Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

sunnuntai 31. heinäkuuta 2016

German GP: Win for Hamilton, double podium for Red Bull!

Once again it was super exciting, when the lights went out. Rosberg on pole got a poor start and lost three positions right away! Teammate Hamilton stormed to the lead in a determined way. The Red Bulls went into Turn 1 side by side; Verstappen made a bold move in the outside of Ricciardo and managed to get past his teammate in style! It was a bit of an "all or nothing" kind of move, but this time it paid off. Sebastian managed to get past Kimi at the start as well, and the Ferrari teammates were in P5 and P6. Rosberg was aggressively putting pressure on the Australian Red Bull pilot, but Ricciardo had gone to "Verstappen mode" to hold off the German.

Verstappen and Rosberg were the first top drivers to pit already on lap 12; both opted for another set of supersoft tyres. Ricciardo pitted a lap later with a different tyre strategy to his teammate -a fresh set of soft tyres. On lap 15 Hamilton pitted from the lead, opting also for a different tyre strategy to his teammate (yellow-marked soft tyres). Kimi pitted for a fresh set of soft Pirellis -similar to his teammate Sebastian. The Iceman´s pit stop left a little to hope for, as it took some extra seconds due to a gearbox issue.

After the second pit stops Verstappen rejoined the track right ahead Rosberg in his Mercedes. Rosberg was anxious to get past the flying Dutchman as soon as possible. Max made a defensive move at the braking; Rosberg took the inside line but left no room for Max when turning in. This move forced Max off track, which the Dutchman immediately complained loudly on the team radio. The stewards took the incident into investigation immediately, and Rosberg was handed a 5-second time penalty for forcing Verstappen off track! In my opinion the penalty was the right call from the stewards. Rosberg would have been able to turn in earlier, had he wanted to do so! Understandably Rosberg himself couldn´t understand, why he had been given a penalty for "a good fight" ;)

By lap 40 things tightened up between the Red Bull teammates. Ricciardo -on the supersoft tyres- had chased down teammate Verstappen, who was on the prime tyres. Ricciardo made a successful and classy overtaking move on the Dutchman; it seemed that Max wasn´t even putting up a real fight, as it was his teammate in question. Rosberg came in for his third pit stop on lap 44 -and to suffer his 5-second time penalty. But instead of 5 seconds Rosberg stood untouched for 8 seconds before his pit stop! This cost the German valuable time. After the race Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff stated that the delay was caused by their broken stopwatch! Which sounds quite unbelievable considering the high technology of the modern F1 cars...! The penalty and the delay meant that Rosberg was out of the podium battle.

After the third pit stops Hamilton was still leading the race, as he had done from lap one. Ricciardo was second and teammate Verstappen third. Rosberg was fourth, Sebastian 5th and Kimi 6th. Williams´ Bottas had opted for a 2-stop strategy, which turned out to be a wrong call. At the end of the race the Finn lost positions both to Force India´s Hulkenberg (P7) and to McLaren´s Button (P8). Bottas had no chance to defend his position on his dying tyres. At the end of the day Bottas had to settle for P9. To my disappointment there were no thrilling battles for positions in terms of the top ten drivers -all in all quite a monotonous race.

Although Ferrari´s performance was a disappointment, it was a pleasure to see Verstappen on the podium again -for the fourth time already! Ricciardo knew how to put up a humorous show for the fans; Hamilton drank sparkling wine from his trophy, but the Australian poured the sparkling wine into one of his racing boots! German GP was kind of a turning point in terms of the championship battle. Hamilton has now a 19-point lead over his teammate in the drivers´ standings! In terms of the constructors´ standings, Red Bull has now officially moved ahead of Ferrari! The Italian-based team is now 14 points off Red Bull and massive 173 points down on Mercedes! I start to be a bit worried about Ferrari´s performance, as they seemed absolutely toothless today. It definitely didn´t help the team, that they lost their Chief Technical Officer James Allison, who left the team for personal reasons. Nevertheless, I never stop believing in the team. I know they´re working hard and improving step by step. I always support Kimi and Sebastian, for better or worse!

So now it´s time for the 4-week summer break... I know I´ll have terrible withdrawal symptoms during the break, but the drivers and the teams definitely need the break. I hope Sebastian, Kimi and Max will have a relaxing summer holiday! I hope Kimi has the most perfect and wonderful wedding and that Sebastian has time to visit his summer cottage here in Finland :) Just wondering, if Max has ever visited Finland... ;) I´m already looking forward to the Belgian GP, as that´s the venue where Kimi will shine without any doubt!

P.S. My thoughts also here:

lauantai 30. heinäkuuta 2016

German GP / Qualifying: Rosberg grabbed pole on home soil!

I have had a terrible headache and felt absolutely exhausted today, but knowing it was a Formula 1 weekend cheered me up a lot. Formula 1 brings so much joy into my life. Even feeling unwell doesn´t prevent me from enjoying the F1 weekend!

