4 when the race was red-flagged as he had pitted when the safety car had been deployed on the closing laps and due to the extra pit stop Ricciardo had jumped into P3. The final standings were determined by the situation on the lap 44 and that´s why Sebastian made it in P3 as it was right before his pit stop. But like I said, this feels so secondary even though it´s my favourite driver who was standing on the podium. But no spraying champagne on the podium and all the top three drivers looked so serious and concerned. There was no news about Bianchi´s condition except that he had been unconscious and had been moved to the nearest hospital.

When I´m writing this there´s still no new information on Bianchi´s condition. The FIA steward Mika Salo has told that Bianchi´s car went straight underneath the recovery vehicle, which automatically means serious consequences. I hope from the bottom of my heart that Bianchi isn´t suffering from a serious head injury and that he´ll have a speedy recovery. This is the saddest side of Formula 1 racing: serious accidents happen seldom but when they do it´s devastating :´( I´m shocked about what happened and there´s no use to think "what ifs" at the moment, what if the safety car had been deployed right away after Sutil´s crash and so on, it doesn´t change the fact what has already happened. It´s always shocking when there´s a serious crash, no matter which driver is involved. You don´t want to see these things happening to anybody. I´ll update my blog when I hear something new on Bianchi´s condition. Despite Sebastian´s comforting success all my thoughts are now with Bianchi and his family!

P.S. It has now been confirmed that Bianchi has suffered a severe head injury and the Frenchman has been operated at the local hospital. Bianchi is in a critical condition in ICU. I'm so worried. I know it'll be hard to fall asleep tonight.

lauantai 4. lokakuuta 2014

Japanese GP / Qualifying: The Mercedes duo light years ahead of the opposition!

When I opened my eyes this morning at 6 am I had no clue what a qualifying Saturday I had woken up to! Instantly after turning on the TV I heard some breaking news: it had been confirmed that Sebastian Vettel will leave Red Bull at the end of the season! And team principal Christian Horner had already slipped out that Vettel was heading for Ferrari! My tiredness was gone in a heart beat and I couldn´t believe what I was hearing! This news took many people by surprise -including me. I thought there was perfect harmony inside the Red Bull team and Sebastian was completely happy there although this has been an extremely tough season with a lot of setbacks for the German. I was convinced Sebastian was going to stay at Red Bull as he still had one more year in his contract. But Sebastian had activated a break clause in his contract and according to his own words he isn´t leaving the team because of the tough season or because he would be running away from his team-mate Ricciardo who has been outperforming him in most races this year.

Sebastian has been part of the Red Bull family for 15 years, that´s a very long time. Sebastian has already won 4 consecutive world championship crowns at Red Bull and 4 constructors´ titles as well. What else is there to achieve at one team? I understand well it´s time for a new challenge although it´s always a risk to leave a team that is the reigning world champion! But when one door closes another one opens. The decision to leave must have been an awfully difficult one to make but at the end of the day you have to follow what your heart tells you. Obviously Ferrari haven´t confirmed Sebastian´s move to the Italian-based squad yet but it´s only a matter of time. And if I´m asked, Ferrari will have the best line-up ever next year in Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen! That´s definitely an ultimate dream team -at least for me. Those two are also good friends so I´m sure they´ll have a lot of fun driving for Ferrari next year! Right after announcing Sebastian´s departure from the team Red Bull also confirmed that Toro Rosso´s Daniil Kvyat will replace Sebastian in the main team next year.

After news like these it was a bit difficult to concentrate on the qualifying which was once again ultimate dominance by the Mercedes duo. Q1 held no surprises. Hamilton set the fastest lap time with Rosberg right behind him. Bottas in his Williams was "the best of the rest" with Massa in the other Williams in P4. The Red Bulls made only one run in the first session on the hard-compound Pirellis and Sebastian was only 14th fastest. In addition to the midfield teams also Kimi had to rely on the white-marked medium tyres to make his way through into Q2. Both Lotuses were out of Q2 as well as the backmarkers of Marussia and Caterham.

The Mercedes dominance continued in the second session, except the fact that this time Rosberg was topping the time sheets. The pecking order seemed clear: Mercedes dominated in a superior way and Williams had the second fastest car. Kimi was only able to make it in P9 and Sebastian in P10. What was even more concerning was the fact that Kimi was 1,1 seconds slower than his team-mate Alonso! Not a good sign at all. Once again also Ricciardo was quicker than Sebastian... It hurts every time. Excluded from the final and decisive session were both Toro Rossos, both Force Indias and both Sauber drivers.

The Mercedes duo were light years ahead of the opposition so there was actually no excitement about which team was going to conquer the front row. Rosberg had the upper hand on his team-mate today and clinched the pole by 0,2- second margin over his team-mate Hamilton. Bottas drove a superb qualifying again and the Finn made it in P3 (0,6 seconds off Rosberg), which was the absolute maximum the Finnish Williams driver could achieve today. Bottas´ team-mate Massa completed the second row. Thus the grid for the Japanese GP will line up: Alonso 5th, Ricciardo 6th, Magnussen 7th, Button 8th, Vettel 9th and Räikkönen 10th. Kimi was the only driver to make only one attempt in Q3. It was crushing to see how slow Kimi was compared to Alonso today: over a second off the Spaniard´s pace! Once again Kimi had faced engine related technical issues in the final free practice session and the Finn hadn´t been able to finish the set-up work he needed to make his F14T perform competitively on the track.

What caught my eye as well was the fact that Sebastian was 1,9 seconds slower than polesitter Rosberg! That´s almost 2 seconds! In Singapore Red Bull had almost been able to challenge the Mercs and now Sebastian was 2 seconds off the pace (Ricciardo 1,5 seconds)! Heavy rain is predicted for Suzuka tomorrow so I thought Red Bull had chosen a wet-race set-up for their cars, which cost them time in the qualifying. I hope that´s the case and everything will turn well in tomorrow´s race. A typhoon is predicted to hit the area tomorrow so it´s interesting to see if they can actually race tomorrow. There were some talks about advancing the race due to the typhoon but it has been confirmed that the race will start as planned in the first place. I do hope there won´t be pouring rain (like it tends to be in Japan) and the race can be driven. No guarantees about that though.

