Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

sunnuntai 27. toukokuuta 2018

Monaco GP: Ricciardo got his redemption!

Although the narrow streets of Monte Carlo offer almost no chances of overtaking, the Monaco GP has usually offered a lot of entertainment due to safety car episodes and costly mistakes made by drivers. However, today's GP was an exception to that, as it turned out to be quite a boring race with no real drama. Nothing dramatic or thrilling happened, not even at the start. Ricciardo on pole took a perfect start and held on to his lead. Sebastian followed his ex teammate closely, with Hamilton and Kimi behind him. Actually the order of the whole top ten remained unchanged at the start. It was amazing, how clean a start the whole pack took, as there were no first-lap collisions! Verstappen, who had started to the race from the very back of the grid, managed to gain two positions right away. The Dutchman seemed determined to climb up the pack position by position. By lap eight, Max had already made his way up to P14.

Hamilton was the first driver in trouble with the hyper-soft tyres, and the Briton pitted already on lap 13. He switched to the purple-marked ultra-soft compound. At this point it really seemed, that Hamilton was on a two-stop strategy, as the early pit stop would have meant driving 60 laps on the ultra-softs, had the Briton been on a one-stopper! Hamilton re-joined the track in P6. Sebastian pitted three laps later, opting for the ultra-soft compound as well. The German Ferrari ace re-joined the track in P3, ahead of Bottas. The race leader Ricciardo pitted as well, for a fresh set of ultra-soft Pirellis and re-joined the track in the lead. Both Finns drove into the pits, too. Kimi opted for the ultra-soft compound, similar to his teammate. Bottas, however, switched to the red-marked super-soft rubber, after struggling massively on the softest compound. After re-joining the track, Bottas' pace on the fresh super-softs was extremely convincing and he was rapidly closing the gap to Hamilton and Kimi.

Around the halfway point of the race, Ricciardo was suddenly hit with a technical issue, and the Australian was losing power. Sebastian had closed the gap to Ricciardo, making it within DRS distance from the "Smiling Avenger". However, overtaking in Monaco is extremely difficult, even though the driver ahead of you has technical issues! In spite of Ricciardo´s technical woes Sebastian was unable to make a move on the race leader Ricciardo.

Verstappen pitted after completing 45 laps on the ultra-softs, and re-joined the track in P11. Ricciardo's pace in the lead left a lot to hope for, and his teammate was four seconds a lap faster on his fresh hyper-softs! With 25 laps to go, the top five drivers were all within five seconds! Verstappen was driving a brilliant race with no mistakes. He had a tight battle with Renault's Sainz for P9, the Dutchman finally getting the upper hand on the Spaniard.

The most dramatic moment of the race happened six laps before the chequered flag. Sauber's Leclerc was suddenly hit with a brake failure, which made the Monegasque to crash into Hartley's Toro Rosso. The crash destroyed the New Zealander's rear wing, and both drivers were out of the race. Virtual safety car was deployed. In spite of the virtual safety car, the top drivers stayed out despite their extremely worn tyres.

Virtual safety car ended with five laps to go. Ricciardo pulled out a five-second gap to Sebastian, who was struggling badly with his out-worn tyres. The Australian got his redemption, as he crossed the finish line as the race winner for the first time in Monaco! Sebastian finished the runner-up, with Hamilton completing the podium. It was amazing, that Hamilton was able to make the one-stop strategy work. Kimi finished fourth and Bottas fifth; this was the first time this season, that there were no Finns on the podium. Ocon finished stunning sixth for Force India, and Gasly made it a brilliant P7 for Toro Rosso. Renault's Hulkenberg, Red Bull's Verstappen and Renault's Sainz rounded out the top ten. Finishing in the points was an excellent result for Max, who had had a catastrophic Saturday due to the mistake of his own.

Sebastian decreased the gap to Hamilton in the drivers' championship standings, but by three points only. Hamilton now has 110 points to Sebastian's 96. Thanks to his victory, Ricciardo moved third with 72 points. Bottas is fourth with 68 points and Kimi fifth with 60 points. Mercedes' lead shrank into 22 points in the constructors' standings. With Ricciardo's superb win, Red Bull strengthened their position as the third best team.