Right at the beginning of Q1 Mercedes fired an ominous warning to the rest of the field, as they opted to run on the yellow-marked soft tyre -all their rivals were on supersofts- and still emerged fastest. Hamilton had the upper hand on his teammate in the first segment. It was extremely tight between Ferrari and Red Bull; Ricciardo was third three tenths down on Hamilton, Kimi fourth half-a-second off the Briton, Verstappen fifth and Sebastian 6th. The most positive surprise in Q1 was Gutierrez in his Haas, who was able to make it as high as P8 in the opening session. Toro Rosso´s Kvyat was the biggest surprise casualty in Q1, exiting alongside both Saubers, both Manors and the Renault of Magnussen. I kind of feel sorry for Kvyat, he has been facing so many setbacks lately! The rumour has that he´ll be fired from Toro Rosso after this season. Formula 1 is an extremely tough world... Hopefully the Russian will get his head together during the summer break and is able to bounce back stronger in the second half of the season!

Both Mercedes switched to supersofts for Q2 and once again were the ones to set the pace. This time the flying Dutchman Verstappen got the upper hand on his teammate -being half-a-second faster than Ricciardo. Kimi was the fourth fastest again, with Ricciardo fifth and teammate Sebastian sixth. The top five sat out the second runs. Sebastian came out to make a second attempt, but the timing proved wrong; the German didn´t make the chequered flag in time to start his time-lap! Luckily Sebastian´s first time-lap was good enough to keep the German among the top ten! Worth mentioning is Williams´ Bottas, who was able to make it as high as P5 in Q2. Haas´ Gutierrez was the first man to miss out on Q3; it was still an impressive result from the Mexican. Out of the final segment were also both McLarens, Toro Rosso´s Sainz, Haas teammate Grosjean and Renault´s Palmer.

At the beginning of Q3 Rosberg was setting the fastest times in sectors 1 and 2 -until the German was forced to abandon his run due to an electrical failure! Hamilton was provisionally fastest with Red Bull´s Ricciardo second -only two tenths down on the Briton. Rosberg came out three minutes from the finish setting the fastest lap time by a tenth! Teammate Hamilton made a small mistake on his second run -locking up at the hair pin- and couldn´t beat his teammate! The pecking order was clear: Mercedes once again conquered the front row, Red Bull took the second row with Ricciardo being faster of the Red Bull teammates. Ferrari were therefore confined to the third row, Kimi this time getting the better of the home favourite Sebastian. It´s a bit worrying, that again Red Bull proved Mercedes´ closest challengers! Force India´s Hulkenberg qualified 7th, but the German has faced a one-place grid drop for a technical breach regarding the tyres they used in qualifying. Williams´ Bottas qualified 8th (but will start from P7 due to Hulkenberg´s penalty), Perez was 9th and Bottas´ teammate Massa rounded out the top ten. There have been other penalties as well. Toro Rosso´s Sainz has been given a 3-place grid penalty for impeding Massa in Turn 2 during Q2. Haas´ Grosjean, on the other hand, has been handed a 5-place grid penalty for a gearbox change between FP3 and the start of qualifying.

There has been a lot of talk about the team radio rules lately. Ahead of the German GP weekend the Strategy Group agreed to loosen team radio restrictions from this weekend onwards. With the exception of the period between the start of the formation lap and the start of the race, there will be no limitations on messages sent to their drivers either by radio or pit board. I find this the right decision, as the drivers are definitely entitled to know, if they are facing a technical failure in the race. I´m eagerly looking forward to tomorrow´s race and how this will effect the team radio communication by the teams.

Let´s see if the spark-flying battle between Kimi and Verstappen continue tomorrow. It will be tight between Red Bull and Ferrari for sure. Sebastian has been struggling with his pace in previous races, but I believe it´s only a matter of time when he will start to shine again. But will anyone be able to challenge the Mercedes duo for the victory?

sunnuntai 24. heinäkuuta 2016

Hungarian GP: Wheel-banging battle between Verstappen and Räikkönen!

My summer holiday is coming to an end, and tomorrow I´m back to work after the 4-week holiday. I´m glad I got to end my holiday with a Formula 1 weekend! And what a race it was today! The Hungarian GP offered a great deal of entertainment and various emotions!

After a difficult qualifying yesterday, Kimi opted for a fresh set of yellow-marked soft tyres for the race. When the lights went out it seemed, that all top five drivers got an excellent start. It was very tight going into Turn 1; Rosberg had Ricciardo´s Red Bull in the outside and teammate Hamilton in the inside. Hamilton, however, got the upper hand on his rivals and snatched the lead. For a passing moment Ricciardo was second, but Rosberg managed to take the position back from the Australian. Verstappen was right at his teammate´s tail with Sebastian behind him in P5.

