Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

sunnuntai 30. maaliskuuta 2014

Malaysian GP: the venue with team orders!

There were dark clouds hanging in the sky when the race was about to start but luckily the conditions also stayed dry. Sauber´s Perez was the first driver to hit technical problems: he failed to start to the warm-up lap due to a gearbox issue and was forced to start to the race from the pit lane. Right from the start the Mercedes drivers showed their rivals who owned the race. Hamilton maintained his lead easily and Rosberg stormed past Vettel up to P2. Ricciardo managed to overtake Alonso and made his way up to P4. Marussia´s Bianchi and Lotus´s Maldonado collided on the opening lap and due to the collision Bianchi got two penalty points.

Kimi at the wheel of his F14T had the worst beginning for his race: on the second lap Magnussen´s front wing hit Kimi´s rear tyre which caused the Iceman a puncture. This incident ruined Kimi´s race as the Finn had to pit which cost him dearly. The stewards took this under investigation and the Danish rookie was given a 5-second stop and go penalty, which actually didn´t comfort much because there was nothing that could save Kimi´s race!

By the lap 20 already four drivers had retired: Perez in his Sauber, Maldonado in his E22, Bianchi in his Marussia and Toro Rosso´s Vergne. By this time it was obvious that there was nobody who could seriously challenge the Mercedes duo. Sebastian managed to get close to Rosberg but right when Sebastian might have thought that he was able to catch Nico, the German Mercedes driver improved his pace and vanished away from Sebastian´s reach. To be honest Mercedes´s overwhelming dominance made the race a bit boring!

Ricciardo at the wheel of his RB10 was driving a strong race until lap 41 when the Australian pitted. His front left tyre didn´t locate properly and Ricciardo stopped on the pit lane. Red Bull´s pit crew managed to refit the wheel properly but this proved to be only a start of unfortunate events in Ricciardo´s race! Only a couple of laps after the pit stop drama another missfortune hit the Aussie: his front wing failed and he had to pit again. The team was unsure if the wing had been damaged during the pit stop or if hitting a kerb had caused it to fail. Red Bull was handed a 10 second stop and go penalty due to the unsafe release from the pits. Poor Ricciardo! First the disqualification in Australia and now this! In addition to everything else, Ricciardo will also face a 10-place grid penalty for Bahrain next week. To me it seems quite harsh that there´s a double penalty for a single offence but that´s how the rules are. It also seems very unfair that the driver gets such a harsh penalty for an offence made by the team!

In the closing stages of the race we saw a team order row: this time between the Williams team-mates Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas. Massa was driving in P7 right on tail of McLaren´s Button. Bottas had chased down his team-mate and we heard a message on Massa´s team radio telling the Brasilian to let Valtteri pass him because the Finn had more pace. The team obviously thought that Bottas might have had a chance to overtake Button and score valuable points for the Williams team. Massa, however, chose to disobey the team orders and didn´t let his team-mate overtake him. In terms of the sportsmanship I think Massa made the right decision. There was no guarantee that Bottas could have got past Button if Massa had let the Finn past. And it´s only the second race of the season! Way too early for any team orders! If Valtteri was much quicker than Massa, he should have tried to overtake in the DRS zone. Obviously it was difficult as Massa was also allowed to open his DRS as he was less than second off Button. Claire Williams stated after the race that Bottas would have been told to give his position back to Massa if the Finn had proved unable to overtake Button. What an incident! Malaysian GP seems to be the venue with team orders: last year it was the famous Multi21 in Red Bull team and now this incident between the Williams drivers!

So it was an utterly dominant 1-2 for the Mercedes drivers at Sepang today. I was extremely happy to see Sebastian on the podium! Luckily his Suzie behaved well and no technical issues came up during the race. Alonso finished 4th, Hulkenberg in his Force India 5th, Button 6th, Massa 7th, Bottas 8th, Magnussen 9th and Toro Rosso´s Kvyat 10th. Due to the puncture early in the race Kimi was unable to score points under the Malaysian sun but finished in P12. Rosberg now leads the championship standings with a 18-point gap over his team-mate Rosberg. Kimi has so only 6 points so far... Hamilton´s GP weekend couldn´t have been any more perfect: the Briton made it a grand slam by conquering pole, taking the win, setting the fastest lap time in the race and leading every lap from start to finish!

The Bahrain GP is already next week -oh, how I love these back-to-back races! On Saturday I´ll be at a hotel suite spending time with my sister so I´ll have to find a place to watch the qualifying -luckily there´s a pub nearby ;) I might write my next blog post in a jacuzzi at the hotel, getting some of the glory of F1 to myself for a fleeting moment, hahaha! ;)

lauantai 29. maaliskuuta 2014

Malaysian GP / Qualifying: 2nd pole in a row for Hamilton in a rain-hit qualifying!

