Just a quick race report today. My buddy Alexander and I have been discussing and analyzing the first corner incident extensively. The bottom line is that Kimi saved Vettel a couple of times last year in similar situations. He backed off to save Vettel because Vettel was in front. And Vettel in the same situation today – well, he did not.
Kimi did run wide but was still in front. But Sebastian was pushing so hard to pass Kimi on the inside that replays shows he even lost his rear a bit and had to correct. Up comes Kvyat on the inside. Which is where Vettel should have braked hard to avoid contact. Kvyat saw a gap and went for it. Not much to criticize there. He may have gone in too hot that would have gotten him in danger of contact with Kimi as well if Vettel hadn’t been there. But hard to say. Which is apparent from Arrivabenes statement as well. He practically exonerated Kvyat and with that is actually implying that Vettel was the man that should have been smarter.
And Vettel shows that he knows it all too well by his actions. Apologizing on the radio. Desperately trying to blame Kvyat on the radio and in front of the cameras. I am not impressed. And I doubt Kimi is either. I hope Vettel gets it thoroughly in debriefing.
Having said that, Kimi made a stellar recovery. He was dead last twice and still finished 5th. After the crash he was 22nd. And after his second stop he was dead last as well. And it’s not like that there were any free places given away by retirements. All 22 cars finished. Which amazingly is only the 6th time that has happened in Formula 1 since 1950. Thankfully, there was a safety car that helped him out a bit.
Highlights was Kimi passing Snot-ass like it was nothing. And people wanted Bottas to replace Kimi? Don’t make me laugh. And Kimi keeping Hamilton behind him like a boss. And when Kimi came up behind Hamilton towards the end of the race, he made minced meat of the poser. #Blessed
Kimi jumps out of the car and we see Vettel desperately trying to explain his idiocy to Kimi. Kimi nods and keeps walking. Ain’t nobody got time fo that! I’ve had it with Vettel. Kimi has had the better of him so far this season. Even with Ferrari putting most of their efforts and support behind the German. And Vettel is feeling scared. And fear leads to anger. And anger leads to making ridiculous moves in the race. And that leads to suffering for the fans.
Right. I just have to get this off my chest. The penalty for Kimi was bullshit and I will explain why a little further down.
The weekend in Russia was a strange one. Almost no running on Friday due to rain and diesel and what not. Some running on Saturday that saw Kimi clinch 5th on the grid with an ok qualifying.
When the lights went out on Sunday, the start Kimi pulled off was to be symptomatic for his entire race. And I mean that in a good way. He gets a great start, beating Vettel off the line and also getting past Bottas with a better exit through turn 2. Now running in 3rd behind Hamilton with Rosberg leading. Unfortunately, the safety car is called out due to Hulkenberg spinning and taking Ericsson with him.
Safety Car goes in and the restart is on. Kimi seems to have no speed at all down the straight and is a sitting duck for Bottas who takes 3rd position back. When Crashjean decides to park his Lotus into the barriers around turn 3, the Safety Car is called out once again.
And its deja vu at the restart. Kimi clearly down on top speed on the straight has to defend from his teammate. Which he does very well. Kimi complains about lack of top speed on the radio. After a good scrap, Vettel dives on the inside of Kimi into turn 2. And this is crucial: Kimi sees Vettel coming and leaves room. He does go wide and keeps his position by cutting the corner. But decides in all fairness to give the position to Vettel after a few corners.
Fast forward to the closing stages of the race. Rosberg retired at the start of the race and Vettel jumped Bottas in the pitstops so he is running second behind Hamilton. Rosberg just can’t seem to catch a break. However, Kimi is fairing better on the softs than the supersofts for some reason and is the quickest in the train of cars fighting for the last podium position.
Bottas finally gets past RIC and so does Kimi a couple of laps later. Only to see the Aussie retire his car shortly after. Perez is ahead due to a clever pit stop after the second Safety Car. But his tires have seen better days and Bottas makes the pass and Kimi shortly after in a feisty move. On the second to last lap! Kimi is not taking any prisoners. It is clear he wants the podium position he had earlier in the race.
Bottas is a lot slower and Kimi goes on the inside of Bottas like he did once before during the race. The difference is that Bottas gave Kimi ample room. This time he doesn’t. He closes the door and Kimi has no where to go but into the Williams. Result: The Finn in the white car retires and the Finn in the red car limps his car across the line in 5th with a broken suspension.
MY 2 CENTS
So here is my beef with the whole thing. Bottas knew full well Kimi was all over the back of him. His mirrors had been full of a red car for a large part of the race. And those final laps even more so. He left the door open at the end of turn 3 and Kimi went for the gap. You have to glance in your mirrors when fighting. There was plenty enough time to leave a little room for Kimi and the fight could have gone on. I suspect that Bottas saw Kimi coming, panicked and closed the door hoping for a miracle.
I stated the following on Twitter, that people always love quoting Sennas speech about if you no longer go for a gap, you are no longer a racing driver. Well, Kimi did that. Because he is a full on racer. In fact, he is probably the last of a kind in todays Formula 1. He is a blast from the past when Formula 1 was a no-nonsense mans sport. Where you raced hard and settled your differences after the race. Today, when a driver actually does live up to Sennas words, people bitch and moan. Because it was not a banzai, reckless move. Kimi said he would have made the turn without any problems. And if Bottas had bothered to look (or he did look and panicked) and leave a space, then the show would have went on. He might even have been able to retake the position.
Consider this. They slap Kimi with a penalty. An extremely hard one at that. 30 seconds even though he already lost 20 seconds due to a broken suspension and 3 license points. Alright. So be it. But how come Ricciardo got Squat. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Nothing. For the
exact same move on Raikkonen in Monaco this year?? Sure, I was mad back then. But there was a gap and Ricciardo took it. Kimi could have closed the door earlier but he didn’t.
Monaco reveals the idiocy of the stewards. Alonso was penalized in Monaco for precisely the same move on Hulkenberg. Why did he get a penalty? Probably because Hulkenberg crashed into the barrier. So the steward logic is – it is okay to make contact, as long as the
other driver doesn’t crash out. That is utter bullshit because some drivers are just better at getting out of a situation than others. It also depends on where it happens. Any move under investigation should be judged primarily by the move itself. If you judge it by how bad it goes for the driver being passed, then it is no different to the play acting of an injury in football. “Oh no! Poor guy. Better hit the other driver hard.” Stupid.
I hope Kimi does exactly the same if he is in the same position. I loved it and I want to see more of it. Senna would have had none of this pussyfooting bull-crap. A toast to Kimi. He was the fighter of the day. And he deserved better. From Bottas and the whiney new-age stewards. Cheers!
Hey guys. Not been active lately as you may have noticed. I was planning to do a post on Kimis year. Like sum it up race by race. To show all the stuff that happened to him in qualifying and in races. But I lacked the time and energy. Some of it is of course down to his qualifying problems and the issue of switching on the tires for that single lap. But many things have been beyond his control and the scoreboard tells an unfair story. It probably sounds like excuses to some people but there really have been crazy freak things happening this year. Things that have robbed Kimi of several podiums and probably also a win. But that’s history now. The Ferrari car and engine is a much much better car than last year but still vastly inferior to the Mercedes and the Mercedes engine as well.
I had contemplated going to Spa for a while and for a couple of reasons. One is of course that Kimi always does well at Spa. The other reason being that Kimi had not been confirmed for 2016 at the time, so it might be the last chance of seeing him race at his favorite playground. Shortly before leaving, Kimi got confirmed for another year at Ferrari however – but that is hardly any reason to change my mind of going 🙂
My review of Spa will be a little different this time because I will try to write it from a spectators point of view. As much as I can that is. And a bit of travel description as well.
