Monthly Archives: June 2011

Kovalainen Begins to Hunt Down Trulli

European Grand Prix

Yeah, about my next update for the New Teams being after Italy, I’m a terrible liar.

So, what did we have in Valencia? A poor, slightly dull race which was a let down after such a terrific start to the season. Heikki Kovalainen was once again quicker than Jarno Trulli in qualifying, Timo Glock was quicker than Jerome D’Ambrosio and Vitantonio Liuzzi was quicker than Narain Karthikeyan. No surprises there.

And apart from a stunning start from Glock, in which he jumped both Lotus cars at the start, very little else happened. The German fell below both Kovalainen and Trulli in the next 20 laps, just making sure that the remaining laps were dull for the new teams.

The only real incidents of note were the Hispania drivers reaction to the blue flags, critisced by Virgin for failing to see them and their unique way of dealing with the leading cars.

  Driver Team Race Pos. Points
1 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 19th 10
2 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus 20th 6
3 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin 21st 4
4 Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin 22nd 3
5 Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania 23rd 2
6 Narain Karthikeyan Hispania 24th 1


Standings

Drivers Championship

Things have got a bit tighter in the standings. The gap from Kovalainen to Trulli has been reduced to 13 points. The Virgin boys have also closed up on themselves, the gap between the two of them is just 8 points, while the Hispania drivers are slowly making up the numbers once more after an impressive Canada.

  Driver Team Points
1 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus 55
2 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 42
3 Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin 31
4 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin 23
5 Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania 19
6 Narain Karthikeyan Hispania 12

Teams Championship

The Lotus domination continues. Virgin pull away from Hispania and there is really nothing more which can be said

    Team Points
1 Lotus Racing 97
2   Marussia Virgin 54
3   Hispania 33


Next Race

It’s another two week gap to Silverstone, which has had another renovation and has a new start line for 2011. The last two races at Silverstone haven’t been the best, so after Canada, I’m not expecting much more entertainment.

Last year Hispania made much controversy by replacing Bruno Senna with Sakon Yamamoto at the last moment. Unsurprisingly he finished last, while at the front, Jarno Trulli had one of his few moments that season where he finished in front of his team mate Heikki Kovalainen.

Kovalainen has possibly the best history at the circuit, starting on pole in 2008, although failed to make much of the opportunity.

I believe its a further chance to see Lotus move away from the other two, although the new rules could make things closer. Could. (Probably won’t.)

To FIFA And UEFA

Roberto Carlos had a banana thrown at him in the match between his team Anzhi Makhachkala and Krylya Sovetov today in the Russian Premier League.

In response Carlos did a dignified response, simply throwing the banana off the pitch and walking off down the tunnel. This despite the fact his team had used all three of the substitutions.

And lets not forget that Russia, in 2018, will be hosting the World Cup, the biggest event in football.

How can this be allowed? Fans who subject a racial abuse are going to be allowed a World Cup? One off incident, maybe I’d accept the fact that there is one idiotic fan in the whole country, who can’t keep his thoughts and views to himself, and ruins the reputation of a normally good, well behaved fan group in the nation. But no, this isn’t even the first time it has happened to Roberto Carlos. Earlier this season Zenit St. Petersburg fans waved a banana in the face of the Brazilian as he walked down the tunnel.

Then there is current West Brom striker Peter Odemwingie, who, after leaving Lokomotiv Moscow, had his former fans unveil a banner saying ‘Thanks West Brom’, with a drawing of a banana in the middle. And he has also spoken out since about the racial abuse he had while in Russia.

The same Russia hosting the 2018 World Cup.

Have Russia so far done anything to solve the problem? No, nothing substantial enough which is having any effect. As far back as 2004 the issue had been noted, especially among Zenit St. Petersburg’s refusal to sign black players, and nothing has been done by the RFU, UEFA or FIFA about any single incident. Nothing. Sure, a little slap on the wrist, if you do it again it’ll be a tiny bit harder. But nothing substantial, nothing at all. Just put a massive blanket over it every single time its seen to the whole world. After all, they are getting the World Cup, how lovely and thoughtful by FIFA. Who cares about the racial abuse that the fans chant, I mean, they are going to have big stadiums and host big matches which people will watch. FIFA have to do something about this, the act is disgraceful and every single time they put a clean sheet on it gets dirty.

