Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

tiistai 31. heinäkuuta 2018

Hungarian GP: Both Sebastian and Kimi on the podium!

There was an emotional one-minute silence before the race start. The F1 community paid its respects to the late CEO of Ferrari, Sergio Marchionne, who had passed away last Wednesday at the age of 66. Then the engines were started, and the drivers lined up on the grid. All other top ten drivers were starting to the race on the ultra-soft compound, except Sebastian in P4 and Renault's Sainz in P5, who were opting for the yellow-marked middle compound. The lights went out, and pole-sitter Hamilton held on to his lead, with his teammate Bottas second. Sebastian made it in the outside of Kimi, and managed to get past his teammate, going into Turn 2. Red Bull's Verstappen, who had started to the race from P7, had gained two positions right away, and was now fifth in the race. Teammate Ricciardo, on the other hand, got into trouble at the start. Sauber's Ericsson hit the Australian's RB14 on the opening lap, which dropped the Honey Badger down to P16.

Hamilton was self-confidently pulling away from his teammate, rapidly building a three-second gap to Bottas. Meanwhile, Red Bull was once again hit with a reliability issue. Verstappen, who was driving an excellent race, suddenly lost power on lap 6. There was nothing he could do, except stop his RB14 on the track. We heard an extremely angry Verstappen on the team radio, who had it difficult to accept, that a technical failure had destroyed his race -and definitely not for the first time this season! It must have been so frustrating for the super-talented Red Bull ace. Verstappen's retirement brought out the virtual safety car, but for a short moment only.

The temperature at Hungaroring was scorching 30 degrees Celsius, and Kimi was told on the team radio, that there had been a mistake by the team, and Kimi was unable to use his drinking bottle during the race. Not the best race to have problems with a drinking bottle! Ferrari called the Iceman in on lap 15. Pirelli had predicted, that the top drivers would switch to the medium rubber for their second stint, but Kimi opted for a fresh set of soft Pirellis. Unfortunately there was a small delay in Kimi's pit stop, as the team had to remove rubber from the cooling system of the Finn's SF71-H. The Iceman re-joined the track in P6. Ferrari's call made Mercedes react, and Bottas was called in on the following lap. He, too opted for a fresh set of softs.

Ricciardo, who had also started to the race on the soft rubber, was driving a staggering race. On lap 21, going into Turn 2, the Australian went to the outside of Haas' Magnussen, passing the Dane by a spectacular move. Now Ricciardo was already sixth in the race. Kimi, too showed, that he has what it takes to overtake. The Iceman had passed the Danish Haas driver earlier, and on lap 33 Kimi made a move on Toro Rosso's Gasly, claiming P4.

Hamilton pitted from the lead on lap 25, also for a fresh set of soft Pirellis. Sebastian took the lead, and Hamilton re-joined the track in P2. There were 13 seconds separating the title rivals. Sebastian's tyres were still in a good shape, and the German kept setting competitive lap times. On lap 39 Ferrari called Kimi in for the second time. This time the pit stop went smoothly, and the Iceman re-joined the track on another fresh set of softs. Kimi dropped down to P5 during his pit stop. Sebastian was hitting traffic, and Hamilton had managed to decrease the gap to 10 seconds. Sebastian was called in, but there was a small issue with his front-left tyre. Because of the delay, Bottas managed to get ahead of Sebastian, as the German re-joined the track on a fresh set of ultra-soft Pirellis.

Ricciardo drove an extremely long first stint on the softs; the Honey Badger pitted not only on lap 45. He, too opted for the ultra-softs and re-joined the track in P5, behind Kimi. With 15 laps to go, Bottas' tyres were significantly out-worn, and the Finn was having serious trouble with the grip. Sebastian had made it into DRS distance from the Finn and was putting as much pressure on him as possible. Meanwhile, Kimi had been absolutely flying on his fresh tyres, and the Iceman had chased down the duo of Bottas and Sebastian. The Ferrari duo was clearly faster than Bottas, but it seemed so difficult to overtake! The tension intensified lap by lap. Five laps before the chequered flag Sebastian braked late and made his move in Turn 1, making it past the Finn! Sebastian was clearly ahead going into Turn 2, but Bottas ended up hitting Sebastian's SF71-H! Sebastian got away from the collision with no damage to his car, but Bottas' front wing got some serious damage. Hamilton was cruising to the victory, with Sebastian second and Kimi third. Bottas stayed out and decided to make everything he could to bring his W09 to the chequered flag, scoring as many points as possible.

