Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

sunnuntai 26. maaliskuuta 2017

Australian GP: Brilliant victory for Sebastian!

There was drama at Albert Park already before the race actually got underway. Home hero Ricciardo´s RB13 was hit with an electrical issue, which ruined the Australian´s day completely. There was no way Red Bull could have fixed the problem in time for the race start -even though the start was aborted and there was a second formation lap. The start was much cleaner than I had expected. The order of the top four remained unchanged -Hamilton kept his lead, Sebastian was second, Bottas third and Kimi fourth. Verstappen in P5 had taken the best start, but the Dutchman wasn´t quite able to challenge Kimi for P4. The only top ten driver to gain a position was Williams´ Massa, who managed to get past Haas´ Grosjean, jumping 6th. Surprisingly, there was only one first-lap collision, between Haas´ Magnussen and Sauber´s Ericsson, but they were both able to continue racing. Red Bull´s Ricciardo was released from the pits after two laps had already been completed by the others.

I was happy to see, that Sebastian was able to follow Hamilton very closely. The German was within DRS distance from the Briton, but the narrow street circuit of Albert Park offered hardly any chances for overtaking. Bottas in third and Kimi in fourth had difficulties to keep up with their teammates´ pace. Hamilton soon started to complain about loss of grip on the team radio; the Briton was the first top driver to pit on lap 17! It seemed Hamilton was on a one-stop strategy, as he exited the pits on the yellow-marked soft Pirellis. However, Hamilton re-joined the track in traffic, right behind Red Bull´s Verstappen. Sebastian, on the other hand, stayed out and kept banging competitive lap times. Everything looked excellent for the red team.

I have to admit I was happy that Hamilton got stuck behind Verstappen -who is definitely known as a tough driver to overtake. Sebastian pitted not until on lap 24 -for a fresh set of soft tyres. Ferrari´s strategy was perfect, as Sebastian re-joined the track well ahead of his British rival! Bottas and Verstappen pitted on the following lap; Verstappen opting for a different tyre choice. Red Bull had decided to run him on the red-marked super soft compound. Kimi was the last of the top five to pit -also for soft Pirellis.

Towards the halfway point of the race there were clear gaps between the top five drivers. Hamilton was already six seconds off Sebastian, which made me a bit relieved. Meanwhile Ricciardo´s catastrophic weekend came to an end, as the Australian´s RB13 came to a definitive halt on lap 28. What an utterly disappointing weekend for Ricciardo in front of his home crowd!

Towards the end of the race Bottas´ pace improved and the Finn started to catch his teammate. On the other hand, Red Bull´s Verstappen was frighteningly quick on the super soft tyres and he started to chase down Kimi, whose pace was everything but excellent. It was kind of a question mark for me, how Sebastian was keeping up brilliant pace in the lead, but the Iceman was struggling with his performance. However, Kimi set the fastest lap time of the race on his second last lap! I don´t know, if Kimi had difficulties to get the tyres to work properly or what the problem with the pace was; however, snatching the fastest lap time is always a good omen for the upcoming races.

Sebastian took brilliant victory in the season-opening Australian GP! This was his first victory since Singapore 2015 so it was about time to win again! Hamilton finished the runner-up -10 seconds behind Sebastian. Bottas drove an impressive debut as a Mercedes driver, completing the podium. Kimi had to settle for P4, but managed to keep Verstappen behind him. Massa was excellent 6th. I was also delighted to see both pink cars in points -Perez 7th and teammate Ocon 10th. Both Toro Rosso drivers managed to finish in points as well -Kvyat 8th and teammate Sainz 9th. It´s so refreshing to see that Ferrari is leading the constructors´ championship for a change! Ferrari has now 37 points to Mercedes´ 33. This is really the perfect way to start the new season!

My hunch got stronger today; it says that Sebastian will shine at the wheel of his Gina this season. Sebastian seems absolutely devoted to do everything he can to make this year successful. He is known for being a hard-working guy, but now he seems more motivated than ever before. He has stayed very late in the pit garage with his mechanics -he leaves no stones unturned! I´m looking forward to a victorious season! Oh, how I´ve missed this adrenaline rush caused by Sebastian´s victory; what a perfect Sunday!

lauantai 25. maaliskuuta 2017

Australian GP / Qualifying: Vettel in the front row alongside pole-setter Hamilton!

