Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

sunnuntai 9. lokakuuta 2016

Japanese GP: Sensational Verstappen prevented Mercedes taking 1-2!

When I woke up early in the morning and switched my TV on, I heard very disappointing news from Suzuka; Ferrari had been forced to change Kimi´s gearbox, which automatically meant a 5-place grid penalty for the Iceman. What a disappointing turn, as Kimi had driven such a fantastic qualifying yesterday! The penalty meant P8 for Kimi on the grid. Unfortunately my high hopes for a podium finish started slowly to fade away. This is the frustrating aspect of Formula 1 racing; the driver giving his best performance isn´t enough, but the technical details matter equally much as well.

The start was surprising. Hamilton in P2 got a catastrophically poor start, and his Mercedes almost got into the anti-stall mode. The Briton dropped down to P8. Verstappen, who started from P3, almost got a chance to challenge Rosberg for the lead, but Rosberg held on to the lead firmly. Perez in his Force India was third after the start! Ricciardo in the second Red Bull was fourth and Sebastian in his Ferrari fifth. Force India´s Hulkenberg was sixth and Kimi seventh. Sebastian had staggering first few laps, as the German first made a stunning overtaking move on Ricciardo, and on the following lap he managed to overtake the Mexican Force India pilot. Sebastian had already jumped 3rd, and it seemed he had every chance to make it on the podium today. Kimi had a battle of his own for P6. On lap 6 the Iceman made a move on Hulkenberg in Turn 1 and stole the sixth place from the German. Ferrari´s race pace seemed impressive indeed.

Red Bull opened the pit stop roulette on lap 11. Both Red Bull drivers pitted on the very same lap -both for orange-marked hard Pirellis. The Ferrari teammates pitted two laps later -for a similar tyre choice. Rosberg, too pitted from the lead and opted for hard tyres -as well as Force India´s Perez. Ferrari´s pit stop strategy left a little to hope for, as Kimi re-joined the track behind both Ricciardo and Perez. Hamilton pitted a lap later also for hard Pirelli tyres -and managed to re-join the track right ahead of Kimi! The Iceman made a fantastic overtaking move on Perez at the end of the finish straight, but at this time it was only P8 for Kimi (although both Williams drivers, who had started to the race on the white-marked medium tyres, hadn´t pitted yet). A bit later both Massa and Bottas got overtaken by Kimi, who was driving an excellent race.

Kimi was the first top driver to pit for the second time. The Iceman drove into the pits on lap 27 -for another fresh set of hard tyres. This was excellent tactics from Ferrari, who could now benefit from the undercut in terms of the battle with Ricciardo. After the pit stop Kimi got a great track position and started lapping in fastest lap times. Verstappen and Rosberg were the next top drivers to pit -for a similar tyre choice to Kimi´s. Ricciardo didn´t pit until on lap 33, and the Australian re-joined the track some five seconds behind Kimi. Hamilton pitted a lap later -and still managed to re-join the track ahead of Kimi.

Ferrari decided to try a different strategy with Sebastian. He pitted for a fresh set of soft tyres, which meant an aggressive last stint. The German Ferrari ace re-joined the track behind Hamilton but ahead of teammate Kimi. Sebastian could smell Hamilton´s blood and started closing the gap to the Briton. There was a significant difference between those two tyre compounds, and I really hoped, that Sebastian could actually challenge Hamilton for a podium finish. To my disappointment that wasn´t the case unfortunately.

With 10 laps to go, Rosberg had a safe 5-second lead to Red Bull´s Verstappen. Towards the end of the race Hamilton seemed determined to challenge the Flying Dutchman for the second place. Hamilton started chasing the Dutchman and decreased the gap slowly but surely. Traffic was an issue for all top drivers, and they were all complaining on the team radio about the blue flags. So was Verstappen, who had Hamilton right at his tail, already within DRS distance from him. On the second last lap Hamilton made an overtaking move on Max, who is known to be a difficult man to pass. Max changed his line at the braking, which was in the "grey area" again, but Hamilton had too much speed going into that corner and he ended up cutting the corner by going straight.

Rosberg took his first win in Japan and increased his lead into 33 points in the drivers´ championship standings. Max was the impressive runner-up; preventing Mercedes taking 1-2 is always a fantastic result. Once again Max was voted as the Driver of the Day, which was well-deserved. Hamilton completed the podium, which was the maximum he could do after the catastrophic start. Sebastian finished 4th and Kimi 5th, so strong race from both red-suited drivers. Without the penalties they would have been up there fighting for the podium places! Ricciardo finished 6th, Perez 7th, Hulkenberg 8th, Massa 9th and Bottas 10th.

Mercedes now clinched their third constructors´ championship. I have a hunch, that Rosberg will win the drivers´ title this year. Hamilton seems so distracted at the moment. Posting photos on Snapchat during the official press conference is disrespectful behaviour even from a three-time world champion! Having fun is okay, but there should be another time and place for that!

I´m already looking forward to the round 17 at Austin, Texas. Once again I´m wishing the very best for the red team (and a certain blue-suited driver)!

P.S. My thoughts on the GP weekend also here:

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