Bottas was in massive trouble with his dying tyres and severely damaged front wing. Ricciardo was challenging the Finn for P4. And there was more drama to come! Usually Bottas hasn't been the driver to cause drama, but yesterday he made a big mistake. With only two laps to go, Ricciardo had decided to attack the vulnerable Bottas. The Australian made his move, going into Turn 1. Bottas braked way too late, considering his dying tyres and damaged front wing, and Valtteri ended up crashing into Ricciardo's Red Bull! Ricciardo, too got some damage to his RB14. The stewards took the incident into investigation, and the team told Bottas to give the position back to Ricciardo. The Australian passed Valtteri on the penultimate lap. Hamilton was the dominant race winner, but to my delight, the red-suited drivers completed the podium! Ricciardo claimed P4, and the struggling Bottas had to settle for P5. Toro Rosso's Gasly was convincing 6th, and Magnussen was 7th for Haas. Alonso brought valuable points for McLaren by finishing 8th, and Renault's Sainz and Haas' Grosjean rounded out the top ten. After the race Bottas was given a 10-second time penalty for causing the collision with Ricciardo, but the penalty didn't change the race result.

Now it's time for a 4-week summer break. It has definitely been an intense and exciting F1 summer, as there have been five races in six weeks! And unbelievably, Kimi has been on the podium in four of them! Hamilton is going on a holiday with a 24-point lead in the drivers' championship standings. There are now 43 points separating the Ferrari aces in P2 and P3. Mercedes have a 10-point lead to Ferrari in the constructors' standings.  So the Red Team have homework to do... I hope Sebastian, Kimi and the whole team will have a relaxing summer break, so that they are able to charge their batteries for the second half of the season!

When the F1 circus moves to Spa, Belgium after the summer break, my son's cancer treatments should be over, and I hope I'll be able to watch all the remaining races at home instead of hospital! Forza Ferrari!

lauantai 28. heinäkuuta 2018

Hungarian GP / Qualifying: Mercedes mastered the wet conditions!

It wasn't raining at the moment, when Q1 got underway, but the track was still damp after a shower earlier in the afternoon. The conditions were challenging, as the track was partly dry and partly damp. Especially the third sector was quite dry already. Everyone headed out on the green-walled intermediate tyres. Ferrari seemed to control the pace, as Kimi went fastest on his first flyer, followed by Sebastian. One by one all teams called their drivers in for a fresh set of ultra-soft tyres. However, there was still a malicious looking group of clouds threatening to spill their contents on the Hungaroring. Red Bull's Ricciardo was the sole driver to come out on the yellow-walled soft Pirellis, but the Australian's lap times were everything but competitive. The rain held off, and the conditions kept improving towards the end of the session. Sebastian topped the timesheets, with Red Bull's Verstappen second and the Mercedes pairing of Bottas and Hamilton P3 and P4. In spite of the tyre choice, Ricciardo managed to make P12 and get through into Q2. Q1 victims were McLaren's Alonso, Sauber's Leclerc (whilst teammate Ericsson made it Q2 this time!), the Force India pairing of Ocon and Perez and Williams' Sirotkin.

Q2 was all about making the right tyre call. Ferrari had made a genius move by sending Sebastian out on the intermediate tyres, whilst everyone else headed out on the slicks. The first two sectors were almost dry, but it was raining heavily in the last sector. It was so soaking-wet at the back of the track, that everyone had to switch onto the intermediates. The conditions kept worsening lap by lap, as the track turned wetter and wetter. Due to the team's genius move, Sebastian had been the first man on track on the intermediates, and the German had set an unbeatable lap time; in spite of reporting, that he had gone aquaplaning in the last corner. The conditions were so slippery, that driving was like tip-toeing around the corners. Williams' Stroll lost control of his FW41 and spun, braking his front wing. Yellow flags ruined the lap for Ricciardo, and the Australian was the big name casualty in Q2. Kimi, too had a scary moment of his own, as the Iceman spun in the chicane. Luckily Kimi managed to keep his SF71-H off the walls and was able to continue. At the end of the session it was already pouring with rain. Many midfield teams sent their drivers out on the full-wets, but improving lap time was a mission impossible. Thanks to Ferrari's genius tyre call, Sebastian was topping the timesheets, and the surprise name Sainz in P2 was already two seconds off Sebastian's pace! McLaren's Alonso was the first faller in Q2, accompanied by Renault's Hulkenberg, Sauber's Ericsson and Williams' Stroll (+ above mentioned Ricciardo).

