Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

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!

sunnuntai 24. kesäkuuta 2018

French GP: Sebastian's first-corner mistake cost him the championship lead!

Ahead of the French GP there was extra tension in the air, as there was 60 % chance of rain during the race. However, conditions were dry, as the lights went out. And what a start it turned out! Sebastian in P3 got the best start of the top three. Ironically the German's start was too good! Going into Turn 1, Sebastian was at Hamilton's tow, and Bottas was on the right hand side, defending his second place. Sebastian had nowhere to go, and he locked his tyres, ending up hitting Bottas. The collision broke Sebastian's front wing and caused Bottas a spin and a rear-right puncture. Both drivers had no choice but to limp into the pits. Sebastian's SF71-H got a new nose, and he switched to the yellow-marked soft rubber. Bottas pitted for a similar tyre choice to Sebastian. Further back in the back there was another first-corner collision between Force India's Ocon and Toro Rosso's Gasly. Actually their collision was initially caused by Haas' Grosjean, who was later handed a 5-second time penalty for causing the collision. It was kind of ironic, that two French drivers took each other out of the race in front of their home crowd! Safety car was deployed, as there was a lot of debris on the track. Sebastian and Bottas had dropped at the very back of the pack. This definitely wasn't the start I had hoped for! Sebastian made a very costly mistake, and he was also penalized for causing the collision. The stewards gave Sebastian a 5-second time penalty for being at fault in the collision.

The top three was quite surprising. It wasn't any news, that Hamilton was leading the race, but Red Bull's Verstappen had jumped second and Renault's Sainz was third due to the collision caused by Sebastian. Ricciardo was fourth, Haas' Magnussen fifth, Sauber's Leclerc sensationally sixth and Kimi 7th. Unfortunately Kimi had lost a position in the first-corner incident. The re-start took place on lap 5. Kimi's SF71-H seemed to really come alive, and the Iceman made his way past Leclerc, snatching P6. A couple of laps later Kimi made a move on Haas' Magnussen and moved 5th. At the same time Sebastian started his overtaking show, making his way through the field one by one. This race definitely wasn't lacking spectacular overtaking moves! Ricciardo passed Sainz, making his way up to third. Only a lap later Kimi made a move on the Spanish Renault pilot as well, claiming P4. The French GP offered great entertainment indeed!

By lap 15 Sebastian had already made it P8 after overtaking Haas' Grosjean. Sebastian's driving was such a pleasure to watch; it was so determined, self-confident and passionate! After making the mistake of his own, Sebastian really wanted to make it as high as he possibly could. Bottas had more difficulties with overtaking his rivals, as the floor of the Finn's FW09 had suffered significant damage in the first-lap collision, so Bottas was lacking pace. By lap 24 Sebastian had already climbed up to P5 after overtaking Sainz in his Renault. However, now there was an 18-second gap to teammate Kimi, who was ahead of him.

Verstappen started the pit stop roulette on lap 26. The flying Dutchman opted for the hardest compound available, and re-joined the track in P4. Teammate Ricciardo pitted a few laps later for a similar tyre choice. The Australian lost a position during his pit stop, as Sebastian managed to get ahead, when the Australian re-joined the track. Race leader Hamilton pitted on lap 34, also for a fresh set of soft Pirellis. Meanwhile, Ricciardo managed to overtake Sebastian, who was already struggling with his out-worn tyres. Kimi pitted from the lead a lap later. The Iceman went for an alternative tyre strategy, as he switched to the red-walled super-soft compound. And after re-joining the track, Kimi's pace was unbelievable! The Iceman was driving like "in the good old days"! In only a few laps the storming Kimi closed the gap to his teammate Sebastian, moving past his teammate. The next target Ricciardo in P3 was eight seconds ahead.

