Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

sunnuntai 24. toukokuuta 2015

Monaco GP: Against all odds Rosberg made it the third win in-a-row in Monaco!

Just in the morning I wrote that I had a strong hunch that Hamilton was going to drive from pole to victory today. That, however, wasn´t exactly what happened on the streets of the Principality today! Hamilton had every reason to win the race though. The Briton took a strong start and maintained his lead. Sebastian made strong effort to get past Rosberg going into turn one but the German Mercedes pilot wasn´t going to surrender so Sebastian had to settle for third. Kvyat in his Red Bull took an impressive start and made his way past his team-mate Ricciardo. Kimi´s start was decent as well but all the Iceman could do was to keep his 6th place. Already on the second lap Alonso in his McLaren collided with Force India´s Hulkenberg causing the German to hit the barrier. Hulkenberg had a front wing damage and he had to pit for a new front wing. A few laps later Alonso was given a 5-second time penalty for causing the collision.

Soon it became obvious that Rosberg couldn´t quite match Hamilton´s pace and in no time there was a several-second gap between the Mercedes team-mates. Further down in the back Verstappen´s driving caught my eye. Maldonado had some brake issues in his E23 and Verstappen didn´t hesitate to overtake the Venezuelan making his way up to P8. Maldonado was the first one to retire from the race only a couple of laps later. But despite Maldonado´s difficulties the overtaking move was impressive.

Little by little Kimi managed to close the gap to Ricciardo in P5. When Kvyat pitted for a fresh set of prime tyres, Kimi jumped 5th. The Iceman was already within DRS distance from the Australian and tried to put up a fight. At the same time on lap 30 Verstappen made his first and only pit stop. Everything didn´t go to plan: there were difficulties with getting one of the rear tyres attached. Max dropped down to P13 behind Bottas when he rejoined the track. Such a pity! Though I knew there were more overtaking moves to come ;)

Ricciardo pitted one lap before Kimi did and Kimi benefitted from this strategy making his way ahead of Ricciardo in P5! In terms of the top three the order remained unchanged after the first pit stops: Hamilton had a firm lead, Rosberg was second and Sebastian third. Although Nico seemed to be within Sebastian´s reach there were minimal chances to overtake. I was so sure Hamilton was going to cruise to the victory! On lap 43 Alonso had to retire due to a technical failure, which was actually no surprise.

Not everyone was on a 1-stop strategy. Verstappen in his Toro Rosso pitted for second time on lap 47. Some 10 laps later we saw some brilliant overtaking moves from this highly talented Dutchman. Sebastian in P3 was lapping cars and Verstappen came up with clever strategy: he drove as close to Sebastian as he could and when Bottas was shown blue flags and the Finn had to slow down to let Sebastian past, Verstappen benefitted from the situation by attacking Bottas right after Sebastian. This was an absolutely genius move, which Verstappen repeated a moment later. This young man really knew how to put up an entertaining show! On lap 61 Verstappen tried to use this same strategy to get past Grosjean in P10 but Grosjean had been adviced about Verstappen´s move on the team radio and it didn´t work out for the third time. With 14 more laps to go Verstappen tried to make his way past Grosjean but the attempt lead into a collision and Verstappen crashed into the barrier nose first in high speed. Luckily Verstappen got away with no injuries but what a shame that he couldn´t finish the race! I´m sure he would have finished in the points!

Safety car was deploeyd due to Verstappen´s crash. The race took a strange turn as Hamilton was called to the pits when safety car came out. At that point Hamilton had about a 19-second lead over his team-mate but it turned out not to be enough when Hamilton rejoined the track: the Briton dropped down to P3! Rosberg took the lead clearly but for a moment it was unclear whether Sebastian had been ahead of Hamilton when crossing the white line. But Sebastian had been an inch ahead and the second place was his! Hamilton must have been devastated when the reality hit him in the race! It turned out to be a mistake made by the team: they had calculated the gap between Hamilton and Rosberg wrong... After the re-start Hamilton tried everything to make his way past Sebastian but not even the fresh set of option tyres helped him succeed in that! Hamilton had dominated the race from the very start but during the safety car episode his convincing lead turned into disappointing P3.