Grid penalties for taking the 6th engine of the season have started to emerge: Toro Rosso´s Vergne in P11 will be dropped back to P21 and Lotus´ Maldonado will start to the race from the back of the grid (the Venezuelan qualified 17th so he will drop 5 places in Japan with the remainder of the 10-place penalty carrying over into Russia next weekend).  I do hope Red Bull have the perfect wet-race set-up and Sebastian will have a strong race. And this goes for Kimi, too!

sunnuntai 21. syyskuuta 2014

Singapore GP: Drama for Rosberg, win for Hamilton!

There was drama already before the lights went out at the Marina Bay circuit. When it was time to start to the formation lap, Rosberg in his Mercedes had problems with his start system and the German couldn´t get his car out of his grid slot. When all drivers had passed him he managed to get his car moving but this meant he had to start to the race from the pit lane. Also Kobayashi in his Caterham had to stop his car on the track on the formation lap due to a technical failure.

Once the lights went out Hamilton could easily keep his lead. Vettel had an aggressive start and he made his way past his team-mate Ricciardo. Also Alonso from P5 took a stunning start and stormed past both Red Bulls at the start. The Spaniard, however, went wide in turn one and going off track meant he most likely gained advantage in terms of positions. Very shortly after that Alonso gave his position back to Vettel, which meant that Hamilton was leading the race, Vettel second, Alonso third and Ricciardo 4th. Kimi also took an impressive start and jumped two positions at the start making his way up to P5.

Rosberg´s race was a total nightmare: on lap 8 he was still in P20 stuck behind Ericsson´s Caterham. It seemed it was only a matter of time when Rosberg would have to retire from the race. On lap 11 the Finns Kimi and Bottas pitted for a fresh set of supersoft tyres. A couple of lap later both Red Bulls and Alonso in his Ferrari came in for their pit stops and the race leader Hamilton pitted on lap 14. Hamilton could easily maintain his lead but Kimi lost a position to Massa during the pit stops. Rosberg also drove to the pits and the team changed his steering wheel in order to make the car work again. That didn´t work and Rosberg had to retire because he was unable to leave the pits. That must have been a very frustrating moment for Nico!

During the second pit stops Ferrari made better job than Red Bull and Alonso was able to get past Vettel and was second in the race. These teams had chosen different tyre strategies: Red Bulls were on the prime tyres whilst both Ferrari drivers had chosen the option tyres. In the halfway point of the race it happened what was very much predicted: the safety car was deployed! Perez in his Force India ruined his front wing by crashing into Sutil´s Sauber and there was debris all over the track. Six laps later the safety car came in and Hamilton instantly started pulling a gap to Vettel. It was ridiculous how fast Hamilton was: the Briton increased the gap by almost 2 seconds a lap! This reminded me of Red Bull´s superiority last year. At Singapore last year it was Red Bull who had the ridiculous speed compared to their rivals! Things change...

Hamilton´s target was to increase the gap to at least 26 seconds as the Briton still had to pit for the third time. However, Hamilton couldn´t quite achieve such a gap as his rear tyres were gone sooner than expected. On lap 52 the Mercedes driver pitted for the last time and rejoined the track two seconds behind Vettel. The German was going till the end on his prime tyres (and with a two-stop strategy) and he had absolutely no chance to hold Hamilton behind. With 7 laps to go the inevitable happened: Hamilton moved past Sebastian and snatched his lead back.

Bottas in his Williams had problems with the steering of the car and his lap times were very slow. Bottas was driving in P6 right ahead of Ferrari´s Kimi Räikkönen. Although Kimi seemed much faster he had absolutely no chance to overtake his fellow countryman. A very frustrating race for Kimi once again. There was no doubt about who was going to win the race but there was an intense and thrilling battle for the second place. Sebastian was driving in P2 with his team-mate Ricciardo right at his tail and Alonso right behind Ricciardo. Alonso had the freshest tyres of those three but luckily overtaking was so difficult at Marina Bay! Hamilton took a dominant win and to my huge pleasure Sebastian scored his best result of the season by finishing 2nd! Ricciardo completed the podium and Alonso had to settle for P4. Massa in his Williams took an impressive P5. Bottas lost his 6th place on the final lap when he tried to prevent Perez from overtaking him. Bottas´ tyres were completely gone and he made a costly mistake which dropped him down to P11. Dropping out of points wasn´t the result Bottas was hoping for so the 2-stop strategy didn´t pay off today.

Toro Rosso´s Vergne drove a staggering race and made his way from P9 to P6 on the closing laps! The Frenchman did this in spite of the two 5-second stop-and-go penalties that were handed to him for track limit violations during the race. Perez managed to get past Kimi as well and the Mexican drove to the chequered flag in P7 ahead of Kimi in P8. Hulkenberg in his Force India finished 9th and Magnussen in his McLaren completed the top ten.

Hamilton´s win and Rosberg´s DNF meant that Hamilton grabbed the championship lead from Nico! Hamilton now has a 3-point lead but it means the Briton now has the upper hand in the championship battle. Ricciardo is now 60 points behind Hamilton. Bottas´ costly mistake on the final lap made him drop from P4 to P6 in the championship standings. On one hand it was a bit boring race as there were so few overtaking moves but on the other hand I enjoyed watching Sebastian´s driving every minute of the race! Hopefully Singapore GP was the first of the many success stories to come at the last half of the season!

I still feel gutted for Kimi. The car is getting better bit by bit but it still doesn´t bring out the best in Kimi yet. Can´t wait for the round 15 at Suzuka! People say they´re only rumours but I wouldn´t be surprised at all if I heard an announcement in Japan that Alonso will move to McLaren Honda for the season 2015!

P.S. I loved the moment on the podium when Eddie Jordan called Sebastian Night Rider because he has always achieved success in the night of Singapore. Sebastian gave another proof of his awesome sense of humor by saying thanks to "Kitt" for working so well. I love Sebastian's attitude: he doesn't take things too seriously! 😉

lauantai 20. syyskuuta 2014

Singapore GP / Qualifying: 7 thousandths of a second separating polesitter Hamilton and his team-mate!

Singapore GP weekend is one of the Formula 1 weekends I most look forward to. The Marina Bay street circuit is the most perfect venue for Formula 1 racing. The scenery and the atmosphere is so unique: the dark night of Singapore with the thousands of lamps in different colours make the F1 cars look outstanding. I also like the demanding nature of the circuit: it´s the circuit with most corners on the calendar and the hot and humid weather conditions make the race especially challenging for the drivers. Under the artificial lights Formula 1 racing is at its very best!