Button in his McLaren was having a serious problem with his car already at the beginning of the race. His brakes had failed and the team had no choice but to tell his driver, how to deal with the brake issue. That, however, was considered an unauthorised team radio communication by the stewards, and the Briton was handed a drive-through penalty due to the radio communication infringement. These new rules are so complicated, that they become ridiculous. Isn´t a brake failure a serious safety issue for the driver? I mean if teams are allowed to tell their driver about a puncture, isn´t a brake issue kind of a same thing? Button definitely had a point, when he questioned the new rules on the team radio after getting the penalty. Safety should come first in Formula 1!

By lap 11 Kimi had already made his way up to P8. Kimi had convincing pace right from the beginning and the Iceman seemed absolutely determined to make it in the points. His teammate Sebastian pitted for a fresh set of soft Pirellis and rejoined the track right ahead of his teammate. On the following laps also the Red Bull drivers and both Silver Arrows pitted for a similar tyre choice. After the pit stop roulette Hamilton was still leading the race with his teammate second. Kimí seemed to be on a different tyre strategy, as the Iceman had started to the race on the soft rubber. Verstappen had rejoined the track behind Kimi after his first pit stop. The flying Dutchman seemed extremely eager and impatient to get past the Iceman, but Kimi kept up his stunning work and didn´t give the Red Bull teenager any opportunities to get past.

Kimi pitted not until on lap 30 -for a fresh set of supersoft tyres. The Finn rejoined the track in P7, right behind McLaren´s Alonso. Only a lap later Kimi  made a staggering overtaking move on the Spanish McLaren driver and jumped 6th. Kimi´s pace on the fresh supersofts was absolutely breathtaking; he set fastest times on every sector and was almost 2 seconds per lap quicker than Red Bull´s Verstappen! Kimi was utterly on flames at Hungaroring!

In the second pit stops all top five drivers -Hamilton, Rosberg, Ricciardo, Vettel and Verstappen- opted for another set of yellow-marked soft tyres. The situation in the lead remained unchanged; Hamilton was still leading the race with his teammate second. Kimi, on the other hand, pitted not until on lap 51 -for a fresh set of supersoft tyres. The Iceman rejoined the track in P6, seven seconds off Verstappen. The chase was to begin! Kimi´s driving was entertainingly aggressive; he started setting fastest lap times and it took only about five laps to chase down the young Dutchman! It was the beginning of a thrilling, entertaining and wheel-banging battle between these two passionate drivers. On lap 57 there was a hair-raising moment, as Kimi tried an overtaking move on the Dutch Red Bull ace. Max defended his position aggressively as expected. The Dutchman´s move was maybe a bit on "the grey area" in terms of whether he changed his line once or twice. Nevertheless, Max maintained his 5th place, and Kimi ended up losing the end plate of his front wing due to his move. But it was such a pleasure to see the passionate racing spirit in these two drivers, as both of them were willing to give all in for the 5th position! I strongly believe, that without Kimi´s huge experience and down-to-Earth attitude the battle would probably have ended in the race-ending collision. After the race I´ve read a lot of judging comments on Twitter about Verstappen´s driving but I have to say I totally disagree! It´s true he may have been on "the grey area" considering rules, but I simply love his 100% racing attitude and the passion not to give up, although this may lead him into some contradictory situations sometimes.

Luckily the damaged end plate didn´t have too much influence on the aerodynamics of Kimi´s SF16-H. Kimi stayed at Max´s tail till the end of the race, but no chances for overtaking! Rosberg was two seconds down on his teammate, and the German was unable to challenge his teammate for the victory at any stage of the race. There was a tight battle for P3 as well between Red Bull´s Ricciardo and Ferrari´s Sebastian, but the Australian had the upper hand in the end. So Red Bull beat Ferrari fair and square, as Max managed to keep his 5th place, and Kimi had to settle for P6. Still I voted Kimi as the driver of the day, because he made a huge impression with his passionate driving today! Turning P14 into P6 is a very respectable achievement indeed. Sebastian drove a strong race as well, but to me it seemed that Kimi was the stronger one of the Ferrari teammates today. There was something extraordinary about his driving today! Alonso brought some valuable points for McLaren by finishing 7th today, Toro Rosso´s Sainz was 8th, Williams´ Bottas was 9th and Force India´s Hulkenberg scored the last point.

So Hamilton has now taken over in the drivers´ championship standings and is now leading by 6 points. It seems that Rosberg is now the under dog in terms of the championship battle. It´s very tight between Red Bull and Ferrari in the constructors´ standings, as Red Bull is now only 1 point off the Italian-based team! Luckily there´s one more race already next weekend before the much-too-long summer break! Roll on Hockenheim!

P.S. My article on the race weekend can be read also here:

lauantai 23. heinäkuuta 2016

Hungarian GP / Qualifying: Four red flags in weather-affected qualifying!

