Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

sunnuntai 19. kesäkuuta 2016

Europe GP: Rosberg triumphed to victory!

Air temperature was 33 degrees Celsius, when the lights went out at Baku City Circuit. Hamilton had been given a permission to change his tyres; the FIA had considered his qualifying tyres to be in too bad a shape for the race. The start felt hair-raising. Would there be collisions in the first corners? How many safety car episodes would we see?

It was amazing, how clean the start was! Rosberg was able to maintain his lead with Red Bull´s Ricciardo second. The Ferraris of Sebastian and Kimi followed the Australian closely. Perez in his Force India, on the other hand, was right at Kimi´s tail. Red Bull´s young talent Verstappen was struggling with his pace on the opening laps. Bottas in his Williams could pass the Dutchman quite easily, and Mercedes ace Hamilton was right at Verstappen´s tail. Max ended up going wide, and Hamilton made it past Verstappen in an easy-looking way. From the beginning it was obvious, that Red Bull was struggling with heavy tyre degradation. Ricciardo in the second Red Bull was also in trouble. Sebastian had closed the gap to the Australian, and on lap 6 the German made a successful overtaking move on his ex teammate at the finish straight. Ricciardo pitted already on the following lap -for a fresh set of soft tyres.

By lap 9 Rosberg had increased the gap to Sebastian into ten seconds. Sebastian was told on the team radio to pit, but Sebastian questioned the request by asking, whether the team was sure about that. Sebastian said his pace was very good. The team replied, that they wanted to prevent Ricciardo from benefitting of the undercut. Sebastian didn´t pit; instead it was Kimi, who pitted also for a fresh set of soft tyres. To me it seemed like a two-stop strategy. Would it be possible to drive 40 laps on the soft tyres? Kimi rejoined the track in P11.

Kimi faced a setback on lap 12, as the Iceman had been taken into investigation by the stewards for crossing the white line at the pit entry. Penalty was inevitable; Kimi was given a 5-second time penalty for his infringement. It was such a shame, as Kimi´s pace seemed utterly excellent and he kept improving lap by lap! Kimi was absolutely flying on the track and kept banging fastest lap times one after another.

Hamilton pitted on lap 16, and Perez a lap later -both opted for the yellow-marked soft rubber. At this time Rosberg in the lead had already increased his gap to Sebastian into 20 seconds. It was clear, that nobody could challenge the German Mercedes ace for victory by driving! Sebastian pitted not until on lap 20; his tyre choice was similar to his teammate´s. Rosberg pitted from the lead a lap after Sebastian -for a fresh set of soft tyres as well.

Towards the halfway of the race Sebastian had closed the gap to his teammate due to his fresher tyres. Kimi didn´t even try to prevent Sebastian from overtaking him, which was a classy team effort from the Iceman. A moment later we heard a legendary team radio message from Kimi. The team thanked him for letting Sebastian through. Kimi answered the team to tell Sebastian to push, as he didn´t want to have anyone in front of him. Sebastian answered immediately by setting the fastest lap time!

With some 20 laps to go, Hamilton had a technical issue with his car. The Briton was driving in P5 and he was struggling with his pace. Hamilton sounded frustrated on the team radio; he kept asking the team, what he should do to change the settings on his car. Due to the new radio regulations the team, however, wasn´t allowed to advice Hamilton on the correct procedure. Hamilton sounded absolutely gutted, and he said he was going to change every setting of the car, but the team strongly replied, that they "wouldn´t advice on that". At the same time we heard really heated Kimi on the team radio raging about Sauber´s Ericsson, who didn´t seem to notice the blue flags; Kimi lost plenty of valuable time, before Ericsson finally let the Iceman through. Kimi was only a couple of seconds ahead of Force India´s Perez, and there was the 5-second time penalty on the way...

Towards the end of the race, Hamilton´s issue had suddenly disappeared. But it was too late to even dream about a podium finish. Rosberg cruised to his fifth victory of the season, although he had allegedly suffered from a similar issue with his car to his teammate. Sebastian had driven a brilliant race; one-stopper was definitely the right strategy today! Kimi´s SF16-H was already on a fuel-saving mode on the final lap, and Perez managed to overtake the Iceman easily on the final lap. Although it wouldn´t have made any difference, if Kimi had been able to keep Perez behind, as there was the 5-second time penalty for the Finn. That mistake was such a shame; it was Kimi´s own fault, he hadn´t paid attention to the white line at the pit entry, until it was already too late. But still, Kimi´s performance was very strong today. And at the end of the day, Kimi really was able to drive 40 laps on the same set of soft tyres! It would have been such a pleasure to see both red-suited drivers on the podium today!

Hamilton had to settle for P5 today. Bottas in his Williams was also on a one-stop strategy, and the Finn finished 6th. Red Bull had difficulties with the tyre management and they were struggling with their performance in spite of the two-stop strategy. Ricciardo couldn´t finish higher than P7, and in spite of some great overtaking moves Verstappen also had to settle for P8. Hulkenberg finished 9th and Massa 10th. But no safety car in the race! No hitting walls and no crashes at the start! And this time, no seagulls, either ;) So in that way it was quite a surprising inaugural Azerbaijan GP. Rosberg has now a 24-point lead over his teammate in the championship standings. Sebastian is third and Kimi fourth.

Can´t wait, what will happen in Austria in a fortnight! Still eagerly waiting for that first Ferrari victory of the season!

P.S. You´re welcome to read my thoughts on the inaugural Baku race also here:

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