Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

sunnuntai 18. syyskuuta 2016

Singapore GP: The magic of pole worked for Rosberg!

Before today´s race the Singapore GP had been won from pole six times in seven races. That was a nice omen for Rosberg, who started the race on pole today. In the dark night of Singapore the start was electric and colourful. Red Bull´s Verstappen got a very poor start from P4 and dropped down to P8. Hulkenberg in his Force India tried to find his way past Verstappen, but he ended up colliding with Toro Rosso´s Sainz. The collision made Hulkenberg crash into the wall -leading to the German´s retirement. Williams´ Bottas, who had started to the race from P10 due to Perez´s grid penalty (the Mexican had been dropped 8 places due to two separate violations under the yellow flags in yesterday´s qualifying), also suffered a puncture due to an incident at the start. Safety car was deployed, but it came in after only a couple of laps.

Rosberg was leading the race with Red Bull´s Ricciardo second and Hamilton third. Kimi had taken an excellent start and was right at Hamilton´s tail. In spite of the impressive speed, both Mercedes drivers were told on the team radio to manage their brakes. Especially Hamilton wasn´t allowed to drive flat out due to the issue with the brake temperatures. Red Bull´s Verstappen started the pit stop roulette on lap 14. The flying Dutchman opted for another set of supersoft tyres. By this time Sebastian Vettel, who had started to the race on the yellow-marked soft compound, had impressively made his way through the field and was already in P10.

A couple of laps later both Hamilton and Ricciardo pitted -for a different tyre choice. Like teammate Verstappen, Ricciardo opted for another set of supersoft tyres, whereas Hamilton opted for the yellow-marked hardest compound. A lap later it was Rosberg´s turn to come in -for a similar tyre choice to his teammate´s. Once again it was Red Bull´s Verstappen, who was responsible for offering an entertaining show. The Dutch teenager was stuck behind Toro Rosso´s Kvyat and Max seemed absolutely passionate to get past the Russian. Kvyat, on the other hand, was stubborn and had no intension to let Max get past him. But this time there were no questionable moves and the battle seemed fair. It took over 10 laps for Max to overtake the Russian, but finally his overtaking move worked out!

Approaching the halfway point of the race, Kimi had chased down Hamilton. Although the Iceman had got within DRS distance from the reigning world champion, it seemed very difficult to make a successful overtaking move. But on lap 33 Hamilton locked up at the braking and Kimi struck like a lightning and overtook the Briton. What an absolutely staggering overtaking move by the Iceman! It was the true highlight of the race.

After the second pit stops there was a clear 5-second gap between Kimi (P3) and Hamilton (P4). However, the Briton was told on the team radio to push and close the gap to Kimi. Obviously Hamilton wasn´t suffering from the brake issue anymore, as he improved his pace and started to close the gap rapidly. 15 laps before the chequered flag Hamilton was called in for the third and final time. The Briton opted for a fresh set of supersoft tyres. Kimi was called in not until a couple of laps later... Which turned out to be a wrong call! Hamilton benefitted from the undercut and jumped the Iceman, as the Finn re-joined the track. What a bittersweet moment indeed! Kimi had made such a spectacular overtaking move on Hamilton earlier in the race, but due to the pit stop strategy the podium slipped through his fingers!

Also Ricciardo in P2 pitted for the third time -for a fresh set of ultrasoft tyres. Race leader Rosberg, however, couldn´t afford making a third pit stop without losing the lead to the Red Bull driver. Ricciardo started the chase on his fresh tyres and closed the gap to Rosberg by several seconds per lap. The critical question was: would Rosberg be able to manage his tyres till the end and would Ricciardo be able to not only chase him down but to overtake as well?

On the final lap Ricciardo was already within DRS distance from Rosberg but there was no chance for overtaking. Ricciardo crossed the finish line only four tenths behind the winner Rosberg! Hamilton finished 3rd. Unfortunately there was no chance for Kimi to challenge the Briton for a podium finish. Nevertheless, Kimi drove a brilliant race! And outside the limelight, Sebastian finally finished the race fifth! That was a remarkable achievement considering his starting place at the back of the grid. No wonder Sebastian was voted as the driver of the day by fans today! Verstappen finished 6th behind Sebastian, and I have to say that those two offered some entertaining overtaking today! Alonso finished 7th (which is definitely worth mentioning), Perez was 8th, Kvyat was 9th (a great result from the recently so unlucky Russian!) and Renault´s Magnussen scored the last point.

