Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

sunnuntai 29. maaliskuuta 2015

Malaysia GP: Flying Sebastian took his maiden win for Ferrari!

Conditions were hot and dry when the lights went out at Sepang although there was about 50 % chance of rain during the race. The top three maintained their positions: Hamilton kept his lead and Sebastian his P2 although the German didn´t have the best possible start. Rosberg in P3 was right behind Sebastian. Looking through "the Finnish glasses" things didn´t look too promising: Bottas lost 4 positions at the start dropping from P8 down to P12. Kimi also suffered from a poor start and dropped from P11 back to P14. Kimi had an eventful opening lap but the Finn´s setbacks continued on the second lap: Sauber´s Nasr crashed into Kimi´s rear left tyre, which caused the Finn a puncture! Kimi had just driven past the pit entry, which meant that he had to drive an entire lap with that broken tyre... It looked like Kimi´s race was ruined!

But something unexpected happened on lap 4: Sauber´s Marcus Ericsson spun and got stuck into gravel, which caused the safety car to come out. That turned out to be a fortunate episode in terms of Kimi´s chances in the race. However, by the time that the re-start took place Kimi still hadn´t completely caught the field but the Iceman was now back fighting for a points finish! When the safety car was out both Mercedes drivers pitted but Sebastian stayed out. Unbelievable but true: Sebastian at the wheel of his Ferrari was now leading the race!

Kimi kept setting excellent lap times and made his way through the field overtaking one by one. Ferrari made a tactical decision and called Kimi to the pits for the second time on lap 14 as the Finn would have otherwise been slowed down by traffic. On a fresh set of option tyres the Iceman continued his "maximum attack". On lap 17 Sebastian pitted from the lead and due to the pit stop the German dropped back to P3. At this time Kimi was still in P12. Ferrari, however, showed mesmerising race pace and in no time Sebastian had already closed the gap to Rosberg and stormed past the German Mercedes driver! Wow, that was truly an impressive moment! Sebastian was able to overtake the Mercedes driver because HE WAS FASTER, not because some technical issue would have hit Rosberg´s car! That was utterly amazing because no team have been able to challenge Mercedes by DRIVING for over a year! Only a few laps later Sebastian was right at Hamilton´s tail and flying Sebastian snatched the lead from the Briton! Wow, what a race this was evolving! Hamilton pitted right after he got overtaken by Sebastian.

After Hamilton´s third and last pit stop he was 10 seconds behind Sebastian. This situation clearly didn´t please Hamilton, who started to show signs of frustration. He complained on the team radio about a wrong tyre choice and shouted to his engineer not to speak to him in the corners. There was also a clear gap between the Mercedes team-mates: Nico had no chance to close the gap to his team-mate and fight for the second place. Kimi was also driving a stunning race: after all the difficulties at the start of the race the Iceman had made his way up to P4 when the Williams duo had pitted for the final time!

There were some colourful turns on the closing laps. With just three laps to go Sebastian lapped both Red Bulls, which must have felt extremely good after the problem-filled last year at Red Bull! There seemed to be a thrilling battle for P5 between the Williams team-mates. Bottas seemed absolutely determined to snatch the 5th position from his team-mate Massa and they even hit each other at one point. But Bottas took the upper hand and claimed P5 after an impressive overtaking move!

I was absolutely overwhelmed by Sebastian´s victory, an utterly amazing and unbelievable effort from Seb! Mercedes were beaten, Hamilton and Rosberg had to settle for P2 and P3. Ferrari´s tyre degradation was lower than their rivals´ and Sebastian made the race with a 2-stop strategy. So at this stage Ferrari seem to have an advantage over their rivals in terms of tyre management. Kimi finished 4th, which was the maximum he could achieve after such a catastrophic start to the race. Bottas was 5th, Massa 6th, Verstappen stunningly 7th, Sainz 8th, Kvyat 9th and Ricciardo 10th. What caught my eye was the fact that both Toro Rossos drove to the chequered flag ahead of the Red Bull duo! It shows that Red Bull´s lack of performance isn´t all about the Renault engine like they´ve loudly moaned!