I had high hopes for the qualifying as the Marina Bay circuit was supposed to suit Red Bull very well as straight line speed doesn´t play such an important role in Singapore. I was anticipating an interesting qualifying due to the new team-to-car radio message regulation as well. The new regulation was to ensure that the drivers are driving alone and unaided. So coming to Singapore all driver coaching was suddenly banned. At first the new regulation covered all information on the car´s technical condition as well but on Friday the regulation was mitigated to cover driver coaching only. I find this new rule very confusing. At least at the moment I don´t have a clear picture of what´s allowed to say on the team radio and what´s not. For example it´s allowed for a team to inform the driver to change his brake balance but such information mustn´t be provided for a special part of the track or for a specific turn. Teams are allowed to tell lap times on the team radio but not sector times. Charlie Whiting says this is a very straightforward regulation but to me it looks very complicated. How will it be possible to monitor team radio messages so that the teams won´t use any coded messages for example? For example let´s think about the saying "It´s hammer time!", which Mercedes have used on their team radio. How can the stewards be sure if it just means "push hard" or if it´s a coded message, which gives the driver some certain instructions on the specific set-up to attack his rival?  However, it´s interesting to see if there will be any penalties due to radio ban violations and what the penalties will turn out to be... I have to digest this new regulation for a while before I can say if I actually find this good or bad.

But to qualifying then! Most of the drivers started to Q1 with the yellow-marked soft tyres. Rosberg in his Mercedes had a difficult start to the first session as the German took an early trip down an escape road as he was getting used to some new brakes. Vettel at the wheel of his RB10 came out on the supersofts but his first run was ruined as he ran into traffic in the form of Toro Rosso´s Kvyat. Kimi´s driving looked very encouraging as it finally seemed that the Finn´s F14T behaved as the Iceman hoped. It was absolutely heart-warming to see Kimi topping the timesheets and being ahead of his team-mate Alonso! Hamilton was only 3rd and his team-mate Rosberg 6th, which gave an indication of a tight battle for pole. Sutil in his Sauber was the first driver to be eliminated from Q2.

Q2 was a tight battle within thousandths of a second until the very end. Hamilton, Alonso and Kimi were all within 72 thousandths of a second when there were 5 minutes left in the clock! Those three in addition to Red Bull´s Ricciardo in P4 stayed in the pits when their rivals headed out for their second runs. Finally Rosberg made it in P1 with a 4-tenth margin over his team-mate Hamilton. Ferrari´s pace looked excellent and I was hoping to see Kimi on the second row at least! Sebastian was only 7th fastest in Q2 but I didn´t find it a surprise. Sebastian had missed almost the entire 2nd free practice session due to an engine problem. Button in his McLaren was the first driver to be knocked out of Q3 whilst his team-mate Magnussen made it through into the final session. Vergne in his Toro Rosso was also out but Kvyat managed to get into the top ten.

The final session was eventful and held some surprises. Massa at the wheel of his FW36 took the provisional pole, which was quite unexpected as the Marina Bay circuit is the one that suits worst for Williams. Kimi was clearly on fire in the dark night of Singapore and he was in P4 after his first attempt. Then something went really wrong: we heard Kimi saying on the team radio that he had no power! He had to abort his lap due to the engine issue and I was sure that the Iceman was going to drop down to P10 due to the engine issue. Luckily he didn´t! In the dying moments of the final session Hamilton made it on pole by 7 thousandths of a second. Rosberg had to settle for P2 and we heard him saying "Damn it!" on the team radio. Ricciardo qualified 3rd being only one and a half tenths slower than Hamilton. Vettel made it in P4 right after his team-mate being less than a tenth off Ricciardo. Alonso was 5th fastest with Massa 6th, Kimi 7th, Bottas 8th, Magnussen 9th and Kvyat 10th. How come there always come problems for Kimi right when everything starts looking good? It´s so frustrating! I´m sure Kimi would have made it on the second row without the engine issue. Kimi had clearly found a brilliant set-up on the car, P3 was definitely within Kimi´s reach... But let´s look at the bright side: P7 is better than P10.

I´m really looking forward to tomorrow´s race. The Red Bulls will be close to the Mercedes duo so there will be a real battle for the victory. Safety car has been deployed in every single F1 race at Singapore so I don´t think tomorrow will be any exception. The track is very hard on the brakes which might mean problems for Mercedes. They have had brake issues also in the previous races. The walls at Marina Bay are close so you mustn´t slack your concentration even for a blink of an eye. It hurt me to see Ricciardo outqualifying Sebastian again but I´m still expecting to see an impressive race from Sebastian. Reliability is the key word. Could the Singapore grand prix be the turning point for both Kimi and Sebastian reliability wise? And also strategy wise in Sebastian´s case meaning no more failed pit stop strategies? Crossing my fingers to see that happen :)

sunnuntai 7. syyskuuta 2014

Italian GP: Hamilton from pole to victory!

Once again it was so exciting to watch the lights go out at legendary Monza. I was a bit afraid to see the Mercedes duo rushing into the first corner but to my huge surprise Hamilton took a lousy start from pole and lost three positions right away! His team-mate Rosberg stormed to the lead and the Danish McLaren driver Magnussen jumped 2nd from P5. Massa at the wheel of his FW36 took a stunning start as well and the Brazilian jumped 3rd. Massa´s team-mate Bottas was one of those who failed badly at the start: the Finn dropped back to P11! I was so happy to see Sebastian driving in P5 after the start. I was hoping to see a strong race from the talented German.

Magnussen´s joy was premature: by lap 5 both Massa and Hamilton had managed to get past the Dane. At this stage Kimi was driving in P9 with Bottas right at the Iceman´s tail. Ferrari seemed to be desperately slow on the long straights of Monza and Kimi had absolutely no chance to prevent his compatriot from overtaking him. On lap 10 Hamilton made an overtaking move on Massa and got past the Brazilian. Mercedes drivers now had double lead and they were separated by two seconds only!

Bottas´ FW36 seemed to be flying at Monza and the Finn started storming towards podium places. First he overtook Perez in his Force India, then Alonso in his Ferrari and then Button in his McLaren! Although the superior straight line speed and DRS made the overtaking moves look easy, it was so admirable to watch how Bottas managed to keep his head cool in spite of the bad start and concentrated on overtaking his rivals one by one. No stupid moves or questionable manoeuvres but pure racing at its very best.