Rain started about half an hour before the qualifying got underway. And in Malaysia you can never talk about drizzle -when it rains it usually pours with rain and the conditions get extremely wet. Due to the heavy rain the Q1 was delayed by almost an hour until the rain decreased and the conditions improved so that racing finally got underway. There was a moment in the first session when my heart nearly stopped when I heard a message on Vettel´s team radio telling the German to pit immediately due to "an issue with the car". Luckily Red Bull managed to solve the issue by resetting electronics of his car and Sebastian came back out. Mercedes´s Rosberg and Hamilton topped the time sheets but Sebastian was only half a second off Mercedes duo´s pace. Caterham´s Ericsson crashed into the barriers which caused a red flag when there were only 36 seconds left in the clock. Maldonado in his Lotus was the first man to be knocked out of Q2 whilst his French team-mate Grosjean was able to make it into the second session.

The Ferrari duo Alonso and Räikkönen and Bottas in his FW36 started to the Q2 with the intermediate tyres whilst all their rivals had put the full wets on. Another red flag occurred in Q2: Alonso at the wheel of his F14T had no visual of Toro Rosso´s Kvyat who came from behind and decided to overtake the Ferrari driver and the incident ended up in a crash between the two drivers. Thanks to the red flag the Ferrari mechanics were able to fix Alonso´s car although there were still some issues with the steering. Bottas changed to full wets at the end of the session but it didn´t prevent the Finn from being knocked out of the top ten. The FW36 simply loses performance when the conditions get wet! No matter which tyre choice the team made, both drivers suffered from lack of grip and they had no chance to make it into the Q3. In Q2 there was an incident where Bottas was on his out lap and Red Bull´s Ricciardo came from behind and tried to get past the Finn because the Australian was trying to set a lap time. This was a very unlucky event as Bottas didn´t know if Ricciardo was setting a lap time or not and Bottas´s radio didn´t work so the team was unable to tell him that Ricciardo was coming! And despite of this incident Ricciardo was able to get into Q3 whilst Bottas wasn´t. However, Bottas was handed a 3-place grid penalty for impeding Ricciardo and will start from P18 tomorrow...

When Q3 got underway the conditions were still so wet that the full wets was the right tyre choice. I had expected either one of the Mercedes drivers to take pole with a 1-second gap over the closest rival so in that regard the final session was a surprise. Hamilton did conquer pole for the second time in a row this season but Sebastian managed to make it up to P2 and the German was only 55 thousandths of a second off Hamilton! Red Bull really seems to have a stunningly fast car! Wow, what a drive from Sebastian today! Rosberg was 3rd fastest and Alonso completed the second row in spite of the steering issues. Ricciardo qualified 5th and Kimi 6th. Hulkenberg became 7th, Magnussen 8th, Vergne 9th and Button 10th. McLaren faced some serious technical difficulties already in the final practice session in the morning so they were struggling in the qualifying as well.

The weather forecast says that there should be only 20 % chance of rain in the race tomorrow! I really hope it will be a dry race! Kimi has been quicker than his team-mate in dry conditions all weekend so I´d love to see what the Iceman is capable of on the dry track. It seems that the team has finally been able to find the right set-up for Kimi´s car and the braking problems which we saw at Melbourne are only a distant memory. I believe in Ferrari´s reliability so I´m confident Kimi will score some valuable points tomorrow. I know Sebastian is extremely hungry for victory but I´m so so afraid that some kind of reliability issues will come up, sooner or later... Or issues with the fuel flow sensors or some other technical stuff. I know Bottas will show some glamorous overtaking tomorrow. And Williams have a clear advantage in terms of straight line speed: the RB10 is 20 km/h slower on the straights than the FW36! I´m sure we´ll see a highly entertaining race tomorrow!

P.S. Yesterday a journalist from a local newspaper came to interview me about my Formula 1 blog. The passion for Formula 1 goes so deep that it´s likely beyond any existing words but I´m eagerly looking forward to next Tuesday when I´ll get to read what the journalist has actually written about me and my blog ;)

sunnuntai 16. maaliskuuta 2014

Australian GP: A sweeping victory for Mercedes GP as expected!

It was a great feeling to wake up this morning knowing that it finally was the first race day of the season! I didn´t even need an alarm to wake up - I guess a passionate F1 fan like myself automatically wakes up at the right time on a race day, haha!