It was so touching to watch Sebastian celebrating on the podium. Sebastian was very emotional about his very first victory for the red team. When Eddie Jordan interviewed him he said he was speechless. That´s pretty much how I feel when I try to find words for this blog post... It´s impossible to describe how dumbfounded I feel after this grand prix. It still feels somehow unreal that Sebastian really won the race! And I absolutely love this feeling what Sebastian´s victory brings me. I had almost forgotten how it feels as there were no victories for Sebastian last year.

The championship standings look good: Hamilton (43 points) has only a 3-point lead to Sebastian (40 points) in the drivers´ standings. Rosberg is 3rd with 33 points and due to today´s 4th place Kimi jumped 5th with those 12 points. I´m absolutely impressed with Ferrari´s performance and it´s only a matter of time when Kimi, too will be up there fighting for victories! Roll on China! :)

lauantai 28. maaliskuuta 2015

Malaysia GP / Qualifying: Vettel split the Mercedes duo in thunder-hit qualifying!

Dark clouds were lurking over Sepang International Circuit when Q1 got underway. That meant one thing: everyone rushed out to set a banker lap in case heavens suddenly opened. Tyre strategy varied from team to team: Sauber, McLaren, Force India and Mercedes headed out on mediums whilst Toro Rosso, Red Bull, Ferrari and Williams made their first run on the orange-marked hard tyres. The sky darkened minute by minute and there were lightnings lighting up the sky. Hamilton and Rosberg topped the time sheets although they made only one run at the beginning of the session. One flyer was enough also for Sebastian Vettel at the wheel of his SF15-T and the German was 3rd fastest of the first session. Both Toro Rossos and Red Bulls came out on the mediums at the end of the session and made their way through to Q2. Sauber´s Nasr was the first driver to be knocked out of Q2. The McLaren duo missed out on Q2 as well: Button ended up in P17 and his team-mate Alonso in P18. A frustrating result for McLaren but at least they didn´t have any reliability issues, which is a good sign. Manor managed to get their car on track in free practice sessions but in the qualifying Stevens was unable to drive due to a fuel system failure and Merhi´s lap time wasn´t within the 107 % rule.

Thunderclaps boomed when Q2 got underway. Sebastian´s Ferrari was the first car in the long queue of drivers who were ready to rush out on track. It was only a matter of time when the rain would start to fall so it was all about the first run! Rosberg nailed it and made it P1. Sebastian set an excellent lap time as well and the German jumped in P2! Bottas at the wheel of his FW36 proved that all his back problems were history and the Finn was 3rd fastest. Kimi on the other hand got stuck behind Sauber´s Ericsson and got hampered by traffic. That´s why Kimi was unable to set a lap time competitive enough but ended up in P11! A massive downpour arrived mid-way through Q2 which meant there was no chance to improve your lap time. Kimi was out of Q3! What a huge disappointment after the staggering pace the Finn showed in all free practice sessions! Kimi had been faster than his team-mate all weekend but when it mattered the most everything went wrong... I was so so gutted for Kimi, I´m sure he would have been there fighting for P3 or even a front row grid spot! Also Maldonado, Hulkenberg, Perez and Sainz were out of the final session.

There were two 15 minutes´ delays to the final shootout for pole due to the heavy rain. Williams, Lotus and Sauber erred in their choice of full wets and quickly had to change rubber. Against all odds the fight for pole got mightily close. Hamilton took provisional pole but Vettel came dangerously close to snatching pole! Sebastian´s lap time was only 7 hundredths of a second off Hamilton´s best! Rosberg on the other hand was unable to pull out a perfect lap and the German couldn´t make his way higher than P3 today. Sebastian showed the potential the new Ferrari have! It was absolutely magnificent to see Sebastian splitting the Mercedes duo! Ricciardo at the wheel of his RB11 qualified 4th and his team-mate Kvyat 5th, which was great work from the Red Bull duo. Red Bull and their engine supplier Renault have had their disagreements lately so an achievement like this makes everything look a bit better at least. Verstappen in his Toro Rosso showed some extraordinarily mature performance by qualifying 6th! Williams´ mistake on tyre choice appeared to cost them: Massa made it P7 and Bottas only P9 today. The wet conditions clearly didn´t suit Williams who had been struggling with the balance of the car whole weekend. Grosjean in his Lotus qualified 8th but the Frenchman was penalised two grid spots for leaving the pit lane out of sequence in Q2. Bottas and Ericsson are the drivers to gain from the penalty. Ericsson´s performance has impressed me: the Swede has made a huge step forward after the setback-filled last season!