Ricciardo had also pitted during the safety car and Kimi in P5 lost the position to the Australian on the closing laps. Ricciardo even hit Kimi´s car when overtaking the Iceman but the collision caused no further action by the stewards. We saw team orders from Red Bull today: Kvyat let his team-mate Ricciardo past because the Australian was much quicker on the new super soft tyres and the team thought Ricciardo could have had a chance to attack on Hamilton and Vettel. However, by the final lap of the race Ricciardo hadn´t been able to make an overtaking move so the team told him to give his position back to Kvyat, which seemed like a fair move. So Rosberg took his third win in-a-row on the streets of Monte Carlo in a very lucky way! Sebastian finished second and Hamilton was absolutely devastated having to settle for third. Kvyat finished 4th, Ricciardo 5th, Kimi 6th, Perez 7th, Button scored his first points for McLaren Honda by finishing 8th, Nasr 9th and Sainz 10th. Bottas in his Williams was left out of points in P14 so it was an utterly poor race for Williams.

The beginning of the race didn´t seem too exciting but the turn at the end caught me by surprise! I still consider it unbelievable that Hamilton didn´t win the race. In terms of the championship the result today really spices things up: there´s only a 10-point gap between the Mercedes team-mates in favor of Hamilton. Some people say there isn´t such thing as luck in Formula 1 but even Nico himself admitted that he got really lucky today. Sebastian was clearly very happy about his second place. So was I! :D Sebastian seems so comfortable in the SF15-T, I know he´ll take the struggle to Mercedes this year. In terms of Kimi I really hope that in Canada there´ll finally be the long-awaited problem-free weekend for the Iceman!

Monaco GP / Qualifying: Long-awaited first-ever pole in Monte Carlo for Hamilton!

I was certainly looking forward to a thrilling qualifying as Mercedes had been beaten to the fastest time by Ferrari in FP3. And qualifying definitely threw up several surprises. Like expected Mercedes and Ferrari didn't have to run on the supersofts in Q1. Still the Mercedes duo were the fastest men on track with Rosberg having the upper hand on his home streets. The Ferrari duo Vettel and Räikkönen sat out the second runs but this time this risky tactics paid off. All the others made their second runs on the supersofts. One of the surprises was to see Toro Rosso's Verstappen making it as high as 3rd in Q1! Toro Rosso's pace had looked good already in the free practice sessions. Both Sauber and Marussia drivers were out of Q2 but the highest profile casualty in Q1 was Valtteri Bottas, who struggled with heavy understeering issues.

Q2 saw everyone out on the red-marked super soft tyres. Alonso in his McLaren was completely out of luck in the second session gliding to a halt on the exit to Sainte Devote when his MP4-30 switched itself off. His team-mate Button on the other hand had promising pace but couldn't quite make it into the final session. Rosberg went wide going into turn one on his second attempt triggering yellow flags, which ruined Button's last flying lap. Rosberg and Hamilton were once again topping the timesheets followed by Vettel and Räikkönen. Grosjean in his E23 was the first man to miss out on Q3. The Frenchman has also been handed a 5-place grid penalty due to a gearbox change so he'll drop down to P16. Button, Hulkenberg and Massa were also dumped out in Q2. Not a very flattering moment for the Williams team: for the first time this year Williams weren't represented in the pole shootout!

By the start of Q3 there was a slight chance of rain so everyone rushed out when the final and decisive session got underway. Everyone else except the Toro Rosso duo were on a new set of super soft tyres. Just as it appeared Rosberg had the upper hand, the Mercedes team-mates' fortunes turned again. Hamilton took the provisional pole. After the first attempts Kimi was only down in 9th place! Kimi hadn't had a problem-free weekend this time, either. The Iceman had walloped the wall at Sainte Devote and punctured a tyre in FP3. In Q3 the Finn had again touched the wall on his first run. Kimi had complained of oversteering. Perez in his Force India had to sit out the second runs because he had run out of tyres. Rosberg blew his final effort by locking up heavily once again at Ste Devote. So Hamilton grabbed the long-awaited first-ever pole in Monte Carlo! Rosberg was three tenths off his team-mate's pace. In spite of the promising pace in FP3 Sebastian had no chance to challenge the Mercedes duo in the qualifying. The German had to settle for third on the grid. Red Bull were back on form on the streets of the Principality and Ricciardo and Kvyat were very evenly matched. Ricciardo qualified 4th and Kvyat 5th ahead of the Ferrari of Kimi Räikkönen in P6. Sebastian and Kimi were separated by 6 tenths of a second, which caught me by surprise. Perez qualified 7th, Sainz 8th, Maldonado 9th and Verstappen was left in P10. Sainz, however, has to start to the race from the pit lane because the Spaniard failed to stop at the FIA weighbridge in Q1.