And we can’t just blame FIFA for being blinded by money and forgetting all morals in choosing who to host a major international event. That is right UEFA, as you plan on sending 14 teams to Poland and Ukraine, you appear to have massively forgot about the hooliganism in the two countries especially Poland.

Poland has been described as having hooliganism worse than England in the 1980s. Fans have been killed, this years Polish Cup final ended in a fight between Legia Warsaw and the Police. It’s a disgrace, and once again, the major international players that should be looking after and solving these issues aren’t there. They are cowering in the corner frightened to alienate the Polish FA, after all, they did allow them to host Euro 2012.

How can FIFA and UEFA allow two nations, each with different moral issues, the right to host major international events? It doesn’t comprehend or make any sense for me. It allows for weak FA’s who refuse to take action on things the ability to get away with it, hey, the might get a World Cup out of it. England cleaned up its act, now (most of the time) the fans are civilised. Sure there is the odd chant which is suspect, but it doesn’t happen every week and it doesn’t happen all the time. Racial abuse and hooliganism doesn’t happen in rugby, cricket or tennis. Or any other sport for that fact, why should football be the example? Just because the sport reaches a far bigger fan base doesn’t give it any sort of excuse that racial abuse and hooliganism should be allowed. The fans who do this are not real fans, they are cowards. It is more than a sport but it ultimately should be played for the enjoyment of the fans and players. That can not possibly be achieved with the attitudes of the football authorities, especially in Eastern Europe. Both FIFA and UEFA should get out from behind the sofa, and make a stand. Forget all the bribery allegations that FIFA are in at the moments, they should also be taking a serious look at the events in Russia and Poland, and take a serious look in threatening the right to remove the host duties from them if they don’t get up and stop the racism and the hooliganism.

Better Than the Best It’s Going to Get

The year is 2024. And to put it bluntly, I am one level short of being God. Everybody loves me. I am a genius. I’ve looked over legends; Gareth Bale, Danny Wilson, Carlos Tevez, Marcus Fenton. I have taken Tottenham Hotspur to seven Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, two Champions Leagues, and a host of other pointless trophies. I’m so brilliant, they even named a stadium after me (There’s also slight failures managing England and Spain, but who counts them anyway?).

I’ve made some brilliant transfers, £500k for the then 16 year old Marcus Fenton from Huddersfield, who started playing full time three years later, and has had the team structured around him by the age of 25. Casemiro for £5.75m, a sturdy Tom Huddlestone-esque midfielder capable of holding the ball up. £2.2m for Paul Casey, now one of the regular three center-backs at the club.

Of course there have been failures, £37.5m for Leonadro Rosales, who I didn’t really need. £35m for Juan Manuel Mata, who was a transfer deadline day panic buy after, for some reason, I thought I needed a new left midfielder (I didn’t).

But they don’t matter. I have taken Tottenham to new heights, I have eclipsed the greats. I am the greatest manager of all time, even ahead of Roberto Mancini. Oh I hate that man, taking charge of Manchester City and Arsenal (twice). How dare he. But at least I know with Andre Villas-Boas, manager of the plucky Aston Villa team who went to the 2023 Champions League final, that he will side by me and we’ll get along just in the League just fine.

I’ve seen great games and great goals. Beating Wolverhampton Wanderers 6-4 after being 5-1 up was dramatic and tense. The 2015 FA Cup Final against Blackburn Rovers, 3-2 AET, it was back and forth, my favourite game as manager. Goals from Miguel Angel Perez Garcia (which was not a fluke):

 

I look down the leagues. I’ve played against Rotherham in the Premier League, Swansea in League 1, only a few years since they graced the Europa League.