Q3 was heavily hampered by rain. Full-wets was the right call for the extremely wet conditions. After the first flying laps Hamilton was topping the timesheets, with teammate Bottas second, only 87 thousandths of a second down on the Briton. Kimi was third and Red Bull's Verstappen fourth. The shootout for pole saw many flying laps on the same set of tyres. Kimi really shone in the tricky conditions; especially the Iceman's third sector was absolutely magical! When there were only four minutes remaining in the clock, Kimi had pole position firmly in his grasp. The Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Bottas pitted at the end of the session for a fresh set of full-wet Pirellis. And it was Hamilton, who rose to the occasion and took pole away from teammate Bottas, who in turn had snatched it from Kimi in the dying moments of the qualifying! Mercedes, who had been struggling with their balance in dry conditions, managed to turn the advantage towards them in the wet qualifying by conquering the front row! Kimi had set an excellent time in sector one on his final run on fresh full-wets, but had hit traffic (one of the Haas cars), which prevented the Iceman to improve his lap time. Such a shame, as it would have been a dream  come true to see Kimi on pole for the first time since Monaco 2017! The second row was locked down by the red cars; P4 is Sebastian's worst on-track performance of 2018. The Scuderia drivers were half-a-second off Hamilton's pace. Sainz qualified fifth for Renault, and Toro Rosso´s Gasly was the impressive sixth. Although Red Bull's performance had seemed very competitive in the free practice sessions, Verstappen had to be content with tame P7, followed by Toro Rosso's Hartley and the Haas pairing of Magnussen and Grosjean.

The weather forecast predicts, that it should be a dry race. Let's see, if the dry conditions turn the advantage back towards Ferrari. Overtaking is known to be a challenge at Hungaroring, so it all comes down to a good start. Due to wet qualifying, all teams are free to choose their tyres for the start, so it will be interesting to see, whether there will be variety in terms of the tyre strategy. One thing is for sure; Sebastian needs to finish the race ahead of title rival Hamilton, in order to close the gap in the championship standings. And this time Sebastian can't afford making any mistakes! A victory by the Red Team would be the perfect way to honour the memory of the late CEO of Ferrari, Sergio Marchionne, who passed away on July 25th. Forza Ferrari!

sunnuntai 22. heinäkuuta 2018

German GP: Hamilton made the impossible, while Sebastian crashed out!

Ahead the German GP dark clouds were lurking over the Hockenheim Ring, and the weather forecast predicted 60 % chance of rain during the race. All top ten drivers started to the race on the softest compound. Red Bull's Ricciardo in P20, instead, was the only driver to start to the race on the white-walled medium compound. Hamilton in P14 opted for a fresh set of soft Pirellis. The start was very smooth this time. Home hero Sebastian confidently held on to his lead and was followed by Mercedes' Bottas and teammate Kimi. Verstappen, who had started from P4, tried to attack Kimi in the first corners, but Kimi defended his position excellently. Hamilton immediately started a battle of his own, storming through the field. To the Briton's delight the Hockenheim Ring offered many chances for overtaking moves.

The top four drivers -Sebastian, Bottas, Kimi and Verstappen- were speed-wise in a class of their own, and Haas' Magnussen in P5 was totally unable to match their pace. By lap 14 Hamilton had made his way through the field, and overtaking the Dane made him move 5th already. Hamilton had definitely made overtaking look easy, but that wasn't the case for Ricciardo, who had started to the race from the back of the pack. The medium tyres and lacking straight line speed made overtaking much harder for the Australian.

Kimi was the driver, who opened the pit stop roulette on lap 15. The Iceman switched to the middle compound, which anticipated a possible two-stop strategy for the Finn. Kimi re-joined the track right ahead of Hamilton. At this point Sebastian had a 4.5-second gap to the other Finn Bottas, and Verstappen, on the other hand, was 6 seconds behind Bottas. Race leader Sebastian pitted on lap 25, also for a fresh set of soft Pirellis. The German re-joined the track in P4, just barely ahead of Hamilton, who hadn't pitted yet.

The red cars' pace was absolutely convincing, Sebastian and Kimi being the fastest men on track on their fresh tyres. As Bottas and Verstappen pitted on the sequential laps, both for soft Pirellis, Kimi was now leading the race. Meanwhile, Ricciardo's race came to a premature end, as his RB14 was hit with a power unit failure and stopped on the track. Once again Red Bull was hit with a reliability issue!

Around the halfway point of the race, Sebastian was right at his teammate's tail on his fresher tyres. Sebastian was complaining on the team radio, that his tyres were overheating and that he would be able to set faster lap times, had he been let to take the lead. A few laps later Kimi let his teammate past, so it was a clear team order. However, Sebastian was a man of his words, and started immediately to set lap times, that were half-a-second faster than Kimi's.

Hamilton pitted finally on lap 43, for a fresh set of ultra-soft Pirellis, which meant an aggressive strategy for the Briton. Hamilton re-joined the track in P5. But on the following lap the predicted rain came! It was a very local shower, as it was raining only around Turn 6. It threw a serious challenge for all teams; which would be the right tyre choice? Sauber immediately called Leclerc in, and the Monegasque switched to the intermediate tyres. Also Verstappen was called in for the intermediates, but the other top drivers stayed out on the slicks. However, the rain started to decrease very soon, and the intermediate tyres turned out to be a wrong call. So both Leclerc and Verstappen were called in again, and they switched back to slicks. Verstappen´s P4 was already secured, so an extra pit stop didn't cost the Dutchman any positions.