Bottas pitted on lap 40 for the second time. But what a catastrophe the pit stop turned out, as there was a 6-second delay due to an issue with the jack! The unfortunate Finn re-joined the track on super-softs, dropping down to P9. Ferrari reacted right away and called Sebastian in. Sebastian suffered his 5-second time penalty and switched to the purple-marked ultra-softs. Luckily the German didn't lose any positions due to his second pit stop, in spite of the penalty.

By lap 46 the flying Kimi had closed the gap to Ricciardo, who was suffering from severe under-steering. A lap later Kimi made a staggering overtaking move on the Australian and jumped third! Wow, what a great drive from Kimi! With only a few laps to go, the front-left tyre of Stroll's Williams suddenly blew up in high speed, causing virtual safety car. Due to the virtual safety car, there were no more overtaking moves in the dying moments of the French GP. Hamilton crossed the finish line as the dominant race winner, for the 65th time in his career. Verstappen drove another flawless race, finishing the runner-up. I was so happy about the Dutchman's success after the mistake-filled beginning of the season. Max definitely showed all the skeptics, that he is able to turn difficulties into success! I was also very happy for Kimi, who made it on the podium after a strong race. Ricciardo finished fourth for Red Bull and Sebastian had to settle for P5, which was actually a great result after the costly mistake at the start. Magnussen finished 6th for Haas and Bottas was 7th in the end. At the end of the day, the predicted rain never came! Some people say, that the 5-second time penalty wasn't hard enough for Sebastian's manoeuvre, but at the end of the day, Sebastian did lose his lead in the championship standings due to the mistake of his own! So in my opinion the mistake came with quite a high price!

I'm proud of Sebastian, who admitted his mistake after the race and had apologized to Bottas straight away for ruining his race. Now, instead of leading the championship standings by one point, the German is 14 points down on Hamilton. Mercedes also increased their lead by six points in the constructors' championship standings (Mercedes 237 / Ferrari 214). However, the French GP was only the beginning of the first triple header in the F1 history, so F1 will be back already next weekend in Austria! Can't wait for the Red Team to bounce back!

French GP / Qualifying: Mercedes stamped their dominance on Le Castellet!

Rain had washed out the Circuit Paul Ricard on Saturday morning, so the track was dirty, as the qualifying got underway. This was the first qualifying session at Circuit Paul Ricard for 28 years! The track conditions kept improving throughout the first session. Mercedes had brought an engine update to France, and Hamilton was the fastest man of the session, followed by Red Bull's Verstappen and Ferrari's Räikkönen. The excitement intensified at the end of the session, as it started to drizzle. McLaren had a pitch-black qualifying, as either Alonso or Vandoorne didn't make it through to Q2. Williams' streak of poor qualifying performances continued, as both Sirotkin and Stroll were once again out of Q2. On the positive note, Sauber showed improved performance, as stunning Leclerc made it P11 and teammate Ericsson P14 in the first segment. It seems that the Swiss team has taken a major step forward in terms of performance.

The drivers were queuing up at the end of the pit lane minutes before Q2 started. That was because there were occasional patches of light rain. Once again Q2 was all about tyre strategy. Both Red Bulls -like the Mercedes- went for an alternative strategy to Ferrari and the rest of the top ten, setting their fastest lap times on the harder, red-walled super-soft tyres. In spite of the tyre compound, the Mercedes ace Hamilton was the fastest man on track. There was no rain at the end of the session, and the red-suited drivers managed to set excellent lap times on the ultra-soft Pirellis. Sebastian moved second, only a tenth shy of Hamilton's pace. Kimi's pace was convincing as well, and the Iceman went third fastest. Once again, the star of the session was Sauber's Leclerc, who was the last driver to make it in to Q3! This was Sauber's first Q3 appearance since the 2015 Italian GP. Leclerc was massive eight tenths quicker than his teammate Ericsson, who ended up as the slowest of the runners in P15. Also the Force India duo of Ocon and Perez were out of the final session, in addition to Renault's Hulkenberg and Toro Rosso's Gasly.

