Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

sunnuntai 25. kesäkuuta 2017

Azerbaijan GP: Ricciardo claimed victory in a chaotic race!

First of all, I´m going to take a few deep breaths before I start writing down my thoughts on today´s race. I´m still riding the emotional roller coaster caused by the Formula 1 action in Baku! Who needs thrillers or action films, when you can watch the Azerbaijan GP?! What an eventful and action-packed race! And not all turns were the ones I was hoping for.

The first drama took place at the start. Hamilton in his Mercedes took a clean start and held on to his lead. Kimi from P3 had a rocket start and was challenging his countryman Bottas for the second place. Going into Turn 2, Kimi was already slightly ahead of his compatriot. However, hitting the kerb made Bottas´  Mercedes jump and hit Kimi´s Ferrari! Kimi crashed to the wall, which caused significant damage to his front wing. Bottas instead had a front right puncture and the Finn had to pit for a fresh set of tyres and a new front wing. Re-joining the track, Bottas was already a lap down! This looked like a difficult race for Valtteri.

Surprisingly Red Bull´s Ricciardo pitted already on lap 6. The first-lap incident had caused some debris on the track, and some debris had gotten in the brakes of Ricciardo´s RB13, and they needed to be cleared. Hamilton was leading the race with a clear 3-second margin to Sebastian. Force India´s Perez was impressive 3rd, but Red Bull´s Verstappen was right at the Mexican´s tail. Verstappen´s driving was once again extremely convincing, but as soon as it seemed that Perez´s third place was threatened, Verstappen was hit with a technical failure! I felt so gutted for the flying Dutchman, who has already faced four DNFs in eight races due to technical failures! I find that quite unacceptable. On lap 12 Verstappen´s RB13 stopped on track due to an oil pressure issue. Also Kvyat´s Toro Rosso had stopped on track a couple of laps earlier, and safety car was deployed. All top drivers pitted for a fresh set of soft tyres.

Bottas benefitted from the safety car, as he was allowed to overtake all cars and take his place at the back of the pack. Safety car came in on lap 16 -but only for a very short while! The re-start was everything but clean and once again there was debris on the track. Safety car was back out! All drivers complained about safety car driving around dangerously slowly. And what a dramatic turn the race took right before the second re-start! Coming into Turn 15, Hamilton slowed down so significantly, that Sebastian crashed into the Briton´s rear, breaking his front wing! Sebastian got totally caught by the heat of the moment. He drove alongside his title rival showing his hands -and then deliberately hit Hamilton´s car! The re-start took place and the race was back on. The emotions were running extremely high!

Behind the heated title rivals there was drama as well. At the re-start there was a collision between the pinks, as Ocon made an over optimistic move on teammate Perez, which lead into contact between the Force India partners. Perez´s race was over, and Ocon lost several positions as well. Behind the pinks there was Kimi, who unfortunately hit the debris on the track and suffered a rear right puncture. The Iceman managed to limp into the pits, but there was severe damage in his SF70-H, and the Finn had no choice but to retire. At this point Hamilton was still leading the race with Sebastian second. But it was absolutely unbelievable to notice, that Massa was third and his Williams teammate Stroll was fourth! Who could have expected that to happen?

On lap 22 the race was red-flagged, as there was still so much debris on the track. Everyone drove into the pits to wait for the race to be resumed. I looked at Sebastian standing on the pit lane with his trainer Antti Kontsas and I couldn´t help wondering, what was going on in the German´s mind. I mean he must have realised, what a huge mistake he had made by deliberately hitting Lewis´ Mercedes! I definitely felt his anger for the front wing damage, but there was no way that could justify his actions! It was such a non-athletic act, not something you expect from a quadruple world champion! All I could think was, that Sebastian needed to calm down and get his head cool before the re-start.

During a 15-minute break the track had been cleaned of all the debris, and the race was re-started. Miraculously Ferrari had been able to fix Kimi´s car during the break, and the Iceman was back in the race! So was the case with Perez´s pink-liveried Force India as well. Ricciardo in his RB13 got a flying re-start, as the Australian made a phenomenal overtaking move, which made him pass both Williams cars! This meant the "Smiling Avenger" was already third in the race.

However, Hamilton faced an unexpected problem in the lead. His headrest was loose, which was a possible safety threat. The Briton was advised on the team radio how to get it attached, but there was no way Hamilton could fix the problem on his own. Being a question of safety, Hamilton was called into the pits, so that the team could attach the headrest properly. This meant, that Sebastian was almost handed the victory in the narrow streets of Baku! Almost... Because at the same time Sebastian was handed a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for dangerous driving! I can´t even describe how I felt when I saw the penalty on the TV screen! It was totally deserved, no question about that. But it broke my heart to realise, that without the penalty for the stupid mistake Sebastian would have won the Azerbaijan GP! It was totally in vain, that he lost the 25 points for the victory! Those can turn out to be extremely valuable points at the end of the season... I could nothing but wonder, how Sebastian had the nerve to question his penalty on the team radio.

