BAHRAIN GP 15 – THE CHARGE OF A CHAMPION

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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.

QUALIFYING

UntitledKimi 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.

THE RACE

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Bahrain Grand Prix - Race Day - Sakhir, Bahrain

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.

11113412_1626951124203606_1583263563724626037_oRaikkonen 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.

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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.

CLOSING IN

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…

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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..

Until Barcelona, take care.

Love,
Soren

Images Ā© Photo4, Charniaux/XPB Images
Do not hesitate to contact me if you need any of these photos taken down for any reason.

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14 Responses to BAHRAIN GP 15 – THE CHARGE OF A CHAMPION

  1. fleur govaert says:

    Love you (your writing) Soren!! What a DELIGHT it was!!- we have an annoying neighbor who stays out in his yard at 11pm, cheering and jeering over some stupid game called Hockey (I like hockey btw).. We’d like him to shutup..SO it was particularly AWESOME to Cheer and Jeer at 11AM- with him clueless.. (probably scanning EVERY universal channel for some hockey game- we weren’t watching) in yer face neighbor… GO KIMI GO

    G. Fleur Govaerts Date: Mon, 20 Apr 2015 19:53:38 +0000 To: ggmotors@sympatico.ca

  2. Vonnie says:

    ‘Operation Scorched Earth’…classic, Soren!! What a race, what an exciting review! The Iceman Cometh…yay!!!!

  3. kimifan100 says:

    šŸ™‚ must smile every time how vehemently you can be if it is about Kimi, Soren… It is so nice to witness the whole race again while reading your report… Thanks for your passion… we need it so much because you give us plus power and hope: our Iceman will have a good season! And shared happiness is double or in our case multiple happiness.

  4. maria sakkali says:

    Soren i know exactly what you are going through during qualifying and it’s more painful when it rains . Actually i think that his poor gualifying has deprived him from more wdc and i guess the same goes for Alonso too. When i saw Vettel with the front wing problem i admit i was extremely happy because all this fuss about him and what he brought to Ferrari and he is the reason of its resurgence was getting on my nerves. If you see the first three races he didn’t exactly do anything magical while on the other hand Kimi was driving like hell and he didn’t even get some credit for that and finally in bahrain we saw the truth. When Vettel had to deal with a difficult situation he was nowhere and he didn’t even had to drive from the back as Kimi did in Malaysia . I hope that now Ferrari will back Kimi more because he has shown he has the guts to fight the Mercedes on equal terms.Soren very emotional review and i hope it will continue till the end of the season in that way.

    • Soren says:

      Qualifying is painful. So we will just have to buckle up and hang tough. Kimi is best on Sundays, no doubt. But as long as he gets on the first two rows, things can happen. A front row would be perfect of course.
      To be fair, I think Vettels win in Malaysia was great. I am however 100% certain that Kimi would have achieved the same in his position. But he didn’t because of track position, so there it is. Thanks for your input šŸ™‚

  5. Lynn says:

    enjoyable as always soren, thank you. two things – pointing out in kimi’s favor that his “moments” occurring on saturday have not been nearly as detrimental as vettel’s mistakes happening in a race on a sunday. and just want to ponder why the second fastest man on earth — statistically speaking in fastest laps records — has the lingering issue of achieving successfully fast one-pace for consistent qualifying. does the answer lie in his competitiveness? meaning racing one lap against a clock not the same as racing against racers in a race which he prefers? just curious what your take on this is. thanks.

    • Soren says:

      Cheers, Lynn. To be honest, I am not sure. It’s a bit of a mystery and I can only guess. Kimis amazing tally of race fastest laps should suggest he would be a monster at qualifying and beat the best every Saturday. But he doesn’t. I personally think the current generation of tires doesnt quite get along with Kimi when it comes to one-lap speed. At least its better than in 2008, where he needed 2 or 3 laps to get the tires heated up.
      Kimi is a true natural. Put him in a DeLorean back to the 70’s and it would be a different story šŸ˜‰

  6. I was cursing when Alonso is pushing to unlap, why the hell Ferrari does not call kimi to box earlier for fresh new rubber, Kimi would have the win…

  7. A41202813GMAIL says:

    blondi Seems Screwed.

    Both RED BOYS Are Pounding Him In Terms.

    GO, 44 !

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