Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

lauantai 11. lokakuuta 2014

Russian GP / Qualifying: Hamilton claimed his 7th pole of the season!

It was only 6 days ago when the fatal Japanese GP took place. The Marussia driver Jules Bianchi is still lying at the Japanese hospital fighting for his life. No improvement in his condition so far: his condition is still critical but stable. There´s no guarantee that the Frenchman will recover from his injuries, which feels so cruel. Normally I love back-to-back races but now I´ve had difficulties to put my thoughts together. My thoughts are with Jules and his family and I can´t do anything but hope that he will recover from the serious head injury! At pre-school where I work we´ve been talking about guardian angels this week. I really really hope there´s one sitting beside Jules´ bed!

Nevertheless, the Sochi International Street Circuit is an impressive new venue for Formula 1 racing. It reminds me of Valencia, which is also a street circuit situated by the sea. The Sochi Autodrom is the third longest circuit on the calendar with long straights. It´s also technically demanding and due to the brand new asphalt there´s almost no tyre degradation. The drivers have found the track enjoyable to drive. Marussia participates in the GP weekend with one car only. Bianchi´s car is in the pit garage standing empty but scrutineered and ready to race. All drivers have a sticker on their helmet saying "Tous avec Jules!" Everyone wants to show respect and support for their colleague.

The qualifying for the inaugural Russian GP was exceptional tyre-wise. All drivers started to Q1 with the soft-compound tyres except Perez in his Force India and the McLaren drivers Button and Magnussen. Even the option tyres needed several laps before they were in the optimum temperature and produced competitive lap times. This meant that the drivers made a long stint with several laps but still some drivers had difficulties getting the tyre temperature up. Q1 proved a disaster for Massa in his Williams as the Brazilian was struck by a fuel pressure problem and duly was unable to make it into Q2. Hamilton and Rosberg topped the time sheets with Bottas 3rd in the other Williams. What was a delight to my eye was to see Kimi being one tenth of a second faster than his team-mate Alonso! Surprisingly Ericsson in his Caterham made it in P17 being ahead of Massa, his team-mate Kobayashi and Marussia´s Chilton.

McLaren had clearly managed to improve their pace since Japan and both drivers seemed competitive in Q2. The top three remained the same as in the first session: Hamilton fastest, Rosberg 2nd and the flying Finn Bottas 3rd. McLaren could almost match Williams´ pace with Magnussen 4th and Button 5th. Unfortunately there was another big-name faller in Q2 as Sebastian Vettel at the wheel of his RB10 struggled throughout Q2 and was left out in P11! Usually I`m very upset when something like this happens but now I was having so contradictory thoughts. Bianchi´s accident has been a cruel remainder of what happens when things go wrong in F1. It was also a horrific remainder of how everything can be taken away from you in a heart beat. No matter which team or driver you support you don´t wish a thing like this for anybody! So actually I wasn´t so upset that Sebastian faced a tough qualifying. I was so so happy that I was able to see him racing! Things shouldn´t be taken for granted. Success or not, I´m happy that I can cheer for Sebastian through ups and downs!

Q3 was a tense fight for pole. Rosberg took a firm grip on pole at the beginning of the final session and Bottas showed clear signs that he could really challenge the Mercedes duo and make it on the front row. Hamilton, however, managed to improve his lap time and Rosberg´s lap time left him two tenths of a second shy of Hamilton´s improved time. In the closing moments of the decisive last session Bottas showed how dangerous he really was. The Finn set overall bests in the first two sectors of his final run but he pushed too hard in the last sector. Bottas got loose in turn 17 and ended up going wide in the last corner so he couldn´t improve his time but made it in P3 (4 tenths of a second shy of polesitter Hamilton and only 8 hundredths of a second shy of Rosberg!) anyway. A superb effort from the Finnish Williams driver! Maybe he couldn´t have challenged Hamilton for pole but 2nd place might have been there to take... Bottas has really been on fire this weekend, his driving has been such a pleasure to watch!

Button in his McLaren also had a great qualifying making it in P4. Toro Rosso´s Kvyat drove an outstanding qualifying as well. The young Russian claimed a tremendous career-best 5th in front of his home crowd! Thus the grid will line up: Ricciardo 6th (Magnussen qualified 6th but the Dane will face a 5-place gris penalty due to a gear box change and will be dropped down to P11), Alonso 7th, Räikkönen 8th, Vergne 9th and Vettel 10th. Hulkenberg and Chilton have also been handed a 5-place grid penalty for gear box changes.

Toro Rosso´s performance has looked impressive and one thing especially caught my eye: both Toro Rossos made it among the top ten in terms of the straight line speed but neither one of the Red Bulls did the same! They both have a Renault power unit so this makes me wonder a bit... Kvyat even made it ahead of Ricciardo, which is quite an impressive achievement. And Sebastian has been struggling with his RB10 once again so I´m expecting a tough race. Kimi´s car on the other hand has looked a bit better than in Japan where the Iceman was struggling with the front end of his F14T. But I´m definitely expecting to see Bottas challenging at least one of the Mercedes drivers and why not both of them! I´m sure we´ll see an entertaining race tomorrow. Just hoping everyone will have a safe race!

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