By lap 50 Bottas had closed the gap to his compatriot Kimi. They were hitting traffic, and Kimi made a small mistake, which Bottas used right away and passed the Iceman, claiming P2. Lap 52 was a dramatic turning point in the race. The conditions were challenging and slippery, and Sebastian paid an extremely high price for that. Sebastian had a 6-second lead, but he simply braked too late and a lock-up made him lose control of his SF71-H. It all happened in quite low speed, but Sebastian ended up sliding inevitably in the tyre wall, and his race was over! What a heart-breaking disappointment for him in front of his home crowd! He had had the most perfect weekend until that moment! A mistake of his own turned victory into a DNF in only a few seconds. I felt absolutely heart-broken for Sebastian!

Safety car was deployed due to Sebastian's crash. The mixed conditions and the safety car episode caused a messy situation at Mercedes. First Hamilton was called in, and Hamilton was already heading to the pit entry. However, he saw Kimi staying out, so he took his FW09 to the grass and headed back to the track. Teammate Bottas drove in the pits, but the team didn't have the ultra-soft tyres ready for the Finn! This caused Bottas some valuable time. Kimi, too had to pit for a fresh set of ultra-softs, and the Iceman re-joined the track in P3. Against all odds Hamilton was now leading the race, having started from P14!

With ten laps to go, the safety car came in, and the race was back on. What a stunning re-start Bottas took! He was right at his teammate's tail, hungry to snatch the lead. However, after an intense wheel-to-wheel battle there was a team order at Mercedes as well. Bottas was told on the team radio, that they should hold their positions. There was some light drizzle on the closing laps, but no more dramatics. Hamilton made a true miracle and won the German GP. Bottas made it a very satisfying 1-2 for the Silver Arrows. Kimi continued his impressive streak of podium finishes. Verstappen finished fourth after driving a strong race. The other home hero Hulkenberg finished 5th for Renault and Grosjean crossed the finish line in P6 for Haas. Perez and Ocon in their pink cars claimed P7 and P8. This time Ericsson got the upper hand on teammate Leclerc, finishing 9th. Finally Toro Rosso's Hartley managed to put together a solid race, and the New Zealander was very happy for scoring the one point by finishing 10th.

Sebastian's mistake had costly consequences. His 8-point lead in the championship standings slipped through his fingers, and now Hamilton is leading the standings by 17 points! The Red Team also lost their lead in the constructors' standings, and now Mercedes have an 8-point gap to the Scuderia. Luckily the next race is just round the corner, as the Hungarian GP takes place already next week. I'm confident, that Sebastian knows, how to turn this difficult time into success again! Forza Ferrari always!

lauantai 21. heinäkuuta 2018

German GP / Qualifying: Pole for home hero Sebastian, heartbreak for Hamilton!

Weather was the main topic of conversation ahead the qualifying hour, as the morning's FP3 had been absolutely washed-out. However, the conditions were dry, as the lights went green for Q1. Sebastian and Kimi in their Ferraris showed top performance right away, and the red-suited drivers went fastest alternately. On the other hand, Hamilton in his Mercedes hit trouble right away. After posting the fifth fastest time, the Briton crawled to a halt on the circuit with a loss of hydraulic pressure. A moment earlier Hamilton had gone wide in Turn 1, bouncing heavily over the kerbs, which probably caused the failure. It was a heart-breaking moment for Hamilton, who desperately tried to push his Mercedes to safety, but there was nothing to be done. Kimi and Sebastian topped the timesheets in Q1, followed by Bottas in the sister Mercedes. Although the Red Bulls were absolutely loving the third sector, Verstappen and Ricciardo couldn't make it higher than P8 and P9. Worth noting was the fact, that both Sauber drivers made it in Q2. Out of the second segment were Force India's Ocon, the Toro Rosso duo of Hartley and Gasly, Williams' Stroll and McLaren's Vandoorne.

In Q2 it was Red Bull's Verstappen, who stood out of the crowd in terms of the tyre strategy. The Dutchman came out on the yellow-walled soft tyres, whilst everyone else opted for the purple-marked ultra-soft compound. The second session was interrupted by the red flag, as Sauber's Ericsson spun on the gravel; in spite of being able to continue, the Swede brought a lot of gravel onto the track. Red Bull's Ricciardo chose not to run in Q2 at all, as the Australian was going to face a 20-place grid penalty for multiple power unit element changes. Teammate Verstappen's pace on the softs hadn't turned out competitive enough, so the flying Dutchman had to opt for the ultra-softs at the end of the session. The top five drivers -Bottas, Kimi, Sebastian, and the Haas duo of Magnussen and Grosjean- sat out the second runs. Alongside with Ricciardo and the heart-broken Hamilton, eliminated from the last segment were McLaren's Alonso, Williams' Sirotkin and Sauber's Ericsson.

