Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

lauantai 28. huhtikuuta 2018

Azerbaijan GP / Qualifying: Hat-trick hero Sebastian nailed it again!

I really needed the F1 action today! My son has been at hospital for over a week now because of an infection, and he has been feeling very sick. His mouth is still so sore, that he can´t eat, drink or speak. Yesterday my husband came to the hospital to spend the weekend there with him, and I headed home to get some rest. Formula 1 offered me a perfect escape from the hospital world, which has been all about cancer 24/7.

Qualifying made me forget about the hospital world for a moment. Q1 began with drama almost from the off. Grosjean in his Haas had a major lock-up, which forced the Frenchman to take the escape road; ultimately a gearbox issue ended his day before it had even properly begun. Both Kimi and Sebastian showed top form right away. As has been the pattern this season, Kimi had the upper hand on his teammate in the first segment. The most dramatic moment of the first session was the close call between the Toro Rosso teammates at the end of Q1. A slow-moving Hartley was limping out of Turn 14 with a puncture and was almost hit by an onrushing Gasly! It was another miscommunication issue by Toro Rosso, which ruined both drivers´ chances to reach Q2. Force India´s Ocon was responsible for the most positive surprise of Q1, as the Frenchman went 6th fastest in the opening session. Also the rookies Leclerc and Sirotkin moved into Q2 for the first time this year. In addition to the unfortunate Toro Rosso duo and Haas´ Grosjean, out of Q2 were McLaren´s Vandoorne and Sauber´s Ericsson.

Q2 held expected tyre strategy in terms of the three top teams, as Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull sent their drivers out on the red-marked supersoft compound. The windy conditions at the Baku Street Circuit threw many challenges. Kimi had a lock-up on his first run, forcing him to take the escape road in Turn 15. The second flyer didn´t prove successful, either; the Iceman had flat-spotted his only fresh set of supersoft Pirellis! This forced Kimi to switch to the purple-marked ultrasoft rubber at the end of the second session. Kimi put together a perfect lap and went fastest. Also the other top drivers came out on the softest compound at the end of the session, but neither one improved his lap time.  It was extremely tight between the Mercedes teammates, as Hamilton edged Bottas only by three thousandths of a second. Red Bull´s Ricciardo just barely made it into the decisive last segment, as he rounded out the top ten. The Williams duo of Stroll and Sirotkin were the first fallers in Q2, still making it the best qualifying result of the season for Williams so far. It was also the first time this season, that both Force Indias reached Q3!

Q3 proved, how difficult it was to put together a perfect lap at Baku. Sebastian was absolutely on fire right from the beginning, taking provisional pole by three tenths to Hamilton! Kimi, instead, made a mistake at the final turn by hitting a kerb and was sixth fastest after his first run. Ricciardo in his RB14 had also a close call as the Australian brushed the wall on his first attempt, and was almost a second down on the pace-setting Sebastian. Kimi seemed determined to challenge his teammate for pole, whilst neither Silver Arrow seemed truly in the hunt for pole. Up until the last sector the Iceman had looked set to steal pole position away from his teammate, but a crucial mistake in the final sector blew Ferrari´s hopes of a front row lockout. Instead, Kimi will line up in disappointing P6! Also Sebastian made a mistake on his last flyer, and the German didn´t manage to improve his lap time. However, the magical first lap secured pole for Sebastian! This was his first hat-trick of pole positions since 2013! Still the German Ferrari ace was a bit disappointed, that he hadn´t been able to improve in the dying moments of the last session, which tells all about his perfectionism. Hamilton held onto 2nd place for Mercedes, with teammate Bottas third. This was only the second time in the last 6 races, that Hamilton has out-qualified his Finnish teammate. This time Ricciardo in 4th had an upper hand on his teammate Verstappen, who qualified fifth. Ocon and Perez, who made their first Q3 appearances of the year, qualified 7th and 8th, with the Renault duo of Hulkenberg and Sainz rounding out the top ten. However, Hulkenberg has been handed a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change.

Azerbaijan GP has offered a lot of thrilling entertainment and drama in the past three years, and I´m sure it won´t let us down this year, either. The biggest talking point of last year´s race was the incident between Sebastian and Hamilton behind the safety car. I hope it was the last time that I ever see such road rage by Sebastian! Tomorrow is a perfect opportunity to wipe that incident off everyone´s mind by winning the race! All top five drivers will start to the race on the more durable rubber. Kimi´s hopes lie in the ultrasoft tyres, which hopefully enable the Iceman to take a rocket start. However, gaining positions on the opening lap hasn´t been one of Kimi´s strengths lately. I really hope Ferrari will come up with a great strategy for the Finn! One thing is for sure: safety car is guaranteed to come out at some stage(s) of the race! Another thing for sure is, that there´s no room for mistakes, as the walls are unforgivably close! I´m definitely looking forward to a thriller of a race!

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