So – my decision to go to the Belgian GP was confirmed when I posted this video that I filmed when Kimi competed in Rally Germany in 2010:
What does that have to do with Spa you say? Nothing really. Except that two of my fellow Kimsters, Alexander and Christopher, in the Kimi group made me aware that they were in the video. In fact, they sat right in front of me for the special stage and I didn’t find out until 5 years later 😀 That was kinda funny so we chatted a bit and they convinced me not only to go to Spa along with them – but to go for General Admission. I have done Gen Adm once before. That was in Hungary and it was crap I thought. Maybe because I love my
creature comforts. But Spa is a big – ;correction; – huge place. And I didn’t see a lot of the track when I was there last time in 2012.
Also – I was going alone this time with plenty of time to explore, so why not. I booked with my usual tour company, Select Motor Racing, and reserved a Bronze ticket.
I chose to fly to Amsterdam, Schiphol since Chris was landing there as well. Plan was to hitch the 2,5 hour ride with him down to Maastricht and then find some way to get to my hotel in Valkenburg from there. I was arriving at 7 o’ clock and his plane was due 6 hours later at 13. It’s a bit of a wait but I got my laptop and movies, so I should be fine. Then trouble was brewing. With only a couple of days before travelling, Alex suddenly became quite ill and his entire Spa trip was in jeopardy. We crossed our fingers and hoped for the best on his behalf.
Thursday rolled around. I forced my poor wife and confused daughter out of bed at 5 am and made them drive me to the airport. Thankfully we only live 5 minutes away from our, by international standards, small airport. So she dropped me off at a spot where I could slip through a gate so she wouldn’t have to drive all the way around to the main entrance.
Arrived in AMS on time. Found a spot with power sockets. Checked in on the shenanigans in the Kimi group and to see if my ban finger was itching. Thank goodness for free wifi. Although the speed is more Nissan Leaf than F1. Michi was doing a solid job it seemed so I settled in with a movie. “Bad Words”. Different and pretty hilarious.
Noise cancelling headphones is a good thing as well in a noisy airport. All right. 2 hours passed. Time for some food. After sampling the local Dutch cuisine.. aw heck – It was Burger King, alright..
“Chappie” was next in line. Great flick. Also recommended. Fast forward to arrival time for Chris and his gang. I get a text saying that he has become the victim of food poisoning during the flight (He flew in from the US) and is so stricken that he went straight to
a hotel nearby to recuperate. Poor guy. I really felt for him. But I also felt for me having spent 7 hours in Schiphol airport. But that’s life sometimes. Nothing to do but head to the train station. I don’t like trains but the Dutch railways really surprised me. Very smooth and efficient. A lot cheaper than Norway and even having to change trains twice was no hassle. It was timed perfectly so there were only 6-8 minutes of waiting time between changes. Just time enough to find the track and a seat. Free wifi as well.
Finished watching Chappie and an episode of Pawn Stars. Arrived in Valkenburg after 2 hours 50 minutes. And the hotel is a 3 minute walk from the station. I will do it this way the next time. Well done Dutchies. You sure talk weird, but you have great infrastructure.
Friday morning and its time to get ready. After a nice breakfast buffet, I saddle up with water and some sandwiches in my backpack. The bus leaves at 7.45 to drive to the circuit. Met up yesterday evening with Ciaran from the Kimi group when I arrived at the hotel. So we had decided to do some walking of the track together. I had also been in contact with Pascale so perhaps we could be so lucky to have a sort of a guided tour of the track. Not many people know Spa-Francorchamps better than Pascale. She is there many times a year and has a sort of relationship with the track I think 😉
I know it may sound silly and I am romanticising it for all it’s worth, but wow. When you see Eau Rouge and Radillion for the first time.. Heck, second time, third time. It doesn’t matter. When you pass Bruxelles and overlook the run down to Pouhon. That drop. And
the track is just laying there. Waiting. In a way it is even more majestic when it is silent. I don’t care what people say but it has a presence. It really does. You can feel it if you try. It is just there. Well kept. Good fresh tarmac. And yet you feel the history between its hills and turns. And then the roar of an engine echoes along the track. When you walk up towards the Kemmel straight, there is a spot where the cars come up over Radillion. You hear the noise getting closer and closer. Still nothing. And from out of nowhere they appear over the crest and scream past you like a bat out of hell. I couldn’t help yelling in excitement when I saw that the first time. You see them disappear between the trees and out onto the straight. That was simply magical for me.
Here is my amateur footage filmed on an iPhone.
As Ciaran and I pass Les Combes, we hear a ruckus and see people storming towards the fence with their phones held high. And lo and behold, Maldonado decided to smash into the barrier a couple of hundred yards away. Business as usual.
We finally meet up with my dear friend and Kimi fanatic, Pascale and her daughter Pauline at the Bruxelles (or Rivage if you will) hairpin. What a great spot. First of all, the fence is so low that it doesnt obscure the cars. And second, the cars are so close you can see the hand movements of the drivers in the cockpit. If you wanna walk the track and see different viewpoints, Friday is the day to do it when it is less crowded. The cars roar down from Les Combes and the track has an angle so it is very easy to lock up the inside front wheel. Verstappen did it several times in Free Practice. Or you can just walk 30 meters through the trees to watch the cars accelerate out of Bruxelles and rocket down towards the corner with no name. Stay there during qualifying or the race and you will have a bit of shade. Or a little bit of shelter if there is rain.
We walk on down to Pouhon or double gauche as some call it. No matter what, it is quite the challenge. We watched the GP2 free practice session and you can easily tell that it takes some balls going almost full speed into that turn. Many misjudge and run wide
and even lose the backend. Nice place, I thought. I can see myself watching the race from here.
When the GP2 session is over, Pascale shows us a pleasant shortcut through the woods. It goes from Pouhon and exits close to the chicane/old bus stop. Saves a bunch of time. We watch some of the FP2 there. It is Pascales chosen spot for races as it is close to the podium. It’s good but the general admission area is small so you have to be there when the gates open at around 7 to secure a spot. So not my personal favorite. If I were to watch from there, it would definitely be from the grand stand there. Because there is always something happening. Overtaking. Entrance to the pits. And watching the cars accelerate onto the start/finish straight were particularly fascinating for me. The Porsches look incredibly slow even though they would crush almost any road car except the hypercars. But Formula 1 cars… boy do they pick up speed something fierce. The acceleration after 100 mph is even more impressive.
Oh, and I thought I would touch on sounds a bit. This was my first race with the V6s and I have been a firm hater of the way they sound on TV. Am I a converted man now after hearing them in real life? Eh, not quite. But they do sound a lot better than on TV. They
have a nice throaty race sound to them. From what I have been told they are notably louder than last year. After hearing the screaming V8s in the GP2 cars you kinda feel like you don’t have to use ear plugs for the F1 cars. But after a while.. Yea, you should if you
value your hearing. Basically, the sound is okay. And they will probably get even louder next year. And yet, search for a video with a V10 on Youtube and you will once again mourn what we have lost. That metallic howl is second to none. I loved the V8s as well.
I wanted to view the cars going through Blanchimont so we hiked on down from the chicane. Sure, the cars blast by on full song. And it is impressive to watch. However, you only see them shortly and the fence is tall. So not my fav spot either. The track did look
gorgeous in the sunlight. All of a sudden we can see some smoke up ahead. We rush on and it’s Rosberg having his puncture. He is taking the relatively small walk back to the pits from there. The car is hoisted onto a flatbed truck and taken back to the Mercedes team. We turn around and walk the same direction as the bus for the hotel is leaving at 16.15 and Ciaran and I did not want to miss that. We thank Pascale for her insight and expertise and make our merry way through the village and out through the gates. A wonderful day. The only parts of the tracks we didn’t see were Campus and Stavelot. Next year!