With the rain having cleared off, it was a straight shootout for pole. But with just four minutes of the session gone, Haas' Grosjean hit the kerb at Turn 3, ending up crashing into the wall. Grosjean's crash brought out the red flags and stopped the clock. Hamilton took provisional pole, edging teammate Bottas by 0.095s only. Sebastian was third fastest, 0.178s shy of Hamilton's benchmark. Kimi had made a mistake in the final sector, and the Finn was massive eight tenths down on the pace-setting Briton. In addition to this, Kimi's second attempt left a lot to hope for. It was a bit bizarre, that Kimi was sent out, although there was still a lot of time remaining and the others were still at the garage. There was also a misunderstanding between Kimi and the team, in terms of how many laps Kimi had fuel for... All in all, Kimi couldn't string a decent lap together and ended up sixth. The Iceman was a massive one second off the pace! But the day belonged to Hamilton, with Mercedes' quadruple world champion continuing to re-write the record books. This was already the 75th career pole for the Briton. Bottas made it a front row lockout for the Silver Arrows. Sebastian, too had a scrappy final effort, which saw him end up in third, 0.371s down on the pole-setter Hamilton. However, worth noting is, that Sebastian has made it in the top three for every race so far this season! That is an impressive streak. In P4 and P5 came the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Ricciardo, who had no chance to match Mercedes' pace. Renault's Sainz qualified 7th, and Sauber's Leclerc was stunning eighth! The Haas duo of Magnussen and Grosjean rounded out the top ten, although Grosjean hadn't been able to set a lap time due to his crash.

How about race pace then? Will Ferrari and Red Bull be able to challenge Mercedes for the victory? I really hope so. Ferrari will start to the race on the ultra-softs, which should benefit the red-suited drivers at the start. Hopefully Sebastian can make it past Bottas and maybe even Hamilton, going into Turn 1... I actually don't know about today's weather forecast, but I hope it's going to be an eventful and action-packed race!

maanantai 11. kesäkuuta 2018

Canadian GP: Super Sebastian took his 50th career win!

After two rather boring and action-lacking races I looked forward to the Canadian GP with huge anticipation. The track of Ile Notre-Dame has been the venue of some great races in the previous years. The start of the race was definitely electrifying. Sebastian took a fantastic start from pole and held on to his lead. Verstappen, who started to the race on the pink-walled hyper-softs, did everything to challenge the Mercedes ace Bottas for the second place. However, the Finn had done his homework well. For a moment they were going side by side, and their wheels even touched a little. But Bottas was determined to keep his second place, so Max had no choice but to settle for third. On the other hand, Kimi's start left a lot to hope for. His drive into Turn 1 was everything but aggressive, and Red Bull's Ricciardo managed to make it past the Iceman, snatching P5 from the Finn. Further back in the pack Williams' Stroll lost control of his FW41, crashing into Toro Rosso's Hartley in high speed. Debris was flying all over, and both drivers were out of the race. Not a very convincing performance from Stroll in front of his home crowd! So safety car was deployed already on the opening lap.

The re-start took place on lap 4, and the order of the top six remained unchanged. Sebastian started to bang fastest lap times one after the other, increasing the gap to Bottas. On lap 11 the gap was already 3.5s. Verstappen, on the other hand, seemed unable to match Bottas' pace. The Dutchman was already over 5 seconds behind the Finn. Hamilton and Verstappen were the first top drivers to make their pit stop on lap 17. Both opted for the red-marked super-soft compound. Ricciardo pitted on the following lap, for a similar tyre choice. The Australian benefitted from the overcut and re-joined the track in P5, ahead of Hamilton. Hamilton had been struggling with his pace, having reported on the team radio that he was missing power. The team managed to improve the situation by making changes to the cooling system during the Briton's pit stop.