The start of the qualifying was delayed twice by ten minutes, as against all odds there was raining heavily at Hungaroring! Finally everyone went out on Pirelli´s wet tyres, as there remained a chance of rain within another five minutes. And very soon it was pouring with heavy rain! Both Mercedes drivers and Kimi in his SF16-H had been unable to set a competitive lap time, as the red flags came out with 13 minutes remaining. After the restart the Red Bulls of Ricciardo and Verstappen were topping the timesheets, and Kimi had managed to jump 6th -until the red flags came out again, as Sauber´s Ericsson crashed into the barriers damaging the right-front suspension in particular. Now there were still nine minutes left in the clock. When the session was restarted, both Red Bulls and Sebastian in his Ferrari came out on the intermediate tyres, whilst all the others were still on full-wets. By then a drying line was appearing in places. However, there was lots of water in others, and Williams´ Massa lost control of his FW38 and crashed heavily in Turn 4; the session was red-flagged for the third time already! Five minutes and twenty seconds were still remaining. At the restart everyone came out on the inters. Conditions were still pretty challenging, which Manor´s Haryanto proved only a moment later. The Indonesian Manor pilot crashed out, when there were only 1m 18s remaining! The session was red-flagged and Q1 wasn´t restarted anymore. The Mercedes teammates Rosberg and Hamilton were at the top with McLaren´s Alonso third and Ferrari´s Vettel fourth. In addition to Ericsson, Massa and Haryanto, who had crashed out, also both Renault drivers and Manor´s Wehrlein missed out on Q2. What an eventful Q1! The 18-minute first session ended up lasting for over an hour due to the four red-flag stoppages! I didn´t mind it, though as Sebastian´s former trainer Tommi Pärmäkoski was commentating the Finnish F1 broadcast and he had many interesting stories to tell behind the scenes!

In Q2 everyone came out on the inters, as there were still many wet patches on the track. But times improved faster than you could write them down, as the track improved with every lap. Williams´ Bottas was the first driver to switch to the supersoft slicks, and soon all the others also opted for the similar tyre choice. It was quite unbelievable, how fast the track conditions really improved; at the very end of the second session Kimi was topping the timesheets, but however, the Iceman ended up being knocked out of the final session! Kimi dropped as down as P14, which was quite shocking! Timing was everything in the drying conditions, and this time it didn´t work out for the Iceman unfortunately. I was so gutted for Kimi! Red Bull´s Verstappen, however, was outstandingly the fastest man in Q2 with Rosberg second and teammate Ricciardo third. Hamilton ran off road briefly on his last run, and the Briton just barely made it among the top ten. Haas´ Grosjean was the first driver to miss out on Q3. What caught my eye, was the fact, that both McLaren drivers made it into the decisive final segment!

It was amazing, how fast the track dried out! Everyone started to the final session on the red-marked supersoft slicks. Quite expectedly Hamilton took provisional pole with teammate Rosberg second. Red Bull seemed to be Mercedes´ closest rival, as Sebastian couldn´t quite match Red Bull´s pace. After his first attempt the German Ferrari ace was in P5. On his last run Hamilton had made the fastest time in sector one, but then he came across Alonso´s spun McLaren at the top of the hill; yellow flags ruined the Briton´s chance to make it on pole. By the time Rosberg got there the yellows were cleared, and in spite of some traffic Rosberg managed to snatch pole for the Hungarian GP. The yellow flags forced also Ricciardo to abort his final run, and the Australian had to settle for P3. Teammate Verstappen had missed his last run due to failed timing, and the Dutchman was fourth. Sebastian qualified 5th, Toro Rosso´s Sainz was impressive 6th, the McLaren duo of Alonso and Button 7th and 8th, Force India´s Hulkenberg 9th and Williams´ Bottas 10th. At the end of the day Sebastian was 9 tenths down on pole-setter Rosberg!

In the international media there has been a video clip, where a little boy gives Sebastian a drawing of Sebastian, Kimi and Max on the podium (Sebastian the winner, Kimi the runner-up and Max third). Sebastian seemed very delighted of the drawing and posed for a photo with the little Ferrari fan. A moment later it was shown, how Sebastian put the drawing on the wall of his pit garage! What an utterly touching gesture from the quadruple world champion! Ferrari definitely has some obstacles to overcome tomorrow, and who knows how the weather will turn out, but I cross my fingers that the podium turns out to be similar to that in the little boy´s drawing! Sebastian, Kimi and Max I believe in you! You have no idea how you make me feel just by driving flat out every time!! (And Tommi -looking forward to hearing more stories from you!)

sunnuntai 10. heinäkuuta 2016

British GP: Win for Hamilton, possible team radio breach for Rosberg!

I made it home right before the race was about to start. Showery rain had made the track significantly wet, which forced the stewards to make the only right decision safety wise; the race was started behind safety car. Of course it killed all the excitement, but luckily a dry line started to form already after a few laps. Due to wet conditions everyone started to the race on the blue-marked full-wet tyres. Luckily there was no more rain, and the safety car came in on lap 5.