The bus departs at 8 o’clock and arrives at the circuit around 9.45. The traffic is a noticably thicker than yesterday. Kimi whizzes past us in a black Ferrari as we walk towards the entrance to have our tickets scanned. I decided to watch todays action from the large open field on the Kemmel straight. Its easy to find a place on Saturday morning. People bring chairs and seems a smart choice for a Gen Adm goer as it looks like you are able to leave them and find them in the same place. But having a mate or two along to keep watch over things would be wise. You do not leave any valuables around. That should be a given. I brought a cushion that I bought last time around. It’s not a chair but it beats sitting on the grass/dirt.
I manage to connect with Oi, a long time member of the Kimi Fan Club group. She is up at Les Combes but agrees to come watch FP3 with me. After a bit of searching we locate each other. And what do you know – Christopher and Alexander with family also manages to find their way to our sweet spot on the Kemmel, right in front of one of the screens. Both have thankfully almost completely recovered from their illnesses. So we are a merry Kimi bunch following the action together. Good times 🙂 Unfortunately, I completely forgot taking a picture of all of us together. Another thing added to the “next year” list.
During the break and Porsche quali session, we scatter to find some food and agree to meet after. By then the hillside is getting quite full. I move a bit further up towards the larger screen. From there you also have a magnificent view of the paddock, chicane and
start/finish in the background. Binoculars is a smart thing to have. You can see the times on the screen with a pair if need be. Oi finds me but the rest of the guys, being a larger group, had to find a spot about 100 yards further on.
As expectations rise for a good and decent qualifying, they are quickly shattered when I see a red car pulling over to the side and Kimi gesturing to the marshalls to push him towards an exit of the track. I exclaim: “Seriously??” “Are you FREAKING kidding me!!!??” A woman sitting beside me jumps with a fright and gives me a nervous look. I do not pay much attention as I immediately enter into a state of utter shock and depression. Oi San is a lot calmer but also shakes her head in disbelief. I am ready to leave with the first bus for the hotel to lick my wounds and miss the GP2 race. But I gather myself during Q3. Reminding myself that I have travelled to Belgium to be at the greatest race track in the world. So I suck it up and decide to stay.
After qualifying we make our way through the crowd and into the village where we meet Chris and his entourage. His brother Alex had already left as he was not quite running at full steam yet. The village is actually not a bad place to watch from either. You have an awesome view of Eau Rouge, a big screen and plenty of booths with food and drink. So we follow the GP2 race from there. The mood is dampened a lot after de Jong has his horror crash at Blanchimont. Going straight into the tire barrier – and over – at full speed. The race is stopped and the emergency personell is taking an unnervingly long time at the car. My thoughts inevitably drift to Jules Bianchi. We dont get much info as we don’t hear the commentary. We do learn the next day that he had fractured his vertebrae and needed surgery. But was relatively fine otherwise all things considered.
I leave the track to get to the bus. Usually there is water on board but they were all out. So I leave the bus to look around for some vendors that might sell drinks. As I scout around, I hear a voice calling “Soren”. I turn around and see a friendly face I have never seen before asking me, “you are Soren, right? From the Kimi Fan Club?” “Yea, that’s me”. “I’m Holm” he says. And the pieces fall into place. I start remembering seeing him brag in the group about winning a trip to Spa with Shell. So he is in the hospitality zone living it up – the lucky bastard. We take a quick selfie and exchange a few words about Kimis dysmal qualifying before he has to leave. And I have to get back on the bus myself. It’s fun to meet people like that. You have never met them, but you kinda know them and you have something great in common.
I meet up with Ciaran who spent the day up at Les Combes and Bruxelles if I remember correctly. And we talk about war movies on the way to the hotel since we are both avid fans. And I get a crash course in Irish as well. Not always an easy dialect to understand for
a Dane like me, I might add.
Seb Loeb in the Porsche
We leave the same time as yesterday from the hotel but now the roads are so busy that it takes half an hour longer to get there. So we arrive just as the GP3 race is about to end. I find a spot in the middle of Kemmel and watch the second GP2 race from there. I hear that Pascale has found a spot down at the bus stop. So I make my way down there to chat a bit and pass the time. It’s quite a haul but the weather was nice. I have kinda made my mind up to watch the race from either Bruxelles /Rivage hairpin or Pouhon. As we watch the Porsche race, we realize that McDreamy/Patrick Dempsey wasn’t doing so great. Second to last. Sebastian Loeb did a lot better.
I snap a couple of photos of Kimi in the drivers parade and start making my way through the forest to Pouhon. You save a lot of time and do not have to battle the crowds along the edges of the track. If you were suddenly teleported there in a quiet period between events, you would have absolutely no idea that you’re right in the middle of a legendary race track. Cool.
I exit the forest and the track comes into view. Big crowd! People in between the trees. Up in the forest. They can’t see anything from there I think to myself and press on. I walk up the hill and get to the big banking at the beginning of Pouhon. This is good. Now, if I can find a tiny opening between the chairs, I can look for a spot for my cushion and my tiny Danish derriere. Jackpot. It’s big enough so I don’t bother the guy behind me in the chair and I happen to sit myself down right next to a fellow Dane. So we have a little chat in our native tongue before the race. The hill is slanted, so I fold up the front end of my cushion to compensate. Perfect. I’m ready.
The cars go around on their sighting laps. I snap a few photos of Kimi. But I am not good at filming or taking photos during the race. I’m way too caught up. The Honda engine in the McLaren sounds like absolute crap compared to the other cars. The brother of my Danish friend is clearly a McLaren fan and he can’t help shake his head in sheer disappointment almost every time one goes by.
Now the formation lap. Which I have poorly filmed in the linked video further up. The formation lap comes around twice actually due to Hulkenbergs aborted start. People start slow clapping and others join in. Soon the entire hill side are clapping, adding some great
atmosphere. The helicopter swoops down and pans past us and everyone waves like excited little children.
All eyes on the start, the lights go out. I watch the screen in my binoculars to better see if Kimi gets trough La Source unscathed. He does but he is almost dead last! He passes the Marussia at Eau Rouge like a boss. Takes down a Sauber on the Kemmel. We hear the cars coming, everyone stands up. The front runners go by. I then see Kimi dive on the inside of the McLaren right in front of me! What a treat. From a Kimi fan POV, that was kind of the highpoint of the race. Kimi inches away and gets past some cars but are also helped by retirements to advance up the order to finally finish 7th. It was frustrating to watch Kimi being stuck behind those two Mercedes powered cars with a very worn engine in his own car. The worn engine cost him about 5-6 tenths each lap, so no wonder he couldn’t get past. Even though he was clearly faster until he decided to drop back.
Towards the final laps of the race I contemplate leaving to beat the crowd. Thinking that the positions are pretty status quo until the checkered flag. But I notice Grosjean getting closer and closer to Vettel in 3rd place. It’s shaping up for a battle right to the end, so I decide that I don’t wanna miss that. Just as Grosjean is lining up for an attempt to pass on the straight, Vettels tire blows into shreads. People point at the screen. Some cheer, some shake their heads. Kimi and his group of cars catch up to Vettel in front of us and swerves around him. Vettel then comes trundling past us with tire remains flailing about. I could almost hear some German swearing from where I was standing.
But that’s it. I make my way back to the bus. Manage to bump into Holm yet again for a little chat. And then to the hotel for a hot meal. In the evening I meet up with Ciaran who tells me that he made a dash to the place where Vettels tire blew. He went onto the track, searched the grass and came over a huge chunk of tire! It was still warm and sticky. So he brought it to the hotel bar and passed it around. And I do mean passed it around because we all took a big whiff of the tire pieces. It had a horrible smell! And yet, we had to sniff it again. Kind of addictive. Weird 😀
Well, that was my rundown of my 2015 Spa experience. A bit lengthy but I hope you found it interesting in parts. As mentioned, I have already decided that I want to return next year. Very likely it will be Kimis last race around Spa in a Formula 1 car. So I can’t miss that.
Take care folks. I also jotted down a few advice points below if you ever decide to take a trip to Belgium. They might be helpful for some. Peace!
