Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

sunnuntai 27. marraskuuta 2016

Abu Dhabi GP: Nico Rosberg is 2016 world champion!

The sun started to set as the lights went out at Yas Marina Circuit. There was immense concentration by all drivers, as the season finale was at hand. Both Mercedes drivers got excellent starts; Hamilton maintained his lead with teammate Rosberg right at his tail. Kimi got a fantastic start as well, and the Iceman managed to overtake Red Bull´s Ricciardo, who had started to the race on the super soft Pirellis. Kimi was now 3rd in the race. Verstappen on the other hand, had contact with Force India´s Hulkenberg right after the start; the Dutchman spun at Turn 1! Luckily he was able to continue, but he had to start racing all over again from the very back of the pack. Due to Verstappen´s incident Sebastian was now fifth, right at Ricciardo´s tail.

The pit stop roulette started already on lap 7, as both Hamilton and Kimi pitted -both for a fresh set of yellow-marked soft tyres. On the following lap their teammates Rosberg and Sebastian pitted -for a similar tyre choice. Red Bull´s Ricciardo pitted on lap 10, also opting for the soft Pirellis. Teammate Verstappen instead stayed out having already made his way impressively through the field. Hamilton had re-joined the track ahead of the Flying Dutchman, but both Rosberg and Kimi re-joined the track behind the Red Bull pilot. Rosberg was stuck behind Verstappen, but against all odds, teammate Hamilton didn´t pull away from his rivals. It really caught my eye, how slowly Hamilton was driving. It seemed as if the Briton was trying to give his rivals a better chance to attack Nico! Which was sneaky tactics indeed.

McLaren´s Button -who was driving his career-ending race- got a front suspension failure on lap 13, which forced the Briton to retire from the race. Unfortunately it wasn´t the kind of a closure that Button would have wanted to have for his long and successful F1 career. On lap 20 Rosberg was told on the team radio, that it was critical to get past Verstappen. Right after that message Rosberg attacked on the super fast Dutchman. Verstappen managed to defend his position in terms of Nico´s first move, but Nico was determined to take P2 from the Red Bull teenager. Their wheels almost touched, and it must have been a hair-raising moment for Nico, who had the most to lose in this race! After the second move Rosberg managed to get past Verstappen.

Verstappen pitted not until on lap 22 -for soft rubber as well. It seemed likely, that he´d go till the end on that set of tyres. He re-joined the track in P8. Teammate Ricciardo drove into the pits for the second time on lap 25, opting for another set of soft tyres. This made Ferrari react; they called Kimi in. However, on the new set of soft tyres, Kimi dropped down behind both Red Bulls when re-joining the track! It definitely wasn´t the perfect pit stop strategy for the Iceman! Teammate Sebastian instead stayed out and kept driving competitive lap times. Hamilton pitted on lap 29 and teammate Rosberg on the following lap -both for another set of soft Pirellis. Sebastian was now leading the race, but he had one more pit stop awaiting...

It was refreshing to see a different pit stop strategy from Sebastian. He came in not until on lap 38, and he opted for a fresh set of red-marked super soft tyres. I was confident that Sebastian was going to fly on his fresh tyres! He re-joined the track in P6, behind teammate Kimi. Sebastian was significantly faster than all his rivals, and he started his chase towards podium. In no time Sebastian had chased down his teammate, who didn´t make an effort to defend his position. Ricciardo was only some 4 seconds ahead and race leader Hamilton only 10 seconds away. Sebastian was absolutely determined to aim as high as he could.

With 10 laps to go, Hamilton was told on the team radio to drive faster. The team was worried, that Sebastian might be a real threat to the Briton. But Hamilton kept his teammate right at his tail -driving on a defensive mode- to give Verstappen and Vettel a better chance to attack Nico. Sebastian had already got within DRS distance from Ricciardo. The German made an overtaking move on his ex teammate, which turned out successful due to his much fresher tyres.

With five laps to go, the top four was within 2,7 seconds! The battle for championship truly intensified during those closing laps. Sebastian smelled Verstappen´s blood and attacked the Dutchman, who is known as a very challenging driver to overtake. And Sebastian made it past Verstappen, who was the only top driver on a one-stop strategy. The German was now third in the race but seemed passionate to get past Rosberg as well.