Two weeks ago in Barcelona Mercedes was the team to beat. In Monaco the tables turned again, and Red Bull was the dominating team. In a fortnight the F1 circus will move to Canada. What might be the pecking order of the top teams at Montreal? Hopefully it will be the start of the season-lasting red empire!

Monaco GP / Qualifying: Second career pole for Ricciardo with an epic new track record!

Yesterday was a perfect day to watch the qualifying. I was sitting on the porch of our lakeside sauna. My twin sister was heating the sauna, while I concentrated on watching the qualifying on my cell phone. There´s no better scent in the summer than smoke coming out of the chimney, as the sauna is heated. The weather was as brilliant as it was in Monaco; the sun was shining and there were blue skies and +25 degrees Celsius. For that moment I was able to forget all my worries, and it was all about the shootout for Monaco pole.

Because I had been swimming earlier, I had missed the third free practice session. And what a dramatic session it had been for Red Bull´s Verstappen! With only 10 minutes remaining, the flying Dutchman had crashed his RB14 into the barrier! It had been almost an identical shunt to the one he had had two years earlier. The shunt proved extremely costly for Verstappen, as his RB14 needed a gearbox change, and the team proved unable to fix the car in time for the qualifying. I can only imagine, how devastated Max must have felt, as Red Bull had proved stunning pace, having topped all free practice session in the streets of the Municipality! So Max´s mistake-filled season seemed to continue, and the Dutchman had no choice but to witness his teammate´s outstanding pace in the garage.

All cars came out on the pink-marked hyper-softs right away, as Q1 got underway. Traffic is always a significant factor in the narrow streets of Monaco, so everyone wanted to set a banker lap already at the beginning of the session. Ricciardo continued his ultimate top form in the qualifying. Ferrari turned out to be Red Bull´s closest challenger, but in Q1 Ricciardo was massive four tenths adrift! Mercedes, which had been the team to beat two weeks ago in Barcelona, was now the distinct third-best team. Bottas escaped the drop zone not until at the very end of the first segment, jumping third. In addition to Verstappen, out of Q2 were Toro Rosso´s Hartley, Sauber´s Ericsson, Williams' Stroll and Haas' Magnussen. In turn Williams' Sirotkin stood out of the crowd by being 8th fastest, as well as the other Sauber of home hero Leclerc, who made it 9th in Q1.

In Q2 Mercedes chose to fit both Hamilton and Bottas with the ultrasoft tyres, while everyone else opted for the pink-marked hyper-soft compound. However, Hamilton reported on the team radio, that the tyres were "terrible", so the Mercedes drivers were forced to switch to the softest rubber for their second runs. Once again, Ricciardo shone alongside with the sun and topped the timesheets. Kimi showed top form as well, being only a tenth down on the Honey Badger. Sebastian was third and Hamilton fourth. Renault's Hulkenberg was the first driver to miss out on the last session. Out of Q3 were also McLaren's Vandoorne, Williams' Sirotkin, Sauber's Leclerc and Haas' Grosjean.

Ricciardo smashed the track record again in the final session. The Australian was the only driver to break into the 1m 10s, taking the provisional pole by 0.45s to Hamilton! It was extremely tight between Hamilton, Sebastian and Kimi, who were all within five thousandths of a second! Sebastian improved on his second run to jump Hamilton and go second quickest. The Briton had briefly set the timing screens purple in sector one on his final run, but in the end faded as the lap went on. But the day belonged to the Red Bull ace Ricciardo, whose first time lap was fast enough to make it on pole. The gap to Sebastian was two tenths. Hamilton qualified third and Kimi completed the second row. Bottas had to settle for P5, which is the lowest grid slot for the Finn since the season-opening Australian GP. Ocon made it stunning P6 for the pink Force India. McLaren's Alonso, Renault's Sainz, Force India's Perez and Toro Rosso's Gasly rounded out the top ten.