Sebastian re-joined the track right ahead of title rival Hamilton. Against all odds, Ricciardo was now leading the race, Williams´ Stroll was second and Haas´ Magnussen was third! What a lottery the Azerbaijan GP turned out! Meanwhile Bottas was absolutely flying and the Finn was making his way through the field position by position. With ten laps to go, Valtteri had already made his way past Force India´s Ocon and was 3rd in the race. The Finnish Mercedes ace smelled Williams rookie Stroll´s blood and started his chase, although the Canadian had already opened a 12-second gap to the Finn. Bottas drove with such determination, that he closed the gap slowly but surely -second by second. Meanwhile his fellow countryman Kimi had to retire the race only a few laps before the chequered flag.

Ricciardo took his fifth victory, but what an incredibly exciting turn we saw at the finish straight a moment later. Bottas had made it into DRS distance from Stroll and made it past the Canadian right before the chequered flag!! It was an amazing recovery for Valtteri and definitely one of the most impressive overtaking moves ever! I was so so happy for Lance Stroll, who has managed to turn setbacks into success after huge loads of criticism! Sebastian finished fourth, ahead of Hamilton. Ocon finished 6th for Force India, Magnussen 7th for Haas, Sainz 8th for Toro Rosso, Alonso 9th for McLaren (!) and Wehrlein scored one point for Sauber (!).

Sebastian now has a 14-point lead in the drivers´ championship standings. It feels bittersweet, as the lead could have been 27 points! Also Ferrari is now 24 points behind title rival Mercedes. I have to admit that I was disappointed to watch Sebastian´s post-race interviews. The FIA has stated, that the data from Hamilton´s car has proved, that the Briton hadn´t braked or lifted his foot off throttle in Turn 15. Sebastian has also been given 3 penalty points due to his dangerous manoeuvre. So there isn´t any question about Sebastian´s guilt. In my opinion he should behave like a man -like a sportsman- and take responsibility for his actions. A quadruple world champion doesn´t deliberately hit another driver for any reason! Everyone makes mistakes, and the heat of the moment sometimes makes you do things that shouldn´t be done. Only admitting your mistakes allows you to learn from them! I hope Sebastian has a long look in the mirror after this and decides to learn from this human error. There are millions of people, who look up to him (me included) so it does matter, what kind of a message he gives to his fans!

I admire Sebastian from the bottom of my heart. My support for him is always there, even though I don´t always accept his on-track actions. Getting caught by the heat of the moment only proves his passion for racing. He has had his outbursts also before (Turkey 2010, Mexico 2016) and these make him vulnerable -human behind the wheel. But I believe in Sebastian, that he will learn from this, take responsibility and then move on. It´s difficult to put my emotions into words... There´s so much hatred and criticism on social media at the moment... All I want to say is, that hopefully Sebastian knows that there are fans, who stand by him, no matter what mistakes he makes!

lauantai 24. kesäkuuta 2017

Azerbaijan GP / Qualifying: Frighteningly fast Hamilton stormed to pole!

This was only the second time, that the Formula 1 circus moved to Baku, Azerbaijan. The street circuit is known for its combination of long straights and 90-degree corners. The narrowest point of an F1 circuit can also be found in Baku; this looks narrow indeed for the modern wider F1 cars!

Already the free practice sessions had proved, that it was extremely difficult for the drivers to get both the tyres and the brakes up to the ideal temperature. All drivers had been struggling with poor grip, so escape roads were taken by most drivers at some point. Sebastian, for example, had had to use reverse three times during Friday, which is quite rare, when talking about F1 cars. These features made also qualifying different. Everyone came out on the super soft Pirellis already at the beginning of the first session, as it could easily take five or six laps, until the tyres were up to the optimal temperature. So there weren´t two separate attempts, like usually, but actually only one longer run. Hamilton showed the potential of the Silver Arrows by topping the time sheets by half a second to Red Bull´s Verstappen. The Ferrari partners Kimi and Sebastian were 3rd and 5th. Ericsson was the lone Sauber eliminated in Q1 as teammate Wehrlein had produced a great 15th fastest lap. Out of Q2 were also McLaren teammates Alonso and Vandoorne and Grosjean in his Haas. Renault´s Palmer was out of the qualifying due to the FP3 fire in his car.