Sunscreen. Always bring sunscreen. 30 is my factor of choice. But I am Scandinavian.. I apply in the morning. And reapply during the day if I am fully exposed. I absolutely hate getting sunburnt. I would rather look like an idiot with my shirt around my head and neck
than get sunburnt. Haha.
Bring some water and bring some food. You will probably need to buy some more fluids during the day. I made myself a couple of sandwiches and they kept me going for the day. You save money and you won’t have to stand in line. The food queues can be very long. The selection is not that great either. Fries, burgers or waffles are basically your choices at Spa.
Sometimes it’s a good idea to get your merchandise on Friday. It wasn’t that crucial this time. But in 2012 the Kimi Lotus cap with the Icebird on it got sold out in no time. There are vendors outside the track that are sometimes cheaper. Even in the village I saw a
5 euro price difference on the t-shirt I bought for my kid in a neighboring booth.
Pascale told us that there are shuttles near the hotels and the camping sites that will take you to different locations on the track. Just say where you want to go and they will drive you. And they are free of charge! Can save you a long walk. I didn’t try them myself as I wanted to walk the track and view the action on the way there. But good to know I thought.
The pitwalk on Thursday is cool to do. But it is insanely crowded the further you get towards the big teams. For an autograph of Kimi or another big star, you probably have to be there when the gates open and secure your place in front of your garage of choice. And
even then you are not guaranteed a signature. That’s life 🙂 But you can always snap some photos.
I probably won’t do General Admission again. However, if you only are 1 or 2 people, there is pretty much always a spot here and there you can squeeze into. Especially on Kemmel and Pouhon which were my favorite places. Even if you arrive half an hour before the race
starts. But if you can afford it, get a grandstand. That is my recommendation. You can still walk all the places but have a seat to return to when you want.
Get some good walking shoes when exploring. I saw a guy in flip flops. Not a good choice. A small to medium sized backpack for your stuff is the way to go in my opinion. And bring one of those plastic rain ponchos. They take up very little space when folded. We were spared of rain but you never know when you are in the Ardennes.
There has been countless words written and spoken about Kimis issues when it comes to heating up the tires to get the ultimate one lap pace from the car. Some say he is a bad qualifier. Some blame the current rules and regulations. And some blame the tires. I believe the answer is simple. Kimi is not a bad qualifier. He was doing pretty darn good up until the infamous 2008 season. What you may be able to call him is a driver that doesn’t adapt well. Is that a weakness, an Achilles heel? Sure. Every driver has one or more. Sadly,
Kimis weakness is very visible and tangible since it affects his qualifying performance.
I like to call him a finely tuned machine that is very sensitive to minute (as in small) changes. In the desperate attempts by the rulemakers of F1 to make F1 more viewable, they have over the years made a mockery and a mess of the rules. That goes for engine, aero and mostly tires. The end result is that they clip the wings of true naturals. Take Lewis Hamilton last year. He was outqualified by his teammate. Even though he is regarded as the best qualifier by many. Sebastian Vettel was outraced and outqualified by an inferior teammate. And Kimi struggled like a rookie with the car. Why? Because of regulations that remove the peaks of natural talent. Changes in aero that would fix the problem cannot be made due to restrictions. Some drivers thrive and some don’t. It is akin to a lottery and it doesn’t display true talent fairly. It muffles it.
Is this season frustrating? Yes. A bit. But I will take this year over 2003, 2005 and 2008 any day. It is not like Kimi or his teammate is in the running for the championship anyway. 2015 is the Mercedes championship. If Ferrari had listened to Kimis demands in 2008 (as they do now), Kimi would have easily won the 08 championship while Massa and Hamilton competed in who could make the most mistakes and penalties. But poor starting positions killed that. But since they listen to Kimi now – why hasn’t it been fixed? Well, if they had the tires from 2008, it would have been. But the tricky Pirelli tires that are getting flak from many drivers are not an easy dance partner. What is more – they compounds change from race to race. Simply, it’s a mess. One tire manufacturer was supposed to be a good thing. But it isn’t. The way things are now, I would rather welcome another manufacturer and a tire war like we had before.
I didn’t start following F1 to watch an Eco race. For Gods sake. Save the tires, save the gearbox, save the engine, turn it down. Save the fuel, save the whales. It’s a joke to me. A travesty. I want to see drivers dancing on the edge of what is possible. Engines screaming at full song. I want to lose my breath when an F1 car goes by me as the sound pierces my entire body. I am sad to say this, but I am falling out of love with the sport. It has betrayed me and every fellow fan. It dances to the tune of political correctness like everything else these days. As it stands, I am not even sad if Kimi doesn’t drive next year. He and his fantastic talent has also been betrayed. He is amazing at saving tires due to his smooth style. But that is the exact thing that gives him trouble in qualifying.
Gilles going sideways
Kimi is a Formula 1 legend just like Gilles and Stirling. And he is a world champion as well. Something they never achieved. He is the last of a kind. Last boyscout, last of the Mohicans, last rebel standing. When he leaves, the last traces of rock n’ roll will also be gone from F1 forever. We will be left with a youtube generation of racers. Pathetically trying to look rebellious in a media groomed outfit. Kimi was right when he said he was born in the wrong era. Had he raced in the 70’s with fat tires and few restrictions, he would have massacred his competitors, crossed the finish line and banged a photomodel in his camper before the last car had crossed the line.
The Monaco race? There would have been nothing interesting for me to say if not for that final Safety Car shake-up following the Grosjean-Verstappen crash. Ok, one other thing: Ferrari did a fantastic job getting Kimi out ahead of Ricciardo in the stops. Helped along by Kimis purple sectors.
Two things about the crash. Grosjean said over the team radio that it was “stupid”. Be quiet Grosjean. You have lost the right to ever call a move stupid. Not only because of Spa 2012, but all your other bonehead moves. Also – Verstappen was not 100% to blame. If you look at the video, you see Grosjean making an all too late jerk to the right while braking very early. Another bonehead move from the French. He should have chosen either the outside or inside line from the start. You can’t just jerk-block in the last second in the braking zone. I give Grosjean 45% of the fault with that move. Still mostly Verstappens fault as you have to anticipate this kind of thing from your competitor. Perhaps especially Grosjean.
What about the Kimi-Ricciardo incident? Well, there must be some real idiot stewards present. One of them was a Swede so that probably explains a lot. But my fellow Dane, Tom Kristensen was the driver steward, so I should probably stay quiet. But if you
penalize Alonso for bumping into Hulkenberg – why on Gods green earth wasn’t Ricciardo penalized for EXACTLY the same move in the EXACT same corner!? Unbelievable. Is it because Kimi didn’t crash into the wall like Hulkenberg? Well, I guess Kimi must apologize for having the skills to avoid that.
Alright, that was my emotional side talking. Would I have said the same things if Kimi had made that move on someone? Probably not. But the thing is – he doesnt need to muscle his way through. As proven by his fantastic final laps in Monaco 2013. That is how you
overtake, you miserable grinning Aussie git.
Finally, the Mercedes blunder. Why they felt the need to pit Hamilton, I will never understand. It is not like he needed fresh rubber for those last few laps. But they gambled (or rather calculated wrong) that he would get out in front of Vettel and Rosberg and they lost monumentally. It is a great result for the championship. But I do feel sympathy for Hamilton. That must be horrible. Vettel is always there being happy and chirpy on the Mercedes drivers behalf. His comment to Brundle “I’m happy” was perfectly timed in a pretty gloomy interview session. It’s my kind of humor and something I probably would have done as well in a similar situation. Not to toot my own horn or anything. 😉
Next up is Canada. Usually that track produces great racing. All I want for Christmas is a front row starting position for Mr. Raikkonen. In the right conditions for the Ferrari, he would give those Mercs a run for the money during the race. As much as I hate the current state of affairs in F1 as previously mentioned, I will remain an optimist.