This was only the second career pole for the smiling Australian. The Honey Badger had made it on pole in Monaco two years ago, but Red Bull messed up his pit stop in the race, robbing him of the victory. This time Ricciardo definitely wants to turn the bitter memory into a glorious victory with a shoey. Teammate Verstappen, on the other hand, will start to the race from the very back of the grid. Overtaking chances are very tenuous in Monaco, so making it on the podium seems almost like a mission impossible for Max. Safety car usually plays a major role, as there´s no room for mistakes in the Municipality. The walls are close everywhere, and you have to keep up your concentration 100 %... Ferrari's only chance to beat the flying Ricciardo is to have more genius pit stop strategy than the Austrian team. But I believe in the red team from all my heart. I'm sure anything is possible in the glamorous Monte Carlo!

maanantai 14. toukokuuta 2018

Spanish GP: Mercedes bounced back by taking 1-2!

After the first four races of the season I believed strongly, that Ferrari was the team to beat this season. Having said that, Mercedes bounced back massively at Barcelona. The Silver Arrows took their first front row lock-out of the season in qualifying, with Hamilton edging teammate Bottas by four hundredths of a second only! Ferrari had topped the timesheets in Q2, where all top three teams had opted for the yellow-marked soft Pirellis. But when it came down to the shootout for pole, Mercedes had the upper hand on the red team. Pirelli had renewed the tyres for the Spanish GP weekend, which led to an interesting tyre strategy in the final segment. Both Ferrari aces had had a tame first attempt, and both Kimi and Sebastian opted for the soft compound on their last run, as did Red Bull´s Ricciardo, too. Sebastian pipped teammate Kimi to 3rd, by a clear margin of three tenths. Red Bull locked down the third row, with Verstappen edging his Australian teammate by two thousandths of a second only! It was confusing, how small a margin there was between the soft and super-soft compound. Magnussen made a convincing job by finishing 7th for Haas, and Alonso qualified 8th for McLaren. Renault's Sainz and Haas' Grosjean rounded out the top ten.

Due to the teams' Q2 tyre strategy, Alonso was the only top ten driver to start to the race on the red-marked super-soft compound. The most exciting moment of the Spanish GP was the start. Hamilton on pole took an excellent start and maintained his lead. Sebastian in P3 took a rocket start and passed Bottas, who had started on the dirtier side of the track. Kimi maintained his fourth place, and the Iceman was followed by the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Ricciardo. Turn 3 was a true action zone further down in the pack. Haas' Grosjean lost control of his car and spun. But instead of hitting the brake pedal, the Frenchman kept his foot on the throttle, trying to spin his car back on the track. This led into a dangerous-looking situation, as both Gasly's Toro Rosso and Hulkenberg's Renault crashed into recklessly spinning Grosjean. All three were out of the race, and safety car was deployed, as there were loads of debris on the track. Sauber's Leclerc had had a stunning opening lap, as the Monegasque had gained five positions and was already in 9th.

The re-start took place on lap 6, and the pecking order of the top eight drivers remained unchanged. Hamilton started to bang amazing lap times, which no one else was able to match. Circuit de Catalunya is known for very limited chances for overtaking, so Bottas, either wasn't able to challenge Sebastian for P3. Hamilton's pace was in a class of his own. The Briton was half a second faster than his rivals, so Mercedes really had found their missing pace!

Sebastian opened the pit stop roulette on lap 17. He pitted for a fresh set of white-marked medium Pirellis, and re-joined the track in P7. Bottas drove into the pits a couple of laps later, opting for a similar tyre choice to Sebastian, but the Finn's pit stop took 1.5s too long. Due to Bottas' delayed pit stop, Sebastian managed to stay ahead of the Finn. However, black clouds started to gather upon Ferrari on lap 25, as Kimi's SF71-H was hit with a technical failure. Kimi's superb P2 turned into a bitter DNF, and the Iceman had no choice but to drive into the pits and retire. Meanwhile, Hamilton pitted for a fresh set of medium Pirellis, re-joining the track in P2. Red Bull's Verstappen was now leading the race.