Although Hamilton slowed down even more on the final lap, he couldn´t prevent Rosberg from finishing the runner-up, which meant that Nico was 2016 world champion! To be honest, it was refreshing to see a new world champion. And I was very delighted to see Sebastian on the podium as well. Verstappen finished 4th, Ricciardo 5th, Kimi 6th, Hulkenberg 7th, Perez 8th, Massa 9th and Alonso 10th. Kimi had a strong first stint, but somehow Ferrari seemed to lack pace on the hardest tyre compound. I can´t help thinking, what Kimi would have been capable of, had he had a similar pit stop strategy to his teammate...

I´m very happy that Hamilton won the race; so he was able to dedicate the victory for his deceased friend Dr Aki Hintsa, who passed away last week. On the other hand I´m happy for Nico, who finally won his first world title. Nico has been one of the underrated drivers on the paddock so far, but I´m sure it will change now. It´s impressive that Nico is already a second-generation world champion, as his father Keke Rosberg was crowned world champion in 1982.

Knowing that the Formula 1 season is now officially over, I feel so empty. What am I going to do during this long off-season? I´m going to miss GP weekends so much! And I´m going to miss writing my blog! So if there´s any F1 related topic you want me to write about, please let me know! ;) I´m already looking forward to the 2017 F1 season!

lauantai 26. marraskuuta 2016

Abu Dhabi GP / Qualifying: Hamilton on pole for the title-deciding race!

After Brazil GP my world turned upside down, as I heard about the passing away of Dr Aki Hintsa, who had worked for 11 years in F1 as a doctor and coach. He had been diagnosed with cancer in the summer 2015, and the doctors had given him only a few months to live. However, against all odds Dr Hintsa managed to win his battle against cancer. The last news I read about him said that he was well and the Finnish F1 team planned to invite him in the Formula 1 studio for some GP weekend. There was absolutely no way I was prepared to hear the news of his passing away! Suddenly cancer had recurred and he had lost his battle against cancer. He was taken so early, only at the age of 58. He would have had so much more to give to the world! I read Oskari Saari´s book about Dr Hintsa and his holistic model for personal success, as it came out in the spring 2015. The book made a huge and lasting impression on me -deeper than I even realised first. The news of Dr Hintsa´s death has gone deep into my emotions, although I never even had the honour to meet this unique and extraordinary man. Today I read the news that Oskari Saari will finish the biography of Dr Hintsa, as the man himself had wished only days before he passed away.

So my thoughts have been very distracted this weekend. On one hand I´m trying to enjoy the very last GP weekend of the season, but on the other hand my thoughts are with Dr Hintsa and his family. I didn´t see qualifying live on TV today, as I took part in my grandmother´s 90th birthday party. This made me go through deep thoughts as well, as the possibility to celebrate your 90th birthday in decent health definitely cannot be taken for granted! However, I took a look on the Formula 1 news, as I was sipping coffee at the party ;)

Luckily qualifying was on, when I came home and turned my TV on. To honour Dr Hintsa´s memory, Hamilton had had the text "Dr Aki Hintsa 1958-2016" put on his helmet for the weekend. Hamilton had a close friendship with Dr Hintsa, who had helped the Briton a lot during his career. The Briton had met Dr Hintsa only a day before his death. Coming to this season-finale, Hamilton has said that he wants to win the race for his friend, and the Briton´s determination was there to be seen in qualifying already. He was the fastest man in Q1, with points-leading teammate a whole second off his pace. Ferrari´s pace seemed excellent indeed, as Kimi was second fastest with teammate Sebastian 3rd. A bit surprisingly, both Toro Rossos were out of Q2, as Kvyat was the first faller in Q1. Teammate Sainz was left in modest P21. Manor´s Wehrlein was responsible of the most positive surprise, as the German managed to make it to Q2 by making it 16th in the first session.

All top teams came out at the beginning of the second session. Once again, Red Bull ran a different tyre strategy to their rivals; they ran the super softs instead of the ultra softs, meaning they will start on the longer-lasting -but slower- rubber. There wasn´t any ambiguity about Mercedes´ dominance, as once again Hamilton was the fastest man at Yas Marina with teammate Rosberg at his tail. Worth noticing was the fact, that Red Bull´s Verstappen managed to split the Ferrari teammates in spite of the tyre choice. Both Verstappen and Ricciardo left the pits for second runs on the purple-marked ultra soft rubber, but they aborted their flying laps as there was no need to improve. This time Williams´ Bottas led those who failed to get through to the final segment.

