Monthly Archives: November 2010

How to Make the Race of Champions Better: 2010 Edition

Back in April 2009, a whole 19 months ago, the Race of Champions moved from Wembley Stadium in London to the Birds Nest in Beijing. Needless to say the event was not a success, attendances not matching the full capacity, the coverage was poor and in reality, reaching out to an audience that just wasn’t there.

To combat these problems, I wrote a list of suggestions, for example, moving back to Europe, more specifically Germany, where the stadia was available and the fans were at. Then, there was making it relative to the most recent champions, seeing who the best champion of it all was actually. And of course, modifying the cars, to avoid unfairness.

In an odd way, for 2010, they listened to a few of my ideas. The Race of Champions did move back to Europe and even Germany, but Dusseldorf instead of Berlin (at the same stadium to where next years Eurovision is set to be held, but I digress). But apart from logistically improving everything, it in a way made everything a whole lot worse.

The Race of Champions, without the champions

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Okay, maybe the subheading for this is mightily harsh, there are a decent amount of champions in the field. But, how long ago did they become champions? Michael Schumacher in 2004, Mick Doohan in 1998, Alain Prost way back in 1993.

And then there are the likes of Jason Plato, yes he won the BTCC in 2010, but 99% of those outside of Great Britain will have no idea who he is, its an obscure racing series to the rest of the world.  More high profile champions need to be used, I know some teams are reluctant to let their drivers go to this event, but its the end of season, it is in reality just a bit of fun.

Likewise, get more drivers people have heard of, I’m aware that Filipe Albuquerque went on to be rather good, but the whole point of this is for the fans and no doubt they want the best drivers out there. Not those who have seemingly been plucked from a hat.

It is good to have one person who could possibly upset the odds, but in reality it is also great if there are 15 champions out there, or at the very least, those who finished second. If Sebastian Loeb can make it, why not Sebastian Ogier, or Kimi Raikkonen? Why not anyone in Indycar, maybe if the organisers stretched out a bit, it could turn into a festival of some of the most talented drivers in the world.

The Nations Cup, without the nations

roc1 The Nations Cup deeply confuses me. Sure, there are some proper nations in there, Germany, USA and France for example. But then, there is an All Stars team, Team Benelux and Team Scandinavia. What is the point of trying to promote a Nations Cup if there isn’t a proper amount of drivers to make either a) a fair amount of drivers to make it decent or b) if only five teams are actually proper nations.

What I find even more odd is the qualification system, which proves there are nations able to stop that fact.

The main event is clearly the Race of Champions, so why are they trying to devalue that competition to go for a much more of an equal nation feel to the event. Instead of the Nations Cup, why not have another form of team event? 8 teams of 2 drivers each. Therefore, you can focus much more on improving the main spectacle and getting even more of the best drivers involved in the series.

Organisation

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The event has a lot of potential, but come on, what use is it to anyone when the drivers, commentators and the fans just have no idea how the event is structured.

I like the group stage followed by the knockouts, more action for the fans and ultimately more for the money paid. But having the time to decide ties makes no sense, how about a race off? Its supposed to be an entertaining product, so give more to the fans instead of what is being offered at the moment, confusion.

Tell everyone what should happen, get everyone aware and make a damn good event out of it.

Television

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Dave… are you reading? This event is just perfect for you. You have showed highlights of the WRC since 2007, showed highlights of the Red Bull X-Fighters and show endless repeats of a show that enjoys cars crashing. This matches your target audience perfectly. It couldn’t be a snugger fit, just take out 3-4 hours from your schedule for the two days and you will get a bigger audience than it currently receives in the UK.

I have nothing against Motors TV, but they are hidden away on Sky, unavailable to a lot of television owners. There is the option to pay for it online, but ultimately that plan is flawed. Less people are likely to opt for the paid content and rather find an illegal stream of the event completely free, just with a bit less quality to punish you.

If this wants to be a success it needs to be on free to view television. Even one of the main Sky Sports channels would work, getting heavily publicised across all Sky channels, picking up more audiences along the way. Its being aimed at a too specific audience when it could be broadened out.

Everything Else

Apart from those four key areas that need improving, the Race of Champions is a fun way to finish the season off. It isn’t supposed to be taken that seriously and is all about pleasing the fans who have made the effort to watch, by that meaning if they have actually went to the stadium or just at home wrapped around a blanket drinking tea. If previous form is to go by, at least one area mentioned will get improved.