The Red Bulls pitted on the sequential laps, Ricciardo on lap 35 and Verstappen on lap 36, both opting for the hardest compound. Hamilton was back in the lead, with Sebastian second and Bottas third. Lap 42 saw a surprising turn, as Sebastian pitted for the second time, for another set of medium Pirellis. Everything didn't go to plan in terms of the pit stop, and it cost the German a couple of extra seconds. Virtual safety car had been deployed due to Ocon's power unit failure. This strategic call with the delay made Sebastian drop down to P4, behind Bottas and Verstappen. Ferrari seemed to have expected Mercedes to make second pit stops as well. However, Mercedes didn't call their drivers in despite the virtual safety car!

By that point it had seemed, that Verstappen was finally driving a clean race after the mistake-filled first four races. But on lap 43 there was an inconceivable situation, where the Dutchman crashed into the rear of Stroll's Williams, causing an end plate damage on the Dutchman's front wing. This looked like an open opportunity for Sebastian to get past the flying Dutchman. However, in spite of the front wing damage, Verstappen´s pace remained amazingly competitive.

With ten laps to go, Hamilton had very a dominant lead of 17 seconds over his Finnish teammate. Verstappen was third and Sebastian fourth. It seemed impossible to get within DRS distance from the driver ahead, so there were no tight battles for positions at Circuit de Catalunya, which made the Spanish GP quite boring honestly. Ricciardo, who finished 5th for Red Bull, was the last driver on the same lap with the race winner Hamilton. Magnussen (Haas), Sainz (Renault), Alonso (McLaren), Perez (Force India) and Leclerc (Sauber) were all a lap down already. This was the first 1-2 for Mercedes this season, and it came in a dominant way. I was happy to see Verstappen on the podium, because he really needed a great result! But I would have wanted to see Sebastian there as well...

The turning point in the race was the second pit stop, which was costly for Sebastian. Hadn't it been delayed, Sebastian would have made it on the podium. But obviously it was a wrong tactical call from the red team, as Mercedes managed to make the one-stop strategy work. By winning the second successive race, Hamilton increased his lead to Sebastian into 17 points in the drivers' championship standings. Bottas in 3rd is now 20 points down on Sebastian, and Kimi in 4th is 10 points down on his fellow countryman. Mercedes now seems to be back on top form and the team to beat, as the Silver Arrows have a 27-point gap to Ferrari in the constructors' championship standings. The red team definitely have some home work to do before going to the legendary Monaco!

keskiviikko 9. toukokuuta 2018

This time next year: The dream of interviewing the F1 champion Sebastian Vettel

Me (in the right), Laura and Ellen Jokikunnas, who was the hostess of This time next year. The photo was taken during the first filming day in February 2017.

You, who read my blog, already know that I had a unique chance to sit down with the F1 champion Sebastian Vettel and interview him for my blog during the 2017 Russian GP. In case you've missed the interview, you can read it here But here's the story behind the dream!

I was one of the 80 Finnish people to take part in the TV programme named This time next year. This time next year is an international TV format about ordinary people making their dreams come true. Dreams vary from losing weight to learning to walk again. I heard about this TV programme in December 2016, when the ITV Studios started to search people for this programme. My identical twin sister sent an application for the programme, and I followed her example almost right away! As, for eight years, I had had a dream of meeting and interviewing the quadruple F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel! My desire was not to  be a part of a TV programme but to get a chance to make my dream come true. I had tried to turn my dream into reality already a couple of times before but it hadn't worked out. I heard my heart tenderly whispering to me, that this time my dream was going to come true for real.

It was a bizarre moment, when I decided to write the application for the TV programme. Me and my twin sister Laura were to attend a gig of Antti Tuisku, who is said to be the biggest pop star in Finland. Since Laura is a huge fan of Antti, we were sitting in front of the stage already a couple of hours before the gig started. I surfed on my cell phone, and since I had two hours to "kill", I decided to fill in the application form!

I got a phone call from the ITV Studios later on in December, when I was wrapping up Christmas presents at home. The caller was absolutely thrilled about my dream. I had a hunch, that not many people in Finland dreamed about meeting the F1 driver Sebastian Vettel... Actually it turned out, that I was the only participant with an F1 related dream. The official confirmation of being selected as one of the participants in the TV programme came at the beginning of January 2017.