Finally the 2017 Formula 1 season with wider, heavier and faster cars is here! It was absolutely fantastic to wake up for the season-opening qualifying session. During the past few weeks I had eagerly looked forward to see, how much faster the new cars actually turn out due to the significant regulation changes. I had also looked forward to seeing the pink-liveried Force India on track. It has really caught my eye in a positive way. A pink Formula 1 car actually looks really cool!

As qualifying got underway at Albert Park, Ferrari stood out of the crowd in terms of the tyre strategy. The Italian-based team opted for a fresh set of super soft Pirellis, whereas the rest of the teams came out on the purple-marked ultra soft tyres. Sebastian set a competitive lap time already at the beginning of the first session, whereas teammate Kimi went wide twice on his first attempt. Therefore the Iceman had to come out again at the end of the session and make his second attempt on the ultra soft tyres. Hamilton topped the timesheets for Mercedes, which was no surprise. Kimi was second and Red Bull´s Verstappen third. Bottas, who had replaced the reigning world champion Rosberg at Mercedes, was 4th in Q1. McLaren´s problems continued in qualifying. Stoffel Vandoorne lost crucial time with a fuel pressure issue and didn´t make it into Q2. Surprisingly, Alonso was able to make it as high as P12, making it through to the second session.

The first faller in Q1 was Sauber´s Giovinazzi, who replaced Pascal Wehrlein at late notice. Wehrlein had suffered a back injury at the Race of Champions in December, which had prevented the German to train hard enough to be fit for the GP weekend. Renault, Haas and Williams shared differing fortunes in terms of the teammates. Hulkenberg was stunning fifth for Renault in Q1, whereas teammate Palmer was left last in the opening session. Grosjean made it easily into Q2; teammate Magnussen, on the other hand, was out of the second session. Massa was impressive 7th, but rookie teammate Stroll was left in P19. The Canadian is set to start last, however, due to a gear box change after his FP3 crash.

Q2 saw both Mercedes and Ferrari come out on the ultra soft Pirellis. The Finnish Mercedes ace Bottas went to the front in the second session. Teammate Hamilton was second, with only 36 thousandths of a second separating these two! Ferrari duo of Kimi and Sebastian were third and fourth. It seemed that Red Bull were a step behind Mercedes and Ferrari, as Ricciardo and Verstappen were left in P5 and P6. Williams´ Massa, Haas´ Grosjean and the Toro Rosso duo of Kvyat and Sainz completed the top ten. Force India´s Perez was the first of those left behind. I was a bit disappointed; I´d have wanted to see a pink car among the top ten!

Just to spice things up, some felt a few drops of rain, as Q3 was about to get underway. However, the conditions remained dry. Hamilton took provisional pole by three tenths of a second, with Sebastian second. Bottas was third, only two thousandths of a second down on Sebastian! Kimi still had difficulties to put together a decent lap; the Iceman had made a mistake in the first sector and was in P4. Local hero Ricciardo lost the rear of his RB13 in Turn 14 and ended up in the wall. That brought out the red flags with eight minutes of Q3 to go.

The battle for pole was exciting. Bottas managed to improve his lap time on the second run, before Hamilton once again dramatically undercut the Finn for pole. Sebastian lost a little in Turn 1 and pole-setter Hamilton ended up edging the German by a quarter of a second. However, Sebastian made it in the front row alongside the silver arrow! This means Ferrari will start a race from the front row for the first time since Singapore 2015! Bottas qualified 3rd, only two hundredths of a second behind Sebastian. Kimi´s second run left a little to hope for, and the Iceman qualified 4th, eight tenths of a second down on pole-setter Hamilton. So the two big teams shared the honours and set the stage for a great race. Red Bull´s Verstappen, who qualified 5th, was already 1,2 seconds off Hamilton´s pace, which was definitely more than I expected. Haas´ Grosjean was impressive 6th, and almost-retired Massa put Williams 7th, ahead of the Toro Rossos of Sainz and Kvyat.

