Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

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!