Monthly Archives: January 2010

Thursday Thoughts – Changing Venues

This weeks Thursday Thoughts comes from the Triple Racing Blog, and he has posed the following question:

What Track or Tracks not on the current F1 season calendar do you want added?  Also, what current tracks need to go.  And finally, if this isn’t enough, how many Grand Prix’s should F1 have? 

F1 2009 - Rd 4 Bahrain GP - Qualifying

The Asian Revolution is happening in Formula 1, every new race is coming from Asia and it is fairly worrying. These new races tend to be dull, with unimaginative circuits and a lack of atmosphere. The so called ‘classics’ are becoming less and less. Is it worrying times?

The main person to blame is seemingly always the designer of these new tracks, Hermann Tilke. He has been involved in every circuit’s design or renovation since 1999. The majority of his circuits are awful in terms of quality, the traditional long straight and tight corner had yet to show any results.

Of the circuits he has designed, I would get rid of a lot of them. Not all of them, you do need some sort of presence in Asia, a growing market for Formula 1. It is logical for the sport to have races in Asia, the only problem is these races produce no quality whatsoever. The Tilke tracks I’d drop from my ideal calendar then:

  • Shanghai, China
  • Istanbul, Turkey
  • Valencia, Spain
  • Yeongam, South Korea
  • Abu Dhabi, UAE

You may be thinking why I am dropping the South Korea circuit since we have had no races there. There is no need for a race in South Korea, past attempts by Tilke would show the race will be boring and I already have severe doubts the track will be finished in time.

Whilst I’m at it, I feel like throwing out some other circuits I just simply don’t want in F1:

  • Catalunya, Spain
  • Hockenheim, Germany

In all fairness, I do not like the possible option of the alternate races between Hockenheim and the Nurburgring. In my eyes, the Nurburgring wins every time (and Hockenheim is where Timo Glock lost his rear suspension, bad memories). Catalunya is where all the testing takes place.

This leaves thirteen races (swapping Hockenheim for the Nurburgring for the German Grand Prix). I do like the idea of a long season, some don’t, but I do. You simply can’t get enough of Formula 1, especially if it is at good venues. A good total of races per season should be 19.

So where are we going to get these circuits from? With no US race, that seems the first logical move. A return to Indianapolis would seem the logical move. As well as a USGP, another race in the Americas would also help the continent itself. Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez was a Formula 1 venue in Mexico from 1963-1992, with a break of a few years in the middle. With a few changes to safety and the layout, I figure it would be a half decent race circuit.

There are now currently no races in Spain, and with two time World Champion Fernando Alonso driving in a Ferrari, I suspect he would not allow that. Oddly, I am going to include a Hermann Tilke circuit, his recently designed Aragon circuit in Alcaniz. It looks quite good and is also the secondary home of USF1. Also across the border, a new race in Portugal is a most, with the beautiful looking Algarve circuit, also a nice place to go on a holiday. It has experience with F1 testing as well as hosting Le Mans Series races.

France has been without a race since 2008 since the Mangy-Cours circuit just simply ran out of money. It would be amazing if there was a race at the Le Mans Bugatti circuit.

That leaves one option left, and despite my objection to Asian circuits, I will allow a street circuit around Beijing, China. A race around the main area of the nation is certain to bring in spectators, which has been lacking from the Chinese Grand Prix.

19 races have been sorted, this is how my season would look like:

Date Circuit Nation
21st March Albert Park Australia
4th April Sepang Malaysia
18th April Sakhir Bahrain
25th April Beijing Street Circuit ** China
9th May Aragon * Spain
16th May Monaco Monaco
30th May Silverstone Britain
13th June Nurburgring Germany
27th June Le Mans Bugatti * France
18th July Hungaroring Hungary
25th July Portimao * Portugal
29th August Spa-Francorchamps Belgium
12th September Monza Italy
26th September Montreal Canada
3rd October Indianapolis * USA
17th October Hermanos Rodriguez Mexico
31st October Marina Bay Singapore
14th November Suzuka Japan
21st November Interlagos Brazil

* – New proposed venue ** – Totally new venue

There are four back to back races (Bahrain-China, Hungary-Portugal, Canada-USA, Japan-Brazil) with two three week long breaks (France-Hungary, Portugal-Belgium). This will help with the breaks and not make everything have so much mayhem. The season starts a week later than the actual calendar and finishes a week later as well.

Advertisements

Should He Stay or Should He Go?

Football - Tottenham Hotspur v Leeds United FA Cup Fourth Round

I like Roman Pavlyuchenko. I can’t quite put my finger on why though, he’s played a handful of games this season and wasn’t too impressive last season either. Yet, I just like him. There is something about him which makes me want him to play in the white of Tottenham week in week out.

His goal against Leeds United in the FA Cup this weekend was a relief for many different reasons. Not only did it put Spurs back in front, but it showed what was capable of the Russian. A lovely pass and a placed finish past Casper Ankergren. That was, amazingly, his second goal of the season, it certainly felt like his first. (His first of the season came in the 5-1 League Cup win against Doncaster Rovers.)

The stats just don’t get better for Roman, out of a possible 22 Premier League games, he has appeared in four of them. Amazingly, two of those appearances coming against so called ‘Top 4’ opposition, Liverpool and Arsenal.

