Monthly Archives: December 2009

Northern Waffler Formula 1 Awards 2009

Hope everyone has had a great Christmas. But it is time to put on the slightly expensive clothing and look smart for the first annual, Northern Waffler Formula 1 Awards. Hosted live, here, at the lovely Croft Circuit. Well, we can pretend it is.

So what are these awards, well, they show the excellence and achievements of the season just gone. I call the specific awards, RG Bargies, named when F1 journalist Joe Saward commented on the name RG. It seems appropriate to use it for something else. So, lets get started.

Best Newcomer

Nominees: Sebastien Buemi, Kamui Kobayashi and Romain Grosjean

This wasn’t the greatest year for debutants, with Jaime Alguesuari the only other driver to have made his debut in F1 this season. I felt these three did the best of the four, so unfortunately for the Spaniard, he misses out. So the winner of the Best Newcomer goes to, Sebastien Buemi.

Buemi picked up five points in a less than impressive Toro Rosso alongside Sebastien Bourdias and Alguesuari. This included results which fell under the radar, a 8th in Abu Dhabi as well as a 7th in Australia, on his debut.

Kamui Kobayashi only had two races, and whilst showing his potential, didn’t have enough time to impress. Romain Grosjean was fairly crash prone and picked up no points.

Scandal of the Year

Nominees: Liegate (Lewis Hamilton and Dave Ryan), Breakaway Series (Everyone) and Singapore GP Race Fixing (Nelson Piquet jr, Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds)

Debutants had a bad year, scandals had a brilliant one. Every other week there was a new thing to spread across the back pages, but only one can be the biggest scandal of 2009. It goes to the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix Race Fixing.

We all know what happened, Nelson Piquet jr crashed just as Fernando Alonso had pitted. Alonso went on to win the race. But this wins as the scale of it, the fact that someone had cheated to win a race. Caused danger to other drivers, marshals and spectators by crashing. This just about clinches it.

Heart in Mouth Moment of the Year

Nominees: Felipe Massa’s crash in Hungary, Timo Glock’s crash in Japan and the last 3 laps of the Japanese Grand Prix.

It was a thrilling year, in some ways not the way in which it intended. Serious accidents at times marred the racing. So the Heart in the Mouth Moment goes to the Felipe Massa crash during qualification of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

The whole event was nerve-wracking, how bad were the injuries, would he survive? Thankfully, he did. Though a week after the death of Formula 2 driver Henry Surtees was not the ideal time for it to happen.

The ‘Rolex’ Time Waster Award

Nominees: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Malaysian Grand Prix and the Brazilian Grand Prix Qualifying.

Time is precious. Sadly some of the races ruined this precious time. Time which can not be returned and sadly, will likely be wasted again in the future. So not a big thank you to the Malaysian Grand Prix for winning this award.

One whole hour of waiting. Staring at a bunch of cars littered on the main straight, with mechanics around it and drivers chatting hiding under the immense monsoon rain. It could have been called off earlier, but, in true Formula 1 fashion. It dragged on until the final call came and half points were awarded.

At least there was an overtake in the entire one and a half hours of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. In Brazil, there was something at the end of the needless waiting.

Howler of the Year

Nominees: Jaime Alguesuari driving into the Red Bull pit box, Ferrari bringing in Luca Badoer and the new 2009 Rules and Regulations.

As a goalkeeper, I know when someone has made a downright fool of themselves by doing something daft. So after a whole season of awful races, the award finds itself in the hands of the Overtaking Working Group for the new regulations.

Bahrain, Spain, Monaco, Turkey, Great Britain, Germany, Hungary, Valencia, Singapore, Japan and Abu Dhabi. All these races partially suffered due to these regulations (also due to some of them being designed by Hermann Tilke, but that is for another time). That is a grand total of 11 races. Well done.

Race of the Year

Nominees: Chinese Grand Prix, Italian Grand Prix and the Brazilian Grand Prix

There weren’t that many stand out races this season. But with the amount of dull and tedious ones, the good races really shone. But one shone that little bit brighter, and that was the Brazilian Grand Prix.

It had everything, overtaking, crashes, fire in the pitlane, excitement, fights, the lot of it. Brilliant, title deciding stunning drive from Jenson Button. Another solid win by Mark Webber. Robert Kubica’s only podium of the season. Kamui Kobayashi, doing what Kobayashi does. Jarno Trulli and Adrian Sutil at wars. Brilliant stuff.

Underrated Driver of the Year

Nominees: Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Rosberg and Sebastien Buemi

This season had two distinct categories for drivers. Jobs well done and Must do better. To say someone was underrated was very hard, and to come up with 3 was especially difficult. However the winner is Nico Rosberg.