Ahead the decisive last segment there were dark clouds lurking over the Hockenheim Ring. However, the conditions stayed dry until the end of the session. Home hero Sebastian took provisional pole by 0,17s to closest challenger Bottas. Kimi had an off in his first run, which cost the Iceman about three tenths, and the Finn was third fastest. Red Bull's Verstappen was fourth, almost eight tenths off the pace already. Kimi was the first driver to go out for his second run. The Iceman clocked an impressive lap time, being only eight thousandths of a second down on teammate Sebastian. But the other Finn Bottas answered immediately. He went fastest, which left Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff open-mouthed. However, Sebastian turned the timing sectors purple. Especially the German's middle sector was absolutely magical, and Sebastian made it on pole by 0.2s, to the delight of his home crowd! This was his first pole at Hockenheim since 2010, so it was about time already! But the day wasn't bad for the Finnish drivers, either, as Bottas was second and Kimi third. Verstappen was fourth, already six tenths down on pole-setter Sebastian. The Haas of Magnussen and Grosjean were paired up in the third row, and the Renaults of Hulkenberg and Sainz were paired up in the row four.  Sensational Leclerc qualified in P9, putting his Sauber right in amongst the midfield battle. Force India's Perez rounded out the top ten.

The starting point for tomorrow's race couldn't be any more exciting. This time there won't be any variety in terms of the tyre strategy of the top ten. Sebastian's title rival Hamilton will start to the race from P14, unless there will be a penalty for a possible gearbox change for example. Due to his penalty Ricciardo will start from the very back of the grid, so I'm sure we're going to see a lot of overtaking tomorrow. Hopefully there won't be any opening-lap collisions between the red and the silver cars this time! Sebastian has never won at Hockenheim, so it would be absolutely fantastic and heart-warming to see him win in front of his home crowd! Nothing would be more satisfying than a 1-2 by the Red Team! Forza Ferrari!

maanantai 9. heinäkuuta 2018

British GP: Sebastian ended Mercedes' 5-year winning streak at Silverstone!

I was watching the British GP at hospital again. And what an unbelievable race it turned out! My son felt a bit ashamed, because I was shouting and screaming when watching the race! Luckily we didn't have a room mate this time, but my son was worried, that other patients could still hear my screaming ;)

So let's get back to the very beginning. Lights went out at scorching Silverstone, and Sebastian from P2 took a rocket start. Pole-setter Hamilton got the worst start of the top three and was immediately in trouble. Sebastian snatched the lead, and was followed by Mercedes' Bottas. Hamilton was left third and Kimi fourth. But what a drama there was in Turn 3! Kimi ended up braking too late, which led into a lock-up. The Iceman then hit Hamilton's Mercedes, which caused the Briton to spin. Kimi maintained his P4, but Hamilton dropped down to P17. The incident was taken into investigation by the stewards, and Kimi was handed a 10-second time penalty for causing the collision. The penalty was a little inconsistent, as teammate Sebastian had been handed a 5-second time penalty for a similar incident in France.

Sebastian started to open a gap to Bottas, and soon the gap was already 5 seconds. Hamilton started rapidly to make his way through the field, although the quadruple world champion repeatedly complained on the team radio, that his car didn't feel good. By lap 11 the Briton had made his way up to P6 already. Kimi wasn't happy about his car, either. The Iceman complained on the team radio, that he had no front end in his SF71-H. Kimi pitted on lap 14. He first suffered his 10-second time penalty, and then switched to the white-walled medium rubber. Kimi's pace was absolutely stunning after the pit stop. Everything seemed possible for the storming Iceman.

The Red Bull  duo of Verstappen and Ricciardo pitted on the sequential laps, both for a fresh set of mediums as well. Unfortunately both drivers re-joined the track ahead of Kimi, Verstappen having the upper hand on his teammate. Sebastian pitted on lap 21, opting also for the medium rubber and re-joining the track just barely ahead of Hamilton. Bottas, who had been leading the race for a moment, pitted on the following lap for a similar tyre choice. The Finn dropped down to P3, but teammate Hamilton hadn't pitted yet. The Briton was called in on lap 26, and he re-joined the track behind Kimi in P6.