Kimi pitted not until on lap 33. The Iceman, too, opted for the hardest compound available for the weekend. Unfortunately Kimi re-joined the track in P6, right behind Hamilton. At this point the race leader Sebastian was already 6 seconds adrift from Bottas. The Finn pitted on lap 37, and Sebastian came in a lap later. No surprises in terms of the tyre choice; both re-joined the track on the super-soft Pirellis. Sebastian's gap to Bottas was still almost 5 seconds. Verstappen was third, Ricciardo fourth, Hamilton fifth and Kimi sixth.

There were no thrilling turns at the end of the race. There was a close call for Bottas on lap 56, when he was lapping Renault's Sainz. Bottas took it to the grass and lost a few seconds there, but Verstappen wasn't close enough to benefit from the Finn's mistake. Hamilton managed to close the gap to Ricciardo, making it into DRS distance from the Australian. But Hamilton's driving was a bit tame, definitely no party mode this time. Hamilton seemed utterly unable to attack the Red Bull ace. Towards the closing stages of the race, Verstappen also managed to get closer to Bottas, who had to save fuel. But not even Max's aggressive driving style helped him to try a move on the Finn.

There was a bizarre episode in terms of the chequered flag. The super model, who was in charge of waving the flag, waved it a lap too early! The race leader Sebastian pointed it out on the team radio as well. Due to waving the chequered flag too early, Ricciardo's fastest lap time, made on the final lap, was excluded, and the honour of the fastest lap time went to teammate Verstappen, who had set it on the second last lap. Although there hadn't been exciting or wheel-banging battles for positions in the Canadian GP, I didn't mind, as Sebastian was leading the race from the start to the chequered flag! It was absolutely fantastic to see Sebastian take the third win of the season, 50th of his career. And this was the first win in Canada taken by a Ferrari driver since 2004! So it was about time to see the Red Team win again! By winning the Canadian GP, Sebastian also snatched the lead in the drivers' championship standings! It was heart-warming to see Sebastian celebrating the victory after the race. It clearly meant a lot to him.

Bottas finished the runner-up, after driving a strong and impressive race. Verstappen completed the podium, which made me very happy as well. Max really deserved the podium finish after such a mistake-filled first third of the season. He drove a mature race and really delivered this time! Teammate Ricciardo finished fourth, ahead of Hamilton and Kimi. Renault duo of Hulkenberg and Sainz finished 7th and 8th respectively. Force India's Ocon and Sauber's Leclerc completed the top ten. This was definitely a strong performance from the Monegasque again!

The battle for the championship is getting heated. Sebastian's lead to Hamilton is now one point only! Thanks to his excellent P2, Bottas moved third in the championship standings, being 35 points down on Sebastian. Mercedes still have the lead in the constructors' standings. They have 206 points to Ferrari's 189. I'm so delighted, that the summer will be filled with Formula 1 action, as there will be 6 races in 8 weeks! Hopefully many more wins to come for Sebastian and Kimi!

P.S. It was funny to see, how Sebastian wanted to learn more about the Finnish language at the post-race press conference. The Finnish F1 journalist Heikki Kulta asked Bottas, if it was "eating the man" (which is a Finnish expression of feeling gutted) to finish 2nd for the fourth time this season instead of winning a race. Sebastian, who was sitting next to Valtteri, wanted to know what this expression "eating the man" meant. First Valtteri tried to explain it in other words but then he used the Finnish word "vituttaa" (which is a swearing word), which Sebastian immediately understood! :D It was quite a hilarious episode!

sunnuntai 10. kesäkuuta 2018

Canadian GP / Qualifying: Fourth pole of the season for imperious Vettel!