So once again it was all about the magic of pole position, as Rosberg drove from pole to victory. Rosberg is clearly enjoying the momentum now; the German is now leading the drivers´ championship standings by 8 points. There are still 6 more races to go. It´s going to be so tight between the Mercedes teammates. But I´m still anxiously waiting for to see a red-suited driver on the top step of the podium this year... Hopefully in Malaysia my dream will come true!

P.S. My thoughts on the GP weekend also here:

lauantai 17. syyskuuta 2016

Singapore GP / Qualifying: A sweeping pole for Rosberg!

I never stop admiring the breath-taking venue of the Marina Bay Street Circuit in Singapore. The atmosphere there seems so mesmerising, even watching it only on TV! The artificial lights, tens of thousands of multi-colour lamps and shining Formula 1 cars make the venue absolutely magical. Singapore is by far my favourite round on the F1 calendar!

Sebastian Vettel, my huge idol, has taken four poles in Singapore but this time the magic fell through. Although Ferrari seemed to be very close to Mercedes and Red Bull in terms of the pace, there was big drama in the first session. Unlucky Sebastian had a suspected broken front anti-roll bar on his Margherita. The German´s front wheel kept lifting off the ground and Sebastian wasn´t able to set a time good enough to go into Q2 but was left horribly in P22! I was so gutted and so sad for Sebastian, who will face a massive amount of work tomorrow trying to make his way through the field in the race! Red Bull´s Ricciardo was the fastest man in Q1 with Kimi second and Verstappen third. At this point Mercedes seemed to be struggling with their pace a bit, as Hamilton was "only" fourth and teammate Rosberg 8th. In addition to Sebastian, out of Q2 were the familiar names -Renault duo Magnussen and Palmer, Manor duo Wehrlein and Ocon and Sauber´s Nasr.

The tyre strategy in Q2 was interesting. The Mercedes drivers came out on the purple-marked ultrasoft tyres, whereas the Red Bull teammates opted for the red-marked supersoft compound. In spite of the different rubber, both Ricciardo and Verstappen set extremely competitive lap times, making it 3rd and 4th in the standings. Kimi made his first run on the ultrasoft rubber as well, but managed to make it only 5th. The five frontrunners (Rosberg, Hamilton, Ricciardo, Verstappen and Räikkönen) sat out the second runs. Grosjean in his Haas, who had suffered from brake problems the entire weekend, put his Haas sideways on into the barriers in Turn 10, when there was only less than a minute remaining. Easing off for the resulting yellow flags, neither Williams got through to the final session. Bottas ended up the first faller in Q2. Teammate Massa was left 12th. It remains to be seen, whether there will be any actions after the stewards have investigated some improvements under the yellows, notably after Force India´s Perez jumped to 9th after overtaking Haas´ Gutierrez.

Q3 was delayed by 10 minutes as the plastic barriers in Turn 10 needed to be fixed. Rosberg and Hamilton set the initial pace, but after the first attempts Hamilton was surprising 7 tenths down on his teammate. Kimi made a superb first run, and the Iceman was third, 9 tenths off Rosberg. In the end Hamilton was unable to challenge his teammate for pole, on the contrary, the Briton tried too much on his second flyer and made small mistakes here and there. All he could do was to make it 3rd this time. Red Bull´s Ricciardo on the other hand, managed to improve his lap time in the end -making it on the front row alongside Rosberg! Verstappen had been absolutely flying at Marina Bay in the free practice sessions, but in the qualifying the Dutchman couldn´t quite nail it. The Red Bull teenager had to settle for P4, which left a little to hope for. To my disappointment Kimi fell fifth in the closing moments of the last segment. To be honest, I was hoping to see Ferrari to be more competitive. Toro Rosso, on the contrary, made stunning job, as Sainz qualified 6th and teammate Kvyat 7th. Hulkenberg was 8th, Alonso impressively 9th and Perez 10th.

The start will be thrilling especially due to the tyre strategy. Rosberg on pole will start to the race on the ultrasoft tyres, whereas Ricciardo in P2 and Verstappen in P4 will start on the more durable supersoft rubber. Once again, Kimi and Verstappen are frighteningly close to each other on the grid... I´m crossing my fingers that there won´t be any incidents in the first corner! The probability of safety car is extremely high, so the timing of the pit stops plays a crucial role in tomorrow´s race as well. It remains to be seen, what Sebastian will be able to do from the back of the grid... Hopefully the suspension problem can be fixed overnight!

