Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

maanantai 31. lokakuuta 2016

Mexico GP: Result-changing penalties for Verstappen and Vettel!

Yesterday´s race went deep into my emotions. At first I thought that there wasn´t  awful lot happening on track, but suddenly the whole world turned upside down... I´d better start telling all the way from the start.

All top eight cars got a great start, and Hamilton maintained his lead. However, going into Turn 1 the Briton locked up his front tyres and ended up going on the grass; in other words, he cut the corner and re-joined the track still ahead of teammate Rosberg. The German had a battle of his own with Red Bull´s Verstappen, who was going side by side with Rosberg into Turn 1. Luckily the cars didn´t touch, and Rosberg managed to keep his 2nd place ahead of the Flying Dutchman. There was also a first-turn incident between Sauber´s Nasr and Manor´s Wehrlein, who collided with each other. There was a lot of debris on the track, and safety car was deployed. Red Bull´s Ricciardo pitted right away on the opening lap -for a fresh set of medium Pirellis.

Red Bull´s Verstappen was the next top driver to pit on lap 13 -for medium rubber, similar to his teammate. At this point Sebastian was in P7 right at Massa´s tail. On team radio we heard frustrated Sebastian, who complained, that Massa was only destroying his own race by trying to block his overtaking moves. After all other top drivers had pitted -for a fresh set of medium tyres- Sebastian was leading the race, Hamilton was second, Rosberg third, Verstappen fourth and Ricciardo fifth. Kimi was sixth. Sebastian´s pace seemed excellent. I was so happy; finally Sebastian was driving a strong race! I was happy for Kimi, too, as the Iceman had re-joined the track ahead of Force India´s Hulkenberg. My joy was so so premature...

Sebastian pitted finally on lap 33 -for medium rubber as well. He re-joined the track in P6 behind teammate Kimi. The Iceman was called into the pits for the second time on lap 46 -for another set of medium Pirellis. Ricciardo pitted some five laps later -for a fresh set of yellow-marked soft tyres. It meant the Australian was going to have an aggressive last stint; whereas teammate Verstappen, both Mercedes drivers and Ferrari´s Vettel were on a one-stop strategy.

With ten laps to go, Sebastian was driving a very strong and impressive race. He had decreased the gap to Verstappen into just four seconds. Max had already over 50 laps on his tyres, whereas Sebastian had 20 laps less on his! Sebastian seemed determined to make it on the podium! At the same time Ricciardo was rapidly closing the gap to his ex teammate...

Kimi was also driving a good race. With four laps to go, the Iceman finally managed to get past Hulkenberg -who ended up spinning- and jumped 6th. It was a superb overtaking move from the Finn. Teammate Sebastian was having a wheel-banging battle with Verstappen for the third place. Sebastian planned a move on the Dutchman; however, Max ended up going wide on the grass, which meant cutting the corner. Sebastian was absolutely furious on team radio and shouted that Max should give the position to him for gaining advantage by cutting the corner. Many swearing words told everything about the quadruple world champion´s frustration.

Meanwhile Ricciardo had also got within DRS distance from the German. On the second last lap Ricciardo was absolutely passionate about getting past Sebastian. The Australian made a move on the Ferrari ace; but Sebastian changed his line at the braking and prevented Ricciardo to overtake him. Sebastian´s move was very questionable, as FIA had just announced a couple of weeks earlier, that changing line at the braking was no more allowed by the rules! The incident was going to be investigated after the race.

On the second last lap I decided to vote Sebastian as the Driver of the Day, as the German had fought  in the race like a lion. I was absolutely delighted, that "the old Vettel" was back! Once I had voted, I heard an utterly outrageous, shoddy and inappropriate team radio message by Sebastian! The team tried to tell his driver, what Charlie Whiting had said about the incident with Verstappen, but Sebastian was shouting on the radio that Charlie should f*ck off! When crossing the finish line, Sebastian showed impolite hand gestures to Verstappen, who had finished ahead of him in P3. I was absolutely shocked! I got a shocking flashback of the Turkish GP 2010; Sebastian had collided with teammate Webber and afterwards showed very inappropriate hand gestures implying that Webber was "crazy". I instantly regretted, that I had voted Sebastian as the Driver of the Day. This behaviour was unsportsmanlike and utterly inappropriate for a quadruple world champion! No adrenaline rush or living in the heat of the moment can justify that!

