Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

sunnuntai 24. kesäkuuta 2018

French GP: Sebastian's first-corner mistake cost him the championship lead!

Ahead of the French GP there was extra tension in the air, as there was 60 % chance of rain during the race. However, conditions were dry, as the lights went out. And what a start it turned out! Sebastian in P3 got the best start of the top three. Ironically the German's start was too good! Going into Turn 1, Sebastian was at Hamilton's tow, and Bottas was on the right hand side, defending his second place. Sebastian had nowhere to go, and he locked his tyres, ending up hitting Bottas. The collision broke Sebastian's front wing and caused Bottas a spin and a rear-right puncture. Both drivers had no choice but to limp into the pits. Sebastian's SF71-H got a new nose, and he switched to the yellow-marked soft rubber. Bottas pitted for a similar tyre choice to Sebastian. Further back in the back there was another first-corner collision between Force India's Ocon and Toro Rosso's Gasly. Actually their collision was initially caused by Haas' Grosjean, who was later handed a 5-second time penalty for causing the collision. It was kind of ironic, that two French drivers took each other out of the race in front of their home crowd! Safety car was deployed, as there was a lot of debris on the track. Sebastian and Bottas had dropped at the very back of the pack. This definitely wasn't the start I had hoped for! Sebastian made a very costly mistake, and he was also penalized for causing the collision. The stewards gave Sebastian a 5-second time penalty for being at fault in the collision.

The top three was quite surprising. It wasn't any news, that Hamilton was leading the race, but Red Bull's Verstappen had jumped second and Renault's Sainz was third due to the collision caused by Sebastian. Ricciardo was fourth, Haas' Magnussen fifth, Sauber's Leclerc sensationally sixth and Kimi 7th. Unfortunately Kimi had lost a position in the first-corner incident. The re-start took place on lap 5. Kimi's SF71-H seemed to really come alive, and the Iceman made his way past Leclerc, snatching P6. A couple of laps later Kimi made a move on Haas' Magnussen and moved 5th. At the same time Sebastian started his overtaking show, making his way through the field one by one. This race definitely wasn't lacking spectacular overtaking moves! Ricciardo passed Sainz, making his way up to third. Only a lap later Kimi made a move on the Spanish Renault pilot as well, claiming P4. The French GP offered great entertainment indeed!

By lap 15 Sebastian had already made it P8 after overtaking Haas' Grosjean. Sebastian's driving was such a pleasure to watch; it was so determined, self-confident and passionate! After making the mistake of his own, Sebastian really wanted to make it as high as he possibly could. Bottas had more difficulties with overtaking his rivals, as the floor of the Finn's FW09 had suffered significant damage in the first-lap collision, so Bottas was lacking pace. By lap 24 Sebastian had already climbed up to P5 after overtaking Sainz in his Renault. However, now there was an 18-second gap to teammate Kimi, who was ahead of him.

Verstappen started the pit stop roulette on lap 26. The flying Dutchman opted for the hardest compound available, and re-joined the track in P4. Teammate Ricciardo pitted a few laps later for a similar tyre choice. The Australian lost a position during his pit stop, as Sebastian managed to get ahead, when the Australian re-joined the track. Race leader Hamilton pitted on lap 34, also for a fresh set of soft Pirellis. Meanwhile, Ricciardo managed to overtake Sebastian, who was already struggling with his out-worn tyres. Kimi pitted from the lead a lap later. The Iceman went for an alternative tyre strategy, as he switched to the red-walled super-soft compound. And after re-joining the track, Kimi's pace was unbelievable! The Iceman was driving like "in the good old days"! In only a few laps the storming Kimi closed the gap to his teammate Sebastian, moving past his teammate. The next target Ricciardo in P3 was eight seconds ahead.

Bottas pitted on lap 40 for the second time. But what a catastrophe the pit stop turned out, as there was a 6-second delay due to an issue with the jack! The unfortunate Finn re-joined the track on super-softs, dropping down to P9. Ferrari reacted right away and called Sebastian in. Sebastian suffered his 5-second time penalty and switched to the purple-marked ultra-softs. Luckily the German didn't lose any positions due to his second pit stop, in spite of the penalty.

By lap 46 the flying Kimi had closed the gap to Ricciardo, who was suffering from severe under-steering. A lap later Kimi made a staggering overtaking move on the Australian and jumped third! Wow, what a great drive from Kimi! With only a few laps to go, the front-left tyre of Stroll's Williams suddenly blew up in high speed, causing virtual safety car. Due to the virtual safety car, there were no more overtaking moves in the dying moments of the French GP. Hamilton crossed the finish line as the dominant race winner, for the 65th time in his career. Verstappen drove another flawless race, finishing the runner-up. I was so happy about the Dutchman's success after the mistake-filled beginning of the season. Max definitely showed all the skeptics, that he is able to turn difficulties into success! I was also very happy for Kimi, who made it on the podium after a strong race. Ricciardo finished fourth for Red Bull and Sebastian had to settle for P5, which was actually a great result after the costly mistake at the start. Magnussen finished 6th for Haas and Bottas was 7th in the end. At the end of the day, the predicted rain never came! Some people say, that the 5-second time penalty wasn't hard enough for Sebastian's manoeuvre, but at the end of the day, Sebastian did lose his lead in the championship standings due to the mistake of his own! So in my opinion the mistake came with quite a high price!

I'm proud of Sebastian, who admitted his mistake after the race and had apologized to Bottas straight away for ruining his race. Now, instead of leading the championship standings by one point, the German is 14 points down on Hamilton. Mercedes also increased their lead by six points in the constructors' championship standings (Mercedes 237 / Ferrari 214). However, the French GP was only the beginning of the first triple header in the F1 history, so F1 will be back already next weekend in Austria! Can't wait for the Red Team to bounce back!

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