The race will get underway in a few hours' time. I'm afraid the win will be firmly within Hamilton's grasp if only the Briton doesn't fail at the start. Monaco is known for minimal chances for overtaking so strategy plays a decisive role. I'd be absolutely delighted if Sebastian could split the Mercedes at the end of the race! Kimi on the other hand must succeed at the start. The Iceman has to make his way past both Red Bulls if he wants to take part in the battle for the podium places! It has proved to be very difficult for Kimi to put together a problem-free weekend this season but luckily the Iceman tends to be on fire when the race day arrives. I'm sure Kimi will offer us an awesome show also today! I have a hunch that Rosberg will be in trouble with his team-mate and that there will be no stopping Hamilton from winning today.

sunnuntai 10. toukokuuta 2015

Spanish GP: Rosberg took win as my hunch said!

For me Spanish GP differs from all the other grands prix because Circuit de Catalunya brings back so many memories. It was only three months ago when I spent three awesome days beside the track watching the last pre-season test session live! It´s different to watch the action on that particular track on TV as I look at the corners and think "Yes, that´s the place where I went to on my first day and took those great photos" and so on. At the end of the day it´s so different to actually see all those cars drive live in front of your very eyes! Something that you´ll never forget.

The start was absolutely breathtaking. Rosberg stormed from pole to lead but Sebastian managed to make his way past Hamilton, whose start was anything but perfect. Kimi in P7 took an aggressive start as well and the Iceman passed both Toro Rosso drivers jumping 5th right behind Bottas in the FW37. My prediction about Toro Rosso´s race pace soon turned out to be true: there was no chance either Sainz or Verstappen could match Kimi´s pace. Also Massa in the Williams had an easy task to overtake the Toro Rossos one by one.

Rosberg in the lead had a safe 3-second gap to Sebastian but Hamilton on the other hand was right at Sebastian´s tail. But thanks to Ferrari´s excellent straight-line speed the Briton had no real chance to overtake the German even if he was within DRS distance. Hamilton was the first top driver to pit on lap 14. Everything didn´t, however, go to plan during the pit stop: there were difficulties to get the Briton´s rear left tyre attached, which cost several extra seconds. When Sebastian pitted a lap later he managed to rejoin the track ahead of Hamilton.

After the first pit stops the order remained unchanged: Rosberg was leading the race with Sebastian 2nd, Hamilton 3rd, Bottas 4th and Kimi 5th. Kimi´s tyre choice differed from that of his rivals: Kimi opted for a fresh set of hard tyres for his second stint whilst all the other top drivers had opted for another set of option tyres.

In the midfield Pastor Maldonado´s promising race was ruined due to a rear wing failure. During the Venezuelan´s pit stop the mechanics detached a big part of his rear wing but against all odds the rear wing didn´t fly off at any part of the race. McLaren´s Alonso on the other hand suffered from brake problems and the Spaniard was about to hit one of the mechanics in the pits as he was unable to stop his car in time. Luckily no one got hurt!

Hamilton made his second pit stop a lot earlier than his rivals, which meant the Briton had a different strategy: he was on a 3-stop strategy. In spite of the varying strategies and tyre choices the Spanish GP evolved as quite a boring race. Sebastian lost his 2nd place to Hamilton during his second and last pit stop and after that the pecking order was quite clear: Rosberg had over a 10-second lead over his team-mate and Sebastian in P3 had a clear gap over Bottas in P4. Luckily Kimi offered the spectators some entertainment after his second pit stop. The Iceman had rejoined the track about 10 seconds behind Massa in his Williams but on the new set of medium tyres Kimi was absolutely flying and closing the gap to Massa massively fast. And when Kimi had caught Massa up he didn´t hesitate to overtake the Brasilian! After getting past Massa Kimi started to chase Bottas, who was some 8 seconds ahead of his countryman.

With less than 10 laps to go Kimi was right at Bottas´s tail! But Williams didn´t turn out to be an easy car to overtake. In the previous race Valtteri had done excellent job by holding back Sebastian Vettel in his Ferrari and this time there was the other Ferrari lurking from Valtteri´s mirrors. And even if Kimi got within DRS distance he had no chance to overtake his compatriot. Williams could easily match Ferrari´s straigh-line speed.

So once again it was a very predicted 1-2 for Mercedes. The only refreshing thing about this was the fact that Nico Rosberg took his first win of the season (like my hunch said) and decreased the gap to Hamilton into 20 points in the championship standings. Sebastian finished 3rd ahead of Bottas in P4 and Kimi in P5. Massa finished 6th, Ricciardo 7th, Grosjean 8th, Sainz 9th and Kvyat 10th. Verstappen was left out of points in P11. I was very happy about Sebastian´s third place but all in all this was such a boring race as the Mercedes duo were so much quicker than all the rest. Hopefully the Monaco GP will be a different story. There in the narrow streets of Monaco it´ll be all about a great qualifying result!