Hamilton won the race, and teammate Rosberg finished the runner-up. Verstappen crossed the line third, but there was more drama to come. The Dutchman was already in the pre-podium room, when it was announced, that he had been given a 5-second time penalty for gaining advantage by cutting the corner, and he dropped down to P4! However, I found the penalty a bit questionable, as Hamilton hadn´t been penalised for similar action in Turn 1 on the opening lap. Sebastian looked so happy on the podium, which I think he didn´t deserve. Until later on in the night the stewards had investigated Sebastian´s incident with Ricciardo, and the German was handed a 10-second time penalty for changing the line at the braking! So after all the penalties Ricciardo was 3rd, Verstappen 4th and Sebastian finally dropped down to P5! What a dramatic and heart-stopping race! Kimi finally finished 6th, but all my thoughts were with Sebastian, whose behaviour I found absolutely impossible to understand.

I look up to Sebastian as a role model and he´s a huge idol to me. I understand that even a quadruple world champion is a human being, and everybody makes mistakes. In the heat of the moment and in an adrenaline rush you might say things without considering, if they are nice or not. But such outrageous and shoddy language and inappropriate hand gestures, which Sebastian used, cannot be justified by anything at all! Although Sebastian´s actions can´t be defended or accepted in any way, I would like him to know, that I still stand by him; I admire him from the bottom of my heart, even though I don´t always agree with his action on track. I wish I could personally tell him that!

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

sunnuntai 30. lokakuuta 2016

Mexico GP / Qualifying: 10th pole of the year for Hamilton!

I had looked forward to this GP weekend very much, as I got a special visitor on Friday. Erja, who lives in Ilmajoki, Finland some 300 km away, came to visit me for the weekend. I learnt to know Erja last winter, as we both took part in the ReadySetRed competition arranged by Ferrari on social media. Sometimes it's possible to find a true friend and soul mate on social media! Erja is as crazy about Formula 1 as myself, so it was really awesome to get together and watch the free practices and qualifying together. It was fantastic to share thoughts and opinions with somebody as enthusiastic as myself!

In Q1 everything was looking promising in terms of Ferrari´s pace. After the first runs Kimi and Sebastian were topping the timesheets! Unfortunately though, it wasn´t the true pecking order. Hamilton went fastest at the end of the first session, but otherwise the pack was quite mixed-up. Kimi was still second fastest, Red Bull´s Ricciardo third and Sebastian fourth. Surprisingly, Rosberg was only 6th fastest in the first segment. All drivers opted for super soft rubber. Putting top teams aside, there were two drivers, who caught my attention in Q1. Sauber´s Ericsson drove a stunning lap, which made him jump 13th in the standings. Manor´s Wehrlein was a positive surprise as well, as the German managed to make it in to Q2 by jumping 16th. Their teammates Nasr and Ocon were both eliminated from the second session, so were the Haas duo of Gutierrez and Grosjean and Toro Rosso´s Kvyat.

Q2 was again all about tyre strategy. Both red cars came out on soft rubber at the beginning of the session. Mercedes and Force India opted for the similar tyre compound. Once again it was the Red Bull drivers, who stood out of the crowd by opting for the red-marked super soft Pirellis. After the first attempts Verstappen was topping the timesheets with Hamilton 2nd, Sebastian 3rd and Ricciardo 4th. Rosberg in P5 and Kimi in P6 had to made second runs, whereas the top four stayed in the pit garage. Rosberg opted for another set of soft tyres, whereas Kimi made his second run on super soft tyres. However, Kimi didn´t improve his lap time, which means that he´ll start to the race on the yellow-marked soft compound. Out of the decisive Q3 were the McLaren duo of Alonso and Button, Force India´s Perez, Renault´s Magnussen, Sauber´s Ericsson and Manor´s Wehrlein.

Hamilton set the pace in Q3. Red Bull´s pace seemed very impressive, as both Red Bull drivers were ahead of Rosberg, who was well behind teammate Hamilton. By comparison, Ferrari were absolutely nowhere! Kimi was 6th and Sebastian 8th after the first runs. Rosberg, however, managed to vault past Verstappen and Ricciardo to claim the other front-row grid slot. Teammate Hamilton was firmly on pole, which was his 10th pole of the year. Red Bull locked out row two, with Verstappen third and Ricciardo fourth. Force India´s Hulkenberg starred as he beat both Ferraris to secure fifth. Kimi was left in P6 and teammate Sebastian in P7. It definitely wasn´t the result the red-suited warriors were hoping for! It was extremely tight between the Scuderia teammates, as there were only 5 thousandths of a second separating them at the end of the session. Williams duo of Bottas and Massa and Toro Rosso´s Sainz rounded out the top ten. What a huge difference there was in the performance of the Toro Rosso teammates, as Kvyat was knocked out already in Q1.