It is time to introduce another guestwriter here on F1bias.com. His name is Charlen Harward Raymond and he is a semi-ok guy. His biggest asset is that he loves F1 and has a soft spot for Kimi Raikkonen. Other than that, there is not a lot of other positive… Oh wait, he is the editor of a motoring website called Shootout and he has done a lot of work as a motorjournalist at CAR Magazine. Here is his fab looking website: shootoutonline.co.za
You really should check it out. In addition to sweet rides, there is Kimi articles as well. What more can a human want?
So – I asked my South African friend if he would be so kind to do a write up of Kimis battle in the Spanish GP. And because he admires the heck out of me, he happily obliged. Enjoy.
Kimi drives hard race despite imbalances by Charlen Harward Raymond
I wasn’t exactly jumping with joy when the chequered flagged dropped on the Spanish GP. It was a heart wrenching affair to see the field struggling to match the pace of the Mercedes cars, but it was even worse seeing Kimi struggling to get past Bottas’ Williams. But first things first: let’s go back to FP1.
After Bahrain and Kimi storming to a well-fought second place (which should have been top honours, by the way), the Iceman started his race-weekend with a car that was well and truly off balance. Though he at times set competitive times during FP1 and -2, Kimi never had the confidence to dance with his Ferrari. And as we all know, Kimi is a sensitive driver. The car needs to talk to him, otherwise you might as well get the ice cream ready.
After the first two practice sessions and a debrief session with his team and race engineer, it was decided that Kimi will use a previous setup and “older” components on his car for the rest of the weekend. Basically, what they had hoped, was that the changes will rectify the imbalances of his ST15-T. If not completely, at least to a certain extent. It didn’t.
A Nightmare on Qualifying Avenue
The weekend went from bad to worse for Kimi and qualifying was an utter nightmare.
To add fuel to the fire, one set of Kimi’s tyres got so much heat into them that they were completely ruined. It meant that he could not do a competitive lap because of the damaged set of tyres. I don’t know HOW Ferrari managed to burn those tyres. Doesn’t the blankets come with temperature controls? Isn’t there supposed to be a team member checking the temperatures? I may not be a race engineer, but hell, man, it really isn’t that difficult to keep an eye on the tyres.
“We had one set of new tyres we would probably have used in the last qualifying but for some freak reason it got burnt in the blankets and destroyed. It is one of those things,” Kimi said after qualifying. “It has been a difficult few days, but that is part of the game. Tomorrow is the race and hopefully we can score points possible.”
The lack of balance and the lack of a set of new tyres had such a detrimental effect on his lap time that he eventually ended Q3 in 7th position. What made it even more frustrating was that both Toro Rosso’s out-qualified him. The words I uttered after I saw this cannot be posted in this review. There might be underage fans reading this…
However, I still maintained hope that the race would be better and that the Ferrari will have race pace; as we’ve seen over the course of the first four races this year.
A flying start for the Flying Finn
Seconds before Kimis brilliant pass on the outside of the Toro Rosso into Turn 7
We knew Kimi had to fly off the grid when the lights go out and that’s exactly what he did. He managed to sail past both Toro Rosso’s and slotted in-between the two Williams drivers. It was Rosberg leading from Vettel and Hamilton, with Bottas, Kimi and Massa completing the top six. Kimi kept Bottas honest throughout the first stint and made sure his fellow Finn knew that he was not going to have an easy afternoon. Kimi pushed. Hell, if you didn’t see how he was trying then you didn’t watch the same race as me.
When Kimi made his first stop, the team had decided to fit a set of the harder tyre on his car. It was deja vu from what happened in Bahrain: give Kimi the longer lasting tyre for the middle stint and have him push with the softer tyre in the last. That would and could have worked again here in Spain, but Ferrari sort of forgot that they had to deal with Bottas.
We all realised that for Kimi to get on the podium would be a long shot. He was too far back and the mountain he’d have to climb was maybe just too steep. But still, he pushed. Not giving up an inch in his pursuit to get maximum points.
At the front, though, Rosberg led the way from Hamilton and Vettel who duelled hard forsecond place. Even though he did three pit stops to Vettel’s two, Hamilton still got the better of Ferrari’s quadruple champion and cemented second place in commanding fashion. In truth, that was rather boring. The real action happened behind between Kimi and Bottas. Massa fell away by the wayside and finished a rather lonely sixth, but the action attraction was for fourth and fifth positions: Kimi vs Bottas; Finn vs Finn; Ferrari vs Williams.
The final 26 laps
On lap 40 Kimi made his final stop and Ferrari fitted the medium tyre on his car. Bottas, at that time, made his final stop and had the hard tyre on his car. Race on! The Williams driver led Kimi by a relatively “comfortable” eight seconds, but he had to deal with the Finn on a mission. Kimi gradually closed that gap on Bottas and not before long he was right up on that Williams’ gearbox. This was almost like a scene from Braveheart: the hero, William Wallace charging toward the enemy, ready to take what is his!
Kimi fought and he fought hard, but Bottas had better drive out of the last corner. Regardless of how much Kimi caught up to him throughout the lap, that 0.5 second gap to the Williams would be blown out of the water each time they crossed the start/finish straight. And it became abundantly clear that no matter what Kimi tried, there would be no way past Bottas. But it didn’t stop Kimi from pushing and charging right up till the very end. Like William Wallace, Kimi fell at the hands of his enemy, but unlike Mr Wallace, Kimi lives to fight another day. Bottas ended the race in fourth place, with Kimi in fifth.
Those damn pesky backmarkers
This was a frustrating race, simply because the backmarkers continuously got in the way on the race leaders. Back in the day guys like Jarno Trulli, Timo Glock, Vitantoni Liuzzi and Kazuki Nakajima sat through sessions on how to be “good” backmarkers. Though they had their own race they tried to avoid getting in the way of the race leaders. Nowadays, it seems that backmarkers are in the same race as the leaders. The raging blue flags are not for them and they ignore it to the point that they will do lap after lap without adhering to it. Like some of the leaders, Kimi, too, had to battle with backmarkers, struggling to get past them. You can have a listen to Kimi’s complaint here: https://vid.me/xecO
What is very clear after the Spanish GP is that Mercedes GP have extended the gap between them and Ferrari (Vettel finished the race 45 seconds behind Rosberg) and that the battle to catch the Silver Arrows will be monumental. Not only is the Mercedes team as a whole more dominant, but also the Mercedes power unit. This was seen in how Bottas kept Kimi at bay. Even with DRS and KERS activated, Kimi could not pass the Williams and Ferrari have serious work to do.
There may be other points of interest, but we are fans of the Kimster. He is our driver and we back him, regardless. He will win in 2015 and there will be far greater results than this, but we have to be patient. Our time will come and when it does, we will throw one heck of a party!
When Fernando Alonso shows up at the Circuit de Catalunya, it is the same as the Cherubim playing a home game at the Pearly Gates Stadium. The Spaniards have been through hell and back to save their country from economic collapse and through those trying times, they’ve held on dearly to one of their national heroes as a sign of hope.
But hope, is frankly a commodity that is sorely lacking for the double world champion. His second visit to the Catalan track in 2015 didn’t see him wind up in hospital like last time; though by the sounds of it, it wasn’t for any lack of trying on behalf of his car.
The carefully crafted façade that Fernando is where he wants to be and that he hopes to emulate his childhood hero Ayrton Senna in winning a third championship with the iconic McLaren-Honda combo – is beginning to…
Alright, Kimi. It’s less than a 100 clicks to the finish line, you got a third tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes hidden away from Minttu, it’s dark… and you are not wearing sunglasses. Hit it!
Finally. Finally we got to see what a beast Kimi is on race day when he has a reasonable qualifying and no midfield fucks to ruin his day. Let me modify the previous statement. We got to see what kind of result he can bring the Ferrari to, when all goes well. Because he sure was a monster in Malaysia with that fightback. He had some serious speed in Australia before the wheel issue. And so on. Just that his speed and pace have been a bit camouflaged by the end result.
