Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

lauantai 8. heinäkuuta 2017

Austrian GP / Qualifying: Bottas clinched his second career pole!

As the Formula 1 circus moved to Spielberg, Austria all eyes were still on Sebastian Vettel since his deliberate collision with title rival Hamilton in Azerbaijan GP. On Monday (which happened to be Sebastian´s 30th birthday) Sebastian attended the meeting at the FIA´s  Paris headquarters. After the meeting the FIA announced that there was going to be no further action over Sebastian´s clash with Hamilton. The Ferrari driver had taken full responsibility for his actions and publicly apologised for his mistake. He was very much aware of the fact, that he hadn´t been setting a good example. Sebastian was also committed to devote personal time to the education of drivers in junior formulae. In light of these developments it was decided, that the matter was closed. There has been a lot of talk about Sebastian escaping any further sanction for his deliberate collision. Personally I´m satisfied with how things evolved. For me as a true fan of Sebastian the most important thing was, that he admitted his mistake and took full responsibility. I was impressed by the letter Sebastian wrote on his website and how he publicly apologised to his fans and the whole motorsport world. This kind of a role model, who admits his mistakes and publicly apologises for them, I´m willing to look up to with admiration and respect! In my opinion Sebastian handled the difficult situation on his best behaviour and I´m sure he has learned a lot from it.

So onwards to the qualifying in Spielberg. Q1 saw different tyre strategies. Both Sebastian and Kimi came out on red-marked super soft Pirellis, as well as Bottas in his Mercedes. Teammate Hamilton, on the other hand, opted for the purple-marked ultra soft compound. However, Kimi´s first effort hadn´t produced a lap time competitive enough, so the Iceman had to make a second run at the end of the session -this time on the ultra softs. Hamilton was topping the timesheets, but Kimi jumped second on his final run. Sebastian and Bottas, who had both sat out the second runs, were third and fifth. They were surprisingly split by Toro Rosso´s Sainz. Palmer in his Renault was the first faller in Q1. A complete disaster of a day saw the Williams teammates Massa and Stroll stuck in 17th and 18th! Both Saubers were also out of Q2, which was no surprise unfortunately.

Q2 saw Hamilton run Pirellis´ super soft tyres, whilst all his rivals were on the ultra soft Pirellis. Hamilton had been given a 5-place grid penalty for a gearbox change for the race, so the tyre choice was to guarantee the best possible race strategy for the Briton. Hamilton´s pace was impressive, as he was second fastest, only 0,15s down on teammate Bottas, in spite of the harder tyre compound. Sebastian was able to improve his lap time on his second run, and the German jumped second. Hamilton was third, Verstappen fourth and Kimi fifth. Haas´s Grosjean caught my eye, as the Frenchman was able to make it as high as P7. Teammate Magnussen had suffered a suspension failure already in Q1, which had ruined the Dane´s qualifying. Both McLaren drivers, Renault´s Hulkenberg and Toro Rosso´s Kvyat were eliminated from the final session.

Q3 saw an exciting start, as Mercedes´ Bottas took provisional pole. However, Sebastian was only four hundredths of a second down on the Finn! Hamilton was third and Kimi fourth, followed by the Red Bull duo Ricciardo and Verstappen in fifth and sixth. However, the end of the decisive last session was kind of an anti-climax. A late on-track stoppage for Haas´s Grosjean and then an off for Red Bull´s Verstappen prevented improvements in the dying seconds of Q3 as these incident brought out the yellow flags. So it was second career pole for Valtteri Bottas! I was so happy to see such a strong performance from Sebastian after the catastrophic Azerbaijan GP. Hamilton qualified third, but he will drop down to P8 due to his gearbox penalty. Kimi qualified fourth, but due to Hamilton´s penalty the Iceman will start to the race from P3. This time Ricciardo (P5) out-qualified his teammate Verstappen (P6). Grosjean kept up his excellent work in Q3 and qualified 7th. The Force India teammates Perez and Ocon and Toro Rosso´s Sainz rounded out the top ten.

As Sebastian now has nine penalty points on his licence, he can´t afford any mistakes in tomorrow´s race. Sebastian surely benefits from Hamilton´s penalty, but you can never write the Briton out from the podium fight. The strategy will be interesting for sure. Hamilton will start on the slower tyre compound, but how much longer will he be able to run on his first stint? And how well will he be able to match Ferrari´s and his teammate´s pace? Can´t wait to find out the answers tomorrow! Hoping for a brilliant & successful race for both red-suited drivers! And hope to see Max Verstappen finally finish the race for a change!

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