In Q3 Hamilton took provisional pole; especially his second sector was absolutely crushing. Rosberg tried his very best to take the battle to his teammate, but he was still three tenths down on Hamilton, who seemed to be a man on a mission. Kimi had driven an extremely strong qualifying, and the Iceman was third after the first runs. Ricciardo was fourth, Verstappen fifth and Sebastian sixth. Both Silver Arrows managed to improve their lap times on the second runs, but Hamilton held on to pole by three tenths of a second. Behind the dominant Silver Arrows, Ricciardo unfortunately displaced Kimi for third on their second runs. However, the duo was separated only by a hundredth of a second! Sebastian -who a bit surprisingly got beaten by his teammate in the qualifying battles this year- finished 5th, and Red Bull´s Verstappen had to settle for P6, as the Dutchman had made a mistake on his final run. Hulkenberg and Perez locked out row four for Force India. Alonso underlined McLaren´s improvements with ninth, and Williams´ Massa rounded out the top ten.

Rosberg may have a 12-point advantage heading into tomorrow´s title-deciding race, but for now the momentum is definitely with Hamilton. It seems that the Briton has got some extra boost for this weekend. He wants to win the race and dedicate the victory for his deceased friend. I have a feeling that it´s exactly what Hamilton will do tomorrow! But winning the world championship isn´t only in Hamilton´s own hands anymore. All Nico has to do is to finish on the podium and he´ll clinch his first world title. I´m not a fan of either one of the Mercedes drivers, but I really appreciate Hamilton´s gesture to have Dr Hintsa´s name on his helmet and his intention to dedicate the possible victory for him -so yes, this time I actually hope Hamilton is going to win the race tomorrow! (I never thought I´d one day hope Hamilton to win!)

maanantai 14. marraskuuta 2016

Brazil GP: Wild Verstappen show in extreme conditions!

Predictions of rain turned out to be quite accurate, as it was raining quite heavily at Interlagos today. There was drama already before the race got underway; Grosjean in his Haas was making his way to the grid, but lost control of his car due to aquaplaning and ended up in the wall with broken front suspension! That was a huge disappointment for the Frenchman, who would have started to the race from P7. The track conditions were so wet, that the start was delayed by 10 minutes.

Due to the challenging conditions the race was started behind safety car; everyone was on the blue-marked full-wet Pirellis. There was still a lot of standing water on the track, and the spray caused by the cars made visibility really poor. It was still raining lightly. Safety car came in on lap 7, and the race was finally on. Kimi was struggling on the wet track, and Verstappen attacked the Finn immediately. Max made a brave overtaking move on the Iceman and took P3. Renault´s Magnussen and McLaren´s Button soon pitted for a fresh set of intermediate tyres, but the top drivers still continued on the track on the full-wets.

Sebastian in P5 had a scary moment on lap 11 going uphill into the last corners. He suddenly lost the control of his car and span! Luckily the German didn´t hit anything but all he lost were some extra seconds. Sebastian pitted right away -for intermediate tyres as well. But everything didn´t go to plan during the pit stop; the team had difficulties to attach the rear-left tyre, which cost other valuable seconds. Sebastian re-joined the track in disappointing P19. Definitely not a promising start to Sebastian´s race!

Turn 14 was a turning point in the race. Sauber´s Ericsson lost the control of his car in high speed and crashed into the wall. Ericsson´s Sauber stopped at the pit entry. Red Bull´s Verstappen drove into the pits managing to avoid hitting the Sauber. Safety car was deployed, and the pit entry was closed. However, also Ricciardo in his RB12 drove into the pits. Both Red Bull pilots opted for a fresh set of green-marked intermediate Pirellis. The Australian was soon taken into investigation for entering the pits after the pit entry had already been closed. Hamilton was leading the race behind safety car, teammate Rosberg was second, Kimi was third, Verstappen fourth and Hulkenberg fifth.