Kimi have shown better pace than Vettel in pretty much every weekend. Now, I am not going to turn this into some kind of teammate battle. The truth is that both Ferrari drivers are insanely quick. But looking at the races and practice sessions, it emerges that Mr. Raikkonen has had the edge when it comes to speed on race day. Just like Sebastian has the edge on Saturday. Looking at the end result, we see how important Saturday is. And that is a bit of a worry. Because that means that Kimi has to either fight his way past Sebastian at the start or rely on an alternative strategy to get the maximum out of his race pace.
That being said, Saturday in Bahrain was Kimis best so far in 2015. A couple of tenths behind Vettel who did an amazing lap to get in between the Mercs. The Finn said that he could have pushed more as he found there was more grip available than expected. Pretty understandable, since he had previously said that he had pushed too much and lost time due to that. Not wanting a repeat, he went a tad to the cautious side.
I am expecting Vettel to get the better time on nearly all Saturdays to be honest. But the Finn has said he is working on his one-lap performance. So who knows. The scales might even out a little. Anyway, P4 is pretty good when his main rivals are two monster Mercedes cars and his teammate might be the best qualifier on the grid. Oh, and the other star qualifier is in one of the Mercs. Could be worse.
Boom – out go the lights!
Rosberg is so caught up in getting past Vettel that he forgets all about The Iceman who has the entire outside of the track to himself and nudges himself past the German/Finn/ Monaco resident or whatever he is. Nicely done! But the silver car is the class of the field and just 4 laps later Rosberg wrestles past Kimi in the same place he was overtaken. Nico is desperate to not let Hamilton get away for yet another race and just 5 laps later he passes Vettel in turn 1. A lap earlier, Vettel had made his first mistake of the day that allowed Nico to close right up.
This commotion allows Hamilton to scamper away at the front, building a nice buffer to his competitors. Raikkonen is getting right up to Vettels exhaust. Clearly faster. He hints on the radio that he can go faster but no response was heard and no change of positions. A shame because that would most likely have given Ferrari the victory the way things played out. But Vettel had track position, so fair enough. Once the pitstops begin, we see a repeat of China where Kimi is left out two laps longer – but this time puts on the mediums where the other front runners took on softs.
Raikkonen emerges from the pits and lights up his tires as he tries to stay ahead of his Finnish compatriot in the Williams. He is 14 seconds away from the other Ferrari and 18 seconds adrift from the lead car. The pace Kimi sports on the mediums blows my mind. He is not only quicker than his teammate but is gaining heavily on Rosberg as well. Even Hamilton here and there. I immediately drop my usual activity on social media because I know I am witnessing “The Raikkonen hustle” as dubbed by Martin Brundle in Hungary 2009. And like Steven Tyler, I don’t wanna miss a thing.
12 laps later and the gap to Vettel has shrunk to 5 seconds and 13 seconds to Hamilton. A couple of laps on the gap to Vettel is 4 seconds when the German dives into the pits for his final stint on mediums. What follows is another blown chance at the victory from the Ferrari strategists. I know hindsight is 20/20, but when the Finnish lad is losing 3 seconds a lap, pitting him one or 2 laps earlier will not be a stupid decision. In fact had they pitted Kimi just two laps before, his softs would still had been fairly fresh at the end and he would in theory have been 6 seconds closer to Hamilton. Taking Hamiltons braking problem into account and softs that were 2 laps older on Kimis car, he should be ahead of Hamilton. And passing a Merc with brake problems is do-able.
Anyways, I am getting ahead of myself. At the end of the day, these are still just speculations. I will say this though. When they saw Alonso wanting to get past Kimi to unlap himself, it should have been enough of a hint to bring him in on lap 39 instead of 41. Or at least lap 40! Alright. Letting it go..
Vettel did his biggest cockup on lap 35 when he completely misjudged and went wide in the final turn. Not only did it make things easy for Rosberg behind but he paid a steep price as his front wing somehow got badly enough damaged to need a replacement. In he went again and dropped to 5th behind Bottas. Those two would battle it out to the very end. A great dice where Vettel could find no way past the Williams.
Alright, Kimi. It’s less than a 100 clicks to the finish line, you got a third tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes hidden away from Minttu, it’s dark… and you are not wearing sunglasses. Hit it!
The gap to Rosberg is 20 seconds and 25 seconds to Hamilton. It’s a tall order. But Kimi has initiated Operation Scorched Earth and sets the fastest lap of the race to prove it. Which puts him 2nd and tied with Prost on the all-time high with 41 fastest laps to his name.
He is taking 2 seconds from the leaders per lap right off the bat. We hear on the radio that Rosberg is being told what the gap is to the chasing Iceman. Nico screams in reply: “Don’t tell me the gap anymore!” 13 laps later on lap 54, the gaps have been reduced to 2 seconds and 7 seconds. The boy likes to chase. Lap 56, Kimi gets the job done. It’s payback time as Kimi passes Rosberg after he runs wide in turn 1. The Mercs have been pushing their brakes too hard in a desperate attempt to keep the charging Finn at bay. And Hamiltons brake-by-wire system is not at its best anymore. But he crosses the line with a few seconds to spare. Just one more lap, or an earlier stop for Kimis final stint…
Oh well, it is what it is. And it’s something to celebrate. I did NOT expect Ferrari or Kimi for that matter to be so competitive in the cool evening desert air. But he was, and it bodes well. The only thing we have to fear now is fear itself. Or.. no. It’s still qualifying. I am not even enjoying Saturdays anymore. It all revolves around that final lap in Q3. Or the worry that something happens before that. Sometimes I miss 2010 and 2011… Oh, be quiet you spoilt child. We have this year and maybe only 2016 left before Kimi moves on to other things. So be grateful! Alright, alright. I will. Jeez..
Closing, closing.. The number 7 car has some real speed in hand at the closing stages of the race in China. Just one more lap and he will be in DRS range of his teammate. Surely, it could be pos… What’s this? Is that another Renault engine blowing chunks all over
the tarmac?? And on the start-finish straight no less! Safety Car to the finish. Whoop-de-doo. FFFFFUUUUUUUUUUU!! Not only do we have to hear whining and bickering from Red Bull over the weak Renault power plant, now we have to suffer them ruining the climactic ending of the race as well. Motherf… I predict some birds in my garden will soon meet their end.
Talk about the ultimate tease. Up until then, it had been an interesting race to be honest. When the lights went out, we saw a Kimi that was hell bent on taking back the 4th position that he had given away to the Williams cars in qualifying. It was an aggressive Kimi pulling no punches looking for those gaps to first get past Massa and then Bottas in a great move on the inside of turn 6. Take a look – complete with Arrivabenes elated fist pumping:
I think most of the F1 viewer base were hoping for another Ferrari challenge towards Mercedes. But as the first pitstops approached, those dreams went down the drain. Hamilton just put in a second or more quicker laps before his stop, making it very obvious that there was more than plenty of speed to draw from. Rosberg however, didn’t seem to have that same speed and began complaining before his stops that Hamilton was driving too slow and allowing Vettel to catch up. The drama. But even then, Rosberg were able to keep Vettel at bay with relative ease.
Kimi had no problems keeping up with Vettel in the first stint. But lost a lot of time after his stop. Partly because Ferrari chose to let him run 2 extra laps after Vettels stop and also due to a less than perfect stop. So instead of a 2 second gap, there was a 6 second gap. I think Ferrari wanted to try something a little different by giving Kimi fresher tires at the end of the race. Because the strategy was repeated in stop number 2. So I cannot fault them for that. Especially since it seemed to be working until that fateful Safety Car.
