Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

maanantai 14. marraskuuta 2016

Brazil GP: Wild Verstappen show in extreme conditions!

Predictions of rain turned out to be quite accurate, as it was raining quite heavily at Interlagos today. There was drama already before the race got underway; Grosjean in his Haas was making his way to the grid, but lost control of his car due to aquaplaning and ended up in the wall with broken front suspension! That was a huge disappointment for the Frenchman, who would have started to the race from P7. The track conditions were so wet, that the start was delayed by 10 minutes.

Due to the challenging conditions the race was started behind safety car; everyone was on the blue-marked full-wet Pirellis. There was still a lot of standing water on the track, and the spray caused by the cars made visibility really poor. It was still raining lightly. Safety car came in on lap 7, and the race was finally on. Kimi was struggling on the wet track, and Verstappen attacked the Finn immediately. Max made a brave overtaking move on the Iceman and took P3. Renault´s Magnussen and McLaren´s Button soon pitted for a fresh set of intermediate tyres, but the top drivers still continued on the track on the full-wets.

Sebastian in P5 had a scary moment on lap 11 going uphill into the last corners. He suddenly lost the control of his car and span! Luckily the German didn´t hit anything but all he lost were some extra seconds. Sebastian pitted right away -for intermediate tyres as well. But everything didn´t go to plan during the pit stop; the team had difficulties to attach the rear-left tyre, which cost other valuable seconds. Sebastian re-joined the track in disappointing P19. Definitely not a promising start to Sebastian´s race!

Turn 14 was a turning point in the race. Sauber´s Ericsson lost the control of his car in high speed and crashed into the wall. Ericsson´s Sauber stopped at the pit entry. Red Bull´s Verstappen drove into the pits managing to avoid hitting the Sauber. Safety car was deployed, and the pit entry was closed. However, also Ricciardo in his RB12 drove into the pits. Both Red Bull pilots opted for a fresh set of green-marked intermediate Pirellis. The Australian was soon taken into investigation for entering the pits after the pit entry had already been closed. Hamilton was leading the race behind safety car, teammate Rosberg was second, Kimi was third, Verstappen fourth and Hulkenberg fifth.

Safety car came in on lap 19, and the race was on again -but only for a very short moment. Coming on the start-finish straight Kimi´s SF16-H aquaplaned, which caused the Iceman to crash into the outside wall. The impact threw the Finn spinning across the straight into the inside wall. It was an utterly frightening moment, as there were plenty of cars coming behind Kimi -driving 300 km/h! It´s amazing how quick reflexes the F1 drivers have! Without a lightning quick evading move from Manor´s Ocon, he would have hit Kimi´s Ferrari! My heart jumped into my mouth; Kimi´s crash could have ended in a catastrophic way! Luckily the Iceman was unharmed and could walk away from the car on his own. But the crash really got under my skin and scared me a lot! Due to Kimi´s crash the race was red-flagged, and everyone drove into the pits.

During the session suspension the stewards announced a 5-second time penalty for Ricciardo due to entering the pits although the pit entry had been closed. Williams´ Massa was also given a similar penalty for overtaking before the safety car line. After half-an-hour suspension the race was re-started behind safety car. After six laps behind safety car the race was red-flagged again! The conditions were very extreme and challenging; in the name of safety it was the right decision from the stewards. Everyone remembers Japanese GP 2014 and the consequences the extreme conditions caused. There had been plenty of dangerous looking crashes today already so the stewards didn´t want to jeopardise the safety of the drivers; although many drivers were saying on the team radio that the conditions were drivable.

After another half-an-hour suspension it was still raining, and the track conditions hadn´t improved. The race was re-started behind safety car. The top ten certainly seemed interesting, as the race was back on after a few laps behind safety car. The top three involved quite familiar names, as Hamilton was leading the race with teammate Rosberg second and Red Bull´s Verstappen third. But Force India´s Perez was fourth, Toro Rosso´s Sainz fifth, Sauber´s Nasr sixth, Red Bull´s Ricciardo seventh, Manor duo of Ocon and Wehrlein eighth and ninth and McLaren´s Alonso tenth.

Verstappen seemed to have different driving lines compared to his rivals. Once again the Flying Dutchman was extremely aggressive at the re-start and made a bold move on Rosberg -snatching P2 from the German! Red Bull seemed extremely competitive in the wet conditions, and Max seemed to be perfectly in control of his RB12. He started to chase down Hamilton, who wasn´t too far away. But what a scary moment Max had on lap 39! The Dutch teenager hit the kerb in the inside on the start-finish straight and lost the control of his RB12! With a combination of huge talent and good luck he managed to avoid hitting the quadrail and was able to continue the race after the spin. Rosberg was close to take his second place back from the Red Bull driver, but Max was just barely able to stay ahead of Rosberg.

The track conditions were slightly improving, and Ricciardo pitted for a fresh set of intermediate tyres. The Australian´s lap times looked extremely good, and the team called Verstappen to pit a few laps later -for intermediates as well. Meanwhile Sebastian was making his way through the field -first past Alonso and then Nasr. After a difficult first half of the race, Sebastian was driving a strong race in P6.

However, safety car was deployed again on lap 48! Williams´ Massa, who was driving his very last home race, also lost control of his FW38 on the start-finish straight and ended up in the wall! For sure not the kind of a result the Brazilian would have hoped in front of his home crowd! In spite of the DNF, it was a very emotional moment for the home hero Massa, who was in tears when walking into the pits.

Red Bull´s tyre strategy proved wrong; there was no way the Red Bull duo could drive competitive lap times on the intermediate tyres! Both Ricciardo and Verstappen pitted for a fresh set of full-wet Pirellis. It was a costly pit stop especially for Max, who dropped down to P16 after re-joining the track. However, after safety car had come in, we saw a spectacular and absolutely wild Verstappen show! The Dutchman continued choosing different driving lines, and he seemed to be flying around the circuit. The overtaking move he made on his teammate Ricciardo was stunning! Next on the Flying Dutchman´s overtaking list were Kvyat, Ocon and Nasr. A moment later Max had a wheel-banging battle with Sebastian for P5, but Sebastian had no chance to defend his position against the hungry Dutchman. With only a few laps to go, Max was right at Perez´s tail fighting for the last podium place. And after another spectacular overtaking move P3 was Max´s! Max´s driving was absolutely breath-taking today, in a class of his own!

Hamilton won the Brazil GP for the very first time; so the championship battle will be down-to-the-wire in Abu Dhabi. Rosberg finished the runner-up, and Verstappen completed the podium. It was no wonder, that Max was voted as the Driver of the Day; today he definitely deserved it! Perez finished 4th for Force India. Sebastian managed to make it past Sainz at the end of the race, finishing fifth. Hulkenberg finished 7th in the second Force India, Ricciardo was 8th, Nasr 9th and Alonso 10th. At the end of the day there were five safety cars and two red flags in the race! The race length came very close to the time limit, but finally all 71 laps were completed.

I was jumping of joy for Max, but the red team´s performance left a lot to hope for in terms of the season finale in Abu Dhabi. Ferrari was seriously struggling with their pace in the wet conditions, although especially Kimi had driven an excellent qualifying. There´s still one more chance of a red-coloured podium... But who will be the world champion this year? Rosberg still has a 12-point lead in the standings. To win the title, Hamilton needs to win in Abu Dhabi and Rosberg has to finish lower than third.

P.S. My thoughts on the chaotic race can also be read on the website of Scuderia Ferrari Club Riga:

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