The End

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Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

It comes around so fast, back in March I set up the idea as a bit of fun, and as an experiment in a way. Simply to see who is the best new team, forget the Red Bulls, Ferraris of the world, who really does care about them anyway? Its all for a number 1 on the car for next season frankly.

19 races later and its all over. Done, completed, finished. Heikki Kovalainen won the Drivers Championship in Japan, Lotus Racing won the Teams version a race later. The rest of the season has been done for pride, and three drivers vying for second place, Timo Glock, Lucas di Grassi and Jarno Trulli. In my aim to find something interesting to talk about at least.

So the final race, my final race report I’d imagine. It has been a fun season to talk about, ups and downs for all eight drivers (half of them coming from Hispania). And in reality, it was status quo for qualifying in Abu Dhabi. Jarno Trulli out qualified Heikki Kovalainen for the 11th time and considering Kovalainen’s domination in the races, shows how poor Trulli has been during the races. Then there was Timo Glock, third place, ahead of Lucas di Grassi who might as well have 22nd engraved on the grid spot. And finally, Bruno Senna out qualified Christian Klien for the first time, and possibly for the last time, as it doesn’t look like either will stay at Hispania for next season.

You may have noticed I’m waffling. That is true, as there is so little to actually talk about during the race. The start saw Michael Schumacher and Tonio Liuzzi cause a Safety Car, which saw di Grassi, Senna and Klien all pit. Kovalainen headed the pack in front of Trulli and Glock.

In reality there was little to note, Trulli first suffered from front wing issues and then had a rear wing failure towards the end of the race. Luckily for him, he was still classified, albeit last of the finishers.

It would have been fitting if all six cars would finish the race and for a while it looked like that would happen, but sadly it wasn’t to be, Glock suffered gearbox issues and had to pull out of the race. Five were to finish, meaning the only race to have all six finish was Hungary.

So, for the final time Kovalainen won the New Teams race, who knows how well his car will perform next season. Lucas di Grassi came in second ahead of Bruno Senna, Christian Klien and Jarno Trulli.

For the final time my friends, the results.

  Driver Team Race Pos. Points
1 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 17th 10
2 Lucas di Grassi Virgin Racing 18th 6
3 Bruno Senna Hispania 19th 4
4 Christian Klien Hispania 20th 3
5 Jarno Trulli Lotus 21st 2
6 Timo Glock Virgin Racing Ret. 0

 

Final Standings

Drivers Championship

And that is that. Heikki Kovalainen’s final total stands at 118, just under double of the second place points. Lucas di Grassi benefits from Timo Glock’s gearbox problem to finish in second place, just one point ahead of both Glock and Trulli. Glock finishes third on the count of finishing 1st three times, compared to Trulli being 1st just the twice. Karun Chandhok was a threat to Kovalainen, but his replacing mid season sees him finish in 5th, ahead of Bruno Senna who had significantly more races than him. Sakon Yamamoto was poor, and struggled to impress. Klien had little time to do that, propping up the table, but in fairness, he was always going to do that anyway.

    Driver Team Points
1 C Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 118
2   Lucas di Grassi Virgin Racing 61
3   Timo Glock Virgin Racing 60
4   Jarno Trulli Lotus 60
5   Karun Chandhok Hispania 45
6   Bruno Senna Hispania 38
7   Sakon Yamamoto Hispania 15
8   Christian Klien Hispania 5

 

Teams Championship

The less interesting side of things. Lotus were a gap ahead of Virgin, who were a chasm ahead of Hispania. Nothing more to discuss.

    Team Points
1 C Lotus 178
2   Virgin Racing 121
3   Hispania 103

 

Final Thoughts

And we are done here. No doubt I will put up a few posts about more or less everything, you will just wait and see what. I have loved covering the new teams, every single race and the progress they have clearly made has been fantastic, and in a way, I’m pleased for everyone involved in Lotus Racing, Virgin Racing and Hispania.

Thank you to everyone who has commented, retweeted (especially Virgin Racing and Heikki Kovalainen) and just generally read the updates.

I suspect this will be the end of this. Next season I can imagine Lotus and Virgin at least being at the same level of Toro Rosso. Who knows what Hispania will bring, a quick car or a re-sprayed 2010 car. I might find something to waffle about.