Sebastian was now leading the race, but the runner-up Bottas was only 2.7s behind the German. Kimi in P5 was only 1.5s behind Red Bull's Ricciardo. However, something unexpected happened on lap 31. Red Bull called Ricciardo in for the second time. The Australian switched to the yellow-marked soft compound and re-joined the track in P6.

Lap 33 was a turning point in the race. Sauber's Ericsson had his DRS open when coming into Turn 1, and the Swede lost control of his Sauber, crashing into the tyre wall in high speed. Luckily Ericsson got away from the shunt unharmed, as it was a fiery looking crash. Safety car was deployed. Both red-suited drivers and Red Bull's Verstappen pitted during the safety car, all opting for a fresh set of soft Pirellis, but both Bottas and Hamilton stayed out. They actually didn't have a choice, as they had already run out of fresh soft tyres. Bottas was now leading the race.

The re-start took place on lap 38. And what a breath-taking re-start it was! Bottas maintained his lead, with Sebastian right at the Finn's tail. Kimi was having an electrifying wheel-to-wheel battle with Red Bull's Verstappen for P3. The Iceman squeezed it past the Dutchman, but Max wasn't going to let his 3rd place to be taken away from him. It was a heart-stopping battle between the two top drivers!

Almost immediately after the re-start there was drama again. Renault's Sainz made a move on Haas' Grosjean, but the manoeuvre led into a collision between the two. Both drivers were out of the race, and the incident brought out the safety car, again!

The second re-start took place on lap 41. Bottas was leading the race, with Sebastian second and Hamilton third. Verstappen was fourth, Kimi fifth and Ricciardo sixth. Right from the re-start Sebastian was hungry to get past Bottas. The German was lurking patiently for an opportunity to attack the Finn. Both Ferrari aces were absolutely on flames, as Kimi had decided to snatch the third place from Verstappen permanently and make it on the podium. And on lap 43 it happened, Kimi squeezed it past Verstappen, moving third! What a superb move from the Iceman!

The last 10 laps were such an amazing thriller. Sebastian was putting huge pressure on the race-leader Bottas, and Kimi had smelled Hamilton's blood, being right at the home hero's tail. Such a close and intense fight between four drivers we haven't seen for a long time! My heart was pounding and I was screaming "Get past Sebastian!" and "Go for it, Kimi!" It was just perfect Formula 1 action really!

On lap 47 Verstappen spun and lost the position to teammate Ricciardo. Verstappen was having a brake issue, and unfortunately it ended the race for the Dutchman. Meanwhile, Sebastian had found the perfect attack mode and made a move on Bottas, snatching the lead! Wow, what an amazing move from Sebastian! Bottas on his out-worn tyres had nothing he could do to defend his lead. Soon after that also teammate Hamilton passed Bottas, who was severely struggling with his tyres. In no time also Kimi made it past his fellow countryman, who had faced a dramatic drop from the lead down to P4.

I was shouting for joy, as Sebastian crossed the finish line as the race winner, ending Mercedes' 5-year winning streak at Silverstone. Hamilton's P2 was a stunning result after the first-lap incident, which had dropped him down to the back of the pack. I was absolutely delighted to see Kimi on the podium, as the Iceman had fought like a lion in the race. Eye-catching is the fact, that Kimi has been on the podium in every three races of the triple header! Bottas finished disappointing fourth. Ricciardo finished fifth for Red Bull and Hulkenberg sixth for Renault respectively. By winning at Silverstone, Sebastian extended his lead to 8 points in the drivers' championship standings. Ferrari have now a 20-point lead to Mercedes in the constructors' standings. Very well done from the Red Team indeed!

sunnuntai 8. heinäkuuta 2018

British GP / Qualifying: Hamilton claimed 4th consecutive pole at Silverstone!

Usually the British weather has offered rainy conditions and cool temperatures for the British GP weekend, but this time it was blue skies and scorching temperatures, as qualifying got underway. Sebastian had completed eight laps only in the third free practice session in the morning due to severe neck pain. In the morning it had even been uncertain, whether the German was able to take part in the qualifying. After physiotherapy Sebastian made it in the qualifying. Due to the lack of laps in FP3, Sebastian came out on the yellow-walled soft Pirellis, whilst teammate Kimi opted for the mediums. However, with only four minutes gone of the first session, Williams' Stroll spun and got stuck in the gravel. The session was red-flagged. When the session was resumed, Williams' day turned out pitch-black on their home soil, as Sirotkin, too lost the rear end of his FW41 and spun. Luckily the Russian was able to continue. Also the Mercedes drivers came out on the white-marked medium rubber. Sebastian went fastest, with home hero Hamilton second and teammate Bottas third. Once again Sauber's performance caught my eye. Leclerc continued his magnificent performances, being sixth fastest in the first segment. Teammate Ericsson also made it through to Q2, making it P13. Renault's Sainz was the first faller in Q1, accompanied by McLaren's Vandoorne and the failed Williams duo of Sirotkin and Stroll. Toro Rosso's Hartley was unable to take part in the qualifying due to his FP3 crash, where the left-side suspension of his Toro Rosso had suddenly failed in high speed.

