Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

lauantai 27. toukokuuta 2017

Monaco GP / Qualifying: Kimi on pole for the first time since France 2008!

Today´s qualifying in sunny Monaco held several surprises. Almost all drivers came out at the beginning of the session, and everybody´s tyre choice was the purple-marked ultra soft compound. It was surprising, how well even the softest tyre compound lasted; the drivers made several flying laps on the same set of tyres. Red Bull had clearly made an improvement since Spain, as Verstappen was topping the time sheets in Q1, which was quite unexpected. Nevertheless, Sebastian was second only 12 thousandths of a second behind the flying Dutchman. Teammate Kimi as well was only two hundredths of a second down on his teammate. What really caught my eye, was Hamilton, who was struggling with overheating rear tyres. The Briton could manage only 10th in the opening session! Monaco is known for no room for mistakes, so there was drama already in Q1. Grosjean in his Haas spun but the Frenchman still managed to get into Q2. Ericsson in his Sauber hit the barrier, which broke his rear suspension and caused a puncture. In addition to the Swede, out of Q2 were also Force India´s Ocon, Renault´s Palmer, Williams´ Stroll  and Ericsson´s teammate Wehrlein. McLaren was a positive surprise instead. Vandoorne made it as high as P6. Jenson Button replaced Alonso, who had travelled to the USA to take part in the legendary Indy 500 race. The Briton, too made it through to Q2.

Q2 brought the second round of surprises. Hamilton´s difficulties continued in the second session. He nearly went off at Massenet on his out lap, and was down in 13th complaining of no grip. On the other hand, both Ferraris were on top. Kimi was utterly on flames in the narrow streets of the Principality, and the Iceman was heading teammate Sebastian by two tenths. Hamilton faced huge drama at the end of the session. He had set competitive sector times for the first two sectors, but arriving at the Swimming Pool he found Vandoorne´s McLaren parked in the wall! The Belgian had broken his front suspension against the inside barrier, similar to Ocon´s incident in FP3. Yellow flags were out, which meant, that Hamilton was shockingly out of the decisive Q3! Even though Vandoorne had crashed into the wall, he had set a lap time competitive enough to make it in Q3. Teammate Button was the last driver to make it among the top ten, so it definitely was a successful qualifying for McLaren.

The shootout for pole was absolutely hair-raising. Kimi continued his staggering performance and took provisional pole. It was extremely tight behind the Iceman, as three drivers -Red Bull´s Ricciardo, teammate Sebastian and Mercedes´ Bottas- were all seven tenths off the pace. It was so thrilling to watch the second runs; who would conquer the most wanted pole of the season? Kimi stamped his authority on the streets of the Principality by improving his lap time by a tenth on his second run. Sebastian´s pace was very evenly matched, but at the chequered flag the German was 43 thousandths of a second off his teammate´s pace! Bottas in his Mercedes made a fantastic second run as well, and an all-Finnish front row was very close to happen! However, Bottas was two thousandths of a second down on Sebastian and had to settle for P3! It couldn´t have gotten any closer! The Red Bull teammates Verstappen and Ricciardo were 4th and 5th; eye-catching was the fact, that Ricciardo was half a second down on his teammate. Sainz in his Toro Rosso qualified 6th, ever-present Perez was 7th for Force India and Haas´ Grosjean made it 8th. McLaren duo of Button and Vandoorne completed the top ten. Such a shame, that both McLaren drivers have grid penalties; Vandoorne three places for his collision with Massa in Spain and Button 15 places for an MGU-H and turbocharger replacement overnight.

Kimi´s pole was an utterly impressive and amazing achievement, as it was the Iceman´s first pole since 2008 French GP! By this phenomenal drive Kimi put an end to all talks about questioning his motivation and driving skills. I had hoped to see an all-Ferrari front row, so my hopes were answered. I couldn´t help noticing, how disappointed Sebastian looked after the qualifying. But everything is wide open in terms of tomorrow´s race... Competitive start is everything in Monaco. Secondly, you have to stay away from the walls, which means that mistakes won´t be forgiven in the race. Strategy plays an important role as well. Tomorrow Ferrari has an excellent chance to increase their lead in the constructors´ championship standings, as Hamilton will have it hard to make it in the points. Hopefully both Kimi and Sebastian will keep their heads cool and we´ll see another 1-2 by the red-suited heroes! Forza Ferrari! Forza Kimi! Forza Sebastian!

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