Ferrari´s pace on the long runs has been impressive, even better than that of Mercedes. I believe there´s a real chance that Sebastian can challenge the Mercedes team-mates for victory tomorrow! Ferrari has been the smoothest looking car on track this weekend and Mercedes on the other hand has faced some reliability issues. The weather in Malaysia can turn out to be anything but I´m sure Sebastian will be strong in the race, no matter if it´s wet or dry! Kimi has a very difficult starting position: the Iceman will start from P11 with Grosjean ahead and Maldonado behind him... Knowing Grosjean´s and Maldonado´s propensity to get involved in collisions it´s definitely not the best possible place to start to the race. But Kimi has an impressive race pace and I´m sure he can storm his way up in valuable points if only the Iceman makes his way through the first corners without getting hit by anyone. In the hot and humid Malaysia Ferrari is closer to Mercedes than ever before and I´m sure Sebastian will "smell blood" when chasing down Hamilton into the first corner!

sunnuntai 15. maaliskuuta 2015

Australian GP: Sebastian proved to be the "best-of-the-rest"!

I had no difficulties to get up early (before 6 a.m. Finnish time) although it meant only having a few hours of sleep last night. I was restlessly waiting for the information about Valtteri Bottas´s condition. I have to say the disappointment was huge when I heard that Valtteri was unable to race today! He hadn´t passed the FIA´s medical test to be fit enough to race so there was going to be only one Williams car lining up on the grid this morning. I really felt for Valtteri, it must have been a massive disappointment for the man himself! He looked absolutely devastated when he sat in the Williams pit garage watching the race. Hopefully he´ll recover soon and will be back at the wheel of his FW37 in Malaysia!

Quite a few things happened already before the race actually got underway. Magnussen´s MP4-30 was hit with an engine failure already on the out-lap and the Dane´s race was over before it even started. Red Bull´s Kvyat faced a technical failure as well as he was hit with a gearbox failure and he didn´t make it on the starting grid, either. So there were only 15 cars on the grid starting to the race, which was quite an exceptional situation.

About the start then! A lot of things happened immediately when the lights went out at Albert Park. Kimi from P5 got an impressive start behind the Mercedes duo, who both maintained their positions. Kimi, however, braked into the first corner earlier than his team-mate Sebastian and the Iceman was hit by the Toro Rosso driver Sainz from behind. Kimi´s car got into the anti-stall mode and it took a short while until the Finn was back in action. Maldonado in his Lotus passed Kimi and Sauber´s Nasr was determined to execute the same move but Nasr hit first the right side of Kimi´s car and then crashed into Maldonado´s Lotus. Maldonado´s race was over but both Nasr and Kimi managed to continue racing without any major damage in their cars surprisingly! Kimi, however, dropped back to P8 due to this first corner incident. Safety car was deployed due to Maldonado´s crash. Hamilton was leading the race with his team-mate Rosberg 2nd, Massa 3rd, Sebastian 4th, Sainz 5th, Nasr 6th and Ricciardo 7th.

Kimi managed to get past Sainz in his Toro Rosso but after that he got stuck behind Ricciardo´s Red Bull. No matter how close Kimi made it to the Australian, there seemed to be no real chance for overtaking! So Ferrari decided to take Kimi in for a pit stop already on lap 17 but the pit stop didn´t go to plan! There were problems with attaching the rear left tyre and it cost valuable extra seconds! Kimi was sent to the track on another set of soft tyres and Kimi´s pace proved excellent. The Iceman started setting fastest sector and lap times.

Massa in his Williams pitted on lap 22, which seemed a perfect opportunity for Sebastian to get past the Brazilian. After the pit stop Massa got stuck behind Ricciardo whilst Sebastian had a chance to set a few fast lap times. The German pitted a few laps later and Sebastian rejoined the track comfortably ahead of Massa! Kimi was responsible some awesome-looking overtaking moves today as the Iceman first overtook Sauber´s Marcus Ericsson and after that it was Max Verstappen´s turn to get overtaken by the ice cold Ferrari pilot. Unfortunately Verstappen, who made his F1 debut as the youngest driver ever, also faced a DNF as the Dutchman had an engine failure on lap 34.

