Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

sunnuntai 25. kesäkuuta 2017

Azerbaijan GP: Ricciardo claimed victory in a chaotic race!

First of all, I´m going to take a few deep breaths before I start writing down my thoughts on today´s race. I´m still riding the emotional roller coaster caused by the Formula 1 action in Baku! Who needs thrillers or action films, when you can watch the Azerbaijan GP?! What an eventful and action-packed race! And not all turns were the ones I was hoping for.

The first drama took place at the start. Hamilton in his Mercedes took a clean start and held on to his lead. Kimi from P3 had a rocket start and was challenging his countryman Bottas for the second place. Going into Turn 2, Kimi was already slightly ahead of his compatriot. However, hitting the kerb made Bottas´  Mercedes jump and hit Kimi´s Ferrari! Kimi crashed to the wall, which caused significant damage to his front wing. Bottas instead had a front right puncture and the Finn had to pit for a fresh set of tyres and a new front wing. Re-joining the track, Bottas was already a lap down! This looked like a difficult race for Valtteri.

Surprisingly Red Bull´s Ricciardo pitted already on lap 6. The first-lap incident had caused some debris on the track, and some debris had gotten in the brakes of Ricciardo´s RB13, and they needed to be cleared. Hamilton was leading the race with a clear 3-second margin to Sebastian. Force India´s Perez was impressive 3rd, but Red Bull´s Verstappen was right at the Mexican´s tail. Verstappen´s driving was once again extremely convincing, but as soon as it seemed that Perez´s third place was threatened, Verstappen was hit with a technical failure! I felt so gutted for the flying Dutchman, who has already faced four DNFs in eight races due to technical failures! I find that quite unacceptable. On lap 12 Verstappen´s RB13 stopped on track due to an oil pressure issue. Also Kvyat´s Toro Rosso had stopped on track a couple of laps earlier, and safety car was deployed. All top drivers pitted for a fresh set of soft tyres.

Bottas benefitted from the safety car, as he was allowed to overtake all cars and take his place at the back of the pack. Safety car came in on lap 16 -but only for a very short while! The re-start was everything but clean and once again there was debris on the track. Safety car was back out! All drivers complained about safety car driving around dangerously slowly. And what a dramatic turn the race took right before the second re-start! Coming into Turn 15, Hamilton slowed down so significantly, that Sebastian crashed into the Briton´s rear, breaking his front wing! Sebastian got totally caught by the heat of the moment. He drove alongside his title rival showing his hands -and then deliberately hit Hamilton´s car! The re-start took place and the race was back on. The emotions were running extremely high!

Behind the heated title rivals there was drama as well. At the re-start there was a collision between the pinks, as Ocon made an over optimistic move on teammate Perez, which lead into contact between the Force India partners. Perez´s race was over, and Ocon lost several positions as well. Behind the pinks there was Kimi, who unfortunately hit the debris on the track and suffered a rear right puncture. The Iceman managed to limp into the pits, but there was severe damage in his SF70-H, and the Finn had no choice but to retire. At this point Hamilton was still leading the race with Sebastian second. But it was absolutely unbelievable to notice, that Massa was third and his Williams teammate Stroll was fourth! Who could have expected that to happen?

On lap 22 the race was red-flagged, as there was still so much debris on the track. Everyone drove into the pits to wait for the race to be resumed. I looked at Sebastian standing on the pit lane with his trainer Antti Kontsas and I couldn´t help wondering, what was going on in the German´s mind. I mean he must have realised, what a huge mistake he had made by deliberately hitting Lewis´ Mercedes! I definitely felt his anger for the front wing damage, but there was no way that could justify his actions! It was such a non-athletic act, not something you expect from a quadruple world champion! All I could think was, that Sebastian needed to calm down and get his head cool before the re-start.