Safety car came in on lap 19, and the race was on again -but only for a very short moment. Coming on the start-finish straight Kimi´s SF16-H aquaplaned, which caused the Iceman to crash into the outside wall. The impact threw the Finn spinning across the straight into the inside wall. It was an utterly frightening moment, as there were plenty of cars coming behind Kimi -driving 300 km/h! It´s amazing how quick reflexes the F1 drivers have! Without a lightning quick evading move from Manor´s Ocon, he would have hit Kimi´s Ferrari! My heart jumped into my mouth; Kimi´s crash could have ended in a catastrophic way! Luckily the Iceman was unharmed and could walk away from the car on his own. But the crash really got under my skin and scared me a lot! Due to Kimi´s crash the race was red-flagged, and everyone drove into the pits.

During the session suspension the stewards announced a 5-second time penalty for Ricciardo due to entering the pits although the pit entry had been closed. Williams´ Massa was also given a similar penalty for overtaking before the safety car line. After half-an-hour suspension the race was re-started behind safety car. After six laps behind safety car the race was red-flagged again! The conditions were very extreme and challenging; in the name of safety it was the right decision from the stewards. Everyone remembers Japanese GP 2014 and the consequences the extreme conditions caused. There had been plenty of dangerous looking crashes today already so the stewards didn´t want to jeopardise the safety of the drivers; although many drivers were saying on the team radio that the conditions were drivable.

After another half-an-hour suspension it was still raining, and the track conditions hadn´t improved. The race was re-started behind safety car. The top ten certainly seemed interesting, as the race was back on after a few laps behind safety car. The top three involved quite familiar names, as Hamilton was leading the race with teammate Rosberg second and Red Bull´s Verstappen third. But Force India´s Perez was fourth, Toro Rosso´s Sainz fifth, Sauber´s Nasr sixth, Red Bull´s Ricciardo seventh, Manor duo of Ocon and Wehrlein eighth and ninth and McLaren´s Alonso tenth.

Verstappen seemed to have different driving lines compared to his rivals. Once again the Flying Dutchman was extremely aggressive at the re-start and made a bold move on Rosberg -snatching P2 from the German! Red Bull seemed extremely competitive in the wet conditions, and Max seemed to be perfectly in control of his RB12. He started to chase down Hamilton, who wasn´t too far away. But what a scary moment Max had on lap 39! The Dutch teenager hit the kerb in the inside on the start-finish straight and lost the control of his RB12! With a combination of huge talent and good luck he managed to avoid hitting the quadrail and was able to continue the race after the spin. Rosberg was close to take his second place back from the Red Bull driver, but Max was just barely able to stay ahead of Rosberg.

The track conditions were slightly improving, and Ricciardo pitted for a fresh set of intermediate tyres. The Australian´s lap times looked extremely good, and the team called Verstappen to pit a few laps later -for intermediates as well. Meanwhile Sebastian was making his way through the field -first past Alonso and then Nasr. After a difficult first half of the race, Sebastian was driving a strong race in P6.

However, safety car was deployed again on lap 48! Williams´ Massa, who was driving his very last home race, also lost control of his FW38 on the start-finish straight and ended up in the wall! For sure not the kind of a result the Brazilian would have hoped in front of his home crowd! In spite of the DNF, it was a very emotional moment for the home hero Massa, who was in tears when walking into the pits.

Red Bull´s tyre strategy proved wrong; there was no way the Red Bull duo could drive competitive lap times on the intermediate tyres! Both Ricciardo and Verstappen pitted for a fresh set of full-wet Pirellis. It was a costly pit stop especially for Max, who dropped down to P16 after re-joining the track. However, after safety car had come in, we saw a spectacular and absolutely wild Verstappen show! The Dutchman continued choosing different driving lines, and he seemed to be flying around the circuit. The overtaking move he made on his teammate Ricciardo was stunning! Next on the Flying Dutchman´s overtaking list were Kvyat, Ocon and Nasr. A moment later Max had a wheel-banging battle with Sebastian for P5, but Sebastian had no chance to defend his position against the hungry Dutchman. With only a few laps to go, Max was right at Perez´s tail fighting for the last podium place. And after another spectacular overtaking move P3 was Max´s! Max´s driving was absolutely breath-taking today, in a class of his own!

Hamilton won the Brazil GP for the very first time; so the championship battle will be down-to-the-wire in Abu Dhabi. Rosberg finished the runner-up, and Verstappen completed the podium. It was no wonder, that Max was voted as the Driver of the Day; today he definitely deserved it! Perez finished 4th for Force India. Sebastian managed to make it past Sainz at the end of the race, finishing fifth. Hulkenberg finished 7th in the second Force India, Ricciardo was 8th, Nasr 9th and Alonso 10th. At the end of the day there were five safety cars and two red flags in the race! The race length came very close to the time limit, but finally all 71 laps were completed.