After lap 40 we get treated to one of the best scraps of the race between Ricciardo and Ericsson. Truly great racing. But for me, it was interupted and topped by something else. The team radio of an annoyed Finn. I had actually followed the build up on my F1 app. I
knew Alonso was coming up to be lapped by his old teammate. I just knew that the Spaniard would make it unnecessarily difficult. He was not in a fight like Button and Maldonado. He was alone, undistracted and knew full well a faster car was coming up. But because Alonso has proven himself to be a small and bitter man numerous times, Kimi had to get on the radio. I can guarantee you beyond a shadow of a doubt that Alonso made it especially hard for Kimi to get by. Because that is just how he is.
Before I round off this short review, I will touch on something I found endearing. In a manly way of course. Arrivabene and Kimi have really hit it off. He speaks directly without wrapping his words and Kimi likes that. And from the numerous interviews I have read, it seems that Arrivabene understands Kimi and what he needs to thrive. I have not seen anything like this since Jean Todt in 2007. And they have remained good friends. And to be fair, Kimi has also known Arrivabene since his first stint in Ferrari.
Here is one such article that underlines some of the things I mentioned: http://adamcooperf1.com/2015/04/12/sensitive-raikkonen-will-thrive-with-team-support-says-arrivabene/
I don’t think these two are Alonso fan club members.
Allrighty then. Bahrain is next weekend. Everyone and his sister is calling for Kimi to up his game in qualifying. It’s true. And I know he will. And it won’t because of what we demand. It will be because he works at it. Which he does. Hard. In the established pecking order, a minimum 4th grid position should be no real problem on an ordinary Saturday. Vettel is an extremely good qualifier. But he is beatable. The Mercs are out of reach under normal circumstances. But they too are beatable on race day. Especially in hot weather. Sadly, Bernie has a boner for night races so Bahrain will not be as hot as it could have been. But a podium is overdue. Kimi had the potential speed for that in all 3 races so far. Now it’s time for a payout.
Hey guys. It’s been a while since I made a post on my blog. Family life is the main culprit. But naturally, seeing Kimi in 2014 in a car more fit for a donkey didn’t help either. I was actually going to write a post for Australia. Kimi didn’t finish but it was obvious how monumentally better the Ferrari is this year. Kimis pace until the DNF downunder proved that – and even more so, Vettels podium. But I fell ill and had to tend to my ailing body rather than write a review.
Enough with the excuses though. We had a cracking race in Malaysia. I was tempted to turn off the TV at first. But I am glad I didn’t.
There is no getting around the frustration of what could have been. The Ferrari was more than quick enough for a second row start. And a first row with some luck. Alas – such luck was not at Kimis disposal. One could blame the powers that be for the poorly timed rainfall. But I would much rather blame the true culprit: Bernie Ecclestone. Malaysia was fine a few years ago. Until he got the idea of moving the race and qualifying forward in time. When everyone knows that it almost inevitably always rains in the afternoon during the rainy season in Malaysia. However, I suspect it is done with serious intent. To hopefully give some shakeup and create some excitement in the beginning of the season. I firmly believe that is the main motivation. Not to appease European viewers by letting them sleep an extra hour or two.
But I digress. Here is what happened. Kimi got out of the garage a tad too late and was stuck behind Ericsson. He tried to pass but it cost him enough to miss Q2. P11 it is. Video: http://indavideo.hu/video/Kimi_beragadt
Lights out and the second longest dash of the season down to turn 1 is on! Kimis start is poor. You see the car squirming due to an excess of wheelspin. He gets through the first few turns unscathed but is down to 14th until he makes a stunning pass on the outside
of turn 4. He picks off 2 drivers in one sitting with that move. Unfortunately, one of those drivers is the rookie Felipe Nasr. Another hothead Brazillian just like his namebrother.
We get to “enjoy” the consequences of that when he outbrakes himself in an idiotic attempt to fight Kimi. The result is that Nasr clips Kimis rear wheel, giving him an immediate puncture just as he had passed the pit entrance. Now he has to make the very long way around the Sepang track, with the wheel disintegrating and damaging his floor in his progress. Making the car lose downforce.
It is like a total infathomable repeat of history from last year! Kimi does fantastic in the practice sessions. Enter the rain in qualifying and the car was not as good anymore. But even with the dog of 2014 he managed to qualify 6th. Then in the race, another Scandinavian clips Kimis rear tire. Giving him a puncture that damages his floor. Deja vu. Now where is that fucking remote so I can turn off this miserable shit??
But what is this? Karma hits the mongrel Ericsson as he copies his Sauber teammate and outbrakes himself in turn 1. He proceeds to clumsily get stuck in the gravel. Cue Nelsons laugh. Safety Car is brought out, which does Kimi a huge favor. It would have been an even bigger favor if the idiot rookie Nasr had known how to behave behind a Safety Car. But no. He wants to fuck with Kimi some more and for some reason just stays way behind instead of catching up to the rest of the field. What an utter moron. At least Kimi is not a lap down. But he is 17th.
VETTEL IS DEALT HIS FAVORITE HAND
Up ahead, Vettel has decided to stay out on his mediums whereas both Mercedes cars opted to pit for new hards. It would turn out to be the decisive strategic move of the race. As the Mercs make their way through traffic, Vettel is undisturbed in front. And he can turn out some quick laps on the softer rubber. Giving him the gap and buffer he would need for the rest of the race. Very reminiscent of his Red Bull days. This is what he does best. And Mercedes giving him that opportunity was a huge mistake for them. But undoubtedly good suspense- and entertainmentwise.
KIMIS MONSTRUOUS FIGHTBACK
Back in the field, Kimi is hardly getting any screen time at all. But since I have the timing app where I can follow each cars position on the track in real time, I know exactly when and where Kimi is passing people. And he sure isn’t wasting any time. In just a few laps he has made it past 5 cars including 2 McLarens and his old teammate and finds himself in 12th position.
The next obstacle a few seconds ahead of Kimi is a 9-car Hulkenberg DRS train. Great, now we are going to see Kimi catch up to that, not being able to pass. And Ferrari calling him in way too late and losing 2 or 3 positions in the progress. That was the general state of business last year. But lo and behold! Ferrari actually makes a great strategy call for Kimi and calls him in before catching up and losing any time. Bolts on a new set of mediums and only has a couple of cars to battle instead of a huge train. Now I have seen everything. I guess when you remove the Spanish flu from a team, the entire organization will quickly heal and improve.
Not only that, the stop is fast and flawless. He emerges in 17th. But only has Sainz and Maldonado to deal with. And once he had made minced meat of them, the DRS-train had dissolved due to people stopping for new tires. It has been a long while since I have seen such a good strategy call from the Ferrari pitwall on Kimis behalf.
After passing Felipe Nasr for the 3rd time in under 20 laps, Kimi has edged his way into the top 10. In fact, he overtook Nasr AND Button in one swoop. Next up is another pass of Alonso in his McLaren. He claims he didn’t think it was 1995 after he crashed (which I
don’t believe for one second) but he might think it is 2001 and racing for Minardi. Because the track position is eerily similar. The Spaniard had to retire his car just a few laps later. And Alonso went to his hotel room to practice his samurai mantra of how the Mercedes performance proves he made the right choice in going to McLaren. Good luck with that. As long as the car is not red, eh?
RELAX LITTLE BIRDIES
Meanwhile, Kimi has climbed up to 6th place. After grabbing my rifle and randomly shooting and shouting at birds in my garden after qualifying, I am now certain that they can rest easy on their branches today. It’s not optimal, but giving the horrible hand he was dealt, it’s pretty damn good.
Next up is the two Williams. Kimi is catching Bottas with 2-3 seconds per lap. As the white cars both pit, Kimi finds himself 13 places up and in 4th. That was one heckuva recovery from the Finn. Damage control, yes. But great to see Kimi in a car that suits him infinitely better than 2014.
The other Ferrari of Vettel is also making a lot of progress. He is catching Hamilton after a stop. Just as he makes the pass, Hamilton dives into the pits. Ferrari clearly having the advantage over Mercedes on tire wear in Malaysia.