Rosberg carried Williams, had it not been for him the team would have been down with Toro Rosso. Kazuki Nakajima just didn’t make the grade in 2009 and it was down to Nico Rosberg to save the show. A grand total of 34.5 points included no podiums, there were no wins. He sure blew the best chance of a podium in Singapore with a silly error, but still had some excellent fourth places to his name, especially in the middle part of the season.

Team of the Year

Nominees: Brawn GP, Red Bull Racing and Force India

One time flew ahead of everyone else, just one team attempted to scrape claws and try to hold on. But Brawn GP were unstoppable, especially in the first part of the season.

6 wins in the first 7 races, another 2 later on by Rubens Barrichello. It was a great year for Brawn in the only season that they will compete in. Despite a poor turn in the latter stages of 2009, they held strong and still kept up with solid drives. They certainly deserved this award.

Drive of the Year

Nominees: Jenson Button at Monaco, Giancarlo Fisichella at Spa-Francorchamps and Jenson Button at Interlagos.

To say the least, we were all shocked when Giancarlo Fisichella put his plucky Force India on pole for the Belgian Grand Prix. We remained shocked when he finished second on the Sunday.

Everyone expected cars to fly past the Force India at ease, it never happened. We expected Kimi Raikkonen to fly ahead of Fisichella, it never happened. In fact, if it wasn’t for the chaos involving Romain Grosjean, Jaime Alguesuari, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, he might have even won the whole race.

Driver of the Year

Nominees: Jenson Button, Sebastien Vettel and Lewis Hamilton

The big award, driver of the year. The driver who put his all in everything and it showed. So the first RG Bargy Driver of the Year Award is presented to Sebastien Vettel.

He showed class in helping Red Bull get there first win in China, with follow up wins at Silverstone and Abu Dhabi. He had a small chance of the title and gave the Brawn pair a run for their money, finishing second in the Championship. Despite a few errors, he came through them all.

F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi - Race

Everything is Average Nowadays

F1 Grand Prix of Turkey - Previews

Left in the dark. The room is silent, a lone figure standing. He is confused, lost, unsure about his own future. The future is dim, clouded in uncertainty. This is how a optimistic, new start for 2010 went down the drain. This is how Robert Kubica may not be having the most fun Christmas time.

It was a jump down the year before, 2008 was glorious, the win in Montreal, the pole in Bahrain. BMW flew before a single shot in the wing saw them slam to the ground. Spectacularly. One podium, just a solitary podium in 2009, a shadowed drive in the Interlagos sun, the day Jenson Button became World Champion. Kubica was forgotten.

The career which started back in mid-2006, disqualification from his first race in Hungary. But by his second race in Monza, he had shown immense potential, a glorious third place finish, to complete a podium featuring Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen. Talent was shown right from the off.

2007 showed no podiums, but there was still an inkling of what he could do. After the horrific crash in Canada, he bounced back with an incredible 4th in France. A stunning drive which earned him much praise. No podiums, but the best had yet to come.

Straight from the off, 2008 was expected to be awesome. A mistake away from pole in Australia. And then Bahrain, not a single person expected him to do it, everyone thought it was going to be a Felipe Massa walkover. It was the first ever BMW pole. The internet went made with ‘Pole4Pole’ and everything seemed crazy. Then came the crazier Canadian Grand Prix, the first win. His only win.

2009 started promising, a vague chance for a win in Australia before Vettel and the wall put pay to the idea. Then came the spell where nothing happened, the struggle to get points. The solitary glory of Brazil before bowing out on his BMW career in a lonely 10th in Abu Dhabi.

Renault had already come calling by this point. Post Japan he was announced as the number 1 driver, a promising prospect.

And then it all fell apart when Renault hosted meeting about uncertain futures after Toyota pulled out of the sport.

Renault were sold earlier in the month to Genii Capital, a Luxembourg based investment firm. Robert Kubica has since said he is unsure whether or not to stay in the team, he doesn’t know any of the conditions of the contract, its a bad time to be a Renault driver. The only Renault driver is Kubica.

Kubica is certainly worthy of a top race seat, but the only one on offer at the moment if he doesn’t go on with the under new management Renault team is Mercedes. Which, does have a bit of queue before it. Michael Schumacher is of course favourite for it, bar the recurring neck injury striking again in the medical tests. Second in line is rather ironic, former team mate to Kubica for two and a half seasons, Nick Heidfeld.

Aside from Mercedes, there is only the option of one of the new teams. Certainly something which is well below his capability. Although it might be an area for a new challenge, such as Timo Glock going to Virgin Racing. Robert Kubica must be looking at something which will be able to win the championship. That is not going to be what the likes of Campos Meta will be able to offer him.