In the last free practice session this morning there was a surprising and even a bit funny moment, as a giant lizard suddenly emerged on track! Verstappen reported on the team radio about the lizard, which wisely waited for Max to drive pass until it crossed the track. The lizard must have heard about Max´s aggressive driving style, so it was wise enough to wait, hahahahaha :D The team joked about Max encountering Godzilla ;) Hopefully there won´t be any lizards on track tomorrow, however! I´m hoping to see a magical race with lots of success for my three favourites!

sunnuntai 4. syyskuuta 2016

Italian GP: First victory for Rosberg at Monza!

The start was the most exciting moment of the Italian GP. Hamilton on pole got a very poor start, which cost the Briton five positions immediately! Teammate Rosberg stormed to the lead. Sebastian had taken the most impressive start of the top five and was right at Rosberg´s tail. It was quite close actually, that Sebastian would have been able to challenge Rosberg for the lead. Kimi in the second Ferrari was right behind his teammate. Williams´ Bottas was fourth and Red Bull´s Ricciardo managed to overtake the Briton on the opening lap as well. Hamilton dropped as far down as P6.  Ricciardo´s teammate Verstappen, on the other hand, had also had a problem at the start. His RB12 got into anti-stall mode, which cost the Dutchman many positions.

Already on lap 2 Hamilton made an overtaking move on Ricciardo and jumped 5th. Only a moment later the Briton had chased down the Finnish Williams pilot Bottas and started putting serious pressure on the Finn. After 8 laps of intense battle and defensive driving, there was nothing Bottas could do to prevent the storming Briton from overtaking him. Meanwhile Kimi was right at his teammate´s tail, but the Iceman was told on the team radio to leave bigger a gap to Sebastian to cool down his engine.

Kimi pitted on lap 16 for a fresh set of super soft Pirellis. Teammate Sebastian came in a lap later, and opted for a similar tyre choice. This was a clear sign, that both Ferraris were on a 2-stop strategy, as they had used only the red-marked super soft compound so far. Sebastian had a small delay during his pit stop, as there was an issue with his rear-left tyre. However, the German re-joined the track right ahead of teammate Kimi.

At this point Rosberg was leading the race with a safe 12-second gap to his teammate. Sebastian and Kimi were some 21 seconds behind Hamilton, so it was going to be close in terms of the track positions after Hamilton´s pit stop. Rosberg pitted not until on lap 25, which was almost the halfway point of the race! Mercedes´ tyre strategy differed significantly from that of Ferrari´s; both Mercedes drivers had started to the race on the yellow-marked soft Pirellis. Pit stop saw Rosberg to opt for the white-marked medium Pirellis! Hamilton pitted a lap after his teammate -for a similar tyre choice. This meant, that Mercedes were on a 1-stop strategy. Hamilton re-joined the track behind the Ferraris of Sebastian and Kimi; but the red team had one more pit stop to make!

Sebastian came in for his second pit stop on lap 34; this time for a fresh set of soft tyres. The Iceman pitted a lap later -also for the soft rubber. It wasn´t a big surprise, that Kimi re-joined the track right behind Red Bull´s Verstappen, as these two have got into a  duel in so many previous races as well. This time things didn´t get heated, as the Dutch Red Bull driver pitted shortly after Kimi. Teammate Ricciardo had his second pit stop not until on lap 38. The Australian "smiling avenger" opted for a fresh set of super soft tyres -which meant an aggressive last stint.

Towards the end of the race there was only one battle on track -between Bottas and Ricciardo for the 5th place. Six laps before the chequered flag the Australian made a bold move on the Finn at the end of the finish straight, and managed to overtake Bottas! Otherwise there was no fight for positions, so all in all it was a bit boring race. Rosberg took his first win at Monza and decreased Hamilton´s lead in the drivers´ championship standings into just 2 points! In spite of the poor start Hamilton made it 2nd quite easily due to the pit stop strategy. Sebastian made all tifosi overwhelmed with joy by completing the podium. Kimi finished a strong 4th. It´s such a shame, it would have been such a pleasure to see both red-suited drivers on the podium at Ferrari´s home race! Ricciardo finished 5th ahead of Bottas. Verstappen had made a stunning (and not questionable!) overtaking move on Force India´s Perez, which made the Dutchman jump 7th.