Vettel at the wheel of his RB10 was the first top driver to pit for a fresh set of hard-compound tyres. Meanwhile amazing Bottas had moved past Magnussen and made his way up to P4. The Finn had made his way up to P3 already when he pitted for the first and only time. The timing wasn´t perfect: Bottas rejoined the track in P9 right behind Vettel and Magnussen. That meant only one thing: there was more overtaking to come! After the pit stops Rosberg was leading the race with his team-mate second. On lap 29 we saw a dramatic turn: Rosberg went wide at the first chicane already for the second time and Hamilton took immediately the opportunity to pass the German. So under huge pressure Rosberg made a mistake which cost him the lead.

At the same time Alonso faced his first DNF of the season as he suffered from a mechanical failure. The ERS of his F14T failed and the Spaniard´s race was over. Surely not the result that all the tifosis were hoping for! Bottas and Magnussen fighting for P5 provided some really entertaining wheel-to-wheel racing. Bottas made a move on the Dane but Magnussen cut right ahead of the Finn and forced Bottas off the track. A few laps later Magnussen was also penalised for his move and he was handed a 5-second stop-and-go penalty. Bottas didn´t get nervous even at this point but kept his head together and overtook the McLaren pilot a few laps later. Bottas was clearly driving a staggering race!

Although I like Bottas a lot and he has definitely proved to be an amazing driver it still hurt me to see the Finn overtaking Vettel on lap 40. There was nothing Sebastian could do... At the same time Sebastian´s team-mate Ricciardo was storming his way through the field. I was so amazed to see Ricciardo topping the top speed sheet! He was going 362 km/h whilst Sebastian couldn´t even make it among the ten fastest drivers! I couldn´t help wondering about the difference between the top speed. Why was Ricciardo´s RB10 so much faster? 5 laps before the chequered flag the fact that I had been afraid of for the whole race came inevitable: Ricciardo moved past Sebastian and the fact that it looked so easy made it feel even worse. That moment hurt me a lot, too. This year has been so difficult for Sebastian. Hearing comments from Ricciardo saying that he should become the number one driver in the team from now on feels so awful! Maybe there´s an understandable reason why Ricciardo´s car was so much faster and his pace so much better but as I have no technical knowledge I can´t help but wondering about this. And when it comes to my favourite drivers the emotional point of view always outstrips the technical side, haha!

Rosberg had no chance to challenge his team-mate for victory today so a well-deserved victory for Hamilton today. Massa in his Williams captured the first podium finish of the season and brilliant Bottas finished in P4. Ricciardo was 5th and Sebastian 6th. Magnussen finished the race 7th but due to the penalty he was dropped down to P10. So Perez finished 7th, Button 8th and Kimi 9th. After the race Kimi said that his car had felt okay but they were lacking both grip and power so Ferrari´s race was really tough. Very frustrating for Kimi indeed. Although 2 points are better than no points at all.

Rosberg is now leading the championship with a 22-point gap over his team-mate. Ricciardo is third 50 points off Hamilton. There´s already a 60-point gap between the Red Bull team-mates, which makes me sad. Although I completely accept that all drivers go through difficult times. For Williams this was a perfect race as they made their way up to P3 in constructors´ standings. Now the European rounds are over and it´s time to head to stunning Singapore in a fortnight. That´s one of the races I like the most! That venue is supposed to suit Red Bull very well and I hope to see Kimi, too succeeding well under the shining artificial lights of Singapore.

lauantai 6. syyskuuta 2014

Italian GP / Qualifying: Hamilton lead the Mercedes duo to a front row lock-out!

Conditions were warm and sunny when qualifying got underway at Monza this afternoon. Q1 was pretty much business as usual: the top teams set their fastest lap times on the hard-compound tyres whilst the midfield teams chose the option tyres for their second run. Hamilton showed storming performance right from the very first session and topped the time sheets with his team-mate Rosberg second. The Williams duo Massa and Bottas could almost match Mercedes´ pace. Lotus´ setbacks seemed to go on and on: both E22s got knocked out of Q2 and their qualifying was filled with technical worries.

Mercedes and Williams continued their strong performance also in Q2. Hamilton was once again the fastest man on track with Rosberg second but this time Bottas managed to set a faster lap time than his team-mate Massa. There was a nasty surprise in the second session as Kimi was unable to progress into the final session! At Spa a fortnight ago Kimi´s driving had looked so smooth and it was a pleasure to watch but suddenly everything had changed! Kimi really seemed to be struggling with his F14T again and the Iceman couldn´t make his way any higher on the grid. Which is such a pity as it makes tomorrow´s race a tough one. His team-mate Alonso, however, made it as high as P5 in the second session. Red Bull couldn´t match Mercedes´ or Williams´ straight line speed as expected and Vettel could only make it in P7 being the faster one of the Red Bull team-mates but still over a second off Hamilton. Both Toro Rossos were out of Q3 with Kvyat 11th and Vergne 13th. Kvyat will face a 10-place grid penalty due to an engine change so the Russian will start to the race from the very back of the grid.

Although Williams could quite match Mercedes´ pace today there was no real fight for pole. Hamilton took the provisional pole eclipsing Rosberg by 4 tenths of a second. Rosberg managed to improve his lap time by a couple of tenths on his last run but it was insufficient to unseat Hamilton. The flying Finn Bottas snatched P3 so the Finn kept up his brilliant job at the wheel of his FW36. In the end, however,  he was half a second off Hamilton´s pace. Massa completed the second row by qualifying 4th. The third row was conquered by the McLaren drivers with Magnussen 5th and Button 6th. Alonso managed to make it in P7 with Vettel 8th and Ricciardo 9th. Perez in his Force India rounded out the top ten. I would have wanted to see Sebastian higher up on the grid but I was prepared for a difficult qualifying on the long straights of Monza.

