Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

lauantai 20. syyskuuta 2014

Singapore GP / Qualifying: 7 thousandths of a second separating polesitter Hamilton and his team-mate!

Singapore GP weekend is one of the Formula 1 weekends I most look forward to. The Marina Bay street circuit is the most perfect venue for Formula 1 racing. The scenery and the atmosphere is so unique: the dark night of Singapore with the thousands of lamps in different colours make the F1 cars look outstanding. I also like the demanding nature of the circuit: it´s the circuit with most corners on the calendar and the hot and humid weather conditions make the race especially challenging for the drivers. Under the artificial lights Formula 1 racing is at its very best!

I had high hopes for the qualifying as the Marina Bay circuit was supposed to suit Red Bull very well as straight line speed doesn´t play such an important role in Singapore. I was anticipating an interesting qualifying due to the new team-to-car radio message regulation as well. The new regulation was to ensure that the drivers are driving alone and unaided. So coming to Singapore all driver coaching was suddenly banned. At first the new regulation covered all information on the car´s technical condition as well but on Friday the regulation was mitigated to cover driver coaching only. I find this new rule very confusing. At least at the moment I don´t have a clear picture of what´s allowed to say on the team radio and what´s not. For example it´s allowed for a team to inform the driver to change his brake balance but such information mustn´t be provided for a special part of the track or for a specific turn. Teams are allowed to tell lap times on the team radio but not sector times. Charlie Whiting says this is a very straightforward regulation but to me it looks very complicated. How will it be possible to monitor team radio messages so that the teams won´t use any coded messages for example? For example let´s think about the saying "It´s hammer time!", which Mercedes have used on their team radio. How can the stewards be sure if it just means "push hard" or if it´s a coded message, which gives the driver some certain instructions on the specific set-up to attack his rival?  However, it´s interesting to see if there will be any penalties due to radio ban violations and what the penalties will turn out to be... I have to digest this new regulation for a while before I can say if I actually find this good or bad.

But to qualifying then! Most of the drivers started to Q1 with the yellow-marked soft tyres. Rosberg in his Mercedes had a difficult start to the first session as the German took an early trip down an escape road as he was getting used to some new brakes. Vettel at the wheel of his RB10 came out on the supersofts but his first run was ruined as he ran into traffic in the form of Toro Rosso´s Kvyat. Kimi´s driving looked very encouraging as it finally seemed that the Finn´s F14T behaved as the Iceman hoped. It was absolutely heart-warming to see Kimi topping the timesheets and being ahead of his team-mate Alonso! Hamilton was only 3rd and his team-mate Rosberg 6th, which gave an indication of a tight battle for pole. Sutil in his Sauber was the first driver to be eliminated from Q2.

Q2 was a tight battle within thousandths of a second until the very end. Hamilton, Alonso and Kimi were all within 72 thousandths of a second when there were 5 minutes left in the clock! Those three in addition to Red Bull´s Ricciardo in P4 stayed in the pits when their rivals headed out for their second runs. Finally Rosberg made it in P1 with a 4-tenth margin over his team-mate Hamilton. Ferrari´s pace looked excellent and I was hoping to see Kimi on the second row at least! Sebastian was only 7th fastest in Q2 but I didn´t find it a surprise. Sebastian had missed almost the entire 2nd free practice session due to an engine problem. Button in his McLaren was the first driver to be knocked out of Q3 whilst his team-mate Magnussen made it through into the final session. Vergne in his Toro Rosso was also out but Kvyat managed to get into the top ten.

The final session was eventful and held some surprises. Massa at the wheel of his FW36 took the provisional pole, which was quite unexpected as the Marina Bay circuit is the one that suits worst for Williams. Kimi was clearly on fire in the dark night of Singapore and he was in P4 after his first attempt. Then something went really wrong: we heard Kimi saying on the team radio that he had no power! He had to abort his lap due to the engine issue and I was sure that the Iceman was going to drop down to P10 due to the engine issue. Luckily he didn´t! In the dying moments of the final session Hamilton made it on pole by 7 thousandths of a second. Rosberg had to settle for P2 and we heard him saying "Damn it!" on the team radio. Ricciardo qualified 3rd being only one and a half tenths slower than Hamilton. Vettel made it in P4 right after his team-mate being less than a tenth off Ricciardo. Alonso was 5th fastest with Massa 6th, Kimi 7th, Bottas 8th, Magnussen 9th and Kvyat 10th. How come there always come problems for Kimi right when everything starts looking good? It´s so frustrating! I´m sure Kimi would have made it on the second row without the engine issue. Kimi had clearly found a brilliant set-up on the car, P3 was definitely within Kimi´s reach... But let´s look at the bright side: P7 is better than P10.

I´m really looking forward to tomorrow´s race. The Red Bulls will be close to the Mercedes duo so there will be a real battle for the victory. Safety car has been deployed in every single F1 race at Singapore so I don´t think tomorrow will be any exception. The track is very hard on the brakes which might mean problems for Mercedes. They have had brake issues also in the previous races. The walls at Marina Bay are close so you mustn´t slack your concentration even for a blink of an eye. It hurt me to see Ricciardo outqualifying Sebastian again but I´m still expecting to see an impressive race from Sebastian. Reliability is the key word. Could the Singapore grand prix be the turning point for both Kimi and Sebastian reliability wise? And also strategy wise in Sebastian´s case meaning no more failed pit stop strategies? Crossing my fingers to see that happen :)

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