The first filming day took place in February 2017. It was a memorable day indeed. I headed to the studio with Laura, and we both had our stomachs filled with butterflies. Apart from my wedding day, I have never had a make-up done on me. It was really exciting to sit in front of a live audience and say the dream out loud: This time next year I have met and interviewed the F1 champion Sebastian Vettel! Me and Laura, we've always had our heads in the clouds and dreamed big. Laura's dream, too, was everything but a modest one: she wanted to become one of Antti Tuisku's official show dancers!

Things evolved much more rapidly than I had expected in my wildest dreams. On April 7 I was sitting in the waiting room at the dentist with my youngest son, and I decided to check my e-mail. And what an e-mail there was! I had received a message from Sebastian's PR manager Britta Roeske. She wanted to know, if I'd be able to make it in the Russian GP in two weeks! That was the moment, when it hit me: my dream was really about to come true! There were many things to arrange: apply for the visa (which was a lot more complicated than I had thought), book the flights and the hotel, write down the questions for the interview and buy the tickets for the GP! You can read all about my once-in-a-lifetime trip to Russia here

The second filming day took place at the end of January 2018. An awful lot had happened in those 12 months between the two filming days! It was amazing to sit in the studio in front of the live audience and look back at that fairy-tale like trip. But the year hadn't been only about dreams coming true. The very same year had seen my worst nightmare come true as well, as in October 2017 my 11-year-old son had been diagnosed with cancer. However, making my dream come true has given me a huge amount of positive energy and strength to face all the difficulties in life.

The TV programme was aired last Thursday here in Finland. I have to admit it was kind of awkward to see myself on the TV screen! Without the passion for making my dream come true, I wouldn't have decided to take part in a TV programme. However, by taking part in This time next year, I hope to have set an example, that dreams are there to be chased. There's no dream too big! It's amazing what kind of dreams can be turned into reality, if you have the passion to throw yourself into them. So dream big! And get inspired by persons you look up to!

Me (in the middle), Laura and the wonderful hostess Ellen Jokikunnas in the studio on the second filming day in January 2018.

sunnuntai 29. huhtikuuta 2018

Azerbaijan GP: First win of the season for Hamilton in an action-packed race!

Conditions at the Baku Street Circuit were extremely windy, as the lights went out. Sebastian on pole got an impressive start, and the German stormed to the lead. He was followed by the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Bottas. Kimi, who started on the ultrasofts from P6, got an awesome start, and the Iceman was right at Verstappen´s tail. However, Ocon in his Force India was challenging Kimi, going into Turn 3. The Frenchman ended up hitting Kimi´s SF71-H, which caused significant damage to the Iceman´s front wing. Ocon himself had to retire the race due to the collision. Williams´ Sirotkin, too, faced a DNF already on the opening lap. Safety car was deployed right away, as two cars had stopped on the track. Kimi had to pit for a new front wing, and he switched to the yellow-marked soft Pirellis. The unscheduled pit stop dropped the Iceman down to P14. Kimi´s race definitely hadn´t started the way I had hoped for!

The re-start took place on lap 6. Sebastian held on to his lead with determination. Further down the pack both Verstappen and Renault´s Sainz managed to make it past Ricciardo. Kimi had taken a convincing re-start as well; in a couple of laps the Iceman had already made his way up to P11. The yellow Renaults of Sainz and Hulkenberg were absolutely flying around the Baku Street Circuit in a way never seen this season! Sainz was challenging Verstappen for P4, and the Spaniard managed to make it past the flying Dutchman. Hulkenberg followed his teammate´s example and passed Verstappen a lap later. The Red Bull ace was seriously in trouble with his pace. Renault´s pace was incredible; who could have predicted to see the Renault teammates in 4th and 5th? However, Hulkenberg´s joy was very premature, as on lap 10 the German made a rarely-seen mistake and ended up hitting the wall, which caused a puncture and ended his race.