Red Bull´s Verstappen had suffered from reliability issues already in the FP3, and the flying Dutchman´s problems continued in the qualifying. In spite of reporting of a power unit related problem on the team radio in Q2, the Dutchman managed to set a 4th fastest lap time. In addition to the Dutch Red Bull ace, also Massa in his RW38 had a moment of scare, as they both lost control of their car for a second and almost brushed the wall. Hamilton, whose pace had seemed to be missing in the free practices, definitely "found his performance" in Q2, as the Briton took everyone´s breath away by an outstanding lap. Teammate Bottas was two tenths off Hamilton´s pace. Mercedes seemed to be clearly ahead of their rivals in terms of pace, but Ferrari and Red Bull seemed quite evenly matched. The Toro Rosso boys Kvyat and Sainz were the first fallers in 11th and 12th. Also Magnussen (Haas), Hulkenberg (Renault) and Wehrlein (Sauber) were eliminated in the second session.

The shootout for pole was breath-taking. Mercedes´ Bottas seemed to be at home on the narrow and slippery streets of Baku, and the Finn went fastest on his first run, in spite of slightly kissing the wall! Hamilton made a mistake in the last sector, which made him 0,15s short of provisional pole. Sebastian´s hopes of a competitive lap time ended in the Turn 2 escape road. Considering the challenging circumstances, it wasn´t surprising, that the decisive last session was red-flagged! Ricciardo´s Red Bull stopped in Turn 6, after he broadsided and brushed the outer wall; at this point there were 3 minutes and 33 seconds remaining! Bottas was topping the time sheets with teammate Hamilton second, Verstappen third, Kimi fourth, Ocon fifth and Sebastian sixth. Neither Williams had run by this stage. The question during the 9-minute delay in everyone´s mind was: Would anyone be able to reach sufficient tyre and brake temperatures to improve in the closing stages of Q3?

My answer was no, but look, how things turned out after all! Bottas managed to improve his lap time on his final run; in spite of a staggering lap it wasn´t enough to get the Finn on pole. I don´t know where Hamilton found his pace, but I have to say, that the Briton was frighteningly fast today! He conquered pole by almost half a second to his teammate! Red Bull saw their second-row slot disappear as both Kimi and Sebastian improved. Kimi was impressive third, although the Iceman was already over a second off pole-setter Hamilton. Sebastian qualified fourth, only a tenth off his teammate´s pace. Verstappen had an issue with gear sync on his final run, and the flying Dutchman had to settle for P5. "The power of the pink" was also there, as Perez qualified 6th and Ocon 7th. Eye-catching was the fact, that Lance Stroll (P8) had made it in Q3 only for the second time in his F1 career and also out-qualified his teammate Massa (P9). I´m sincerely happy for the Canadian, who has had more than his share of criticism in the first half of the season.

About tomorrow´s race then: Who will be the first driver to crash into the wall? I´m sure there will be some drama in the race. I am also very aware of the frightening pace of Hamilton, who will start the race on pole. Sebastian has to take a phenomenal start from P4 to challenge the Briton, and he has to fight like a lion to keep his lead in the drivers´ championship standings! Sebastian has to attack on the opening laps, as it seems more difficult for Mercedes to get the tyres up to temperature. I´m definitely looking forward to a thrilling race! I believe in the red-suited warriors; I know that they will do everything to extract the maximum out of their SF70-H. Forza Ferrari!

maanantai 12. kesäkuuta 2017

Canadian GP: First 1-2 of the season for Mercedes!

Formula 1 is the highlight of my Saturday, no matter where I am.

I tend to plan my life according to the F1 calendar so every now and then I have to make some arrangements not to miss the F1 action. Last Friday I drove to Ikaalinen with my twin sister to attend the gig of famous Finnish pop star Antti Tuisku so I missed both FP1 and FP2. On Saturday we drove to Hämeenlinna and spent the evening at a spa hotel. Missing qualifying was no option for me so I sat at the balcony of my hotel room and watched the qualifying on my cell phone. A glass of sparkling wine, setting sun and Formula 1 action made my evening just perfect! Due to the special circumstances, however, I didn´t write a blog post on the qualifying, which turned out quite surprising. Hamilton had magically found his missing pace and his driving was absolutely convincing. The Briton amazed his rivals by setting a staggering opening lap in Q3 and taking the provisional pole. Sebastian was hungry to match the pace of his title rival, but the German Ferrari ace was four thousandths of a second down on Hamilton after the first runs. But there was even more to come from Hamilton, who improved his lap time by over two tenths on his last run. Hamilton absolutely nailed the first sector especially, leaving all his rivals utterly toothless. By taking his 65th career pole Hamilton equalled the pole record of his legendary idol Ayrton Senna. To honour this legendary record, the Senna family had donated a race-worn helmet of Senna to Hamilton. Sebastian had no choice but to settle for P2. Bottas qualified third for Mercedes and Kimi was fourth at the wheel of his SF70-H. The Red Bull duo of Verstappen and Ricciardo locked down the third row.