In the lead there seemed to be no real battle for the victory as the gap between the Mercedes drivers maintained in 1,5-3 seconds throughout the entire race. At some stage Nico managed to decrease the gap but Lewis answered to that right away and didn´t let Nico within the DRS distance. On lap 41 Kimi pitted for the second time for the set of medium tyres. Once again there were problems with the rear left tyre but Kimi was sent back on track. Right after the pit stop it turned out that the rear left tyre hadn´t been properly attached and Kimi had to pull over and retire the race! What a huge disappointment! Pace was definitely there and Kimi would have had the chance to challenge Massa for P4 today! What makes it even more frustrating is the fact that all this was due to the team! Kimi drove perfectly, he couldn´t have done much better in terms of his personal effort. There will surely be a penalty at least for the team for unsafe release but I hope there won´t be any grid penalties for Kimi!!

After this crushing disappointment it was all about Sebastian for me. It soon became obvious that Massa was unable to challenge Sebastian for the podium place. For Sebastian this was the perfect way to start the season in the new team! I was so so delighted to see him on the podium! The Mercedes´s 1-2 was so much predicted that there isn´t too much to write about that. Massa finished 4th, Nasr 5th, Ricciardo 6th, Hulkenberg 7th, Ericsson 8th, Sainz 9th and Perez 10th so stunning job from Sauber, which didn´t manage to score any points last season. Button was the only driver to miss out on points as only 11 cars drove to the chequered flag today.

The podium ceremony was such a pleasure to watch as the legendary action film star Arnold Schwarzenegger came to do the interviews! It was touching to watch how thrilled race winner Hamilton was about the interviewer. It´s funny because so many F1 fans around the world look so much up to Hamilton and would be stunned if they got a chance to meet him and still there are people who these F1 drivers look up to. The atmosphere on the podium was absolutely great and Schwarzenegger showed great sense of humour by saying to Hamilton that he knows what Hamilton is going to say at the end of the interview: "I´ll be back"! Not many podium interviewers can compare to Schwarzenegger!

So now the F1 circus is off to Malaysia in a fortnight. Ferrari have definitely shown that they´re in top form this season so I can´t wait to see what the red-suited drivers will be up to in the heat of Malaysia!

lauantai 14. maaliskuuta 2015

Australian GP / Qualifying: Hamilton stormed on pole!

Finally it´s time for the season-opening Australian GP! Now we can push aside all speculation and expectations on the pecking order and concentrate on watching who is who when the season 2015 gets underway! It was absolutely awesome to wake up at seven a.m. this morning knowing that it was the qualifying day. God, I´ve missed these F1 weekends!

Toro Rosso´s rookie drivers Verstappen and Sainz started to the first session on the white-marked medium tyres as well as the Williams duo Massa and Bottas. Kimi at the wheel of his SF15-T emerged on the track on the soft Pirellis. Kvyat in his RB11 got gearbox and handling troubles already in Q1 and he came out when there were only a few minutes left in the clock. Red Bull´s pace seemed all but convincing and Ricciardo was only 11th fastest in the first session and his team-mate Kvyat didn´t make it higher than P14. Renault still seem to have the same kind of reliability issues as last year. The Mercedes duo topped the timesheets even though their fastest lap times were set on the prime tyres! Manor (last year´s Marussia) didn´t make it on track due to software problems, which meant that only three cars were excluded from Q2: Sauber´s Ericsson and McLaren´s Button and Magnussen. So McLaren had a horrific start to the season as Button was 2 seconds and Magnussen nearly 3 seconds off the pace!!

In Q2 everyone headed out on the yellow-marked soft tyres, even the Mercedes drivers Rosberg and Hamilton. Mercedes´s pace was in a class of their own: Vettel at the wheel of his Eva (his very first Ferrari) was 8 tenths of a second off Hamilton´s bench mark! Sebastian has started his career at Ferrari extremely impressively: the German has beaten his Finnish team-mate in every practice session and he did it in Q2 as well! The youngest ever Formula 1 driver Verstappen didn´t make it into the final session whilst the Dutchman´s team-mate Sainz made the top ten. Kvyat was also missing out on Q3 whilst Ricciardo got through into the final session in front of his home crowd. Nasr in his Sauber and both Force India drivers (Hulkenberg and Perez) were out of Q3.

