Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

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