It´s incredible, how good the Silver Arrows are at the moment. If a driver of any other team got a poor start like Hamilton today, his race would be practically ruined. It would be crazy to even dream about a podium finish. But in terms of Mercedes, even after a poor start, you are able to finish second! It tells all about Mercedes´ superiority at the moment. However, I´m so happy that Sebastian made it on the podium! I´m sure my friend, who was watching the race live at Monza, was so touched to see Sebastian celebrating his 3rd place today!

So now the season in Europe is over and it´s time for the fly-aways... Singapore has always been good to Sebastian, so I´m really looking forward to the next GP weekend!

P.S. You´re welcome to read my thoughts on this weekend´s F1 action also here:

lauantai 3. syyskuuta 2016

Italian GP / Qualifying: Fifth pole for Hamilton at the ´Temple of Speed´!

This weekend it was time for the round 14 -the legendary Italian GP. Q1 saw different tyre strategies. Quite unexpectedly the Ferraris came out on the yellow-marked soft Pirellis, whilst the Silver Arrows opted for the super soft compound. Hamilton was supreme from the very beginning of the qualifying, no matter which tyre compound he was on. The Ferraris were a bit over a second down on Hamilton after the first runs. However, there was no need for a second run. Also both Red Bulls and Bottas in his Williams decided to sit out the second runs. Once again Toro Rosso´s Kvyat was bumped out of Q2, whereas teammate Sainz made it 13th in the first session. Out of Q2 were also both Saubers and both Renault drivers, as well as Manor´s Ocon, who faced a technical failure and did not record a time.

In Q2 the Mercedes of Hamilton and Rosberg headed out on the soft Pirellis; once again Hamilton was stamping his authority all over the ´Temple of Speed´. Red Bull tried Mercedes´ strategy, but setting a lap time competitive enough on the soft tyres was mission impossible for the Red Bull duo; Verstappen and Ricciardo had to made their second runs on the super soft tyres. After the first attempts Sebastian was 3rd and Williams´ Bottas 4th and they were the only drivers to sit out the second runs. The gap between Mercedes and Ferrari turned out quite significant -7 tenths in Q2. However, it was great to see, that Ferrari was back at being Mercedes´ number one challenger on Italian soil! Red Bull seemed to be struggling with their pace on the long straights of Monza. Haas´ Gutierrez was a great seventh -opposite to his teammate Grosjean, who was eliminated from Q3 and will thus suffer a 5-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change. Williams´ Massa was the first faller in Q2; a very disappointing result for the experienced Brazilian, who will retire from F1 after this season. Out of the last segment were also both McLarens, Manor´s Wehrlein and Toro Rosso´s Sainz.

Q3 turned out very predictable -Hamilton took provisional pole and had absolutely no intension to let it slip through his fingers. After the first runs Rosberg was second -three tenths off his teammate´s pace. Kimi was third and teammate Sebastian fourth -the only drivers to get within a second of the rapid Silver Arrows. Hamilton managed to improve his lap time on his second flyer -and ended up seeing off teammate Rosberg by nearly half a second! It was the world champion´s third successive pole in Italy and his seventh of the season. The Briton now has historical 5 poles at the ´Temple of Speed´, which means Hamilton now equals the pole record with the legendary drivers Juan Manuel Fangio and Ayrton Senna. Sebastian finally aced teammate Iceman by a tenth of a second, the Ferrari duo locking out the second row for the Italian-based team. Williams´ Bottas was an impressive fifth, the Finn being only a thousandth of a second faster than Red Bull ace Ricciardo. Teammate Verstappen had to settle for P7. Force India´s Perez qualified 8th, with teammate Hulkenberg 9th. Gutierrez in his Haas rounded out the top ten.

Mercedes have two advantages tomorrow -in terms of both tyres and pace. Hamilton and Rosberg are the only top ten drivers to start to the race on the more durable soft rubber, whereas everyone else is forced to start on the super soft Pirellis. We´ll see, if the tyre compound plays any role at the start. Of course I´m hoping, that the red-suited drivers both get a stunning start and they will storm into the double lead past the Silver Arrows! Unfortunately though, Mercedes´ pace is totally in a class of their own... But I´m sure the passionate tifosi will give the Ferrari aces an extra boost for the race! A friend of mine will also be watching the race live at Monza, and I´m sure she´ll have a time of her life! Just wishing I will get a chance to go there one day as well...

I´m also eagerly waiting for, whether Kimi and Max will again find each other on track tomorrow! Just wondering, whether there will be more heated fuss about this young Dutchman´s driving... Victory for Ferrari would be a dream come true in front of the tifosi!