A Mercedes 1-2 was very much expected, any other result would have been a huge surprise. Hamilton took the provisional pole with a 1,3-second margin over Vettel! Rosberg had had a brief engine cut-out already in the second session and the German´s first attempt in Q3 failed due to a lock-up. Also Williams´s Finnish star Bottas had brake issues in the final session and went wide on his last run so it seemed he failed to get everything out of his FW37. Hamilton managed to improve his time on his second run and the Briton stormed on pole with half-a-second margin over his team-mate Rosberg so there was absolutely no doubt of the fastest man on track today. Surprisingly Massa snatched P3 making him the best-of-the-rest behind Mercedes. Ferrari had to settle for playing the second fiddle to Williams as Sebastian made it only in P4 but beat his team-mate Kimi by 3 hundredths of a second! So extremely tight between the Ferrari team-mates :) The situation is totally different compared to that of last year´s! Bottas qualified 6th, Ricciardo 7th, Sainz 8th, Grosjean 9th and Maldonado 10th.

After the qualifying session Bottas was unable to give any interviews due to back problems, which had started already in Q2. Valtteri couldn´t step out of his car without Williams personnel helping him and even walking was difficult. Valtteri was taken to the local hospital for further check-ups but it´s still uncertain whether the Finn is able to race tomorrow. I really really hope that the doctors can fix Valtteri´s back issue and we´ll see Valtteri racing tomorrow! It´s crystal clear that Mercedes is a light year ahead of everyone else but behind the Silver Arrows there seems to be extremely tight battle for P3 between Ferrari and Williams.

The McLarens are on the back row of the 18-car grid and I consider it a major wonder if either of the MP4-30s makes it the chequered flag tomorrow! Red Bull might probably also hit some reliability issues and technical issues are also Mercedes´s Achilles heel. In spite of the astronomical speed Mercedes may still be vulnerable. Ferrari´s performance has proved to be consistent and competitive so I´m expecting to see both cars fighting for valuable points. Actually I won´t mind which one of the Ferrari pilots will perform better... For me it´s a dream come true that my two favorites are now driving for the very same team!

One thing I´m most certain about: The Australian GP 2015 will be won by either one of the Mercedes drivers! Anything else would be breaking news. But I´m sure there will be some surprises as well. I´m keeping my fingers crossed that either one of the red-suited drivers (or why not both of them) would stand on the podium tomorrow!

tiistai 3. maaliskuuta 2015

Overwhelmed by the last pre-season tests at Barcelona!

Me watching Vettel testing his SF15T at Circuit de Catalunya on Feb 26.
When the Formula 1 season 2014 ended and it had been confirmed that Sebastian Vettel was moving to Ferrari as Kimi Räikkönen´s team-mate I had one dream only: I wanted to see this line-up live! I had travelled to Barcelona to watch the F1 winter tests back in 2011 (that´s how this blog got started by the way) but Kimi wasn´t driving F1 back then because the Iceman was participating in WRC in 2010 and 2011. As Kimi´s current contract covers this year only (though there´s an option for one more year) I thought this might possibly be my last chance to see Kimi at the wheel of an F1 car! Every year since 2011 I´ve dreamt about the possibility to go and watch the winter tests again but this year it finally came true!

I waited for the trip so badly that I couldn´t sleep properly the whole week before my departure! When I was on the plane on my way to Barcelona early on Thursday morning I felt absolutely unreal. It was hard to believe that I was about to see Kimi and Sebastian driving in front of my very eyes...

On Friday Feb 27 I saw Kimi driving an F1 car for the first time in my life!
Me and my twin sister Laura arrived at Circuit de Catalunya by taxi on Thursday afternoon right after the lunch break. There had been some light rain just before the break but luckily the track hadn´t turned too damp and there were many cars on track right away. McLaren´s misfortune seemed to continue as Button had managed to complete only 7 laps in the morning session until he faced a hydraulic leak which ended the Briton´s test day so no McLaren on track in the afternoon. I had looked forward to hearing the sound of the Honda engine for the first time so I was slightly disappointed that Button didn´t make it on track in the afternoon. Hamilton had also faced a technical failure in the morning as the MGU-K of his FW06 had failed so Hamilton´s testing for the day was also over. I was a bit surprised that Mercedes was hit by this kind of a technical issue as the FW06 had seemed quite reliable in the previous test sessions. I can assure that it was absolutely overwhelming to see Kimi on track for the very first time in my life at the wheel of the SF15T! I enjoyed every second that I got to spend on the track! Luckily I had my sister with me: Laura concentrated on taking photos as I was so emotional that I was almost shaking like a leaf ;) The weather got better by the last hours of the test day and it was absolutely awesome to sit in the grandstand opposite the Ferrari pit garage and watch Kimi leaving the pits and heading to the track!