But now it is time to prepare myself for our next league game at the Reebok Stadium, the 11th February 2024, against Bolton Wanderers. Under Landon Donovan they reached the Champions League, now they are managed by former Liverpool man Markus Babbel, once again competing for Europe.

I’m down two men, key Brazilian centre-back Fabio, as well as the ruthless, likes-a-tackle, Adam Pitman. Two players who have been crucial this season. I change to 4-4-2. Andreas Hinz in goal, compatriot Sokol Sadiku as left back. Across the defence is Paul Casey, captain Danny Wilson and Bradley Baker. In front of them are the centre midfielders of Marcus Fenton and Sylvian Jezequel, on the wings the third German Murat Akman and Steve Burton. Up front is Charlie Harding, and the scoring-f0r-fun Iban Erkizia.

In the dressing room I tell them to do it for the fans, then I send them out the tunnel to play Bolton.

14 minutes. Raphael Calvet hacks down Steve Burton inside the box. Marcus Fenton steps up, smashes it down the right. 0-1.

24 minutes. Charlie Harding through on goal, composed, placed it into the net. Poor all season, showed up today. 0-2.

36 minutes. Corner. Fenton swings the ball in, headed by Casey, off the post, across the goal, hits Ryan Bennett off his head, own goal. 0-3.

It remains the same until full time, another win. 6 points ahead of Arsenal in 2nd, eleven games left to play, 5th Premier League title in a row is on the cards, best team Tottenham have ever had, along, of course, with the best ever manager.

And then I look up, off my computer screen, realise that it isn’t real life. Marcus Fenton doesn’t exist, just a man generated by the beautiful game which is Football Manager (shame, because he would be a perfect replacement for Luka Modric).

It’s taken six months to get to 2024, easily the longest I’ve had a single game on any Football Manager (second longest was 2022 on a Football Manager Handheld game, in which I won every single League Cup with whichever team I was at). Of course I’ve stopped playing at times because I sometimes actually have a life, but Football Manager is something I just go to play and waste far too many hours on. The addictiveness rating on the game itself says ‘Nothing to see here. Move along…’, my hall of fame though still isn’t anywhere near Jose Mourinho who is miles ahead of me.

Why do I do it? I’m sure on paper it sounds like a boring, strategy game. In fact, describing it to a friend the other day he seemed shocked that anyone would find this interesting. But it is, famously ‘I’ll play one more game’, turns into another four hours of playing before you fall asleep on the computer, usually after you accepted a stupidly low price for one of your best players. I find myself keep on playing because it is so in-depth, so technical, so good for getting your attacking midfielder as a trequartista or wondering if its pointless for anywhere but Italy.

One better, that is what I want to do, always do one better than the year before. Of course I can never do that. My ultimate aim is to win seven trophies in one season, but considering my previous best is just four, I’ll find that a bit hard.

But you know what, I don’t care. Through the medium of technology, I’ve proved that we can do better than Harry Redknapp, and the best that its going to get isn’t 5th place and European games in Kazakhstan.

There is still a lingering feeling you know it isn’t real, after all, Arsenal have won several trophies and Lionel Messi is a member of the backroom staff. But still, when Redknapp pops off across London to take charge of England, I have a pretty good feeling that Daniel Levy will know who I am and think I’m a worthwhile candidate for the Spurs job. If I’m mates with Messi in game, can’t be that hard to get him in real life.

Predicting the Unpredictable

luuuuuuke I’m not sure why I’m bothering with this. Every time that I talk about golf, the following major the winner tends to the person that I haven’t even looked at in terms of mentioning. First Louis Oosthuizen, then Charl Schwartzel. Those pesky South Africans.

But, on the night before the start of the US Open, whilst looking over the bookies odds and weather reports I realise the second major of the year is once again impossible to predict. Too many names who are capable of glory, many more capable of being on form for just those four rounds.

The Congressional County Club looks set for rain, rain and a little bit more rain over the first two days especially. And, after we needed any proof from the Open Championship last year, that can spring up a number of surprising results.