Sebastian in P12 and Sauber´s Gutierrez in P21 were the only drivers on the grid with the prime tyres. It was absolutely thrilling to wait for the lights go out and the excitement multiplied when there was a second warm-up lap due to Marussia`s Bianchi stopping on his grid slot. Finally the season-opener got underway! Both Finns had an excellent start and Kimi made his way up to P8 and Bottas to P10. Rosberg in his Mercedes stormed to to the lead from P3 and Ricciardo at the wheel of his RB10 managed to maintain his second place. A crash wasn´t avoided in the first corner, which wasn´t a surprise. Caterham´s Kobayashi crashed into the rear of Massa´s Williams and the race was over for both of them, which was highly frustrating especially for Massa. Even Kimi in his Ferrari got hit by Kobayashi in the collision but luckily there was no damage in Kimi´s F14T.

Yesterday I wrote that I couldn´t get rid of the fear that there would be technical problems for Red Bull in the race. Unfortunately my nightmare came true as Vettel was having problems already on the second warm-up lap. Sebastian was asking on the team radio if it was normal that he didn´t have any power in the car. The German had lost a couple of cylinders which lead into reduced power and Sebastian had to retire already on lap 5! I was disappointed, there´s no denying that. Although I had tried to prepare myself for this scenario on the basis of the winter tests... But to be honest, you can´t actually prepare yourself for seeing your favourite to retire the race! Sebastian wasn´t the only top driver to face problems. Also Hamilton in his Mercedes lost a cylinder and had to retire the race on the opening laps.

Right from the opening laps the pace of Bottas´s Williams was staggering. On lap 7 Bottas managed to overtake his compatriot in the Prancing Horse. Only a few laps later Bottas hit the wall with his right rear tyre, which caused the Finn a puncture! Luckily Bottas made it to the pits and was able to continue the race. There, however, was some debris on the track due to the puncture and safety car was deployed. All top drivers pitted for a new set of tyres. Bottas dropped down to P16 but right after the re-start the Finn began storming forward position by position. 

On lap 32 Button pitted for the second time. During his pit stop we saw a weird-looking incident when a piece of the nose of the car got off when it was lifted up. That didn´t turn out to effect Button´s race which was going to plan. Kimi seemed to be struggling with braking and there were several incidents where the Iceman locked his front wheel in braking. Performance of both Ferraris seemed somehow lame, as if neither Alonso nor Kimi was getting the maximum out of the car. During the race I read on Twitter that there were some electrical issues on both of cars, which explains a lot.

There was absolutely no one who could challenge Nico Rosberg for the victory today. Mercedes seemed to be in a class of its own, pretty much the way it was expected to be. Towards the end of the race Magnussen in his McLaren managed to get on the tail of Ricciardo´s Red Bull. In this chasing situation we saw an aspect of the need to save fuel. Magnussen was told on the team radio to save fuel for a couple of laps and then try to attack Ricciardo on the two final laps. The two Finns were responsible for many entertaining overtaking moves today. At the end of the race Bottas had already passed Kimi for the second time and he had stormed his way past both Vergne in his Toro Rosso and Force India´s Hulkenberg. Can´t help thinking about what Bottas would have been capable of without his mistake...

So Rosberg cruised to the chequered flag as the winner with Ricciardo 2nd and Magnussen 3rd. What a superb job from the Danish rookie! Button completed McLaren´s excellent day by finishing 4th. Alonso became 5th, Bottas finally 6th, Hulkenberg 7th, Kimi 8th, Vergne 9th and Kvyat 10th. Ricciardo´s superb performance gives me hope that Renault engine is good enough to fight for a podium finish -at least when it works! Mercedes-powered cars are strong, there´s no doubt about that. Ferrari still has a lot of homework to do. Can´t wait to see what Kimi will be capable of when there´re no issues in his car, which reduce the power. Though the F14T clearly isn´t the way Kimi would like it to be so I´m sure there´s more to come from the Iceman in the near future!

About the new regulations then. At this point I´m not a fan of this new fuel restriction. When you´re racing you should be able to take the maximum out of the car and not to slow down for a few laps to save fuel! The new engines with the new ERS system on the other hand increase the entertaining overtaking as the driver gets extra 160 horse power out of the car for 30 seconds per lap instead of last year´s 80 for some 6 seconds. These new systems, however, make the engines very complex and prone to technical problems. But I love this ERS system as it decreases the meaning of DRS, which makes overtaking so artificial.