Hamilton was leading the race with his teammate Rosberg second. The Mercedes drivers were followed by the Red Bull duo -Verstappen 3rd and teammate Ricciardo 4th. Many others -including Kimi at the wheel of his SF16-H- pitted right away for a fresh set of intermediate tyres. A lap later Red Bull´s Verstappen also pitted for a similar tyre choice. At the same time Manor´s Wehrlein ended up aquaplaning and span off the track; the German rookie got stuck in the gravel and virtual safety car was deployed. Now both Mercedes drivers also pitted for the intermediate tyres.

After the pit stop roulette Hamilton was leading the race by a 5-second gap over his teammate. Verstappen was able to match Mercedes´ pace surprisingly well, and the Dutchman was in P3. Force India´s Perez had benefitted the most during the pit stops, as the Mexican was now driving in P4. Ricciardo in his RB12 was 5th and Kimi in his Ferrari 6th. The track conditions were still very slippery, especially around Turn 1. On lap 14 Kimi went wide in that specific corner and drove off track quite a while before being able to rejoin the track.

Sebastian in his Margherita was the first man to pit for slicks -a fresh set of medium tyres. At the same time Verstappen had closed the gap to Rosberg, and these two were having a thrilling battle for P2. Rosberg made a small mistake, and Verstappen stroke right away; the flying Dutchman made a staggering overtaking move and got past Rosberg! What an outstanding and cool-headed move from this super fast teenager!

By lap 19 all top drivers had pitted for white-marked medium tyres. Sebastian was really struggling with his Margherita; the German had a 360-degree spin, which cost him positions. P12 definitely wasn´t what I had had in mind for my hero before the race! Many drivers faced drama on the slicks; Verstappen went off track as well, but luckily the Red Bull ace didn´t lose his P2. He was now 7 seconds down on the race leader Hamilton. Kimi had another off in Turn 1, which meant losing the 6th position to Toro Rosso´s Sainz. Although only a couple of laps later it was Sainz, who span off track, and the Iceman was able to snatch P6 back from the Spaniard. Also Hamilton in the lead had his moment of scare; the Briton, too went wide in Turn 1, and suddenly there was only a 4-second gap to Red Bull´s Verstappen.

Right after the halfway point of the race Rosberg had chased down Verstappen, and the German was already within DRS distance from the Dutchman. It was absolutely hair-raising to watch, how Max did absolutely everything the rules allowed him to do to defend his position. Some eight laps later, however,  there was nothing the Red Bull teenager could do to prevent Rosberg from taking P2 from him. After the overtaking move Rosberg immediately started opening a gap to Verstappen.

At the same time Sebastian was fighting with Williams´ Massa for modest P9. Sebastian made a move on the Brazilian, but went wide while passing him. This forced also Massa off track, which he loudly complained about on the team radio only a moment later. Only a few laps later the stewards gave Sebastian a 5-second time penalty for forcing Massa off track. I found it quite unfair, as Sebastian had no intension to do so; it happened only because Sebastian himself ended up going wide. This definitely wasn´t Sebastian´s day! In addition to the penalty Ferrari seemed to lack pace badly in the mixed conditions.

With 10 laps to go, Kimi had closed the gap to Perez. The Iceman was already within DRS distance from the Mexican. Perez kept looking at his mirrors -seeing  how the "red danger" kept coming closer and closer. Five laps before the chequered flag it finally happened -Kimi made a classy overtaking move on the Force India pilot and moved 5th! Kimi was driving a consistent and strong race, but unfortunately there was nothing Ferrari could do today to challenge the Red Bull drivers, not to mention the Mercedes duo.

On the closing laps Rosberg complained about a gearbox issue on the team radio. The German told the team that his 7th gear had failed and he asked for instructions what to do about the problem. I was quite surprised to hear how detailed instructions the team gave to him. Was it allowed to do so? I mean earlier this season it wasn´t allowed for Force India to warn Perez about a probable brake failure. And the team wasn´t allowed to tell Hamilton, how to change his engine setting. How was this a different case with Rosberg´s gearbox? Verstappen had got extremely close to Rosberg, but once Rosberg got help, how to deal with the gearbox problem, there was no chance for Max to get past the Mercedes pilot. However, soon after the team radio messages, the race control informed that the issue was to be taken into investigation by the stewards after the race.

Nothing could stop Hamilton from taking his 3rd consecutive win on his home soil. Rosberg finished 2nd and Verstappen 3rd. Ricciardo took 4th and Kimi 5th. Red Bull has improved a lot over the cause of this season, and they are now seriously challenging Ferrari for the second place in the constructors´ standings! Especially Max has definitely "given the RB12 wings"! Force India´s Perez finished 6th, teammate Hulkenberg 7th, Sainz 8th, Sebastian finally 9th and Kvyat 10th. I was so so happy for Max, but a bit gutted for Sebastian, who had so many setbacks in this race. Ferrari has some home work to do before going to Hungary in a fortnight. I know Ferrari will bounce back -sooner or later!

Now there´re only 4 points separating the Mercedes teammates in the world championship standings -in favour of Rosberg. Kimi is now third, Ricciardo fourth and Sebastian fifth. Red Bull is slowly but surely closing the gap to Ferrari in the constructors´ standings...