I was jumping of joy for Max, but the red team´s performance left a lot to hope for in terms of the season finale in Abu Dhabi. Ferrari was seriously struggling with their pace in the wet conditions, although especially Kimi had driven an excellent qualifying. There´s still one more chance of a red-coloured podium... But who will be the world champion this year? Rosberg still has a 12-point lead in the standings. To win the title, Hamilton needs to win in Abu Dhabi and Rosberg has to finish lower than third.

P.S. My thoughts on the chaotic race can also be read on the website of Scuderia Ferrari Club Riga:

lauantai 12. marraskuuta 2016

Brazil GP / Qualifying: 60th career pole for Hamilton!

It´s a bit difficult to understand that this is actually the second last GP weekend of the season! So it´s inevitably time for round 20 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Hamilton needed pole more than ever to keep his title hopes alive. And look how it turned out...

There was a hint of rain in the air as qualifying started, with a warning that there was a 70 percent risk of a proper downpour. Everyone came out on the yellow-marked soft Pirellis right at the beginning of the first session. At first I was worried about Sebastian, who was still in his pit garage, while his rivals were doing their first runs. It was reported that the German had a brake problem, but luckily he soon joined in. After the first runs Hamilton was topping the timesheets with his teammate Rosberg second, Red Bull´s Verstappen third, Ferrari´s Räikkönen fourth and teammate Vettel fifth. The top nine (including also Red Bull´s Ricciardo, the Williams duo of Massa and Bottas and McLaren´s Alonso) sat out the second runs. McLaren´s Button was the first faller in Q1 -knocked out only by two hundredths of a second. Out of Q2 were also Renault´s Magnussen, the Manor duo of Wehrlein and Ocon and the Sauber duo of Ericsson and Nasr.

Mercedes dominated the second session as well -Hamilton once again having the upper hand on his teammate. The pecking order was excitingly mixed up in terms of Red Bull and Ferrari. It was no surprise that the drivers of these three top teams decided to sit out the second runs. Alonso in his McLaren was a refreshing surprise as the Spaniard was 7th fastest in Q2. Another positive surprise was Haas´ Grosjean, who made it as high as P9. Both Bottas and local boy Massa were knocked out of Q3 in a major shock for Williams. Both Toro Rossos were also out of the final session, this time Kvyat acing teammate Sainz.

In the decisive final session Mercedes was in a class of their own, but behind them there was an extremely tight battle for positions between Ferrari and Red Bull. Hamilton took provisional pole with Rosberg second, Verstappen third, Vettel fourth, Ricciardo fifth and Kimi sixth. Both Mercedes drivers managed to improve their lap times on their second runs, but Hamilton managed to snatch pole by a tenth of a second. The other big mover was Kimi, who leapt to third, as Verstappen, Vettel and Ricciardo all failed to improve on their second run. It was a fantastic run from Kimi, although he was 6 tenths down on pole setter Hamilton. Verstappen qualified fourth and Sebastian fifth -with only one hundredth of a second separating these two! Ricciardo was sixth and Grosjean an impressive seventh for Haas. The Force India teammates of Hulkenberg and Perez and McLaren´s Alonso rounded out the top ten.

The risk of rain in the race tomorrow is even higher than in the qualifying today. Wet conditions would definitely mix up the pecking order... Rosberg is the driver, who has the most to lose. Hamilton needs victory tomorrow, but even a victory doesn´t necessarily guarantee that he would win the championship. Rosberg doesn´t need more than P2 tomorrow. But there´re other factors, which may have an effect on his race apart from his own performance... Factors like Max Verstappen. There have been some hot rumours, that Mercedes´ Team Principal Toto Wolff had called Verstappen´s father Jos to make sure, that Max won´t interfere with the championship battle between the Mercedes teammates! But Max has his own race to run -with huge passion like always. I´m sure it will be tight between Kimi and Max going into Turn 1... I think Kimi has a real chance to win tomorrow, as neither Hamilton nor Rosberg want to take any risks at the start. Looking forward to a hair-raising race!