On the other hand, I might just wait till the next batch of new teams wonder unsuspectingly into the world of Formula 1.

One Year On

If I compiled a list of questions people most frequently ask me, up there would be simply ‘Who is your favourite goalkeeper of all time?’

In all fairness, it is a tough question to answer. There are a wide range of quality goalkeepers out there. I have already expressed my admiration for Bolton’s Jussi Jaaskelainen, but then you have to consider the likes of Iker Casillas, Gordon Banks, Lev Yashin, everyone has their favourites, some recognised internationally, some, just recognised within the nation they play in.

I suppose my choice falls within in the former. A well known figure in European football.

And he died exactly a year ago.

Robert Enke jumped in front of a train on November 10th 2009. It wasn’t well known to the world what he had been through in the last six years of his life. Depression, a family loss, in the end it was all too much.

It came as a massive shock at the time, nobody expected it. Nobody expected the news that Robert Enke had died. He was only 32 at the time, still a few years left in his playing career, playing at his best. At the time he was considered for the German number 1 slot for the World Cup in South Africa. He had opportunities at his feet, everything still to play for.

But what the world were not aware of was his personal troubles. He was first treated with depression in 2003 and struggled to overcome the loss of his own daughter, Lara, when she died aged just two.

Enke hid his struggle with depression, in a way not to affect his performances for Hannover 96 (the team he was playing for since the start of the 2004-05 season) but mainly so that he was not seen as unfit to take care of his adopted daughter, Leila. Robert Enke eventually ended his own life one year ago today, November 10th 2009.

The story behind the incident is tragic, a highly emotional one. But what can be always remembered was how good a goalkeeper he actually was. His unfortunate luck regarding the German national team, the jumping around clubs in the early part of his career.

Robert Enke started out life at his local club, Carl Zeiss Jena, aged 18. He played in four first team games before he moved to the Bundesliga and Borussia Monchengladbach in the summer of 1996.

It was a sort of contrasting story for the club and the player. His debut in the Bundesliga came against Schalke in 1998, in which the team won 3-0. But Monchengladbach soon went down towards the wrong end of the table. Despite the best efforts of Enke, who was becoming an integral part of the team, Borussia Monchengladbach were relegated and Robert Enke was put up for sale, he impressed on the big stage, and big names were after him.

Portuguese team Benfica were quick to sign him, managed by a compatriot in Jupp Heynckes. But his term at Benfica was only the start of his issues outside of Germany. Benfica had three different managers in charge in the three years Enke was at the club. The team went without trophies and struggled financially. In all this time Enke was being watched by the big clubs around Europe. He was impressing again, and it was only a matter of time before he moved on.

His next club, was in fact one of the biggest clubs in the world, Barcelona. But he faced competition, and ultimately failed to beat it. Instead, he was stuck on the bench for a season behind Victor Valdes and only appeared once in a Barcelona shirt in the La Liga, in a 2-2 draw with Osasuna.

Despite the occasional appearance in the Champions League as well, he wanted first team football and so was sent on loan to the Turkish side Fenerbache. But this would not turn out well. His first and only game was to come against Istanbulspor at home, however they went on to lose 3-0, which angered the fans. The fans then went on to throw lighters, coins and bottles towards Enke, clearly blaming him for the defeat. He immediately cancelled his deal with Fenerbache and returned to Barcelona to sit on the sidelines again.

His next club was to be Tenerife, who Barcelona loaned him out too in January 2004. This was a step down from both Barcelona and Fenerbache, in fact Tenerife were at the time in the second division in Spain. This though saw his confidence return, despite conceding five on the final game of the season. That game was to be his last as a player for a foreign team. In the summer of 2004 he requested to leave Barcelona on a free transfer.

Robert Enke’s final football destination was Hannover, a team back in his homeland of Germany. A place where he had first made a name for himself, and was once again going to show his ability and his talent. Straight away, the fans warmed to him, and he rewarded them with exceptional performances. In his first year back in Germany, he was named the Team of the Season by his fellow professionals.

All this time he finally made his international debut in a 1-0 friendly defeat to Denmark. After years of being overshadowed by Oliver Khan and Jens Lehmann, he was finally getting the chance to prove himself. He was an unused substitute in Germanys run to the final in Euro 2008. Before his death, he went on to win 8 caps for Germany. In a way, the peak of Enke’s career came at the worst time, during the years of Khan and Lehmann, as well as the emergence of Rene Adler and Manuel Neuer.