P.S. I´ve just read in the news, that Rosberg has been given a 10-second time penalty due to the team radio breach! Hence Rosberg has lost his second place to Verstappen, and his lead in the championship standings has just shrunk into just one point! What a thrilling starting point for the Hungarian GP weekend!

P.P.S. My thoughts on the British GP weekend can be read also on the website of Scuderia Ferrari Club Riga:

lauantai 9. heinäkuuta 2016

British GP / Qualifying: No stopping Hamilton!

This is a different Formula 1 weekend for me. I came to spend the weekend at my grandmother's, who will turn 90 this year. Normally I organise my weekend around Formula 1; for example I always make sure dinner is eaten before the F1 action gets underway. However, today the dinner happened to be exactly at the same time with the qualifying! So here's a picture of me solving the problem today ;)

About today's action then. First of all, Sauber's Ericsson was unable to participate in the qualifying due to his severe-looking crash in FP3 this morning. Mercedes' pace was crushing, almost frightening from the very start of the first session. Both Hamilton and Rosberg came out on the soft tyres, Hamilton having slightly the upper hand over his teammate; the Mercedes duo was separated by only 15 thousandths of a second. Kimi and Sebastian in their Ferraris made one attempt towards the end of the first segment. Red Bull's pace seemed strong right from the beginning, especially Max seemed to be flying around Silverstone. The Dutchman was 3rd fastest in Q1, with Kimi 4th and Sebastian 5th. McLaren's Button was pushing hard to make it Q2, but in spite of the support from the home crowd, the Briton failed. There was zero tolerance for exceeding the track limits in turns 9, 15 and 18. Button's team thought that Renault's Magnussen's time was going to be deleted due to track limit violation, so Button was rushing back to his car, when Q2 was about to get underway. However, Button was inevitably out of the second session.

In Q2 the Mercedes drivers were again the first ones to come out and set fastest lap times. Hamilton set an unbelievable and outstanding time; 1.29.243 is the fastest ever lap time at modern Silverstone! Rosberg was massive 7 tenths down on his teammate! These times made sure, that the Mercedes duo didn't have to come out again in the second session. Kimi ended up locking up his front tyres and spinning on his first run, which forced the Iceman to pit for a fresh set of soft tyres. There were about four minutes left in the clock, when the Finn headed out for his second run. Again there was drama, as Kimi went wide and his lap was ruined! Luckily he had just enough time to make one more attempt, which made the Iceman jump 6th in the standings. Alonso in his McLaren brought refreshing variation for the top ten, as the Spaniard made it as high as P9. In terms of Toro Rosso, once again it was Sainz, who managed to make it through to the final session; whereas teammate Kvyat was out of Q3. Maybe the highest profile casualty was Williams' Massa, who couldn't make it higher than P12 today, and was therefore out of Q3.

The first attempts in Q3 saw Hamilton setting the pace and going fastest, with teammate Rosberg 3 tenths down on the Briton. However, Hamilton's time was deleted only a moment later due to exceeding the track limits at Turn 9. This meant, that everything depended on Hamilton's final run. Sebastian had made a small mistake on his first run, and the German had almost lost the control of his SF16-H. Hamilton showed, how good he's at handling the pressure and snatched pole from his teammate at the end of the session. Finally there were three tenths separating the Mercedes duo, in favour of the reigning world champion. Red Bull emerged as Mercedes' number one contender, as Verstappen qualified 3rd and teammate Ricciardo fourth. This was the first time for Verstappen to outqualify his Red Bull teammate! Kimi qualified 5th and Sebastian 6th. Surprisingly, there were 6 tenths separating the Ferrari duo, in favour of Kimi. Bottas qualified 7th, Hulkenberg 8th, Sainz 9th and Alonso 10th. Unbelievably, Sebastian has once again been handed a 5-place grid penalty for a gearbox change! This means the German will be dropped down to P11 on the grid.

I'll head home by the time the lights go out at Silverstone. I don't actually know what kind of weather the weather forecast predicts for tomorrow, but there might be some surprises on the way. I definitely hope, that Ferrari's race pace will be more convincing than their one-lap pace! Verstappen has an excellent starting position, but will the flying Dutchman be able to challenge the Silver Arrows? And I definitely wouldn't mind seeing a touch of red on the podium as well ;)

P.S. It was late at night, when I read about Ferrari renewing Kimi's contract for 2017! It was mega news, I was so so overwhelmingly happy about that! It means I have one more year to enjoy the performance of the ultimate dream team!

sunnuntai 3. heinäkuuta 2016

Austrian GP: Another dramatic collision between the Mercedes teammates!