On Friday it was Sebastian Vettel´s turn to test the Ferrari. I had seen Sebastian driving his Red Bull back in 2011 but still it was so fantastic to watch this talented German driving the Prancing Horse! This was also the day when Mercedes showed their true pace: Nico Rosberg set a lap time 2,4 seconds faster than which entitled to pole position at Spanish GP last year claimed by his team-mate Hamilton. There were really dark clouds lurking over the Circuit de Catalunya in the morning but surprisingly there was no rain. The day was the warmest so far in testing and the track temperature got as high as 29 degrees Celsius. It was awesome to sit by the track and wait for the thrilling moment when Sebastian came out on track again. Valtteri Bottas was also testing his FW37 and it was such a pleasure to see the Finn drive in front of my eyes as Bottas wasn´t involved in F1 four years ago. I was so so happy that Ferrari didn´t face any technical issues during the day but Sebastian ended up covering most mileage of all the drivers on that Friday (143 laps) :D Force India managed to bring their new challenger on track for the first time and Hulkenberg managed to get 77 laps behind his belt, which was a great start for the team.

Valtteri Bottas drove his FW37 on Friday as well.

Saturday was my last day at Circuit de Catalunya as I had to head back home on Sunday. Saturday morning was absolutely beautiful: blue skies and sun shine and it felt so warm compared to the Finnish weather (+1 degrees Celsius and raining). Towards the afternoon the weather turned cloudy and more chilly but it didn´t bother me as I was enjoying the F1 action from the bottom of my heart. Kimi had a hugely successful test day as the Iceman drove 136 laps altogether. In the afternoon he drove a race simulation. Hamilton in his Mercedes proved his pace by setting a sweeping lap time! Mercedes is predicted to be at least half a second per lap faster than their closest rivals Ferrari, Williams and Red Bull. Saturday turned out to be a good training day for me as well: switching places to watch the on-track action during the day lead to over 16 500 steps for me on that day! ;)

Sebastian Vettel followed by Felipe Nasr in his Sauber.

I have to write a few lines about the engine sound, which has caused such a huge fuss last year. Those cars driving live sounded absolutely brilliant to me. The only difference to the year 2011 was the fact you didn't need ear plugs if sitting in the grandstand! But still I have to say after sitting an hour there my ears were ready to switch places 😉 But I do agree that when you watch the F1 action on TV the engines sound pretty tame. And what caught my ear as well was the fact that the Honda engine sound differed from that of their rivals so it was easy to hear when McLaren was approaching.

On Saturday evening I sat in a jacuzzi in my hotel room thinking about everything that I had experienced during these three days. Somehow I felt so so bitter sweet as I knew it was all over but at the same time I was so so happy: nothing can ever take these experiences away from me! I know many people think I´m nuts going to Barcelona and not to visit any sights but to spend the entire three days at a Formula 1 track. But for me it was absolutely a dream come true and the most perfect way to relax, enjoy life and cherish the moment. The only thing I feel sorry for is that I didn´t happen to sit in the grandstand on Saturday when the Ferrari Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene and Ferrari´s reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez chose to come and sit in the grandstand as well!!

McLaren´s Fernando Alonso was unable to attend the last pre-season tests at Barcelona as the Spaniard had crashed into a wall in the first test session at Barcelona and suffered a concussion. He had spent three nights at hospital and today I read in the news that Alonso will miss the season-opener in Australia! Can´t help wondering if there´s something more than just a concussion... Hopefully it´s nothing more serious but just a precaution. I´m anxiously waiting for the new season to start -which will luckily happen already next week! It´s great to be back updating my blog as well :)