Again today´s start will be extremely interesting. I´m expecting both Verstappen and Ricciardo take aggressive starts on the super soft rubber, so they might challenge the Silver Arrows for real on the opening laps. I hope Ferrari´s race pace turns out excellent! Hopefully both Kimi and Sebastian manage to get past Hulkenberg already on the opening lap. I also hope that Ferrari´s pit stops will be absolutely perfect today -so no broken wheel nuts this time! Who ever will be doing the podium interviews today must be absolutely scared of Ricciardo making it among the top three, as the podium ceremony might involve doing another shoey ;) I really hope to see a red-suited driver finally on the podium after such a long dry season! Forza Kimi! Forza Sebastian! Forza Ferrari!

tiistai 25. lokakuuta 2016

US GP: A broken wheel nut destroyed Kimi´s race!

US GP turned out to be quite a dramatic race, and unfortunately not in a positive way. The start was interesting, as both Red Bull´s Verstappen and the Mercedes duo started on the more durable soft tyres, whereas all other top ten drivers started on the super softs. In spite of the tyre choice, Hamilton on pole got a fantastic start and held on to the lead. Teammate Rosberg, on the other hand, lost a position to Red Bull´s Ricciardo, who stormed to second. Kimi got a stunning start from P5 and managed to get past Verstappen. There was a first-turn incident between Williams´ Bottas and Force India´s Hulkenberg. The German damaged his front wing due to the collision, and Bottas suffered a puncture. Hulkenberg had to retire the race only a few laps later.

Both Kimi and Ricciardo pitted already on lap 8 -both for a fresh set of soft tyres. Also Verstappen drove into the pits a lap later, although he had started to the race on the yellow-marked soft tyres. Another set of soft tyres for the "Flying Dutchman" as well. Rosberg, on the other hand, pitted a couple of laps later -for white-marked medium tyres. Teammate Hamilton opted for soft tyres, different to his teammate. Kimi´s pace had seemed superb on the super soft compound, but after the pit stop the Finn´s pace suddenly disappeared. He was in serious trouble with Verstappen, who got his chance on lap 13. Unfortunately there was nothing the Iceman could do to prevent the Dutch teenager overtake him. Sebastian was now leading the race -until he pitted on lap 15 for a fresh set of soft Pirellis as well.

Verstappen was absolutely flying, and he put serious pressure on Rosberg, who was third in the race. The passionate Dutchman was told on the team radio to take it easier not to destroy his tyres. Max responded to his team by saying, that he wasn´t racing to finish fourth. He definitely has the right attitude!

The second pit stop roulette saw different tyre strategies. Kimi pitted already on lap 25 and opted for another set of super soft tyres. This meant, that the Iceman most probably was on a three-stop strategy. Ricciardo on the other hand, pitted for a fresh set of medium tyres. He had every chance to make it to the chequered flag on that set of tyres. On lap 27 there was a bizarre episode, as Verstappen drove into the pits, but the pit crew wasn´t ready at all! The miscommunication issue cost Max over 10 seconds! Unfortunately the failed pit stop was only the beginning of setbacks for the young Dutchman. Soon after the pit stop an engine issue hit his RB12 like a lightning, and Max was out of the race!

Virtual safety car was deployed due to Max´s retirement, and both Mercedes pilots drove into the pits. They opted for medium Pirellis, which meant, that they were going till the end on those tyres. Ricciardo was quite gutted for Mercedes´ "free" pit stop, as the Australian had pitted already some laps earlier. After virtual safety car had ended, Hamilton was leading the race with teammate Rosberg second. Ricciardo was third, Kimi fourth and Sebastian fifth. At this point it seemed like a strong performance for Ferrari. I was proven wrong....

Kimi pitted for the third time on lap 39 for a new set of soft tyres. But what a catastrophic turn the pit stop turned out to be! The mechanic had a problem with attaching Kimi´s rear-right tyre; nevertheless the Iceman was released from the pits normally. But the team noticed their error immediately and told Kimi to stop at the pit exit. What a sad sad sight it was to see Kimi reversing his SF16-H in the pit lane! Such a mistake should never have happened! Kimi was driving an excellent race; he would have brought valuable points for the red team, especially as one Red Bull was already out of the race! But things like this sometimes happen in motor racing... No matter how bitter and disappointing it feels!

There was a wheel-banging fight for P5 on the closing laps. Toro Rosso´s Sainz, Williams´ Massa and McLaren´s Alonso were all within DRS distance from each other. Alonso saw his chance to overtake Massa, but the manoeuvre ended up in a collision. Massa suffered a puncture and had to have an extra pit stop, which cost him valuable positions. On the very last lap Alonso attacked Sainz and managed to snatch P5 from his compatriot. An utterly excellent race from both Spaniards on Texas soil.