Spanish GP / Qualifying: Rosberg grabbed his first pole of 2015!

Yesterday was an exceptional Saturday for me as I was unable to watch the qualifying live on TV. But there was a zumba marathon event taking place in the town and since there have been no such events for a long time I really wanted to attend. I took close care that I didn´t check my Facebook or Twitter so I didn´t get to know who had taken pole until I watched the qualifying later on in the evening.

The Force Indias, the Saubers and the Marussias started to Q1 on the softer compound of the Pirelli tyres whilst the top teams like Mercedes, Ferrari and Williams made their first runs on the hard tyres. The Mercedes duo Hamilton and Rosberg and Vettel in the Ferrari were the only drivers not having to use the option tyres in the first session. Those three made their second runs also on the orange-marked hard tyres. Kimi on the other hand was in P11 after his first flying lap so the Iceman had to use a set of option tyres on his second run. Hamilton and Rosberg topped the time sheets in spite of their tyre choice. What caught my eye was the fact that Sebastian was a second off Hamilton´s pace in spite of the fact that they had set their times on the same rubber! Ericsson in the Sauber was the first man to miss out on Q2. Both Force Indias and Marussias were also out of the second phase.

After Q1 the ball was in Rosberg´s court. After the first attempts the top five drivers were Rosberg, Hamilton, Räikkönen, Vettel and Bottas. Rosberg had clearly found his self-confidence again as the German had a 6-tenth margin over his team-mate! The top five stayed in their pit garages as the rest of the field headed out for their second runs. The top three remained the same but Massa in the Williams made 4th. The Toro Rosso rookies Verstappen and Sainz made remarkable job and definitely stood out of the pack: Verstappen made P7 and Sainz P8 whilst the Red Bull duo was left in 9th and 10th places. Both Lotus drivers were out of Q3, so were the re-liveried McLarens of Alonso and Button.

The decisive final session involved five top teams: Mercedes, Ferrari, Williams, Toro Rosso and Red Bull. Kimi in his SF15-T and Verstappen in the Toro Rosso were the only drivers to make their first run on the used set of option tyres. Rosberg claimed provisional pole by a 3-tenth margin over his team-mate. Massa, Sainz and the Red Bull duo Kvyat and Ricciardo settled for one attempt only. Rosberg maintained his edge over his team-mate and grabbed his first pole of 2015 by a quarter of a second. The Ferrari team-mates enjoyed differing fortunes: the German was third but the Finn was bumped down to 7th. The team ran Sebastian with the new configuration of the aero package and Kimi with the old. Bottas at the wheel of his FW37 made excellent job by making it P4. Even both Toro Rossos made it ahead of Kimi in the Ferrari with Sainz in P5 and Verstappen in P6! Toro Rosso´s single-lap pace was impressive and both drivers delivered when it mattered. Who says Verstappen is too young for F1? The Dutchman has definitely justified his place in F1 by his performance. Kvyat had to settle for P8, Massa qualified disappointing P9 and Kvyat´s team-mate Ricciardo was left 10th.

I don´t know what happened to Kimi in the final session. In Q2 the Iceman had still been ahead of his team-mate but at the end of Q3 Kimi was a second slower than his team-mate Sebastian! Kimi has been struggling with grip all weekend and the upgrades haven´t turned out to be a clear advantage in terms of the car´s performance. P7 is definitely a difficult place to start to the race today as Circuit de Catalunya isn´t known for lots of chances for overtaking. But Ferrari have strong race pace, that´s for sure. Williams have been struggling with tyre management so in that sense Ferrari have an advantage over Williams. And in spite of the glorious single-lap pace I don´t expect Toro Rosso to be that strong in the race. Kimi just have to take a phenomenal start and make his way past the Toro Rossos and Bottas on the opening lap! Which of course is more easily said than done!

I´m afraid Mercedes are so quick that they will disappear in the horizon in no time unless they face some technical issues. Ferrari have an advantage over Mercedes in terms of tyre degradation but it won´t help if the Mercedes are a second per lap quicker than the Ferraris... But I´m definitely looking forward to a thrilling fight! I have a hunch that Rosberg will win today.

P.S. Right before the start of the race I heard Kimi had had problems with one of the tyre heating blankets in the qualifying. The issue had ruined Kimi´s set of new option tyres, which meant that Kimi had to make his last attempt in Q3 on a used set of medium tyres! No wonder the Finn ended up in P7! What a shame! And not Kimi´s fault in any way! So gutted for Kimi!