What to expect from tomorrow´s race then? I know the Mercedes duo can´t afford another collision so they have to be very cautious when heading into the first corner maybe side by side. I hope Bottas in his Williams could benefit from Mercedes team-mates´ rivalry and maybe pass them both in the first corner! Both teams have excellent race pace, I hope Williams´ pace is good enough to challenge Hamilton and Rosberg for the victory for real. McLaren´s performance looked promising in the qualifying but I´m not convinced that they could challenge the Ferraris and the Red Bulls in the race. In terms of Red Bull it´s all about damage limitation I would say... All points are valuable and I´m hoping to see a strong and problem-free race from Sebastian tomorrow! This implies to Kimi as well. I always support Sebastian and Kimi, no matter what!

sunnuntai 31. elokuuta 2014

Max Verstappen -too young for Formula 1?

Max Verstappen has recently been confirmed as Toro Rosso´s new driver for 2015 and the 16-year-old Dutchman will replace the Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne in the team. There´s no doubt that Verstappen is one of Europe´s hottest racing talents at the moment. Still, the news of Verstappen´s step into Formula 1 has raised lots of contradictory talks. No one denies the exceptional talent that Verstappen has: as 16 years old this young man is already world champion and multiple European champion in karting! He´s currently competing  in European F3 championship and has already won 8 races in his maiden season!

So the question isn´t about his talent but his age: he´ll only turn 17 at the end of September. Verstappen is about to become the youngest F1 driver in history. Alguersuari made his debut with the same Red Bull -owned team in 2009 aged 19 years, which was also considered a very young age. So the question is: can a 16-year-old ever be ready for the pinnacle of motorsport, no matter how talented he is? The exceptional ability of both Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel were identified at similar ages but both of these skilled drivers had to wait for their F1 debut. I admit there is a controversy: Max Verstappen is still so young that he can´t legally drive on the roads of his native country! But the Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost considers the Dutchman ready for the most challenging, most sophisticated form of motorsport there is.

Partly it´s question of F1´s credibility. Will F1 lose its image as the pinnacle of motorsport if a 16-year-old youngster is able to step into the F1 world? F1 is considered to be the toughest and the most dangerous racing category there is and it takes a huge amount of experience and skills to be able to be part of it. Can a 16-year-old youngster even be physically fit enough to race in F1? I would say most racing drivers of his age can´t! But there´re always exceptions. And these exceptions are so rare that I don´t think they actually decrease the plausibility of F1. You have to go over 10 years back in time to find an exception like Verstappen: Kimi Räikkönen made his debut in F1 in 2001 as "an inexperienced" driver as well. Many people thought he didn´t have enough experience to race in F1 but all those odds proved wrong! I agree that most drivers should step into F1 after competing in GP3 and GP2 categories, that´s what those lower categories are for. I would be worried about F1´s credibility if every year there was "an amazing driver" coming into F1 straight from karting tracks at very young age. But that´s not the case. Max Verstappen is a very rare exception and him stepping into F1 as 16 years old doesn´t undermine the credibility of the F1 world!

Then there´s the other question: can a 16-year-old ever be mentally ready for the cruel world of F1 racing? There certainly are demanding mental challenges awaiting him in the world of F1. Sometimes I feel also the current and some quite experienced drivers face difficulties to cope with the pressure: Hamilton for instance has shown signs of cracking under pressure at difficult times. Maturity often comes with age but I still think that age is just a number. Mental skills are individual, such as racing skills. And Verstappen certainly has an advantage as his father Jos is an ex- Formula 1 driver, who knows what it´s like to race in the pinnacle of the motorsport so he´s the best person to make his son adapt to the F1 world. So I would say that Verstappen has all the preconditions to success.

Many people seem to be worried about the risk that this unique possibility involves. What if Verstappen fails and his racing career will be over before he even turns 20? When you step into F1 the risk is always there. No matter how much success and glory you´ve achieved in lower racing categories, succeeding in F1 can never be taken for granted. So the risk would still be there if you waited for some years before making the debut in F1. And if Verstappen hadn´t seized this opportunity, how could he have been sure that there was going to be a chance to step into F1 later? If you´re offered a chance to race in Formula 1 and you´re considered to be ready to do that, you should seize the opportunity! Risky or not.

It takes a lot of self-confidence to put other people´s talks aside but I think Verstappen has every chance to succeed in F1, if only he is able to keep his head together. And what if he fails? Like Alguersuari, who previously held the record of being the youngest F1 driver. In spite of being considered as an extremely talented driver he never grew up to a GP winner. But it wasn´t the end of the world for Alguersuari, who now races in Formula E championship for Virgin Racing. Risks are not only a part of the F1 world: life in general is full of different kinds of risks. But when one door closes, another one opens, I believe in this philosophy.

For one particular reason I´m extremely happy that Max Verstappen will race in F1 next season. And that´s because he was confirmed to the team due to his exceptional talent, not because of his sponsors or the amount of money he would bring to the team! If there´s something that undermines the credibility of F1, it´s the pay drivers! There´re too many teams which are forced to choose their drivers on the basis of their sponsor packages, which is not good for the image of Formula 1. And this is why I end my blog post by saying that no, Max Verstappen isn´t too young for F1!

sunnuntai 24. elokuuta 2014

Belgian GP: Brilliant Ricciardo snatched victory from Rosberg!

I don´t wonder why all racing drivers love the circuit of Spa Francorchamps: it never fails to produce thrilling, entertaining and eventful races. The Belgian GP didn´t let us down this year, either. What a colourful and dramatic race!

The first dramatic turn took place already before the lights went out. Alonso´s race was compromised already before the start as mechanics were still working on his Ferrari when the grid formation lap began. This meant only one thing: there was inevitably penalty on the way. The race got underway in dry conditions as predicted and the start was absolutely staggering: Hamilton managed to snatch the lead from his team-mate Rosberg and Vettel jumped second past Rosberg as well! Vettel was even trying to challenge Hamilton for the lead but the German went wide and lost the second place for Rosberg.

On the second lap there was more drama: Rosberg made a move on Hamilton and attempted to go round the outside heading into Les Combes. This lead into contact between the team-mates with Rosberg´s front wing endplate slashing into Hamilton´s left rear tyre. This instantaneously caused Hamilton a puncture and the Briton had to limp back to the pits, which dropped him down to P19. Rosberg took the lead but reported aero damage to his front wing. This incident must have been Toto Wolff´s and Niki Lauda´s worst nightmare! What was Rosberg thinking at that point? It was only the second lap of the race and the Mercedes duo had double lead! The clash ruined Hamilton´s race.