The race is only halfway done. And there is a lot of great fights all through the field. Contact and spins. Lots of action – which was great. When it comes to the top 4, the excitement was mostly if Vettel could really hold off the chasing Mercs. Kimi having spent a lot of tires getting to where he is, has to nurse the tires until the point where he can make the final stop for hards and drive them to the chequered flag. There was a glimmer of hope that Rosberg might go to the end on the set of tires that he retook 3rd position from Kimi with. But like I said, the recovery drive had spent Kimis mediums and Rosberg could build a gap big enough for another stop.
As the laps ticked on down the Mercedes boys, especially Hamilton, were getting more and more frustrated as the possibility of catching Vettel was slipping away. Some heated team radio messages only added to the enjoyment. And sure enough, Vettel takes the chequered flag and the win in his second race for Ferrari. As much as I would like to have seen Kimi in the mix, I know that will come. It was a well deserved win for the German and congratulations and praise is in order. Given Rosbergs snarky comments and attitude in Australia towards Vettel, the satisfaction is only that much sweeter.
The drives of the day belong to the Ferrari boys. Splitting it 50/50 between the two. Vettel did exactly what he had to do. Kimi got a shitty deal but kept his head down and drove a fantastic race in a stricken car. He was naturally disappointed with the result as he knew he had a real shot at victory. But that opportunity was already lost on Saturday. He knows and Ferrari knows that qualifying is paramount. A second row starting position has to be the minimum to expect from both Ferraris in a non-dramatic Saturday. That is what the car seems to be capable of, judging from the two races. A hot temperature also seem to help the red cars. We will see how much once we move to Europe.
So I choose to focus on the positives here instead of lamenting over what could have been. The season is long. And we have a good car. Kimi will have his days in the sun as well. Until China, stay safe, stay frosty. And keep passing the open windows.
Take it away, Freddie.
Vettel: “You know, Kimi. Sometimes I like to sing while I swerve to warm the tires.” Kimi: “Yea, I don’t do that.”
I had planned to do a post about the crazy driver switcheroos that have been happening over a very short period of time. But I now sit here finding it extremely hard to find any words. Poor Jules Bianchi ran out of luck on Sunday. I instantly knew something was very wrong when I saw the images of smoke rising up from behind the tow vehicle. Marshalls gesturing frantically and no replays shown. I feared the worst and unfortunately I was right. Thankfully, he is still alive but on the other hand, brain damage is nasty nasty business. Once you have done what you can when it comes to surgery and so on, there is usually only time and a vague prognosis left. It’s not like a broken bone where you know exactly how long it will take to heal.
The official statement today is that Jules has suffered diffuse axonal injury. Pretty much the worst there is. Because the damage is, like the name says, very diffuse. I remember it from when Richard Hammond crashed and suffered the same type of injury and diagnosis. And that is one of the lights in the tunnel. Because Hammond got out of it on the other side, didn’t he. And as close to the same person he was as far as we can tell. Although his family are probably much more aware of the slight changes he is bound to have picked up from this.
But the hard statistics are that only 10% of people with this type of brain damage ever wake up again. But let us count our blessings even in dark times. He is still alive. He is in the best physical condition a person can be, which always helps. And he has the best treatment available. So hope lives and I will keep praying for him. If you want to read more about the condition, Gary Hartstein explains it well here: http://formerf1doc.wordpress.com/2014/10/07/diffuse-axonal-injury/
If that wasn’t enough, an old Formula 1 hero died this weekend. Andrea de Cesaris suffered a fatal crash on his motorbike, killing him instantly. RIP old warrior. I remember a couple of his races vaguely when I watched F1 sporadically in the early 90’s. He earned the nickname “de Crasheris” after his first couple of years in F1. He had some seriously spectacular crashes. And he seemed absolutely unfazed and fearless in spite of them. The nickname is a bit unfair as he was actually quite a capable and talented driver.
I remember reading one team boss saying that he was amazed that de Cesaris made it out of F1 alive. I forgot who it was. But my first thought when I heard of his accident was that it finally caught up with him. A stupid thought probably, but you just can’t remove the need for speed from a racer. No matter how retired he is. I recommend this rundown of his 15-year long career in F1: http://counter-x.net/f1/de_cesaris/index.html
THE VETTEL-FERRARI MOVE AND THE REPERCUSSIONS
The news of Vettel leaving Red Bull and with pretty much 100% certainty teaming up with best mate Kimi Raikkonen next year was sadly overshadowed by Bianchis accident. But it is still quite a bombshell. Not many people in the world saw that coming. It is a brave and bold move from the German. Going from the safety of the brilliant Red Bull team to a Ferrari team who – let’s be honest – has been quite messy for several years. He goes to a team where there is still waves from Luca being forced to step down. A team that has a power unit far inferior to the Mercedes engine. A team who has been nowhere near in producing the downforce that Red Bull are able to in their cars.
Vettel clearly hopes to do what Schumacher did, pull Ferrari back into a championship winning streak. However, Ferrari has no Newey by the design helm. What they do have is a new team principal in Marco Mattiacci with no previous experience from racing to speak of. But the man is ambitious and pulls no punches. He is the first proper team principal successor to Jean Todt as I see it. He still has a lot to prove though. But if he starts with restructuring the team, getting rid of Alonso and aquiring Vettel together with Kimi Raikkonen, he is off to a pretty good start.
Even Kimi have loosened up on his adamant comments that he will quit F1 after 2015. So there is a definite no-nonsense plan to get Ferrari back to the top in a couple of years. Before that, they pinned a lot of that plan on Alonso. But that approach have failed time and again. So time for a new and better one. Not to mention that the team-mate dynamic is bound to be unproblematic with this line-up. Exiting times.
What is equally as interesting is seeing how Fernando Alonso has once again burned his bridges. To the point where he may in fact not even have a drive next year. He said he has all the options. Well, I don’t think so. Red Bull have clearly said that they did not even consider him: http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/116152
Toto Wolff have stated in not so many words, that they do not want to risk a “mess” by hiring Alonso as it is now. In other words, team bosses know that Alonso is an outstanding top class driver. But they also know that he comes with a price. And some luggage. Clearly, for some, it is simply not worth the hassle. If you haven’t already, you should read this brilliant article by Mark Hughes on the topic of Alonsos exit from Ferrari: http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/f1/alonso-leaves-ferrari/
So where will he go? McLaren is the obvious answer. But last I heard was that Ron Dennis said that they have not hired him. Honda seems to want him. But does McLaren? He was a ticking bomb the last time he was there. It doesn’t matter if Lewis was favored or not. Nandos blackmailing and Ferrari-IP using antics is simply not cricket. And they have not been forgotten in Woking either, I’m sure. But at the same time, it would probably not be wise for McLaren to pass on an opportunity like Alonso. So it’s a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Will be interesting to see where the self-proclaimed samurai warrior ends up. The samurai should make a mental note: “A samurai must never bite the hand that feeds him. No matter how skilled he is.”
If this had been 20 years ago or longer, Jules would be dead. But this is the situation today: Safety has come so far that it saves lives and thank God for that. But in some cases (specifically head injuries), it sends drivers into a coma or vegetative state instead of killing them instantly. Some might argue that there is not much difference between the two. However, as long as there is breath there is hope. And anyone would cling to that when it comes to loved ones. I don’t know what my point is or if I have one at all. Maybe that safety equipment needs another quantum leap like it took after May 1st, 1994.
When we see the awful footage of Bianchi slamming into that tractor, lifting it clear off the ground, it is hard to imagine how anything could possibly prevent a human from getting hurt in such a shunt. But that is what progress is for. In 1920, a car crash at 40 kph could kill you instantly. Today, we get out of our cars without a scratch and start yelling at the other guy instead. Unthinkable back in the day. I am certain that some bright minds can take us even further in this area.
Get well soon, Jules. We are rooting and praying for you!
Here is a photo we took of you while you were nice enough to say hi, give a smile and sign an autograph for my wife at Spa in 2012.