So Hamilton won, and teammate Rosberg made it a 1-2 for Mercedes by finishing the runner-up. Ricciardo completed the podium. Sebastian drove a flawless race and finished 4th. Such a pity that the German´s pace wasn´t quite enough to have made it on the podium! Alonso finished 5th, Sainz 6th and Massa dropped down to 7th due to his extra pit stop. Perez, Button and Grosjean completed the top ten. Once again it was Ricciardo, who knew, how to put up a hilarious show on the podium. This time the "Smiling Avenger" made podium interviewer Gerard Butler do a shoey with Red Bull!

In spite of Hamilton´s victory, Rosberg still has a 26-point lead in the drivers´ championship standings with only three more rounds to go. Round 19 is just round the corner -next weekend. I still believe in the red team. Every new race offers a new opportunity for the red team to take the battle to Red Bull and Mercedes! I have faith in Ferrari -always.

P.S. You can read my article on the race weekend also here:

sunnuntai 23. lokakuuta 2016

US GP / Qualifying: Hamilton clinched pole ahead of teammate Rosberg!

This weekend it is time for round 18, as the Formula 1 circus moves to Austin, Texas. All drivers like the Circuit of the America a lot, and this is the fifth time that a Formula 1 race takes place there. Last year the weather threw a real challenge for the qualifying, but yesterday the weather was absolutely beautiful -blue skies and 23 degrees Celsius.

In Q1 the top teams came out not until in the halfway point of the session. Nothing had changed from the previous races; once again Mercedes were stamping their authority all over the place. Hamilton aced teammate Rosberg by one tenth of a second. I found it a bit worrying, that both Red Bull drivers were faster than the Ferrari teammates. Also Force India´s Hulkenberg managed to make it ahead of the red-suited warriors in the first segment. The top nine didn´t make second runs. Home team´s Grosjean was the first one of those left behind. Also Renault´s Magnussen, McLaren´s Button, the Manor duo of Wehrlein and Ocon and Sauber´s Nasr were out of Q2. What caught my eye was the fact, that Sauber teammate Ericsson managed to get in to Q2 quite easily -making it as high as P14.

Once again Q2 was all about tyre strategy, which turned out quite interesting. Both Silver Arrows came out on the yellow-marked soft tyres, and in spite of the tyre choice they were convincingly fast -2nd and 3rd in the standings. Red Bull´s Ricciardo set the fastest lap time -but the Australian was on the super soft compound. Teammate Verstappen opted for a different tyre strategy; the Dutchman set his fastest lap time on the more durable soft compound, similar to the Mercedes teammates. The red team ran their drivers on the red-marked super soft Pirellis; Sebastian was fourth and Kimi fifth in the standings. This means that both Mercedes drivers and Red Bull´s Verstappen can thus potentially gain advantage by starting the race on the more durable soft Pirellis. Force India´s Hulkenberg (who will drive for Renault next year) did an impressive job in the second segment as well, making it 6th in the standings -only three tenths of a second down on Ricciardo on the top! Eliminated from Q3 were Perez, Alonso, Kvyat (who gets to keep his seat at Toro Rosso next year), Gutierrez, Palmer and Ericsson.

The battle for pole was going to be between the Mercedes teammates. Hamilton had the upper hand after the first attempt -but only by 72 thousandths of a second. Ricciardo at the wheel of his RB12 was already half a second off the Briton´s pace. However, it was kind of shocking to see, that Ferrari were a second down on the Mercedes duo! Although Kimi had made a small mistake in the last sector on his first run. Force India´s Hulkenberg, Toro Rosso´s Sainz and both Williams drivers opted for one run only. At the end of the decisive last session Hamilton set a crushing time in the first sector, and the Briton clinched pole by two tenths of a second. Teammate Rosberg had to settle for P2 this time. Red Bull locked out row two, with Ricciardo heading "The Flying Dutchman". Kimi led teammate Sebastian for an all-Ferrari third row. Hulkenberg, Bottas, Massa and Sainz completed the top ten.