The Red Bull duo was having a battle of their own. Sebastian was second right ahead of his team-mate Ricciardo but suddenly Sebastian made a mistake and almost lost the rear of his RB10. Ricciardo didn´t hesitate to get past his team-mate and instantly it seemed that Ricciardo´s pace was much better than Sebastian´s. Definitely not something that I would have wanted to see... Rosberg was the first top driver to pit for a fresh set of tyres and a new front wing on lap 9. Kimi pitted a lap later, which turned out to be the right call. Kimi seemed to be flying on the new set of soft compound tyres and he jumped several positions when his rivals pitted some laps later.

We saw a bizarre-looking incident on lap 10 when some strange debris got attached to the nose of Rosberg´s car. The German tried to get rid of the distraction but that didn´t turn out to be an easy task. It took several laps before Rosberg got rid of the distracting debris. Alonso was handed a 5-second stop-and-go penalty due to the incident before the formation lap. After the first pit stops Ricciardo was leading the race with Kimi 2nd, Vettel 3rd, Rosberg 4th and Bottas 5th.

By the time that the top drivers had completed their second pit stops, Rosberg had already made his way up to P2. Ricciardo was still leading the race impressively, Kimi was 3rd and Sebastian 4th. At this stage everything was looking very promising and I could already imagine both my favourite drivers standing on the podium... This image, however, was very premature! On lap 31 Bottas at the wheel of his FW36 made an impressive overtaking move on Sebastian and got past the German Red Bull ace. This was such a contradictory moment for me: of course I was happy to see Bottas doing well but still part of me hurt really badly when I saw it was Sebastian, who got overtaken by the flying Williams ace... Another contradictory moment occurred a few laps later when Bottas was significantly closing the gap to Kimi in P3. Kimi has such a special place in my heart, I really would have wanted to see the Iceman on the podium at Spa! Though Bottas thoroughly deserves his success and it´s absolutely great to see him performing in this outstanding way. There was no way Kimi could prevent Bottas from overtaking him, Ferrari was going nowhere on the straights! In addition to that Kimi also had several laps older tyres than his compatriot.

On lap 35 both Rosberg and Sebastian pitted for the third time. With 6 laps to go there was a 15-second gap between the race leader Ricciardo and Rosberg. Hamilton had been struggling badly the entire race and we heard several team radio messages by Hamilton complaining about all kinds of problems. The Briton had clearly given up and he wanted to retire the race to save engine. In my opinion this mental side has always been an Achilles heel for Hamilton. He seems to have difficulties to hold his head together at difficult times. And that affects his driving impressively. Finally the Briton was told to bring the car to the pits when there were 5 laps to go.

On the closing laps of the race there was a thrilling battle for the 5th place between Magnussen, Alonso, Button and Vettel. One lap from the finish Alonso attacked on Magnussen along the Kemmel straight but the Spaniard was edged onto the grass by Magnussen. This incident earned the Dane a post-race penalty of 20 seconds added to his time. Sebastian managed to overtake both the McLaren duo and Alonso due to the fresh set of option tyres and snatched the 5th place. Ricciardo crossed the finish line as the winner and Rosberg finished 2nd some 3 seconds behind the Australian. Bottas completed podium finishing 3rd. Kimi finished 4th, Vettel 5th, Magnussen 6th, Button 7th and Alonso 8th. Magnussen´s time penalty, however, dropped the Dane from 6th to 12th.

This was already the 3rd win of the season for Ricciardo. I really appreciate his work and the sympathetic Aussie really deserves the success but I would be lying if I said I didn´t hope to see Sebastian on the podium instead of Ricciardo. Once again, this was a tough race for Sebastian in spite of his great starting position on the grid. But still, finishing 5th is a very decent achievement. Kimi, too drove a fantastic race although he didn´t quite make it on the podium today. Ferrari clearly seem to be on the right track at improving their car.

Things between the Mercedes team-mates are getting boiling hot. I´m sure they will have a loooong meeting tonight discussing today´s clash between Hamilton and Rosberg... Somehow I get a flashback of the season 2010 when things heated up between Vettel and Webber at Red Bull. I have a very clear memory especially of what happened at Turkey that year when the team-mates collided with each other. These kind of things can either ruin your dreams about the championship or make you emerge as a better driver. So this definitely is a crossroad for Rosberg and Hamilton. They have to learn from this and take a step forward as better drivers. In my opinion Mercedes are facing another threat as well: their attitude. It´s vital for success to have confidence in what you do but when the attitude turns into arrogance towards your rivals you´re in dangerous waters. Victories mustn´t be taken for granted and you must never underestimate your rivals. Mercedes´ triumph has been so dominant and so superior that every GP weekend Rosberg says he´s expecting Mercedes to take 1-2 in the race. This attitude may well come home to roost! There´s a gossamer line between confidence and arrogance but it´s vital for the outcome in the championship, which one Mercedes GP chooses. Although Rosberg has a 29-point lead over his team-mate at the moment, Ricciardo is quietly sneaking towards Hamilton in the championship standings...

Spa was supposed to be one of the weakest circuits in terms of Red Bull´s performance. So I was actually stunned to see both drivers performing in such a fantastic way! Can´t wait for Monza in a fortnight. Hope to see such performance on the Italian soil as well!

lauantai 23. elokuuta 2014

Belgian GP / Qualifying: Fourth pole in a row for Rosberg in wet conditions!

I´m so so happy that Formula 1 is finally back after the summer break, which felt like an eternity for me! Gosh how I´ve missed the GP weekends! Yesterday it was so great to know that after a busy day at work I could sit down on the coach and watch the second free practice... Which turned out a bit less entertaining as I had expected as Kimi faced a troubled session and Vettel was unable to drive a single lap due to engine problems that had hit his RB10 already in the first practice session!

Some 40 minutes before the qualifying was set to get underway the heavens opened and flooded the track. So it was going to be a wet-weather qualifying in cold conditions: the temperature was only 9 degrees Celsius! Different teams had different strategies: Ferrari, Williams and Sauber started to Q1 with wet-weather tyres whilst all the others chose the intermediate tyres. Gutierrez in his Sauber was the first driver to face problems: the Mexican´s Sauber stopped on the track and his qualifying was over. Everyone made their second attempts on the green-marked intermediate tyres though there was some light rain falling in the closing minutes of the first session. Rosberg and Hamilton in their Silver Arrows were the fastest men on track, which was no surprise at all. Maldonado in his Lotus was the first driver to be knocked out of Q2. Force India´s Hulkenberg didn´t make it into Q2, either as the German made a mistake on his final run. Andre Lotterer had replaced Kobayashi at Caterham this weekend and to everybody´s surprise Lotterer ended up being a second faster than his Swedish team-made Ericsson! Not a very flattering result in terms of Ericsson... But what caught my eye in a very positive way was the fact that Kimi was faster than his team-mate in the first session!