In terms of performance, Mercedes and Ferrari seem very evenly matched. The battle for victory will be intense! The start will be crucial, especially due to the new regulations considering the clutch control. I´m sure Sebastian is extremely hungry for victory after the disappointing 2016 season. And I have a hunch, that Sebastian will shine at the wheel of his Gina this season! Probably there will be mistakes by drivers as well (hopefully not by the red-suited drivers!), such as Ricciardo´s spin in the qualifying today. The new cars have more downforce and more grip, but when it goes, it goes completely and there´s no time to correct it. So there might be some unexpected crashes tomorrow.

What do I think about this year´s new cars? I find them quite beautiful, in spite of all the talk about the shark fins and T wings. The increased speed makes them even more beautiful! And a tiny part of me wishes success for Force India -just because they have a pink car, which looks almost sexy and absolutely  stunning!

All in all, I definitely want to see smiling Sebastian standing on the top step of the podium at the end of the race! The perfect race result from my point of view would be a 1-2 for Ferrari!

sunnuntai 12. maaliskuuta 2017

The 2017 season preview

Finally F1 is back after the long winter hibernation! The allowed eight days of pre-season testing are now complete. But what conclusions can be drawn in terms of the teams´ pecking order?

Obvious was the fact, that there were two teams, which stood out of the crowd -Mercedes and Ferrari. In terms of the lap times Ferrari lead the way. Finnish Ferrari ace Kimi Räikkönen was the only driver to go below 1m 19s around the Circuit de Catalunya. The lap time is extremely impressive, as it is 3 seconds faster than Hamilton´s pole mark last year at Barcelona! Mercedes, Williams and Red Bull were all within a second of the Iceman. Only two teams were more than two seconds off the pace -McLaren and Sauber. Also worth noting is that Kimi clocked his fastest lap time on the super soft tyre compound, which isn´t even the fastest tyre.

In terms of reliability the power unit played a significant role. Mercedes was the team that went furthest -they ran 1096 laps, which equals 5102 km. Bottas was the driver with the most mileage -completing 628 laps! Ferrari was the runner-up in terms of the lap count -they completed 956 laps, which equals 4450 km. Vettel was the one with more mileage in terms of the Ferrari duo; the German completed 591 laps. All in all, the teams with Mercedes or Ferrari power unit made longer distances compared to Renault- or Honda-powered teams. Red Bull´s pace seemed kind of hidden due to the technical issues concerning their power unit. McLaren Honda stood out of the crowd clearly -and not in a positive way. They suffered from severe reliability issues related to the Honda power unit and they were able to put together only 425 laps.

So what is the pecking order in terms of 2017´s faster F1 cars? Everyone still seems to think that Mercedes is the team to beat this year as well. On the other hand, there has been a lot of talk about Ferrari´s strong-looking performance. Especially the SF70-H´s innovative sidepod design has been the subject of much discussion. Unfortunately the real answers will come not until in Melbourne. Last year Ferrari were topping the time sheets in the pre-season tests, but as the season got underway, they turned out to be clearly off Mercedes´ pace. So clocking the fastest lap time in the winter tests is no guarantee of a victorious season. This time, though, my intuition says that this is going to be a successful season for the Scuderia!

I can´t wait for the lights to go out at Melbourne. The starts will become even more demanding for the drivers, as there has been a regulation change considering new limits on clutch control and the movement and location of the paddles. The biggest change comes in how the paddle on the steering wheel now controls the clutch, because there now has to be a linear torque control. This means the probability of a poor start increases significantly, as the start is now 100 % up to the driver.

The new wider tyres is an interesting factor as well. They are said to be longer-lasting than last year´s Pirellis, which probably means fewer pit stops this season. How about overtaking then? Will it be easier or more difficult with the new wider cars? All this remains to be seen, as the season gets underway!

How about Valtteri Bottas, who replaced the reigning world champion Nico Rosberg at Mercedes? It seems that the fast Finn has adapted extremely well to the new team, and his performance in the tests has been impressive. How about the fight against his extremely fast teammate? I can´t wait to see Bottas taking the battle to the three-time world champion!

I have to say that at this point, everything looks promising in terms of Ferrari´s performance. I hope this will be the red season, that all tifosi have been passionately waiting for! I´ve really missed all the emotions caused by Formula 1 racing -the intoxicating feeling after Sebastian´s or Kimi´s stunning overtaking move or even victory; on the other hand the disappointment after their mistake or technical failure, which has made me support these red-suited drivers even more. Hopefully there will be an emotional season with many races won by Ferrari!