The Red Bull teammates were having a heated battle of their own for P5. Ricciardo was extremely hungry to overtake his teammate, but the hot-headed Dutchman was stubborn to defend his position by any means necessary. On lap 11 they even banged their wheels, when Ricciardo made a move, but luckily neither one of the drivers got damage to his RB14. However, this was only the beginning of an adrenaline-filled battle, which had severe consequences...

Sebastian and Hamilton banged fastest lap times alternately. On lap 21, however, the Briton pushed a bit too hard, locking up his front tyres. The mistake made the gap to Sebastian increase into seven seconds already. Due to a flat spot on his tyres, the reigning world champion had no choice but to pit for a fresh set of soft Pirellis, re-joining the track in P3. Sebastian pitted on lap 30 for a similar tyre choice to Hamilton. Bottas was now leading the race, as Sebastian re-joined the track in P2. Bottas´ pace was excellent, and it seemed, that the Finn was going to drive a very long first stint.

The battle between the passionate Red Bull teammates was continually ongoing. On lap 34 Ricciardo smelled his teammate´s blood and made a bold move, moving past Verstappen! However, the Australian pitted a few laps later, with his teammate pitting a lap after Ricciardo. Both Red Bull drivers opted for a fresh set of ultrasoft tyres. Verstappen´s pit stop strategy proved more successful, as the Dutchman re-joined the track ahead of teammate Ricciardo. This meant one thing only; Ricciardo had a desperate mission to overtake his hard-fighting teammate for the second time!

Lap 39 saw a dramatic turn; something that had been "floating in the air" for the entire race. Ricciardo decided to make a move on his teammate, who ended up changing his line twice at the braking. Ricciardo hit the rear of Verstappen´s Red Bull, which wiped both Red Bulls out of the race! What a catastrophic turn for the Austrian-based team! A true worst-case scenario indeed! Safety car was deployed, and all top drivers pitted for a fresh set of ultrasoft Pirellis. Magically, Mercedes had made the most genius strategic call, and against all odds, Bottas had taken the lead in the race! Sebastian was second, Hamilton third and Kimi fourth.

There was a bizarre-looking incident behind safety car, as Haas´ Grosjean got caught by surprise by the low grip caused by the cold tyres. All of a sudden the Frenchman lost control of his car and ended up into the wall. This brought even more debris on the track, which meant more laps behind the safety car. The safety car came in with only five laps to go. Sebastian was hungry to get back in the lead. Too hungry! Going into Turn 1 on the cold tyres, Sebastian was way too optimistic about his braking, and he went wide. This move turned very costly for Sebastian, as he lost positions to Hamilton and Kimi. In a blink of an eye Sebastian had dropped from P2 down to P4! It really hurt my heart to see this happening!

Had Sebastian had a little more patience, he would have won the race! As three laps before the chequered flag the race-leading Bottas suddenly suffered a rear-right puncture after hitting debris on the finish straight! What a cruel turn for the Finn, who hadn´t put a foot wrong in the race! However, a much desired win turned into a bitter DNF. On the closing laps Force India´s Perez managed to make it past Sebastian as well, which worsened the consequences of the German´s greedy move. Due to Bottas´ puncture teammate Hamilton crossed the finish line as the race winner, with Kimi second and Perez third. I was very happy for Kimi, who had had a difficult start to the race but who finally had "luck" on his side. Due to the mistake of his own, Sebastian had to settle for P4. However, Perez is still under investigation by the stewards for a DRS infringement. Sainz finished 5th for Renault. Sauber´s Leclerc was the well-deserved Driver of the Day, as the rookie made it 6th in the race. Another positive surprise was Williams´ Stroll, who finished 8th behind McLaren´s Alonso.

Hamilton´s first win of the season made the Briton move at the top of the drivers´ championship standings. Hamilton has now 70 points to Sebastian´s 66 points. Kimi is third with 48 points and his compatriot Bottas fourth with 40 points. Ferrari has taken the lead in the constructors´ championship standings with 114 points to Mercedes´ 110. So Sebastian´s venturesome move came with a high price. With hindsight it´s easy to say, that he should have had more patience and that he should have waited for a better chance for overtaking. But no way he could have known, that Bottas was about to suffer a puncture a lap later... I admire Sebastian for his passionate attitude towards racing, even though it sometimes leads into mistakes. But I have to say I was so gutted for him, finishing the race in P4! In Australia safety car worked for him, but today was a different story.