The start today will be extremely interesting. Will the Silver Arrows be able to take the lead in spite of their harder tyre compound? Ricciardo in P3 has an excellent opportunity to challenge the Mercedes drivers, as the Australian starts on the super soft Pirellis. And once again Verstappen and Kimi are frighteningly close to each other on the grid... But in terms of duels on track, coming to the US GP weekend the FIA has given drivers more specific guidelines on defensive manoeuvres. The teams have now been informed, that any change of direction under braking which results in another driver having to take evasive action will be considered abnormal and hence potentially dangerous to other drivers. Any such move will be reported to the stewards. So it´ll be interesting to see, if this new rule changes the way Verstappen defends his position on track. Nevertheless, I´m looking forward to seeing passionate driving both by Max and my red-suited favourites!

sunnuntai 9. lokakuuta 2016

Japanese GP: Sensational Verstappen prevented Mercedes taking 1-2!

When I woke up early in the morning and switched my TV on, I heard very disappointing news from Suzuka; Ferrari had been forced to change Kimi´s gearbox, which automatically meant a 5-place grid penalty for the Iceman. What a disappointing turn, as Kimi had driven such a fantastic qualifying yesterday! The penalty meant P8 for Kimi on the grid. Unfortunately my high hopes for a podium finish started slowly to fade away. This is the frustrating aspect of Formula 1 racing; the driver giving his best performance isn´t enough, but the technical details matter equally much as well.

The start was surprising. Hamilton in P2 got a catastrophically poor start, and his Mercedes almost got into the anti-stall mode. The Briton dropped down to P8. Verstappen, who started from P3, almost got a chance to challenge Rosberg for the lead, but Rosberg held on to the lead firmly. Perez in his Force India was third after the start! Ricciardo in the second Red Bull was fourth and Sebastian in his Ferrari fifth. Force India´s Hulkenberg was sixth and Kimi seventh. Sebastian had staggering first few laps, as the German first made a stunning overtaking move on Ricciardo, and on the following lap he managed to overtake the Mexican Force India pilot. Sebastian had already jumped 3rd, and it seemed he had every chance to make it on the podium today. Kimi had a battle of his own for P6. On lap 6 the Iceman made a move on Hulkenberg in Turn 1 and stole the sixth place from the German. Ferrari´s race pace seemed impressive indeed.

Red Bull opened the pit stop roulette on lap 11. Both Red Bull drivers pitted on the very same lap -both for orange-marked hard Pirellis. The Ferrari teammates pitted two laps later -for a similar tyre choice. Rosberg, too pitted from the lead and opted for hard tyres -as well as Force India´s Perez. Ferrari´s pit stop strategy left a little to hope for, as Kimi re-joined the track behind both Ricciardo and Perez. Hamilton pitted a lap later also for hard Pirelli tyres -and managed to re-join the track right ahead of Kimi! The Iceman made a fantastic overtaking move on Perez at the end of the finish straight, but at this time it was only P8 for Kimi (although both Williams drivers, who had started to the race on the white-marked medium tyres, hadn´t pitted yet). A bit later both Massa and Bottas got overtaken by Kimi, who was driving an excellent race.

Kimi was the first top driver to pit for the second time. The Iceman drove into the pits on lap 27 -for another fresh set of hard tyres. This was excellent tactics from Ferrari, who could now benefit from the undercut in terms of the battle with Ricciardo. After the pit stop Kimi got a great track position and started lapping in fastest lap times. Verstappen and Rosberg were the next top drivers to pit -for a similar tyre choice to Kimi´s. Ricciardo didn´t pit until on lap 33, and the Australian re-joined the track some five seconds behind Kimi. Hamilton pitted a lap later -and still managed to re-join the track ahead of Kimi.

Ferrari decided to try a different strategy with Sebastian. He pitted for a fresh set of soft tyres, which meant an aggressive last stint. The German Ferrari ace re-joined the track behind Hamilton but ahead of teammate Kimi. Sebastian could smell Hamilton´s blood and started closing the gap to the Briton. There was a significant difference between those two tyre compounds, and I really hoped, that Sebastian could actually challenge Hamilton for a podium finish. To my disappointment that wasn´t the case unfortunately.

With 10 laps to go, Rosberg had a safe 5-second lead to Red Bull´s Verstappen. Towards the end of the race Hamilton seemed determined to challenge the Flying Dutchman for the second place. Hamilton started chasing the Dutchman and decreased the gap slowly but surely. Traffic was an issue for all top drivers, and they were all complaining on the team radio about the blue flags. So was Verstappen, who had Hamilton right at his tail, already within DRS distance from him. On the second last lap Hamilton made an overtaking move on Max, who is known to be a difficult man to pass. Max changed his line at the braking, which was in the "grey area" again, but Hamilton had too much speed going into that corner and he ended up cutting the corner by going straight.