By 2009, Enke was a popular figure in Hannover and the captain of the team. More awards came in terms of the Bundesliga Best Goalkeeper in the 2008-09 season, his last full campaign. His last game was to be at his home ground, the AWD-Arena in Hannover, in a 2-2 draw with Hamburg. Little did anyone know that on the Tuesday following the game, he would no longer be stepping out as captain of the Hannover 96 team, fewer, would be aware of the troubles he faced inside those last six years of his life.

The loss of Robert Enke was felt throughout football. Germany would cancel the team’s friendly game with Chile later in the week. His former clubs of Benfica and Barcelona would go on to have a two minute silence in remembrance of a player they once loved. Tenerife would wear black arm bands.

What was most significant, in my eyes at least, was the reaction of the Hannover fans. They organised an impromptu march from the city centre to the stadium, lighting candles, signing the book of condolence. His funeral service, staged a week after his final game, saw more Hannover fans pack the stadium. To remember one of their players, their captain.

Depression caused the loss of life of one of the most underrated goalkeepers in world football. His time in Germany saw much success and it wouldn’t have been hard to know what it would have been like had he not committed suicide. I liked him as a goalkeeper, what he could do on the pitch. He improved the fortunes of Hannover 96 and inspired many more to be like him.

10th November 2009, when the world lost one of its best goalkeepers.

All Too Easy

Brazilian Grand Prix - Friday
Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
5th November 2010.
Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus T127 Cosworth.
World Copyright: Charles Coates/LAT Photographic
ref: Digital Image DX5J1121

Brazilian Grand Prix

Pretty much everything has been sewn up in the New Teams Championship. Heikki Kovalainen has won the Drivers Championship, while Lotus Racing have won the Teams version. But, there was of course the battle as to who finishes as runner up and if Hispania can topple Virgin in second place.

Pre race saw the sixth driver change for Hispania. Christian Klien, who had previously replaced Sakon Yamamoto in Singapore, replaced him again. Probably in the vain attempt to beat Lotus in the actual championship (but who cares about that right?)

It was Timo Glock who managed to qualify ahead of the other five. In an unusual twist, Heikki Kovalainen struggled and was behind Jarno Trulli. Lucas di Grassi was in his usual 4th place with Klien ahead of Senna on the back row.

It was however Heikki Kovalainen who made the best start, getting ahead of both Glock and Trulli.

It wasn’t to be the greatest of starts for Klien though, fuel pressure issues saw him join the race four laps down, and pretty much just racing for the hell of it. His two races in F1 this season has shown promise, but ultimately, been let down by things that have not been his own fault.

The only real things of note to follow in the rest of the race was that Trulli got past Glock and Lucas di Grassi had to come in for a number of laps due to rear suspension problems. He was able to finish but did not complete 90% of the race so is put down as the only retiree.

Heikki Kovalainen went on to win yet another New Team Race, Jarno Trulli in second to complete the 1-2. Glock was again best of the rest, with the two Hispania’s behind.

  Driver Team Race Pos. Points
1 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 18th 10
2 Jarno Trulli Lotus 19th 6
3 Timo Glock Virgin Racing 20th 4
4 Bruno Senna Hispania 21st 3
5 Christian Klien Hispania 22nd 2
6 Lucas di Grassi Virgin Racing N.C 0

 

Standings

Drivers Championship

The battle for second just keeps getting better, Timo Glock’s advantage is now just down to two points, with Jarno Trulli jumping the non-scoring Lucas di Grassi. Karun Chandhok is now secured to be the best Hispania driver of the season, despite being involved in 10 races this season. Christian Klien gets himself of the mark.

    Driver Team Points
1 C Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 108
2   Timo Glock Virgin Racing 60
3   Jarno Trulli Lotus 58
4   Lucas di Grassi Virgin Racing 55
5   Karun Chandhok Hispania 45
6   Bruno Senna Hispania 34
7   Sakon Yamamoto Hispania 15
8   Christian Klien Hispania 2

 

Teams Championship

Lotus are miles ahead and Virgin are pretty much secured to finish in second place unless they get a non finish and Hispania get a 1-2 in Abu Dhabi. Which, may require a miracle.

    Team Points
1 C Lotus 166
2   Virgin Racing 111
3   Hispania 96
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