There is the midtable option of the Sauber team. Which makes a lot of sense of going from moaning all season about BMW Sauber, to moving to Renault, before moving to Sauber for 2010. Yet it is more competitive.

Renault may still be the only choice that Kubica will opt to stick with, and despite the fact that he knows no details of the deal, it will make much more sense than moving anywhere else. Renault will have a car that will at least be more competitive, more or less a midfield team based on this years performance and all of the new teams entering the sport.

But I would give Robert Kubica a chance at a better team. This might not happen for a few years (or it could happen at the end of 2010 depending on how the Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button relationship goes at McLaren). Kubica has proved he can win races and be very good in a consistant car, even has been an outsider in a Championship battle.

Yet what anything Kubica does for 2010, its not going to be for the wins. A few podiums with any sort of luck. Its not been an ideal scenario for Robert Kubica, if anything, the situation is only going to get more complex in the near future.

There Is a God And They Call Him Michael Dawson

daws I’m not easily impressed. I’ll easily slate off a performance of a team, quite possibly if it is of my own Tottenham Hotspur. The fairly easy surrender of a two goal lead was not ideal at all against Everton, but these things happen. Sweep it under a rug and just get back to the job by beating Wolves at home the following week.

But there has been one person standing out head and shoulders above the rest of them. Impressively, it is not Niko Kranjcar who I have been praising like he is the one to help get this club into the top. He has been brilliant, but not as impressive as Michael Dawson.

Spurs signed Dawson from Nottingham Forest as part of a £8 million deal along with Andy Reid. Reid was expected to be the better player.

Turns out the money was well spent on Michael Dawson. He was one of the scorers on the now famous evening of November 5th 2006. The day we finally beat Chelsea, of course partnering the goal in which Aaron Lennon placed it past the helpless Petr Cech. Great times.

These days he has been alongside Sebastian Bassong in the heart of the Tottenham defence. He probably wouldn’t be even in the side if Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate weren’t both injured. Again. But this time he is being allowed to captain the side, Robbie Keane isn’t starting (not sure what is going on there), it is an ideal opportunity for Dawson to prove his worth and make sure he is in that starting 11 week in, week out.

And I will tell you, he sure is proving his worth.

We’ll start at the obvious, the man has scored two goals in two Premier League games. A rather fantastic half volley from the edge of the box against Aston Villa, which was accompanied by a lovely diving header against Everton. Two goals, from corners, where he worked his way to be allowed to get a shot off against.

But it is not just that, he is getting himself stuck in. Some immense tackles he has produced. Fair enough, sometimes he has gone in a bit too hard on players. For example, a rather rash tackle on the Everton player which earned him a yellow card was perhaps not necessary.

But compared to the incompetence of Benoit Assou-Ekotto in the game, it seemed committed. And committed is what I have come to expect from Dawson. He is one of the few players who seems to be proud of wearing the white (and yellow) of Tottenham. He wants to play for the club, and for that I love him. Only a select few I think do deserve that credit along with Dawson.

Dawson isn’t nearly as credited with enough praise as the likes of Modric, Defoe or Lennon. Maybe it is because of our seemingly incapability of keeping a clean sheet (last one was the 5-0 win against Burnley). He may get a bit over committed in things. But I like that, we don’t have nearly enough of those players in the team with the obvious exception of Wilson Palacios. I love Michael Dawson as a player, he needs to stay in that Spurs defence.

I may even push it and suggest, Dawson for England?

Sweet Dreams Are Made of These

Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix

It can never be easy being a fan of a sporting team. Be it football, Formula 1 or rugby. There is always drama and tension surrounding that team. There is always a good question to be asked, why support a team in the first place? It is not an easy job by any means, even if you are passionate for them.

Take Harlequins F.C, a rugby union team, things seemed to be going sweetly for them. A good showing in the Guiness Premiership and an impressive outing in the Heineken Cup as well. Then, out of the blue it seems, “bloodgate” happened. The Summer was spent with the name on the back page, grabbing the headlines. The hot topic, replacing even Formula 1 as having big controversies. Fines, bans and warnings followed for Harlequins. But looking at it from the point of view of a fan of the team, it can only be of a nightmare. Worrying the team might be banned from a prestigious European cup competition. It would only have been a nightmare, a whole summer ruined out of worry.

Not without the worry, there is always that additional rollercoaster you don’t want to take. It is compulsory to suffer this as a fan and it has happened to anyone and everyone who supports a team. Newcastle United for example have had to suffer managerial changes, awful ownership, relegation and combated all three with protests. Honda F1 fans, saw the team pull out, saw months of speculation before Ross Brawn went on and saved the day. We all know what happened from there.

But there is a personal rollercoaster I have suffered lately and I start the tale of sadness, illness, mystery and joy at a relatively mild July day.

