Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

maanantai 23. lokakuuta 2017

US GP: Not even the perfect start helped Sebastian to beat Hamilton!

The show built around the US GP was absolutely amazing. Many celebrities had joined the paddock, such as the former president Bill Clinton and the 8-time Olympic medalist, Usain Bolt. The driver presentation made by the legendary Michael Buffer was an impressive part of the staggering show. The sun was shining and there was huge excitement in the air.

The start uphill into Turn 1 was absolutely thrilling. Sebastian took a perfect start and managed to get past title rival Hamilton going into Turn 1. What a promising start! I was so happy to see Sebastian snatch the lead from Hamilton. Bottas in the second Mercedes managed to keep his 3rd place, but Kimi lost his 5th place to Force India´s Ocon. Ricciardo in his RB13 was putting serious pressure on Bottas, and an overtaking move seemed to be only a matter of time. However, the Finn was stubborn to keep his 3rd place, doing everything he could to defend it. Bottas´ compatriot Kimi was doing a fantastic job as well, as the Iceman made a move on Ocon and snatched the 5th place back already on the second lap of the race.

Unfortunately Sebastian wasn´t able to pull away from Hamilton. Instead, the Briton banged fastest lap times, and on lap 5 he was already within DRS distance from the German. Sebastian seemed to be struggling with the tyres. On lap 6 Hamilton made his move at the back straight and made it past Sebastian; it was almost an easy-looking move, which I found quite surprising. After losing the lead to Hamilton, Sebastian was unable to match the Briton´s pace.

By lap 10 Red Bull´s Verstappen, who had started the race on the red-marked supersoft Pirellis, had made his way from P16 up to P6 already. The flying Dutchman was literally flying! What a phenomenal overtaking show this young Red Bull ace put up! Teammate Ricciardo was the first top driver to pit on lap 12. The Australian switched to the red-marked supersoft rubber and re-joined the track in P6. But this time it was Ricciardo, who was hit with a technical failure. On lap 16 the Australian suffered a sudden engine failure and his race was over.

By lap 20 both Mercedes and Ferrari had called their drivers in for their first pit stops; they all opted for the yellow-marked soft rubber. Verstappen at the wheel of his RB13 was now leading the race. However, Hamilton was right at the Dutchman´s tail and on the fresh tyres it was quite an easy task to overtake Verstappen. After getting overtaken he came in on lap 26, re-joining the track in P5. Meanwhile, Kimi was closing the gap to his fellow countryman Bottas.

Verstappen had an aggressive pit stop strategy, and the flying Dutchman pitted for the second time on lap 38. He re-joined the track in P5, having lost no positions due to his second pit stop. Ferrari reacted right away and called Sebastian in on the following lap. The German re-joined the track in P4 behind his teammate, who had closed the gap to Bottas. It was going to be an intense battle between the Finns! At the finish straight on lap 42 the inevitable happened; Bottas had no chance to defend his position on the dying tyres; the Iceman attacked and moved past his compatriot. What an excellent move from the Iceman! He was driving a superb race indeed.

With five laps to go, Sebastian was lurking right at Bottas´ tail. Mercedes´ one-stop strategy seemed to be a costly call for Bottas, who had absolutely no chance to keep the determined German behind him. It was an exciting overtaking move indeed, as having moved past Bottas into Turn 1, Sebastian also made a close move on McLaren´s Vandoorne, who got lapped by Sebastian. It was a classy move from Sebastian! Kimi was only a couple of seconds ahead of his teammate, so it was only a matter of time, until Kimi was asked to give way to his teammate. The Ferrari teammates switched positions already on the following lap. Meanwhile, also Verstappen had stormed past Bottas, who was struggling badly on his out-worn tyres. The Finn pitted for the second time only three laps before the chequered flag, as there was no threat coming from behind.

The final lap was utterly hair-raising. Storming Verstappen had closed the gap to Kimi and was already within DRS distance from the Iceman. The flying Dutchman was passionate about getting on the podium and was determined to attack the Finn before the chequered flag. And in the final corners it happened! Max drove to the inside of Kimi and made it past! What a bitter-looking moment for Kimi indeed! Max had driven a sensational race; what an entertaining final lap! But as Verstappen prepared for the podium ceremony, it was announced, that Max had been given a 5-second time penalty for gaining advantage by leaving the track when overtaking Kimi! This meant, that Max lost his third place to Kimi! It was an awkward-looking moment in the pre-podium room, as Kimi was brought in and Max was brought out... What a drama!

By winning the US GP Hamilton extended his championship lead into 66 points in the drivers´ championship standings. It means, that winning the championship is still mathematically possible for Sebastian, yet again extremely unlikely and against all odds. However, it was very heart-warming to see both red-suited Ferrari aces on the podium. In spite of losing the third place, I was happy for Max, too. That guy definitely knows, how to put up an entertaining show! It was a bit surprising how Hamilton´s one-stop strategy worked in a perfect way, whereas Bottas had to settle for disappointing P5 as a similar strategy didn't work for him. Ocon made it a superb P6 for Force India, and Sainz had a strong debut for Renault by finishing 7th. Force India´s Perez, Williams´ Massa and Toro Rosso´s Kvyat rounded out the top ten. And by the way, Mercedes has now officially secured their fourth consecutive constructors' championship, which came as no surprise.

What do I think about Max´s penalty? The rules in F1 always seem to cause a lot of talks. On one hand, it was allowed for the drivers to exceed the track limits, even though the drivers gained advantage when doing so. But on the other hand, it´s a different thing when overtaking is at hand. As far as I understand, the drivers aren´t allowed to leave the track and gain advantage when overtaking. For sure Max´s overtaking move offered a great show, and giving a penalty right after the chequered flag is just the opposite. But no matter the penalty, it doesn´t take anything away from Max´s absolutely outstanding performance in the race, storming from P16 up to P4!

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