Rosberg took his first win in Japan and increased his lead into 33 points in the drivers´ championship standings. Max was the impressive runner-up; preventing Mercedes taking 1-2 is always a fantastic result. Once again Max was voted as the Driver of the Day, which was well-deserved. Hamilton completed the podium, which was the maximum he could do after the catastrophic start. Sebastian finished 4th and Kimi 5th, so strong race from both red-suited drivers. Without the penalties they would have been up there fighting for the podium places! Ricciardo finished 6th, Perez 7th, Hulkenberg 8th, Massa 9th and Bottas 10th.

Mercedes now clinched their third constructors´ championship. I have a hunch, that Rosberg will win the drivers´ title this year. Hamilton seems so distracted at the moment. Posting photos on Snapchat during the official press conference is disrespectful behaviour even from a three-time world champion! Having fun is okay, but there should be another time and place for that!

I´m already looking forward to the round 17 at Austin, Texas. Once again I´m wishing the very best for the red team (and a certain blue-suited driver)!

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

lauantai 8. lokakuuta 2016

Japanese GP / Qualifying: Rosberg took pole in Suzuka thriller!

The most interesting question ahead of the qualifying was, whether Red Bull was still ahead of Ferrari in terms of the pecking order. The Scuderia gave their answer in Q1; Sebastian and Kimi were topping the timesheets -split only by 15 thousandths of a second. But where the red cars had used the soft Pirelli tyres, the silver ones had done their times on mediums. Red Bull duo of Verstappen and Ricciardo had also set their times on the medium compound. However, Ferrari´s pace seemed absolutely promising. The first faller in Q1 was McLaren´s Button, which must have been a disappointment to the Honda-powered squad. Out of Q2 were also Renault´s Magnussen (teammate Palmer surprisingly made it to Q2), Sauber duo of Ericsson and Nasr and Manor duo of Ocon and Wehrlein.

In Q2 it turned out, that Ferrari and Red Bull were seriously breathing down Mercedes´ necks. Hamilton made a small mistake on his flyer, which enabled Rosberg to take the upper hand on his teammate. After the first attempts the pecking order was quite straight forward: first Mercedes, second Ferrari and third Red Bull. These top six sat out the second runs. Williams, on the other hand, made one run only at the end of the second session. A bit surprisingly, either Bottas or Massa couldn´t make it into the final segment. The American team Haas were the surprise of the hour in a positive way, with both Grosjean and Gutierrez making it among the top ten. Out of Q3 were also Toro Rosso teammates (Kvyat acing Sainz this time!), McLaren´s Alonso and Renault´s Palmer.

Q3 was absolutely thrilling. Hamilton took provisional pole on his first run, with teammate Rosberg second. It was hair-raisingly tight between Ferrari and Red Bull; those four drivers were separated only by six hundredths of a second after the first runs! The red-suited drivers seemed to be a fraction ahead of their closest rival Red Bull. However, Rosberg grabbed the advantage back from Hamilton by thirteen-thousandths of a second (equating to 82 centimetres on track)! Kimi drove an outstanding lap at the end of the session and managed to extract the maximum out of his SF16-H -making it third. Teammate Sebastian qualified fourth, but carrying a three-place grid penalty for his collision in Malaysia, he´ll start to the race from P7. The flying Dutchman Verstappen out-qualified teammate Ricciardo in fifth and sixth, with Perez next up for Force India. The Haas duo of Grosjean and Gutierrez were eighth and tenth respectively, split by Force India´s Hulkenberg.

I´m expecting a thrilling race tomorrow. Rosberg clearly has the momentum now; I have a hunch that Hamilton has no chance to beat his teammate this time. Kimi´s performance at Suzuka has been impressively strong; it´s no secret that Kimi loves the track. Kimi has every chance to make it on the podium tomorrow. Sebastian, on the other hand, is more of a question mark. Hopefully he will take a wise start and he manages to improve from there. Red Bull´s race pace is convincing, too but hopefully Ferrari will have the upper hand this time. Can´t wait for tomorrow´s race. It´s absolutely wonderful to wake up early in the morning, have a cup of coffee and watch Formula 1 action -there´s nothing better than that!

sunnuntai 2. lokakuuta 2016

Malaysia GP: Dramatic engine failure for Hamilton!