I was at home in time to watch the race on TV. What a colourful start the race had! Verstappen in P5 had an absolutely magical start and the flying Dutchman took a brave line going into Turn 1. By doing so, the Red Bull pilot hit Sebastian´s Ferrari causing an end plate damage to the German. Hamilton held on to his lead, but Verstappen had jumped second due to his phenomenal start! However, there was more drama on the opening lap. Grosjean in his Haas hit Sainz´s Toro Rosso, which caused the Spaniard to go sideways on the track. Sainz crashed into unfortunate Massa, and they were all out of the race. There was so much debris on the track that safety car was deployed. Behind Hamilton and Verstappen, Bottas was third and Sebastian fourth. Ricciardo was fifth; Kimi had lost two positions and dropped down to sixth.

Safety car came in a few laps later, and the race was back on. Unfortunately Sebastian´s front wing had taken such severe damage, that the German had to pit for a new front wing. This unexpected turn made him drop down to the back of the pack. But the German had no intention to give up! On lap 11 it was Verstappen´s turn to face drama. All of a sudden the Dutchman was hit with a technical failure -his RB13 was out of power! What a frustrating moment for Max, who was driving such an impressive race! Due to Max´s DNF virtual safety car was deployed.

First pit stops saw different tyre strategies. Kimi pitted for a fresh set of red-marked super soft Pirellis, whereas Red Bull´s Ricciardo opted for a fresh set of soft tyres. Bottas, who pitted a few laps later, had a similar tyre strategy to Ricciardo. It was interesting to see, that on the contrary to his teammate, Hamilton opted for a fresh set of super soft Pirellis. By the halfway point of the race Sebastian had already made his way up to seventh.

Against all odds Ferrari opted for a two-stop strategy. Kimi pitted on lap 42 -this time for another set of ultra soft tyres. The Iceman lost positions to Force India´s Ocon and teammate Sebastian. Although Sebastian, too had no choice but to pit for the second time on lap 50. The team told him on the radio, that he would catch Ricciardo and the Force Indias on his fresh ultra soft tyres eight laps before the chequered flag. Both Sebastian and Kimi were utterly flying on their fresh set of tyres. 

With less than ten laps to go, Kimi suddenly faced a brake issue, which had significant effect on his pace. Kimi went off track, and teammate Sebastian had it easy to make it ahead of his teammate. The team gave Kimi instructions on the team radio to fix the problem, which he finally managed to do (after cursing in Finnish). The pink Force Indias seemed to be stuck behind Ricciardo´s Red Bull, and Sebastian had already managed to close the gap to the trio. Ocon seemed to be the faster one of the pink cars and he was asking on the team radio for a chance to get past his teammate Perez. However, Perez had no intention to let his teammate through, even though the team promised, that Perez would get his position back if Ocon turned out unable to overtake Ricciardo by the end of the race.

Sebastian was absolutely determined to make it as high as possible after the unfortunate start to the race. He made a bold and risky-looking overtaking move on Ocon on lap 66 -jumping fifth! Sebastian´s next target was Perez. A few laps later the German made a self-confident move on the Mexican, and Sebastian was now fourth in the race. I absolutely loved the way Sebastian fought like a lion throughout the race! He definitely showed everyone, what a true racer is like. The seventh race of the season was the first time that Sebastian didn´t make it on the podium this year, so I didn´t feel too disappointed. Sebastian had driven a fantastic race with true passion!

Unbelievable but true, this was only the first 1-2 for Mercedes this year! Hamilton took a dominant victory ahead of teammate Bottas. Ricciardo was just barely out of Sebastian´s reach, and the Australian completed the podium. Once again the pink cars scored excellent points, although there will be plenty of talk about the team orders inside the team this week! Kimi finished in P7 after his brake issues. I have to say that I was happy for home hero Lance Stroll, who finally managed to drive a strong race; the Canadian scored his first points by finishing 9th.

Thanks to his victory, Hamilton cut Sebastian´s championship lead into just 12 points. Mercedes made it ahead of Ferrari in the constructors´ championship standings by eight points. The battle for the world championship couldn´t be any more exciting!