Q2 was also run under the threat of rain. This time, however, everyone started to the session on the intermediate tyres. There was still some rain and the track was wet. This time it was Hamilton, who topped the time sheets with his team-mate Rosberg second. Ferrari and Williams seemed to have quite similar pace. To me it seemed that Ferrari had actually managed to improve their car significantly during the summer break! And from the first moment of the GP weekend it was obvious that this was a track that Kimi enjoyed driving on despite all the problems. I hadn´t expected that Ferrari could actually match Williams´ pace on the long straights of Spa Francorchamps. Both Toro Rossos were out of the final session, so were Perez, Sutil, Grojean and Bianchi (who had done an excellent job and made his way through to Q2!).

When Q3 got underway the track was still damp and the intermediate tyres were the answer. The rain had stopped and even the sun had come out! Rosberg took the provisional pole. Almost all top ten drivers had their off-track moments and although Hamilton tried to challenge his team-mate the Briton was unable to pull out a perfect lap and he was out-qualified by two tenths of a second by his team-mate. In the post-qualifying press conference Hamilton told a glazed front left brake had cost him time in Q3 so he had lost his chance to make it on pole. I was so so so happy to see Sebastian qualifying in P3, I could have been jumping out of joy! In spite of the fact that Sebastian was 2,1 seconds off Rosberg on pole! What a massive gap indeed! But after yesterday´s ignition problems had required a change of power unit it was absolutely delighting to see the German in P3. Alonso in his Ferrari made it in P4 completing the second row. Ricciardo qualified 5th, which was a frustrating moment for the Australian as he got beaten by Sebastian this time. Bottas made it in P6, which was lower than I had expected but wet conditions have never been a blessing for the Williams team. Magnussen in his McLaren will start to the race in P7 and Kimi at the wheel of his F14T completes the fourth row. I´m convinced that Kimi would have been able to make it higher up on the grid had the Finn pulled out a flawless lap.

So Nico will start to the race on pole -no surprise at all. This was already the 4th pole in a row for the German Mercedes driver and the 7th this season. It´s interesting to see, whether Hamilton can really challenge his team-mate for the victory and if there will be some team orders... Hamilton has stated that he´ll obey if the orders come from the technical chief Paddy Lowe instead of his race engineer. That remains to be seen... It is expected to be a dry race tomorrow so I´m a bit concerned about Red Bull´s pace in the dry. The long straights are definitely a weakness for both Red Bull and Ferrari... So Bottas has every chance to fight for a podium finish if everything goes to Williams´ plan! Kimi will be strong as always at Spa Francorchamps! No matter how bad a car the Iceman has he can always get something extraordinary out of his car in Belgium! I´m keeping my fingers crossed that the Iceman finally has a problem-free race and nothing would be more satisfying than seeing the "man of very few words" on the podium ;) Brakes have proved to be the Achilles heel for Mercedes so anything can happen in tomorrow´s race. Can´t wait to keep my thumbs up for Kimi and Sebastian! Woohoo, Formula 1 is back!!! :D

sunnuntai 27. heinäkuuta 2014

Hungarian GP: Ricciardo took the second win of the season!

Already before the start it became obvious that the weather was about to play a key role in the race. There was a rain shower, which made the track wet just before the lights went out. Everyone started to the race on the intermediate tyres. Rosberg on pole didn´t get a perfect start but the German still managed to maintain the lead. Bottas in his Williams had a stunning start and the Finn managed to get past Vettel and made it in P2. Also Alonso managed to overtake Vettel but the German snatched his position back only a few corners later. Hamilton, who started to the race from the pitlane had a dreadful start: the Briton went wide because his brakes were still cold but managed to continue the race. Vettel in P3 gave huge pressure on Bottas ahead of him but the Finn drove stubbornly and didn´t give any chance for Vettel to overtake him.

On lap 8 we saw the first crash of the race as Caterham´s Marcus Ericsson lost control of his car and crashed to the barriers nose first. Safety car was deployed due to the dangerous looking crash and action in the pits started immediately. This was an unlucky event for the top four drivers Rosberg, Bottas, Vettel and Alonso as they had just passed the pit entry and they couldn´t pit until a lap later than their rivals. This meant Ricciardo was leading the race with Button 2nd, Massa 3rd and Rosberg 4th! Bottas dropped down to P11 due to the safety car episode! The safety car was just about to come in when Grosjean at the wheel of his E22 lost control of his car in turn three and crashed to the barriers. So the safety car stayed on the track a few laps longer until Grosjean´s Lotus had been removed from the track.

Button in his McLaren had chosen a different tyre strategy compared to his rivals. He was the only driver who had put a fresh set of intermediate tyres whilst all the others had chosen the slicks. When the safety car came in the track was still damp especially in the second sector and Button could quite easily take the lead from Ricciardo. McLaren was expecting more rain to come but that didn´t come so Button´s strategy didn´t pay off and the Briton had to pit again some laps later.

More crashes were to come! On lap 16 the Force India team-mates Hulkenberg and Perez collided with each other, which lead to Hulkenberg´s retirement from the race. Only some seven laps later Perez crashed his Force India into barriers, which caused the safety car to come out again. Alonso in his F14T had now made it in the lead with Toro Rosso´s Vergne 2nd and Vettel 3rd!

On lap 33 I nearly got a heart attack when Vettel suddenly span 360 degrees on the straight and gently touched the pit wall with his tyres! Luckily his RB10 didn´t get any damage and the German could keep racing in spite of losing a couple of places. What a scary moment that was!! I couldn´t help screaming out loud when I saw the spin on TV!