Dark clouds were lurking over Red Bull Ring, when the race was about to get underway. The weather forecast predicted 20 % chance of rain during the race. Both Hamilton and Button got excellent starts, and Hamilton had no difficulties to maintain the lead. Kimi, too managed to jump Hulkenberg at the start and made it 3rd. Hulkenberg´s start left a lot to hope for, and Mercedes´ Rosberg (who finally started to the race from P6) was right at his countryman´s tail. On lap 7 Kimi made a classy overtaking move on McLaren´s Button, and the Iceman was now in P2. Everything looked very good in terms of Kimi´s race. Rosberg also made it past Hulkenberg and was already in P4.

Rosberg pitted on lap 11 for a fresh set of soft tyres. As both Button and Hulkenberg had also pitted, Red Bull´s Verstappen was now third, and the Dutchman´s pace seemed excellent. It was a huge surprise, how long the ultrasoft tyres actually lasted in the race; Hamilton didn´t pit until on lap 22! After what we saw in yesterday´s free practice, it seemed, that those ultrasofts wouldn´t last even 10 laps! Kimi was now leading the race -but for one lap only! In spite of starting to the race on the supersoft tyres, Kimi pitted only a lap after Hamilton. After his pit stop Kimi rejoined the track in P6 behind the Red Bulls, so it didn´t seem a perfect pit stop strategy...

On lap 27 Sebastian in his SF16-H was leading the race, as the German hadn´t pitted yet. Suddenly there was huge drama on the pit straight, as Sebastian´s rear-right tyre exploded without any warning! Due to the puncture Sebastian hit the wall, which caused significant damage to his Margherita, and his race was over! How utterly frustrating! Maybe it was risky tactics from Ferrari to make that first stint so long; on the other hand, there were drivers, who had even more mileage on their tyres. I was so gutted for Sebastian, I would have wanted to see him on the podium on his birthday! However, safety car was deployed, as there was a lot of debris on the pit straight.

Rosberg had benefitted from the undercut and Hamilton´s slightly delayed pit stop (the team had had difficulties to attach the rear-left tyre) and the German was leading the race with his teammate Hamilton second. Verstappen was driving a stunning race in P3, his teammate Ricciardo was 4th and Kimi 5th. For some reason Ricciardo seemed unable to match his teammate´s pace. Soon Kimi started to put serious pressure on the Australian.

On lap 55 Hamilton pitted for the second time -this time also for a fresh set of yellow-marked soft rubber. He rejoined the track right ahead of Ricciardo and Kimi. Rosberg pitted a lap later; he opted for a fresh set of supersoft tyres. Rosberg rejoined the track ahead of his teammate. But super fast Max Verstappen was now leading the race on the extremely worn supersoft tyres. After battling with Ricciardo for several laps, Kimi finally managed to make an overtaking move on the Australian; the Iceman was now in P4!

Verstappen had pitted only once, and with the 50-lap worn tyres there was no way the Dutchman could prevent Rosberg from taking the lead. A moment later Hamilton, too made it past the flying Dutchman. The question was: would Max be able to drive till the very end on the same set of soft tyres? Towards the end of the race, Kimi started to chase down Verstappen on the much fresher set of soft tyres. The Iceman closed the gap tenth by tenth, until he was within DRS distance from the Red Bull ace.

On the final lap there were two hair-raising battles on the track: Rosberg vs. Hamilton for the victory and Verstappen vs. Räikkönen for the 3rd place. But oh my God, what happened between the Mercedes teammates on the final lap! Rosberg made a small mistake in Turn 1, which made Hamilton get extremely close. Going into Turn 2, Hamilton took the outside line and was already alongside his teammate; Rosberg, however, didn´t even turn in but deliberately hit his teammate! (That´s what it looked like from the in-car camera!) Hamilton got off track, and when trying to rejoin the track, Rosberg blocked him again. This collision ended up destroying Rosberg´s front wing, and Hamilton took the lead! Rosberg´s car was so severely damaged, that the German lost positions also to Verstappen and Räikkönen.

Kimi, on the other hand, could possibly have been able to make it past Verstappen on the final lap, had Perez not suffered from a brake failure and ended up in the barriers causing yellow flags! So after dramatic final lap Hamilton won the race with Verstappen second and Kimi third! So both Verstappen and Kimi made the one-stop strategy work after all! Rosberg had to settle for P4 after the "brainless" collision. Ricciardo finished 5th and Button impressively 6th. What also caught my eye, was the fact, that Manor´s Wehrlein finished 10th and scored one point. This German rookie has made a brilliant job, and I´m confident that he´ll have a promising career awaiting. But most of all, I was so so happy to see both Max and Kimi on the podium today! And although it was quite irrelevant in terms of the race result, I absolutely loved Red Bull´s lederhosen themed overalls this weekend! :D

Oh, how I would love to be at Mercedes´ debriefing tonight to hear, what Hamilton and Rosberg talk about the collision. Rosberg´s explanation after the race about a brake issue sounded like a bad excuse. He made a serious mistake and he should admit it and take the blame for it. Mercedes has a serious issue with their drivers, as this wasn´t the first time this season, when they hit each other. This could possibly be a turning point in terms of Rosberg´s dreams of winning the world championship this year. If he really was facing a brake issue, he should have settled for P2 and not lost a handful of points by colliding with his teammate on the final lap! The next race will be already next weekend, so the team doesn´t have too much time to discuss today´s clash and put it behind them. I wouldn´t be surprised to see team orders from Mercedes from now on!