So, Alexandre Rocha, not to put any pressure on you here, but I might put a little bit of money on you.

Realistically, the Americas are highly unlikely to produce a winner. No American holds their hands on one of the four majors, with the Europeans looking deadly. The obvious threat is the current world number one, Luke Donald. Donald has been in sensational form so far in 2011, victory at Wentworth two weeks ago only goes to prove that. With the current form it does look highly unlikely that he won’t be challenging.

This is a massive contrast to the reigning US Open winner, Graeme McDowell. A massive burn out has happened for the Northern Irishman, spectacular failures in Wales (30th), Wentworth (missed the cut) and the Masters have blighted his season so far. And the recent two performances are major causes of concern heading into one of the four majors.

The best tip from Europe will probably be Rory McIlroy, the Masters proves that on his day, he is brilliant, over three days he can be exceptional. But his tendency to choke has ruined a chance at two majors. I doubt he will have learnt that should he have a commanding lead in the US Open. But if he is behind on the final day, he could make an interesting late climb up the board.

It isn’t all doom and gloom for the Americans, underrated golfers in Steve Stricker, Hunter Mahan (oh la la la lally) and Matt Kuchar could all stake a claim for the US Open. Phil Mickelson is of course the favourite from this lot, he’s having a solid season so far, but has yet to win this major. Can it be his time? I just don’t see it myself.

There are some other blokes that could also do well, Lee Westwood (he can’t stay that high up the rankings without winning a major soon, can he?), Martin Kaymer, the two Koreans of K.J. Choi and Y.E. Yang and of course, Alexandre Rocha (he’s only 750-1 at Bet365, I mean, with the way the majors have been going at the moment, why not?).

Two groups are grabbing my attention as well. Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer as well as the all Italian group of Francesco and Edorado Molinari and Matteo Manassero. As a personal thought, this really does excite me considering I love all the Italian golfers, and I do reckon Manassero could spring out a top 10 finish if he is on it. I’ve blogged about him before but I really do like the guy, and think this could be his opportunity for the world to notice his talent.

It’s going to be tough for everyone who steps on the Congressional grass. Par’s are going to be tough to reach and its going to be a challenge and a deserved victory for anyone who makes it. That’ll be Alexandre Rocha.

Whatever Happened to The New Teams?

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A year ago I was updating my blog on the fortunes of the three new teams, Lotus Racing, Virgin Racing and Hispania. In the end, Heikki Kovalainen romped away with the Drivers Championship, a long way ahead of the battling trio of Lucas di Grassi, Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli. It was a similar story in the Teams Championship, glory for Lotus, in a dull battle with Virgin clearly in second and Hispania clearly last.

For this year I thought to step away, safe in the assurances that they may have actually improved and be nearly caught up with the midfield teams.

If anything, they have got worse.

So, I thought to take a look at what the tables would be looking like if I had kept on doing it. It takes some interesting reading and makes me wish I had bothered to carry on. (Don’t worry, I’ll continue to look at this at thirdly intervals.)

What’s New for 2011?

Only three drivers from 2010 remain, the two Lotus cars of Kovalainen and Trulli, as well as Glock. F1 veterans Narain Karthikeyan and Vitantonio Liuzzi joined Hispania, while the only rookie of the six was Jerome D’Ambrosio in the Virgin.

Apart from that, everything was the same. Apart from Marussia buying into Virgin and Lotus Racing now being called Team Lotus, and nothing else. But that was just trivial stuff.

Drivers Championship

After Round 7 of 19

  Driver Team Points
1 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus 49
2 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 32
3 Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin 28
4 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin 19
5 Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania 17
6 Narain Karthikeyan Hispania 11

 

Jarno Trulli
1st – 49 points
Despite being beaten 6-1 in terms of qualifying against Heikki Kovalainen, Trulli is slaughtering the opposition in his Team Lotus this season. Five times he has beaten Kovalainen in the race, including four ‘New Teams Championship’ wins, and don’t think its down to the Finn’s poor reliability either, in the occasion both cars have finished, Trulli has finished ahead both times. This guy still has it by the looks of things.