I´ve absolutely enjoyed every second of the very first GP weekend and I´ll have hard time waiting for the Malaysian GP to roll on. It´s soooo fantastic to have F1 back! :D

P.S. Only five hours after the race had ended there was a dramatic turn in terms of the race results: Daniel Ricciardo was disqualified from the results due to illegal fuel flow! The new regulation says the fuel flow mustn´t exceed 100 kg per hour. Red Bull have had problems with the fuel sensor already earlier this weekend. What a loss for Ricciardo, who was so overwhelmingly happy standing on the podium in front of his home crowd! And just another setback for Red Bull who has been struggling the whole winter. Hopefully this problem will just be a distant memory when the team heads to Malaysia in two weeks!

lauantai 15. maaliskuuta 2014

Australian GP / Qualifying: Finally the season 2014 got underway!

Finally the Formula 1 season 2014 is here! I had taken a day off from work on Friday to be able to wake up at 3 am to watch the very first free practice session of the season. I had absolutely no difficulties to get myself out of bed as I knew I was finally going to see both Kimi and Vettel at the wheel of their brand new challengers. And the free practice sessions turned out to be a pleasant surprise in terms of Red Bull´s reliability -no technical failures or engine problems but a lot of mileage instead!

Qualifying was both predictable and unpredictable at the same time. On the basis of the winter tests Mercedes GP was the overwhelming favourite to fight for pole on the street circuit of Melbourne and they didn´t let their fans down. I had mentally prepared myself to see huge setbacks in terms of Red Bull´s performance and reliability but instead I got luckily surprised by what they showed today. Here´s what happened today...

When Q1 got underway the conditions were extremely windy and the sky was covered with dark clouds. Rain had been predicted to fall down when qualifying was about to start. The track was dry when Q1 started but the high chance of rain made everyone come out right away. This season Q1 lasts only for 18 minutes instead of 20 whilst the final session Q3 has been extended from 10 to 12 minutes. The rain started when there where 7 minutes left in the clock so no one was able to improve his lap time at the end of the session. No Mercedes dominance at the very start: Ricciardo at the wheel of his RB10 topped the time sheets with McLaren´s Magnussen 2nd and Massa in his Williams 3rd. Vettel was 8th fastest and Kimi in P9. Kobayashi at the wheel of Caterham made a very good impression by taking P16 and making his way to Q2. Lotus´s day was a complete disaster: both Grosjean and Maldonado were unable to beat even the Marussia and Caterham drivers (Maldonado didn´t even manage to set a time)!

The track was damp when Q2 got underway and everyone started to the session with the intermediate tyres. As the rain had stopped for a while the track kept improving significantly lap by lap. Q2 held some major surprises. Three world champions were unable to make their way to the top ten! Button in his McLaren was left in P11 and was out of the final session. Kimi spun at his last attempt and ended up to the wall, which caused damage to the nose of his F14T. Even without the crash the Iceman would have been unable to make it through to Q3 due to traffic. Also Vettel at the wheel of his Suzie was knocked out of Q3 as the German didn´t make it higher than P12! Such a disappointment as his new team-mate Ricciardo was second fastest in the second session and showed everybody that there´s definitely potential in RB10! No technical worries for Sebastian but the pace just wasn´t there... In Q2 we saw a glimpse of Mercedes´s pace as Rosberg topped the time sheets.

By the start of the final session it had been raining so heavily that everyone except Alonso started to the session with the full wet tyres. When the session was coming down to an end the track was drying and it was time to make the decision which tyres to choose for the last run: intermediates or full wets. Top teams made different choices. The Mercedes duo Hamilton and Rosberg made their last attempt on full wets whilst Ricciardo set his fastest lap time on intermediates. The battle for pole was thrilling up until the very last second: Ricciardo in his Red Bull had taken the initial pole but Hamilton was able to go 3 tenths faster and grabbed the pole for Mercedes GP! The pole setter was no surprise at all but who would have predicted that Ricciardo would take a front row grid slot? Amazing work from the Australian who was driving in front of his home crowd! Rosberg made Mercedes´s day almost perfect by qualifying 3rd. The Danish rookie Magnussen made a staggering impression by qualifying 4th in his very first qualifying in F1! Alonso finished 5th, Vergne 6th, Hulkenberg 7th, the Russian rookie Kvyat 8th at the wheel of Toro Rosso, Massa 9th and Bottas 10th. Bottas will start to the race from P15 as his gearbox was changed during the FP3. Williams´s pace had been outstanding in the practice sessions so their performance in the qualifying was kind of a disappointment. I´ve read comments saying that they made the wrong tyre choice by putting the intermediates on but I don´t think it was only down to the tyres as Ricciardo made it to the front row with similar tyres! Dry conditions would presumably suited Williams better.