This time Q2 saw no variety in tyre strategy, but all teams opted for the softest compound of the weekend. It was very tight between Mercedes and Ferrari. To the home crowd's delight, Hamilton was the fastest man on his home soil. Despite the neck issue, Sebastian was right at the Briton's tail. Bottas was third and Kimi fourth. At this point it seemed obvious, that Red Bull were missing pace, to be able to challenge the Silver Arrows and the Prancing Horse for pole. In terms of the midfield, the shining star was once again Sauber's Leclerc, who was 9th fastest and made it through to Q3, whilst teammate Ericsson missed out on the decisive last segment. Out of Q3 were also Renault's Hulkenberg, Force India's Perez, McLaren's Alonso and Toro Rosso's Gasly.

The shootout for pole was a true thriller. Sebastian took provisional pole by 0.057s to home hero Hamilton, who was chasing already his 6th pole at Silverstone. After the first runs Bottas was third, two tenths down on Sebastian, and Kimi was fourth, three tenths down on his teammate. If I hadn't known, that Sebastian was suffering from a severe neck issue, I wouldn't have noticed anything in terms of his driving. His pace seemed as impressive as always in qualifying! Red Bull's first runs were quite tame, as Verstappen was seven tenths off the pace, and teammate Ricciardo was massive 1.1s down on pace-setting Sebastian. The Australian was having an issue with his DRS, which must have affected his pace. Hamilton's second run was phenomenal, and to the home crowd's joy, the Briton made it on top. Unfortunately Sebastian wasn't able to improve his lap time on his second run, but the German was only 44 thousandths of a second down on the Briton! Kimi set fastest time in sector one, but made a mistake in sector two, and in spite of the fastest third sector, the Iceman was left third. But the battle was extremely tight, as the top three was separated by 98 thousandths of a second only! This time Bottas was left out of the front row, and the Finn had to settle for P4. Third row was locked down by the Red Bull duo of Verstappen and Ricciardo. The Haas duo of Magnussen and Grosjean locked down the fourth row, and Sauber's Leclerc and Force India's Ocon rounded out the top ten.

It's interesting to see, how the tyre degradation will turn out, as the conditions at Silverstone are exceptionally hot. I'm pretty sure, that all teams and drivers won't be able to make a one-stop strategy work. So nursing the tyres will be a key factor in the race. I hope Sebastian is completely okay, because it's going to be an extremely tough race with the high-speed corners and massive G forces. Keeping my thumbs up for my red-suited heroes! Forza Ferrari!

maanantai 2. heinäkuuta 2018

Austrian GP: Verstappen won the drama-filled race!

I had an exceptional qualifying Saturday. I was visiting my friend Erja, who is also a passionate Formula 1 fan. It was a 3-hour trip by train to Ilmajoki, where Erja lives. On Saturday we decided to make a road trip to Kankaanpää (120 km away from Ilmajoki), which is the home town of Toni Vilander, the talented Finnish GT racing driver for Ferrari, also the winner of the legendary 24 hours of Le Mans. Toni owns a motorsport-inspired restaurant named Bar & Grill Varikko, where you can eat, have a drink and watch sports on three big screens. We wanted to visit the restaurant and watch the qualifying there. The restaurant really made a huge impression on us! The food was delicious and the service was great. The helmet collection was very eye-catching; it included helmets of three successful Finnish F1 drivers: Kimi Räikkönen, Valtteri Bottas and Mika Salo. And all of a sudden Toni Vilander himself walked in through the door! What an unexpected coincidence, which really made our day! 

I was sitting on the train on Sunday, when the lights went out at the Red Bull Ring. Unfortunately the internet connection wasn't working on the train and I missed the entire race! I felt absolutely gutted. As soon as I got home, I watched the race on my cell phone. And what a race I had missed! The Finnish Mercedes ace Bottas had made it on pole, and teammate Hamilton was starting alongside the Finn. Sebastian had qualified third, but he had been handed a 3-place grid penalty for impeding Renault's Sainz in the qualifying. The penalty had dropped Sebastian down to P6. Kimi was on P3, Red Bull's Verstappen on P4 and teammate Ricciardo on P5. Both Mercedes and Red Bull started to the race on the red-walled super-soft compound, whilst the Ferrari drivers were on the purple-marked ultra-soft rubber.