When there were still 20 laps to go there was intense battle between the Mercedes team-mates for the third place. I found it quite unbelievable that Hamilton had been able to make it through the field up to P3 at Hungaroring after starting from the pitlane and after the difficulties at the beginning of the race! Rosberg was in DRS distance and the German was clearly faster than his team-mate. Hamilton was told on the team radio to let Nico through as the German had to pit once more. This message was told to Hamilton several times but Hamilton didn´t obey but persistently kept Nico behind. That cost Rosberg valuable seconds.

The closing stages of the race were absolutely thrilling! Alonso was leading the race with Hamilton 2nd and Ricciardo 3rd. Soon they all were within DRS distance from each other! Ricciardo had the freshest tyres and three laps before the chequered flag the Australian made a staggering overtaking move on Hamilton and got past the Briton! Soon after this he attacked on Alonso, who had no chance to defend his lead with the old tyres. So Ricciardo was leading the race and was driving towards the second victory of the season! Meanwhile Rosberg had stormed like a hurricane after his late pit stop and caught Alonso and Hamilton but couldn´t make a move to overtake. I guess there will be some tight discussion in the team about the team order episode as it clearly cost Rosberg a possible podium finish today. So Alonso finished 2nd and Hamilton 3rd and Rosberg had to settle for P4, which must be a bitter disappointment after starting the race on pole... Massa ended up being the better Williams driver today by finishing 5th whilst Bottas couldn´t make it higher than 8th. Kimi had a very decent race without any problems and finished 6th, which is the best result for him this season. Vettel finished 7th, which I have to admit was a disappointment for me. I so expected to see him on the podium today but instead I saw his team-mate once again winning the race... I have nothing against Ricciardo, it´s just that I would have preferred to see Sebastian up there on the top step today! But in motor racing everything doesn´t always go to plan and the first safety car episode in addition to the 360-degree spin cost Vettel a podium finish today.

So now it´s time for the summer break and there´ll be four long long weeks without Formula 1 action! And this means only one thing: the silly season gets properly underway! As there are no races for a month there´s plenty of time for all the gossip and rumours in terms of next year´s driver line-ups... Well, I don´t mind that because as long as there are F1 related news I can read I´m happy :D Spa still can´t come soon enough!


Hungarian GP / Qualifying: Rosberg on pole, more setbacks for Hamilton!

Qualifying for the Hungarian GP surely didn´t lack dramatic turns! Already at the very start of Q1 Maldonado´s Lotus was hit with a mechanical failure and the Venezuelan´s qualifying was over. Only a short moment later Hamilton´s Mercedes caught fire and there were massive flames coming from the rear of his car! The fire was caused by a fuel leak and the poor Briton hadn´t been able to set a lap time, which meant that he has to start to the race from the very back. I don´t know if there is such thing as bad luck in Formula 1 but it´s weird how some drivers seem to be haunted by setbacks and difficulties. Technical issues have hit Hamilton´s car so many times this season and the man himself has also made some costly mistakes whilst Rosberg has faced only one DNF so far! Felipe Massa is also one of these "unlucky" drivers, who has lost loads of points due to incidents without his own fault.

 Rosberg in his Mercedes, both Red Bulls and both Ferraris decided to do only one run and they were certain that the times set on the prime tyres were enough to make it in to Q2. This decision had a dramatic consequence in Kimi´s case: in the closing moments of Q1 Marussia´s Bianchi was able to improve his lap time and bumped Kimi out of Q2! I couldn´t believe my eyes! Who makes these calls at Ferrari? I was so angry! How could they be so arrogant and not send Kimi out as the track always tends to improve at the end? Kimi had questioned the team´s decision not to go out but of course he trusted his team when they told him not to go out... What a catastrophy!

More reliability problems emerged in Q2. Perez at the wheel of his Force India had a hydraulic leak and his qualifying was over. The three fastest men Rosberg, Vettel and Ricciardo made only one run in Q2. Kvyat in his Toro Rosso span in the last minute causing yellow flags. The Russian was unable to make it through to the final session. Also both Sauber cars were knocked out of Q3.

Rain fell very unexpectedly ahead of Q3 and made the track conditions very tricky. Everyone headed out right away as there could possibly be more rain coming. The rain had, however, been so light that everyone had chosen the yellow-marked soft tyres. Turn 1 turned out to be very slippery: Rosberg went wide but managed to get his car back on track. Magnussen in his McLaren couldn´t keep his car on the track but crashed into the tyre wall and the session was red flagged when there were about 10 minutes left in the clock. After an 8-minute delay Q3 was back on and since there hadn´t been any more rain everyone headed out on the slicks. It really seemed that Vettel at the wheel of his RB10 was in striking distance and I was amazed to see Sebastian taking the provisional pole! It was, however, too good to be true and Rosberg snatched pole in the closing moments of the last session. Sebastian was finally 4 tenths of a second off Rosberg. Bottas in his Williams continued his staggering performance and made it in P3! Ricciardo in his Red Bull qualified 4th so finally Sebastian managed to outqualify his team-mate! Alonso in his Ferrari was 5th, Massa 6th, Button 7th, Vergne 8th, Hulkenberg 9th and Magnussen 10th.

Both Hamilton and Magnussen will start to the race from the pitlane. Hamilton´s Mercedes was so badly damaged in the fire that the team had to change a new chassis, a new gear box and a new engine in the car. Magnussen also had a gear box and a chassis change. In Germany Hamilton was able to storm his way through the field and make it on the podium but in Hungary it´ll be much more difficult as Hungaroring is known as a track with very few overtaking possibilities. Red Bull seem to be strong and competitive in Hungary so I´m expecting to see Sebastian on the podium! I don´t know if Red Bull´s pace is yet enough to challenge Rosberg in the lead but anything can happen. At the beginning of the season I was surprised that there were so little problems with reliability but those issues have started to emerge in the half way point of the season.

 I know Bottas will do anything to challenge the Red Bulls. In the first chapter of this blog post I wrote how Hamilton seems to be haunted with technical failures and setbacks. This implies to good things and success as well: Bottas has got an amazing boost after his first podium finish in Austria and everything seems to be working in the Finn´s favor at the moment! Bottas has unbelievable self-confidence and when you really believe in what you do, good things start to happen. It´s really like a fairy tale how Williams have managed to turn things around after the catastrophic and depressing last season!

Kimi will face a hard race I´m sure. You can´t do much starting from P17 on the grid on a track like Hungaroring! Even a points finish might be hard to achieve. But let´s see how the weather turns out... Still always believing in Kimi :)