What to expect from the season-opener? Maybe there won´t be too much techinical issues for the teams as many feared before this GP weekend. At least not for the top teams. I would be genuinely surprised if the race winner turned out to be somebody else than Hamilton or Rosberg. Though Ricciardo performed unbelievably well during the qualifying I can´t totally get rid of the fear that Red Bull won´t make it to the chequered flag due to reliability issues. What will Kimi be capable of from P11 and Sebastian from P12? I hope they end up doing something magical! Though teams must get through the race with only 100 kg of fuel I don´t think anyone will retire due to running out of fuel... But you can never be absolutely sure, there have been so huge regulations changes for this season. And one thing I´m interested to see is how much slower the Renault-powered cars are on the straights if compared to the cars with Mercedes engine... Just better to wait and see. Luckily it isn´t too long till tomorrow morning! :)

maanantai 3. maaliskuuta 2014

Preview of the new season: Who´s who in 2014?

Now all three pre-season test sessions have been completed and the cars will be shipped to Australia. The season-opener will take place in only a fortnight! What to expect from the very first race of the season? Here are my thoughts on the current pecking order of the teams.

In the very first test session at Jerez the most eye-catching feature in the new 1.6 litre turbo charged cars was the nose of the car. With the new regulations the teams had come up with a variety of solutions in terms of the nose. Lotus´s E22 with the twin prong nose was one of the most interesting designs. The nose of the F14T was described as "a vacuum cleaner" and the new Mercedes seemed to have "two enormous nostrils" on the nose. If I´m asked the new Caterham has the most hidious nose of them all!

But when the testing got underway the attention was quickly drawn from the noses to reliability issues. Within the first test days it became obvious that there were huge differences between the power units. Mercedes-powered cars proved most reliable and had least technical worries. Mercedes was the team with most mileage during the winter tests: almost 4973 kilometres. In terms of pace the Mercedes-powered cars looked strongest as well. One of the dark horses of the season might well be Williams, which had made a fortunate and genious decision to switch from Renault engines to Mercedes at the end of the previous season. Both Bottas and Massa have completed several race simulations and their pace has been on the very top.

Ferrari remains a bit of a question mark after the tests. They´ve suffered from some technical worries during all test sessions but both Alonso and Kimi seem pretty confident in terms of their performance. They certainly have work to do before the lights go out in Australia but their worries are minor if compared to the Renault-powered teams, which have all struggled heavily during the winter tests. Teams with Renault power unit have completed least mileage during the tests: significantly less than the leading Mercedes-powered teams! The quadruple world champion team Red Bull have had a catastrophic winter in many ways. On the third day of the second test session at Bahrain the reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel was only able to complete 4 corners during the entire test day! Many points the finger at the power unit supplier Renault but Red Bull definitely has to take some of the blame. Other Renault-powered teams Caterham, Toro Rosso and Lotus have struggled as well but Caterham for example have completed double the mileage compared to Red Bull (still only 3313 km)!

So Red Bull really seems to be in trouble at the moment. There´s no denying the fact that the pre-season tests have turned out to be a worst case scenario for the reigning world champions. The Austrian team has been unable to run any race simulations whilst especially their Mercedes-powered rivals have managed to run several of them. One of the main problems seems to be attached to the rear of the car which causes overheating. Red Bull´s problems are massive and there seems to be no guarantee that they (or any other Renault-powered car) will make it to the chequered flag at Melbourne in two weeks!

So who are the favourites when heading to Melbourne? At this stage I would name two teams immediately: Williams and Mercedes. On the contrary to Red Bull, which seemed to be struggling every single test day, Williams stopped out on track only once during the 12 test days and that engine failure was only due to high mileage issue! Reliability will be the key factor at the beginning of the season. It´s absolutely pointless to have a stunningly quick car if you don´t get to the finish!

One talking point has been the differences in the straight line speed in terms of the different engine suppliers. It has even been said that the Mercedes-powered cars would be 20-30 kilometres faster on a straight than their rivals. Who knows for sure. We have to patiently wait for Melbourne to see the true differences. And then there´re some other new factors such as fuel economy. Who will be able to drive quickest and still manage his fuel consumption? What will happen in Australia is highly and almost totally unpredictable!

I believe in Red Bull that they will fix their problems no matter how hard it is. Somehow it seems Vettel anticipated all these setbacks at the end of his victorious last season. After every win he reminded the team how much he enjoyed winning every time and how he didn´t take the success for granted. There´s one memory which brings me a lot of comfort at this difficult time: the year 2010. Red Bull faced an awful lot of reliability problems during that year and just remember what a close that season had: Vettel took his very first world championship! I definitely acknowledge that this might be a year when I don´t have to bake a championship cake to my colleagues at work but so what! Now I concentrate on enjoying every minute of the thrilling new Formula 1 season!