I’m lying in bed, ill, down with the flu. Already a bad start to the day, I’ve been out of the loop for about a week thanks to this. So when the news echoed out on Sky Sports News that BMW Sauber were pulling out, it came as a shock. I hadn’t heard of press conferences, or any rumours about this. Stuck in bed, braced with the news, I just about began to get the positive thoughts, there is still time for a buyer. Things might improve and BMW will reverse the decision. It didn’t seem to be too bad.

The disaster was soon overshadowed by the sudden reappearance of a Mr. Michael Schumacher. The news hogged his image, ignoring the plight of BMW Sauber. The ‘seven time world champion’ was returning to the sport. The sudden disappearance of him lowered the attention, a white sheet had been covered in front of BMW with Schumacher standing in front. The sheet had done its job, headlines returned to football. The laughing at Liverpool and cheering at the cricket.

Time meandered on, nothing happened. Words were spoken, Mario Theissen confident of a buyer, as was Peter Sauber. But nothing was going on, races were completed. Better results came in Valencia, Spa and Monza. Still nothing.

14th September 2009 was a bad day. Imagine if the initial entry on the rollercoaster was skimming the grass on the surface, this managed to make the rollercoaster go underground. The Malaysian backed Lotus team were confirmed as the new 13th team, replacing the outgoing BMW Sauber team as they became the 14th team. This was awful, needing the requirement of the misfortune of others just to get a slot. The team hadn’t even been bought out yet. It was dark times, optimism at an all time low.

Five minutes later, BMW were bought out by the QADBAK group. Nobody knew who they are, the only connection people could figure was with the football team of Notts County. Mystery. Question marks now surrounded the team, even the thought of anger heading towards BMW for seemingly selling the team for the first company that brought them money. From that day it never looked like the team would make the grid. It was bleak.

The end of the season came and went, Jenson Button crowned World Champion. Brawn became heroes in Brazil where Robert Kubica would score BMW’s last podium in Formula 1. The team quietly exited the sport during the dull Abu Dhabi race. Nick Heidfeld finished in 5th, marking the end of the four year BMW Sauber team. It was a sad moment. Looking increasingly likely that there would be nobody to support the following season.

BMW Sauber scored 308 points in just 70 races, including 1 pole position and of course, 1 win at the never forgotten 2008 Canadian Grand Prix. The team had only ever used four drivers, Nick Heidfeld and Jaques Villeneuve starting in 2006. Villeneuve was out by Hungary to be replaced by the first ever Pole in the sport, Robert Kubica. Kubica was replaced by Sebastian Vettel for one race at the 2007 US Grand Prix, a week after Kubica’s horrific accident in Canada.

It made me reflect on all the good times as a fan of BMW Sauber. The pole position lap at Bahrain in 2008, where everyone expected Felipe Massa to walk it. Out of a blue a little white car stormed across the line with a big red ‘1’ next to the time.

And there is that special grand prix that I will always remember, the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix. Forget the stupid pitlane antics by Lewis Hamilton, it was awesome to see Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld come home in a one-two finish to win the race. It was a fantastic feeling. Brilliant. Unforgettable.

Times like that never seemed to not ever happen again. But suddenly, the rollercoaster decided to come back from the underground. Days after the Abu Dhabi GP, Toyota pulled out. 12 teams remained. It seemed almost certain QADBAK-Sauber would be in the sport the following season.

But, things are never that simple. Toyota had signed the Concorde Agreement, BMW didn’t. It was looking a costly mistake as it looked possible that Toyota would sell their entry off to someone, that someone looking like Zoran Stefanovic and his Serbian based Stefan GP outfit. The ride had suddenly become a little bumpy.

Peter Sauber emerged in the frame, with the QADBAK deal looking less and less likely to go through. He bought the remaining 80% from BMW subject to if the team got on the grid.

A week later, that happened. A mix of thrill and joy and happiness is going on right now as I write this post. It is great to have my team, the team that got me in all of this back in F1. Sauber. Ran by Peter Sauber, the legend that he is. Ferrari powered engines, I can not wait for 2010 now!

I’m being asked who will drive for the team, I do think it will be Christian Klien and Vitaly Petrov, with Nick Heidfeld making the move to Mercedes. Though saying that, I have been wrong about many things in the past. Brawn GP just one of them.

And that concludes the rollercoaster of being a BMW Sauber fan, or at least, a fan. It is never easy, not always fun. But there is a passion that keeps you supporting them from Day 1 to the end. I could have easily given up when the team were struggling for points at the British Grand Prix, but why would I want to do that? There is nothing for me if I did that. I’d lose a team. I nearly lost them, but look, Sauber came out of the woodwork. And it is the best news ever.

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