Rosberg is currently under investigation for causing a collision and not stopping although his car was severely damaged, so there might be a penalty on the way. So in my opinion, there´s no doubt about who was at fault in this incident!

P.S. You can find my thoughts on the race also here:

lauantai 2. heinäkuuta 2016

Austrian GP / Qualifying: Hamilton on pole in wet-dry qualifying!

Today´s qualifying at the Red Bull Ring definitely didn´t lack dramatic turns. First of all, Rosberg had crashed his Mercedes in the morning´s free practice session. The German had had a rear suspension failure when taking too much of the high kerb stones, which caused him to hit the barriers with significant damage to his car. However, the Mercedes mechanics managed to repair Rosberg´s car on time with the help of Hamilton´s mechanics as well.  Perez was forced to retire his Force India early on with a suspected rear suspension failure. Not much later, Toro Rosso´s Kvyat had a severe crash! The unlucky Russian had also a rear suspension failure caused by the high kerb stones. The suspension failure ended up catapulting the Toro Rosso driver in the tyre wall. After a brief red-flag period the session was restarted with just 1m 44s left on the clock. There was immediate drama as Sainz´s Toro Rosso´s engine appeared to blow up. Yellow flags meant that nobody was able to improve their lap times at the end of the first session. Rosberg topped the timesheets with Ferrari´s Vettel second, two-tenths down on Rosberg. An eye-catching surprise was Manor´s Wehrlein, who managed to make it as high as P10 in Q1! Very impressive indeed. The drop outs in this session were both Renault drivers, Manor´s Haryanto, both Sauber drivers and naturally Kvyat, who had crashed out.

When Q2 got underway, the risk of rain increased. So everyone rushed out as soon as the light at the pit entry turned green. The Mercedes duo came out on the purple-marked ultrasoft tyres and Hamilton was setting the pace with his teammate second. Cleverly, Ferrari ran both Sebastian and Kimi on the red-marked supersoft tyres, meaning they can use them to start their races tomorrow. That was the case in terms of the Red Bull drivers Ricciardo and Verstappen as well. Mercedes, however, gambled too long on making the same switch from ultrasofts to supersofts. Rain started to fall at the end of Q2, making it impossible to improve lap times. In addition to the four top teams (Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull and Williams), Force India´s Hulkenberg and McLaren´s Button made it among the top ten.

The beginning of the decisive Q3 was delayed by a few minutes due to the rain. When light turned green, everyone came out on the green-marked intermediate tyres. The times were improving every lap as conditions improved. The track dried so fast that at the end of the session everyone pitted for a fresh set of ultrasoft tyres. Massa, Räikkönen, Hamilton, Hulkenberg and Vettel all had turns at the top, but in the end it was the reigning world champion Hamilton, who clinched pole in Spielberg! Rosberg qualified second, and Force India´s Hulkenberg took surprising third! Sebastian at the wheel of his SF16-H was fourth, and McLaren´s Button was responsible for another surprise by making it as high as P5! Kimi in the second Ferrari was 6th, Ricciardo in his Red Bull 7th, Williams´  Bottas 8th, Verstappen in the second Red Bull 9th and Bottas´ teammate Massa 10th. However, both Sebastian and Rosberg have been handed a 5-place grid penalty for unscheduled gearbox changes, which will drop Rosberg down to P7 and Sebastian to P9. So the penalties mean, that Hulkenberg in his Force India will start to the Austrian GP from the front row alongside Hamilton! Button gets to start from sensational P3 alongside Kimi.

Mercedes has suffered from massive tyre degradation in Spielberg in terms of the ultrasoft tyres. In the morning´s free practice session Hamilton was able to run only 5 laps on the ultrasofts, until they were completely gone. This probably means, that the Mercedes drivers will have an extremely short first stint in the race; whereas both Ferraris and both Red Bulls can run a lot longer on the supersofts. So strategy wise it´s going to be a very interesting race. Although the weather might have an influence on the tyre degradation as well. Today it was extremely hot in Spielberg (27 degrees Celsius), but for tomorrow the weather forecast predicts only 15 degrees Celsius. There´s also another question in my mind: how many suspension failures are we going to see in the race? The yellow kerbs are there for a reason; the drivers must respect the track limits. Hitting the kerbs causes severe damage to the car, as we´ve seen both in the free practices and in the qualifying.

I don´t believe Hulkenberg´s and Button´s race pace is too good, so Kimi has a crucial mission at the start: to storm past those two right away as the lights go out! I strongly believe, that Kimi is able to challenge Hamilton for the lead as well! I´m definitely looking forward to an eventful and thrilling race. Sebastian will fight for a podium finish, and Verstappen will hopefully offer a stunning overtaking show!