Round 7 brought the F1 circus from Europe to the track of Ile Notre-Dame, Canada. The start of the qualifying was dramatic for Haas' Grosjean, whose car started to billow smoke as soon as the Frenchman left his garage. The power unit failure meant a premature end for the unfortunate Grosjean's qualifying session. Both Ferrari aces showed top form right away. Kimi and Sebastian set fastest lap times alternately, whilst Hamilton decided to abandon his first flyer due to a lock-up. Verstappen, who had led all three of the weekend's free practice sessions, put in a strong lap to go third in his Red Bull. However, the third sector seemed to be quite challenging for Red Bull. For all teams it was difficult to get the pink-walled hyper-softs up in the right temperature, so the session saw several time-laps on the same set of tyres. There was a close call for Sauber's Ericsson, who damaged his suspension after clouting the wall at the exit of Turn 9 and nearly ran into Red Bull's Verstappen, who was on a cool-down lap. Sebastian and Kimi were the fastest men of the first session, separated by 15 thousandths of a second only. Hamilton made it third, 0.125s off Sebastian's pace. The most positive surprises of the first session were Toro Rosso's Hartley, who made it as high as P8 and Sauber's Leclerc, who made it 13th. Both of their teammates were out of Q2, in addition to the Williams duo of Stroll and Sirotkin.

In Q2 the question was, which teams could set their fastest lap times on the purple-marked ultra-soft compound. Both Mercedes and Ferrari sent their drivers out on the middle compound. Bottas went fastest, with Sebastian only a hundredth and Kimi a tenth off the Finn. Meanwhile, the Red Bull aces Verstappen and Ricciardo opted for the hyper-softs. Verstappen put in a staggering lap and went fastest. Both Mercedes and Ferrari came out on the hyper-softs at the end of the session, but none of the four drivers improved his lap time. In the dying moments of the second session, Ricciardo went fastest, edging his teammate Verstappen by 0.038s. It was extremely tight between the top four, as Ricciardo, Verstappen, Sebastian and Kimi were all within nine hundredths of a second! Haas' Magnussen was the first driver to miss out on Q3, alongside with Toro Rosso's Hartley, Sauber's Leclerc and the McLaren duo of Alonso and Vandoorne.

In the decisive last segment everyone came out on the pink-marked softest compound. Although Red Bull's Verstappen had shone in all free practice sessions, this time it was Sebastian's time to shine. The imperious German took provisional pole by 0.081s to Mercedes' Bottas, who was the faster Silver Arrow this time. Kimi was third and Hamilton fourth, having locked up his tyres again. The Red Bulls were struggling in the last sector; Verstappen was fourth and teammate Ricciardo sixth after their first runs. Kimi made a costly mistake on his second run; the Iceman took to the grass at Turn 2, preventing him from improving on his fifth-placed time. Hamilton jumped third on his second run, only to be pipped by the storming Red Bull ace Verstappen, who stole the 3rd place from the Briton. Sebastian managed to improve his lap time by 0.012s, and the determined German conquered pole for the fourth time this season! Bottas completed the front row, being only 0.093s off the pole-setter Sebastian. I was very happy for Max, who had finally managed to drive a mistake-free weekend after the terrible start to the season. Hamilton, who many had tipped as favourite for pole, had to content himself with fourth. Due to the mistake of his own, Kimi was fifth. Red Bull's Ricciardo completed the third row. The rows four and five will both be pink and yellow; Hulkenberg qualified 7th and Sainz 9th for Renault, whilst Ocon made it 8th and Perez 10th for Force India.

In Montreal a front row grid slot doesn't play as major a role as on some other tracks. In spite of this statistic detail, I really hope, that Sebastian will convert his imperious pole into a glorious victory today! The start will certainly be thrilling, as Max will start to the race on the softest compound, whilst the front row starters Sebastian and Bottas will be on the more durable rubber. I really hope that Max has learned from his mistakes and that he won't try anything stupid, going into Turn 1 and 2... The race pace of the top three teams is predicted to be very evenly matched, so I'm anticipating a hair-raising fight for the victory. Will the Wall of Champions demand casualties this year? And whose strategy will work the best? The action gets underway in about five hours. Keeping my thumbs up for my red-suited heroes! (And Max, who would definitely deserve some success after such a difficult and negative-coloured start to the season!) Forza Ferrari!