It would be extremely interesting to be present at Red Bull´s debriefing tonight! There´s no denying it; Verstappen´s season has been a disaster so far. The man has raw speed and exceptional talent, but there have simply been too many thoughtless mistakes this season! If he wants to improve and become a world champion one day, he has to take a good look in the mirror and learn from his mistakes. He can´t make his personal interest a priority, putting the team´s interest aside! If Max can overcome these difficulties, he has no doubt a great future ahead of him.

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!

maanantai 16. huhtikuuta 2018

Chinese GP: Verstappen destroyed Sebastian´s race!

Yesterday´s Chinese GP was... quite a race! I had looked forward to a red-coloured race. I have to say I "saw red" during the race, but not in the way I had hoped for!

Drama started to unravel already at the start. Kimi in P2 got a better start than teammate Sebastian on pole. Sebastian saw that and made things uncomfortable for Kimi by blocking him, going into Turn 1. Due to Sebastian´s move Kimi first lost a position to his compatriot Bottas and then also to Red Bull´s Verstappen, who had started to the race on the ultrasoft compound! Sebastian had hoped that the red team would have maintained their double lead after the start, but in reality his move had led to a very different situation. However, I really can´t blame Sebastian for his move. Every driver concentrates on his own race and in the heat of the start it´s impossible to predict, what kind of consequences a certain move might have. However, Kimi had dropped down from P2 to P4. Hamilton was fifth.

Sebastian was controlling the race in the lead, as Bottas was already three seconds adrift. Verstappen seemed unable to match the Finn´s pace and was already eight seconds down. Kimi, on the other hand, wasn´t fast enough to challenge the Dutchman for P3. At this point everything looked so promising for Sebastian!

Red Bull opened the pit stop roulette in terms of the top teams on lap 18. And what a pit stop strategy the energy drink team had! They made a double stop, as both Verstappen and Ricciardo drove into the pits on the very same lap. It was an impressive effort from the Red Bull team to make two stops in a row! Both Red Bull aces opted for the white-marked medium Pirellis, which indicated a one-stop race for them. Hamilton pitted on the following lap, and teammate Bottas a lap after his teammate. Both Silver Arrows switched to the hardest compound as well. Sebastian and Kimi now had a double lead in the race.

However, Ferrari had no choice but to react to Mercedes´ strategy, and they called Sebastian in. But Bottas benefitted from the undercut, making the Finn snatch the lead, as Sebastian re-joined the track on a fresh set of medium Pirellis. Sebastian was right at the Finn´s tail, but Bottas seemed to have a grasp on the victory. At this point it seemed, that Ferrari were going to "sacrifice" Kimi´s race to increase Sebastian´s chances to win the race. Kimi stayed out on the worn tyres, although his lap times were significantly slower than the top two´s.

By lap 26 Bottas and Sebastian had closed the gap to Kimi. The Iceman did everything he could to hold his compatriot back, to give his teammate a chance to overtake the Finnish Mercedes ace. However, a lap later Bottas made a classy move on Kimi and took the lead. Sebastian moved ahead of his teammate immediately and attacked Bottas, but the Finn defended his position like a lion.

Kimi pitted not until on lap 28 for a fresh set of medium tyres. At this point it seemed, that the Iceman´s race was ruined. He re-joined the track in P6, 10 seconds behind Red Bull´s Ricciardo. I was sad for Kimi, as he had lost two positions at the start due to his teammate´s move, and now the team "sacrificed" his race to make his teammate win. That´s F1 racing but it didn´t sound very fair!