During a 15-minute break the track had been cleaned of all the debris, and the race was re-started. Miraculously Ferrari had been able to fix Kimi´s car during the break, and the Iceman was back in the race! So was the case with Perez´s pink-liveried Force India as well. Ricciardo in his RB13 got a flying re-start, as the Australian made a phenomenal overtaking move, which made him pass both Williams cars! This meant the "Smiling Avenger" was already third in the race.

However, Hamilton faced an unexpected problem in the lead. His headrest was loose, which was a possible safety threat. The Briton was advised on the team radio how to get it attached, but there was no way Hamilton could fix the problem on his own. Being a question of safety, Hamilton was called into the pits, so that the team could attach the headrest properly. This meant, that Sebastian was almost handed the victory in the narrow streets of Baku! Almost... Because at the same time Sebastian was handed a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for dangerous driving! I can´t even describe how I felt when I saw the penalty on the TV screen! It was totally deserved, no question about that. But it broke my heart to realise, that without the penalty for the stupid mistake Sebastian would have won the Azerbaijan GP! It was totally in vain, that he lost the 25 points for the victory! Those can turn out to be extremely valuable points at the end of the season... I could nothing but wonder, how Sebastian had the nerve to question his penalty on the team radio.

Sebastian re-joined the track right ahead of title rival Hamilton. Against all odds, Ricciardo was now leading the race, Williams´ Stroll was second and Haas´ Magnussen was third! What a lottery the Azerbaijan GP turned out! Meanwhile Bottas was absolutely flying and the Finn was making his way through the field position by position. With ten laps to go, Valtteri had already made his way past Force India´s Ocon and was 3rd in the race. The Finnish Mercedes ace smelled Williams rookie Stroll´s blood and started his chase, although the Canadian had already opened a 12-second gap to the Finn. Bottas drove with such determination, that he closed the gap slowly but surely -second by second. Meanwhile his fellow countryman Kimi had to retire the race only a few laps before the chequered flag.

Ricciardo took his fifth victory, but what an incredibly exciting turn we saw at the finish straight a moment later. Bottas had made it into DRS distance from Stroll and made it past the Canadian right before the chequered flag!! It was an amazing recovery for Valtteri and definitely one of the most impressive overtaking moves ever! I was so so happy for Lance Stroll, who has managed to turn setbacks into success after huge loads of criticism! Sebastian finished fourth, ahead of Hamilton. Ocon finished 6th for Force India, Magnussen 7th for Haas, Sainz 8th for Toro Rosso, Alonso 9th for McLaren (!) and Wehrlein scored one point for Sauber (!).

Sebastian now has a 14-point lead in the drivers´ championship standings. It feels bittersweet, as the lead could have been 27 points! Also Ferrari is now 24 points behind title rival Mercedes. I have to admit that I was disappointed to watch Sebastian´s post-race interviews. The FIA has stated, that the data from Hamilton´s car has proved, that the Briton hadn´t braked or lifted his foot off throttle in Turn 15. Sebastian has also been given 3 penalty points due to his dangerous manoeuvre. So there isn´t any question about Sebastian´s guilt. In my opinion he should behave like a man -like a sportsman- and take responsibility for his actions. A quadruple world champion doesn´t deliberately hit another driver for any reason! Everyone makes mistakes, and the heat of the moment sometimes makes you do things that shouldn´t be done. Only admitting your mistakes allows you to learn from them! I hope Sebastian has a long look in the mirror after this and decides to learn from this human error. There are millions of people, who look up to him (me included) so it does matter, what kind of a message he gives to his fans!

I admire Sebastian from the bottom of my heart. My support for him is always there, even though I don´t always accept his on-track actions. Getting caught by the heat of the moment only proves his passion for racing. He has had his outbursts also before (Turkey 2010, Mexico 2016) and these make him vulnerable -human behind the wheel. But I believe in Sebastian, that he will learn from this, take responsibility and then move on. It´s difficult to put my emotions into words... There´s so much hatred and criticism on social media at the moment... All I want to say is, that hopefully Sebastian knows that there are fans, who stand by him, no matter what mistakes he makes!

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