Heikki Kovalainen
2nd – 32 points
It looks bad reading for Kovalainen compared to Trulli. He has a superior qualifying record but the Team Lotus car is letting him down badly. Heikki in fact has the most retirements (three) out of any of the six cars, only one down to his own fault (crashing in Spain). If he can get more reliability, it will be interesting to see if he can catch up to his team mate.

Jerome D’Ambrosio
3rd – 28 points
Marussia Virgin have looked dreadfully slow this season, and he should be far worse off compared to his experienced team mate Timo Glock. But the Belgian is constantly finishing and giving off impressive performances, and is even in reaching distance of the reigning champions.

Timo Glock
4th – 19 points
Glock is struggling. Whether he doesn’t want to be a part of Virgin anymore or the car does not suit him, he can’t seem to be anywhere near his inexperienced team mate, which looks embarrassing. Five times he has finished behind D’Ambrosio in a race, this is out of seven, its not looking good for the German.

Vitantonio Liuzzi
5th – 17 points
I think it is fair to say a Hispania shouldn’t be two points off a Virgin, but they are. The car looks and performs awfully, but Liuzzi, out of nowhere, finished 13th in Canada, ahead of everyone else. Lets repeat that, ahead of everyone else. In a Hispania. Madness. Credit must go out for managing to guide that car around the track in one piece nearly every single Sunday. It isn’t a job I would want to do.

Narain Karthikeyan
6th – 11 points
The Indian hasn’t embarrassed himself at all this season, again the car isn’t in his favour and he is managing to get it around a track in one piece every Sunday. OK job so far.

Teams Championship

    Team Points
1 Lotus Racing 81
2   Marussia Virgin 47
3   Hispania 30

 

Team Lotus
1st – 81 points
I’m not going to lie to you, I think Team Lotus can afford to open the champagne*, it looks easy and out of anyone they are probably the most likely to score an actual World Championship point (which is ironic considering they are the last team I want to do that). Easily the fastest in qualifying and the race. It is a walk in the park.

Marussia Virgin
2nd – 47 points
Oh dear. The performance of the Virgin has slid so far downhill that in Canada they hit rock bottom (being outqualified by a Hispania and being saved by the stewards in terms of 107%). The consequences have been harsh on Nick Wirth, sacked ahead of that race, and drastic change is needed to make sure they don’t finish last here, which is ever so possible if Hispania keep their pace up. With news attention is soon to focus on 2012, this could turn to humiliation.

Hispania
3rd – 30 points
They failed to qualify in Australia, lucky to just get in in Malaysia. The laughing stock of the grid, but they have went up the gentle incline of improvement. Not by long they have reached the pace of Virgin, upgrades have been made, the drivers aren’t doing too shoddy a job, things are actually looking up for once (even if they have the worst livery on the grid).

What Next?

I could probably guess, but the next seven races (next update will be after the Italian Grand Prix) will probably go like this: Team Lotus drivers to continue to swap wins, Hispania to become clear second best team, Marussia Virgin to flirt with 107% each qualifying session.

Though, as that is probably what is expected, it probably won’t happen.

Bright Lights Returning

Canadian F1 Grand Prix YSdWLwMvJ6Il

A lot of things can happen in three years. Back in 2008, Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds were seen as respectable members of the Renault F1 team, five different cars were winning races and everyone thought they had seen the last of Sakon Yamamoto.

And Sauber were entering a competitive car, which under the backing of BMW, won their first and so far only grand prix exactly three years today.

I presume we all know the story of one Sunday afternoon in Montreal. Robert Kubica had started second, and when he was waiting for the green light in the pitlane next to Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton ploughed into the back of the Finn, closely followed by Nico Rosberg. Kubica was left unscathed from the whole drama, and was allowed a free battle against his team mate, Nick Heidfeld. His speed in a two stop strategy compared to Heidfeld’s one was sufficient enough to see him finish ahead, a 1-2, for the only time.