Lap 30 was the turning point in the race. There was a weird-looking incident, where the Toro Rosso teammates collided in Turn 14. Gasly hit his teammate Hartley, leaving a lot of debris on the track. After the race it turned out to be a miscommunication issue, as the teammates were to switch places at some point of the race, and Gasly thought Hartley would give way in Turn 14. However, the Toro Rosso collision brought safety car out, and Gasly was handed a 10-second time penalty for causing the collision. Bottas and Sebastian had already passed the pit entry, when safety car was deployed, but Red Bull reacted right away and called their drivers in for another double stop. Both Verstappen and Ricciardo opted for a fresh set of yellow-marked soft tyres, which was a genius strategy. Due to the Red Bull duo´s pit stops Hamilton moved third and Kimi fifth.

The re-start took place on lap 35. Bottas made an excellent job and held on to his lead. Soon Kimi was in trouble with Ricciardo, who was on the fresh soft tyres. There was a huge difference in terms of the grip of those two cars, and there was nothing Kimi could do to prevent the Australian to attack him. Ricciardo made a stunning move and passed Kimi. Meanwhile Ricciardo´s teammate Verstappen was challenging Hamilton for P3. But once again the flying Dutchman was lacking patience, and he made a move in an undoable place! Verstappen went off and dropped down to P5. Unfortunately this was only the first stupid move from the Dutch Red Bull ace!

Ricciardo was absolutely flying on his fresh soft tyres, and on lap 40 the Honey Badger made a move on Hamilton and passed the reigning world champion! I can only imagine, what was going through Sebastian´s mind at that time. Also Verstappen had made it past Hamilton, and both Red Bull drivers were storming towards the lead... On lap 42 Sebastian´s nightmare materialised, as his ex teammate Ricciardo stormed past the German, claiming P2 already. The Australian was utterly on flames! He had already smelled Bottas´ blood and the chase had begun!

With 13 laps to go, Verstappen made his second mistake, which had dramatic consequences. Max made a thoughtless overtaking move on Sebastian in Turn 6, ending up crashing into Sebastian´s SF71-H! That was a stupid move, which cost both drivers dearly! However, due to this collision, Kimi´s race was saved, as the Iceman moved third. Verstappen was given a 10-second time penalty for causing the collision. I was proud of Sebastian, who kept his head cool and said on the team radio, that he didn´t even need to comment Verstappen´s manoeuvre.

Meanwhile, there was a dramatic turn in the lead. With some ten laps to go, Ricciardo had hunted down Bottas, who had no chance to defend his lead on the worn medium tyres. What a rise the Australian had made after the safety car, making his way from P6 to the lead! Ricciardo crossed the finish line as the race winner. The Finns had a tight fight for P2, but Bottas had the upper hand and finished the runner-up, with Kimi completing the podium. I was very happy for the Iceman; he definitely deserved the podium finish! Hot-headed Verstappen finished in P4, and the 10-second penalty cost him one position only, dropping him in 5th behind Hamilton. Hulkenberg finished 6th for Renault. Poor Sebastian was struggling badly after the collision, and the German got passed by McLaren´s Alonso on the second last lap, finishing in modest P8. What a huge injustice, that in spite of the penalty, Verstappen finished the race ahead of Sebastian!

I have looked up to Max Verstappen a lot in the past. I´ve admired him for his courageous moves and his passion on track. Unfortunately there´s only a thin line between courageous moves and stupid manoeuvres. I was so angry at Verstappen after the collision! However, Max saved my respect for him by his action after the race. Max humbly admitted his mistake and had apologised to Sebastian immediately after the race. Max certainly knew, that without the stupid move, he would have been there to fight for the victory with his teammate! Sebastian kept his head cool and didn´t start calling Max any names after the race. Sebastian has had outbursts of his own in the past, so he was wise enough to understand, that these things can happen sometimes. But still, it was so unfair, that Max finished the race ahead of Sebastian!

Sebastian now has 54 points in the drivers´ championship standings, whilst Hamilton has 45 points. Bottas in third has 40 points and Ricciardo in fourth has 37. Kimi has now 30 points. The situation in terms of the constructors´ standings is extremely interesting, as Mercedes leads by one point only! Red Bull in third is now 30 points down on Mercedes.

The round 4 takes the F1 circus to Baku, Azerbaijan, which was the venue of huge drama last year. Let´s see, what the grand prix holds this year.