And what a start it was! Kimi got the most amazing start of the top three and was challenging both Bottas and Hamilton, going into Turn 1. Hamilton managed to snatch the lead, and for a moment Kimi was second. However, the Finn ended up going wide, and Bottas managed to make it past Kimi, claiming P2. Kimi was having a hair-raising wheel-to-wheel battle with Red Bull's Verstappen, going into Turn 3. My heart jumped into my mouth, as Kimi's SF71-H went lightly sideways, and there was a moment, when Kimi's and Verstappen's wheels touched. The battle was intense but fair. Verstappen managed to make it past Kimi, who dropped down to P4. Ricciardo was right at Kimi's tail in P5. For a moment Sebastian had lost ground to the Haas duo of Grosjean and Magnussen, but soon the German managed to move back to sixth.

The Mercedes duo controlled the pace, and it seemed like an inevitable 1-2 for the Silver Arrows. But what a dramatic turn the race took on lap 14! Without a warning Bottas' car was hit with a hydraulic issue, and the unfortunate Finn's FW09 stopped on the track. Bottas' retirement brought out the virtual safety car. Hamilton stayed out on his worn super-softs, whilst all other top five drivers -Verstappen, Kimi, Ricciardo and Sebastian- pitted for a fresh set of soft Pirellis. I don't know, if the strategists at Mercedes were so shocked about Bottas' retirement that they forgot to react to the virtual safety car. However, Hamilton's gap to Verstappen was 13 seconds only, which meant trouble for the Briton. Lap 20 saw an unwanted turn for Kimi, as the Iceman made a mistake, which enabled Ricciardo to overtake the Finn, claiming P3.

Hamilton pitted on lap 25, also for a fresh set of soft Pirellis. What a tactical mistake it turned out, that Mercedes hadn't called Hamilton in during the virtual safety car! Verstappen snatched the lead, with his teammate second and Kimi third. Hamilton lost three places during his wrongly-timed pit stop! Who could have predicted to see Red Bull take a double lead in the race!?

This time tyre degradation played a major role in the race. At the halfway point of the race, Ricciardo's rear-left tyre was badly blistered, and it clearly affected the Australian's pace. Kimi smelled Ricciardo's blood immediately and attacked the vulnerable Australian. A few laps later Kimi made his move and snatched P2 from Ricciardo! Kimi's pace had gotten better throughout the race, and the Iceman was utterly on flames. "The good old Kimi" was back! On lap 39 Ricciardo had no choice but to pit for a used set of super-soft Pirellis. Meanwhile, Sebastian attacked Hamilton, climbing up to P3 already. This seemed to turn out a stunning race for the Red Team!

The situation in the lead was quite stable. Verstappen had a 7-second gap to Kimi, and Sebastian was a couple of seconds behind his teammate. Hamilton, too was struggling with his blistered rear-left tyre. To my joy Ferrari didn't seem to suffer from high tyre degradation. Hamilton had to pit a few laps later -for another set of super-soft Pirellis. Ricciardo managed to jump the Briton and move 4th, as Hamilton re-joined the track in disappointing P5.

But there were more dramatic retirements to come. On lap 54 the birthday boy Ricciardo was hit with a power unit failure, and the Australian's race was over! Towards the end of the race, Kimi was consistently decreasing the gap to the race leader Verstappen. With ten laps to go, the gap was less than four seconds. Was Kimi going to challenge the flying Dutchman for the victory? The drama continued on lap 64. Mercedes' day turned pitch-black, as Hamilton suddenly lost fuel pressure, and also the other Mercedes stopped on the track! What a nightmare for the Silver Arrows, which haven't suffered from reliability issues like this for a long long time!

Kimi got extremely close to Verstappen, but in the end, the Iceman ran out of laps. Max took the fourth career win in front of his fans, which was fantastic work from the driver, who has been under extremely high pressure during this season. I was overwhelmingly happy to see both Kimi and Sebastian on the podium. Kimi even set the fastest lap time on the very last lap, setting the new track record. Actually it was a dream podium for me, as all my favourite drivers were standing there! The Austrian GP was a very strong race from Haas, as Grosjean finished fourth and teammate Magnussen fifth. The pink Force Indias of Ocon and Perez finished 6th and 7th respectively. Alonso finished 8th for McLaren and Sauber's Leclerc continued his outstanding performances by finishing 9th.

Sebastian snatched his lead back in the drivers' championship standings. The German has once again a one-point lead to Hamilton! Thanks to the superb P2, Kimi moved third in the standings. And eye-catching is the fact, that Ferrari have superseded Mercedes from the lead in the constructors' championship standings! Ferrari is now the team to beat with 247 points to Mercedes' 237. The situation couldn't be any more exciting! And the battle is on already this week, as the F1 circus moves to Silverstone! Forza Ferrari!