The results were sensational, 18 points for BMW Sauber put them three points behind Ferrari in the Constructors Championship. More significantly perhaps,  the 10 points for Kubica saw him lead the Championship. Ahead of the likes of Hamilton, Raikkonen and Massa. The peak, at the top of the mountain. Surely this team could go on to better and greater things. More wins, maybe even a good run into the Championships. Yet no one thought to tell Dr Theissen that when you are up there, there is only one way you are going to slide.

Of the next eleven races, BMW Sauber only got on the podium five further times. The reports saying the focus was on 2009, with the major changes in the rules and regulations.

The tactic failed spectacularly. Robert Kubica was an outside shot for the Championship right until the penultimate round, someone who could have pushed Hamilton and Massa had there been further updates.

Kubica was knowingly angry, as was I. Although 2008 wasn’t scrumpled up and chucked in the bin, there were some updates, minor updates, but BMW Sauber were being left behind by the developments of McLaren and Ferrari. What could have been? Hindsight allows us so many things, it wasn’t worth giving up after Canada.

2009 was disastrous, the car looked ugly and its performances matched it. For a team built on reliability the car was breaking down far too often, only twice did the car get on the podium, and one of those occasions only ended in half points.

BMW sold to QADBAK, the mysterious middle eastern company who had also bought the League 2 football club, Notts County. That went down the pan (as did the ownership of the company several years later), but the pan decided to flip up Peter Sauber, who bought his team back, it was back in his ownership, like it should be, its his team after all.

I was delighted, I loved the BMW regime, it was like playing football under Jose Mourinho. It wasn’t pretty, you looked boring, but you got the results and you just had to love the person in charge. Then Mourinho decided to leave to join some German club and your left with the assistant manager Martin Jol to step up, the charismatic, lovely, simply can’t hate him whatsoever, you love what he does even if it isn’t as good.

And it wasn’t as good. If everyone thought QADBAK was rock bottom, worse was yet to come. The 2010 duo of Kamui Kobayashi and Pedro de la Rosa failed to score a point until the Turkish Grand Prix, even worse, de la Rosa’s only points came in Hungary. Hungary, a race in July. While Heidfeld steadied the ship, it was a depressing season.

With promise though. And 2011 has re-enlightened the spark left behind when BMW left. Kobayashi has finished in the points every race this season (if you include Australia, where I don’t let that disqualification get in the way of a good stat), while young Mexican Sergio Perez has showed a lot of promise. This was all backed up in Monaco, Kobayashi showed everything that proved the doubters wrong, he kept Webber and Hamilton behind for many laps, he got himself past Adrian Sutil, albeit forcefully, and could have finished even higher than 5th had the red flag not come out. It was partly down to luck, pitting during the Safety Car. But Jamey Key has built a hell of a car, which seems to be in a full on relationship with the Pirelli tyres and treats it with roses and chocolates every other Sunday.

It is nowhere near the same promise shown back in 2008. Formula 1 can be classified in four clear groups. The Front Runners of Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari. The Front Midfield of Renault and Mercedes. The Back Midfield (well thought out names, I will admit) of Sauber, Force India, Williams and Toro Rosso. And of course the rubbish three of Team Lotus, Virgin and Hispania. But its time to asses this view, Sauber are now eleven points ahead of the next rivals, Force India. Renault and Mercedes both showed signs of struggling in Monaco. The balance in the midfield is shifting.

Canada will be the true test of course, scene of the greatest moment for Sauber in their 18 year history, with the treating of the tyres on a track which will probably require 84 pitstops for each driver, maybe the good form can carry on. Sergio Perez back to his best after his massive crash, and Kamui Kobayashi is leading the team, why not feel good about Sauber yet again? In a world dominated by Sebastian Vettel, there is cause for happiness in Formula 1.

Three years ago the world was at BMW Sauber’s feet. After dragging themselves through hell and high waters, the world is once again a prettier place, with flowers and sunshine, and the world at the feet once again.

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