As previous years have shown, the opening lap in Malaysia has usually been quite eventful. So was the case also this weekend. Already before the start Williams´ Massa had an electrical issue with his FW38, and the Brazilian was unable to start for the formation lap. The start to the race was quite dramatic; Hamilton maintained his lead, but behind the Briton there was a tight battle for positions between his teammate Rosberg, Red Bull´s Verstappen and Ferrari´s Vettel. Going into Turn 1 Sebastian was fully concentrated on his battle with Verstappen; he braked very late -too late-, which was too optimistic. Sebastian couldn´t avoid hitting Rosberg, who was in the outside ahead of him going into Turn 1. The contact made Rosberg spin and destroyed Sebastian´s front suspension. Sebastian´s race was over, already before it actually got started! Rosberg was able to continue, but he dropped down to the back of the pack. Sebastian was taken into investigation for causing a collision, but so far there hasn´t been any penalties. Unfortunately this wasn´t the first mistake Sebastian has made this year.

Hamilton was leading the race, with Red Bull´s Ricciardo second and Verstappen third. Force India´s Perez had managed to get past Kimi, which was a bit of a surprise to me. A couple of laps later Kimi managed to take his fourth place back from the Mexican. Meanwhile Rosberg was aggressively and determinedly making his way through the field. Both Rosberg and Verstappen pitted already on lap 9; Rosberg opted for a fresh set of orange-marked hard tyres, whereas Verstappen´s choice was a fresh set of soft tyres. On lap 17 Rosberg made an overtaking move on Sauber´s Ericsson and jumped already 7th!

On lap 19 Verstappen had closed the gap to Kimi on his fresher tyres. There was no battle, however, as Kimi drove into the pits -for a fresh set of hard tyres. Hamilton pitted also on the very same lap -with a similar tyre choice. Ricciardo in his Red Bull pitted a lap later; the Australian also opted for the hard Pirellis. So Verstappen was the only top driver to have a different tyre strategy. This made the race extremely interesting. Would it be possible to make the race on a one-stop strategy?

On lap 27 Verstappen pitted for the second time -this time for a fresh set of hard Pirellis. Some four laps later Rosberg, too pitted for a similar tyre choice to Verstappen´s. Kimi in his SF16-H pitted a lap later -for hard compound as well. The Iceman re-joined the track right ahead of Rosberg, but the German seemed absolutely determined to get past the Finn. The fight for P4 was definitely on. Simultaneously there was a hair-raising battle between the Red Bull teammates. Young Verstappen seemed stubborn to get past the "smiling avenger", but Ricciardo had no intension to let his teammate through. It seems that Verstappen has learned something from the previous races, as the battle was wheel-banging but fair -no "crazy" moves this time.

Rosberg put serious pressure on the Iceman, who was driving flat out. Rosberg had clearly decided to get past by any means necessary, which lead to a questionable overtaking move. Rosberg "dived" into the inside and ended up hitting Kimi. Luckily there was no puncture, but the floor of Kimi´s SF16-H got damaged. Rosberg was taken into investigation by the stewards for causing a collision, and he was given a 10-second time penalty. That was a start for Kimi´s battle against time; the Iceman´s mission was not to let Rosberg more than 10 seconds away from him. That turned out to be not an easy task...

Hamilton had over a 10-second gap to Ricciardo in the lead, and it seemed as if the Briton was cruising to victory. All of a sudden something very unexpected happened on lap 41; Hamilton faced an engine failure with huge flames coming from the back of his car! Hamilton´s race was over, and the Briton had to wave goodbye for the 25 points. Virtual safety car was deployed. Kimi pitted alongside the Red Bull duo and Rosberg; all of them opted for a fresh set of soft tyres for the last stint.

With 12 laps to go, Ricciardo was leading the race with teammate Verstappen second. Unbelievable but true, Red Bull was having a double lead in the race! Max was right at his teammate´s tail, but the "flying Dutchman" kept his head cool and didn´t try anything stupid. Rosberg was third and did everything he could to increase the gap to Kimi over 10 seconds. But there was nothing Kimi could do; Rosberg got some extra power for a couple of laps and it was enough to stretch the gap into over 10 seconds. So although Rosberg got a penalty for causing a collision, there wasn´t one at the end of the day, as Nico was still able to make it on the podium. Kimi drove a fantastic race and gave everything he could, but Ferrari was lacking speed. P4 was the maximum result today. Williams´ Bottas finished 5th and showed, that a one-stop strategy was possible in Malaysia. Perez finished 6th, Alonso 7th, Hulkenberg 8th, Button 9th and Renault´s Palmer completed the top ten. Good points especially for McLaren.

The podium ceremony was utterly hilarious. Ricciardo really knows how to put up a good show! To celebrate his victory, he didn´t only do a shoey, but got teammate Verstappen, Team Principal Horner and even Rosberg involved in it, too! I have to say I felt a bit sorry for Verstappen, who had to drink sparkling wine from his teammate´s racing boot! ;) So now Rosberg has a 23-point lead in the drivers´ championship standings. Hamilton has had so many technical issues with his power unit this year... But who  knows what will happen in Japan next week!

