Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

sunnuntai 8. lokakuuta 2017

Japanese GP: Broken spark plug broke my heart!

I write this blog post utterly heartbroken. There was so much to be expected from the race after yesterday´s qualifying, but the reality showed its ugly face today. I feel out of words due to pure sadness.

Dark clouds started to build up over Ferrari already before the start. Sebastian reported about a spark plug issue already on the installation lap. The Ferrari mechanics did everything they could to fix the problem before the start -and it seemed, that they had succeeded in their work. But it was so hectic with fixing the car, that Sebastian missed the Japanese national anthem, which all drivers were obliged to attend.

As Sebastian was able to start from P2, I was confident, that the spark plug issue had been successfully fixed. The lights went out, and pole-setter Hamilton maintained his lead. Sebastian held on to his second place, although Verstappen had made his way past teammate Ricciardo, and the flying Dutchman was aggressively lurking right behind Sebastian. And soon Max made his move and overtook Sebastian, moving second. Meanwhile, Kimi had a battle of his own. The Iceman had taken a mediocre start from P10, and Renault´s Hulkenberg was challenging the Finn on the opening lap. Kimi ended up wide, going off track. He lost many positions and dropped down to P14. Ferrari´s setbacks seemed to continue.

Sebastian was in serious trouble on the main straight, as both Red Bulls and Force India´s Ocon flied past Sebastian in a heartbeat! Poor German was lacking power, which clearly indicated, that the spark plug issue hadn´t been successfully fixed! Sebastian had dropped down to P6. Meanwhile Toro Rosso´s Sainz had lost control of his car and crashed into the tyre wall, which caused safety car to come out.

The race was back on after a couple of laps. Mercedes´ Bottas had it easy to make his way past Sebastian, whose race had turned into the worst nightmare. On lap 4 Sebastian was called in to retire the car. I was devastated! I couldn´t believe, that a reliability issue was going to make Sebastian lose the world championship! I wanted someone to pinch me, that I would wake up from this horrible nightmare! It was absolutely unacceptable, that once again a reliability issue had ruined Sebastian´s race!

Luckily Kimi put up a staggering overtaking show. On lap 8 Sauber´s Ericsson crashed into the wall, nose first. Virtual safety car was deployed. As soon as the VSC ended, Kimi attacked Renault´s Hulkenberg, moving 8th. Meanwhile, both Ricciardo and Bottas managed to get past Force India´s Ocon, who had had an excellent start to the race. Kimi´s overtaking streak continued, as the Iceman first made a move on his ex-teammate Massa and then another move on Force India´s Perez, jumping already 7th in the race.

By lap 26 race leader Hamilton and both Red Bulls had pitted for a fresh set of soft Pirellis. Bottas, who had started the race on the more durable soft rubber, was now leading the race. Hamilton was right at his teammate´s tail, and Verstappen was putting serious pressure on the Briton. Mercedes made a tactical call, and Bottas let his teammate past, trying to slow down Verstappen. Kimi pitted on lap 29 -for a fresh set of super soft Pirellis. He re-joined the track in P6, just barely ahead of Force India´s Ocon. Compatriot Bottas pitted a couple of laps later -for a similar tyre choice.

After the pit stops there was only a 2.5-second gap between Hamilton and Verstappen, but otherwise the gaps between the top five were quite big. Ricciardo in P3 was already 10 seconds down on his teammate and Bottas was another 10 seconds behind Ricciardo. Kimi was already 15 seconds down on his fellow countryman.

On lap 47 Williams´ Stroll was hit with a sudden front-right puncture, which caused him to go off track. Losing control of his FW38 due to the puncture almost made him hit Ricciardo´s RB13, but luckily the contact was narrowly avoided. Once again virtual safety car was deployed. With four laps to go, the race was back on. The battle for victory and other podium places intensified on the closing laps. Verstappen had made it within DRS distance from Hamilton, and Bottas had closed the gap to Ricciardo. However, hitting traffic on the final lap prevented Verstappen from attacking Hamilton. Both Alonso in his McLaren and Massa in his Williams ignored the blue flags and made it difficult for the top two to get past. After the race Alonso was reprimanded and handed two penalty points for ignoring the blue flags.

Hamilton took his 61st career win, extending his lead into crushing 59 points in the championship standings! Verstappen continued his fantastic podium streak by finishing the runner-up. I was so happy for Max, whose driving was absolutely phenomenal. Teammate Ricciardo completed the podium; it´s already the Aussie´s 9th podium this year. The Finns finished fourth and fifth, Bottas having the upper hand on his compatriot. Ocon and Perez scored P6 and P7 for the pink team. Haas duo of Magnussen and Grosjean made an excellent job by finishing 8th and 9th. Williams´ Massa rounded out the top ten.

The cruel mathematics says, that Hamilton will secure the world championship in Austin, Texas, if he scores 16 points more than Sebastian. This means, that winning the world championship is no longer in Sebastian´s own hands. I can only imagine, what is going through Sebastian´s mind at the moment. I feel his disappointment, and I find it only understandable, that he escaped the post-race interviews. This must be a truly bitter and crushing moment for Sebastian to realise, that without a pure miracle, he won´t win the world title this year. Ferrari has built a truly outstanding and competitive car, which has performed fantastically. Nevertheless, reliability has been the Achilles heel in terms of the red car, especially after the summer break. But losing the championship doesn´t only come down to the team, but to Sebastian himself. He has made mistakes, which have cost him an awful lot of points. But this is not the time to point fingers at anyone or look for who is guilty. Now it´s time for the team (Sebastian included) to put their heads down, wrap their sleeves and continue the hard work.

I always thought, that the season 2010 has been the most difficult time in Sebastian´s Formula 1 career. I was surprised to be wrong about that! The most difficult moment so far has been the Brazilian GP 2009, when Sebastian lost his chances to win the world championship that year. The current situation reminds of that year. During the Red Bull years, since 2010, Sebastian has always been the driver to win the championship, not to lose it. I definitely feel his pain! After the race I went to the shower to cry (so that nobody would see it...)! I´ll turn 40 next week, and I know that this isn´t the kind of behaviour expected from a 40-year old woman, but I live Formula 1 with all my heart! And it hurts so much to see Sebastian out of the title race!

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