Sebastian Vettel has been in my thoughts a lot lately. He has just been given two penalty points and a 3-place grid penalty for Japan next week! He isn´t known for making mistakes, but this year there has been quite a few of them. If I´m asked, he should have admitted honestly, that the collision today was his fault and not to blame Rosberg for getting involved with his battle with Verstappen. But in spite of all the mistakes, I support Sebastian from all my heart. I believe in him, and I know he can turn these setbacks into success. Ferrari as a team is struggling too with their pace and performance, as Red Bull has clearly taken the upper hand in the battle for the second place in the constructors´ standings. But in spite of difficulties the fans are always there. Sebastian, Kimi and the whole Ferrari team are always in my heart!

P.S. You´re welcome to read my thoughts also here:

lauantai 1. lokakuuta 2016

Malaysia GP / Qualifying: 8th pole of the season for Hamilton!

There have been some significant track changes at Sepang, which meant, that it was a bit unknown for the teams, as they prepared for the qualifying. The entire track has been resurfaced, and nine corners have been changed since last year. The new asphalt meant more slippery conditions and hotter track temperature.

Q1 got underway seeing different tyre strategies. The Mercedes came out on the yellow-marked soft tyres, whereas both Ferrari drivers made their first runs on the white-marked medium Pirellis. Red Bull copied Ferrari´s tyre strategy. Hamilton was the fastest man in the first segment, and teammate Rosberg was only 16 thousandths of a second off the Briton. Obviously hey had absolutely no need to make a second run. The Force India duo of Perez and Hulkenberg were surprisingly competitive as well, and they decided to sit out the second runs as well. Both Kimi and Sebastian opted for a fresh set of soft tyres at the end of the session. Kimi jumped third and Sebastian fourth. There was only a thousandth of a second separating the Ferrari aces! Out of Q2 were the Saubers of Ericsson and Nasr, Renault´s Palmer, the Manors of Ocon and Wehrlein and McLaren´s Alonso, who has a 45-place grid drop thanks to engine-change penalties. The Spaniard didn´t even try to set a competitive lap time, as fast laps would just have wasted tyres!

To my surprise everyone opted for the soft tyres in Q2. The Mercedes teammates headed out right away, and Hamilton absolutely smashed his teammate by half a second at the beginning of the second session. After the first runs Hamilton and Rosberg were topping the time sheets, with Verstappen and Ricciardo 3rd and 4th. Kimi was fifth and teammate Sebastian sixth. Williams´ Massa was 7th, and they all sat out the second runs. Button made it as high as P8, which was an impressive achievement from the British McLaren pilot, who is now driving his 300th GP weekend! The Force Indias of Hulkenberg and Perez rounded out the top ten. Finnish Williams pilot Bottas was the first faller in Q2. Out of the last segment were also Haas teammates Grosjean and Gutierrez, Renault´s Magnussen and Toro Rosso teammates Kvyat and Sainz.

In the decisive last segment Rosberg had an off on his first flyer, and the German was only in P5 after the first runs. Hamilton took provisional pole, and the Briton was close to the fastest lap ever recorded at Sepang International Circuit! Red Bull ace Verstappen was second with his teammate Ricciardo third and Kimi fourth. Button made only one run at the end of the last session. Rosberg was able to improve his lap time on his second run, although he had made a small mistake at the final hair-pin. Rosberg jumped second, but was still four tenths of a second down on his teammate. Verstappen failed to improve but held on for third. Teammate Ricciardo had to settle for P4 today. The Ferraris of Vettel and Räikkönen filled out row three, and the Force Indias of Perez and Hulkenberg locked out the fourth row. Button in his McLaren qualified 9th and Massa in his Williams completed the top ten.

I truly believe, that the Silver Arrows could face strong competition in the race, with the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Ricciardo in striking distance on the second row. Ferrari´s long-run pace has been quite impressive as well. I hope there will be a wheel-banging battle for the podium places tomorrow! One thing is for sure -there will be hot and humid, whether there´ll be rain or not. It will be a hard race in terms of tyres, and tyre management will be one of the key factors tomorrow. Last year Sebastian won the Malaysia GP, which was his first victory in the red team. Repeating that tomorrow would be a dream come true, although I know it might not be realistic to expect that. Once again it´ll be tight between Red Bull and Ferrari... I wouldn´t be upset at all to see Verstappen on the podium, either ;) A podium finish would be a perfect way to celebrate the young man´s 19th birthday!