It is clear to anyone that something has happened between Roman Pavlyuchenko and Harry Redknapp. League games seem to have vanished from the radar, despite the fact he is a constant substitute week in week out (He’s done more bench warming than Carlo Cudicini, that’s for sure.)

I do rate him highly. He is better than Peter Crouch. But Pavlyuchenko has just never had the chance to prove it. Last year came off the back of half a season with Spartak Moscow in Russia and the Euros, where Russia managed to reach the semi-finals. He showed potential in the Carling Cup especially, scoring in every round except for the final.

But, it is looking as if he is going elsewhere. The Turkish clubs seemingly interested (who also seem to be getting a lot of half decent players recently as well), a move back to Russia or even across London to West Ham United, who are after every striker in the game.

I remain optimistic, the transfer deadline day is fast approaching, and no one has seemingly made a serious move for him yet. Harry Redknapp is holding firm, but Pavlyuchenko is the one getting itchy for a move. Every time I manage Spurs on Football Manager, I play him. He gets me goals, I like him. But that isn’t the issue, he can score, he will score (as proven by the FA Cup goal).

I doubt he will be reading this, but Roman Pavlyuchenko, please don’t go.

Unknown Quantities

Practice for the German F1 Grand Prix
 

2010, may be seen by some as a new start, four new teams coming in, a lot of rookie drivers as well. For me, it is the year of returns. Michael Schumacher back after three years out, Sauber coming back after four years under the disguise of BMW. Mercedes, returning with a team for the first time since 1955.

Earlier today, the list of returnees continued. Pedro de la Rosa was confirmed as the new driver at Sauber, pipping Giancarlo Fisichella to the drive. The move completes the line up at Sauber, Kamui Kobayashi in the other seat.

Like Michael Schumacher, de la Rosa hasn’t been involved in a race for three years. Unlike Schumacher, he has only been on the podium once in seventy-two races. He’s been in an actual race just nine times since 2002.

That worries me, his lack of any actual racing experience in the last decade. Despite being 38 years old, and seemingly being in Formula 1 forever, he has only had four full years of F1 experience, and those being in an Arrows and a Jaguar car. 6 points were scored in those four seasons, just 6. More worryingly, in those 62 races from 1999-2002, 38 ended up in retirement. More than half the time, de la Rosa didn’t even reach the chequered flag.

But, I’ll be fine, these stats are from the Pedro de la Rosa before he joined McLaren as a reserve driver. In 9 races spreading from a sole appearance at the Bahrain GP in 2005 (Juan Pablo Montoya was injured due to a tennis injury) and completing the 2006 season (Montoya left for NASCAR), with Kimi Raikkonen in the other McLaren car for all nine races, he was beaten by him 6-3. Two retirements (at least they weren’t his fault) and a grand total of 23 points, just under 6 times the amount he had got in four years in a clearly inferior car.

His best finish was in Hungary, back in 2006. A second place result behind the then first time winner in Jenson Button. The last three years have seen him as a reserve driver at McLaren, but never been needed to be called up.

So, with an unspectacular history in Formula 1, especially with a sparse appearance record, why has Peter Sauber gone with Pedro de la Rosa?

Well, Mr Sauber says this in the press relese:

“We as a team stand to gain from his experience, and the same goes for young Kamui. The combination of a seasoned racer and an up-and-coming young driver has repeatedly proved a very fruitful one. I don’t expect either of them to disappoint in 2010. Of course it is also crucial that we provide them with a decent car”

Peter Sauber

Experience is certainly something de la Rosa has. 2010 will be the 11th year in Formula 1 for the Spanish driver. To be alongside Kamui Kobayashi, the young pretender, someone with experience was going to be needed alongside him. That inevitably left three likely drivers to be his team mate, Nick Heidfeld, Giancarlo Fisichella and Pedro de la Rosa.

Heidfeld must have been the most obvious choice, having been with the team all the way through the BMW years as well as between 2001-2003. That is a grand total 7 years at one form of Sauber, in ten seasons, that shows his loyalty. He has the knowledge of all the team at Hinwil.

But the one problem that Nick Heidfeld had, no sponsorship money. That is what Fisichella and de la Rosa had. For Fisi, it was sponsorship money in a different sense. As Sauber were using Ferrari engines for 2010, it was believed that the engine costs would be cut if Fisichella was to join Sauber, being a Ferrari reserve driver.

It seemed almost certain that it was going to Fisichella last night, apparently leaving the Ferrari camp in the Italian Dolomites early to head off to Hinwil. So it did come as a massive surprise when I looked at the BBC Sport website and saw it was Pedro de la Rosa partnering alongside Kobayashi.

As strange as it sounds, I am oddly looking forward towards the upcoming season especially as a Sauber fan. Kamui Kobyashi, as it pains me to say it, is going to be a very exciting driver this year. Pedro de la Rosa will be an unknown quantity, my head says he is going to be crap, my heart says he will be like Alex Wurz when he returned for Williams in 2007 (I think that is the aim for the Spaniad)

So roll on 31st January, Sauber are going to unveil the 2010 challenger, my word, I can’t wait for Bahrain now.

Not entirely sure still how de la Rosa has made me excited again.

Thursday Thoughts: The Answer

Earlier in the day, using the magic of Windows Live Writer, I posted the question for this weeks Thursday Thoughts. Therefore, it seems almost logical to follow that with an answer.

F1 Young Drivers Testing - Day One

Spain and Formula 1 at the moment seem to be going hand in hand. Two time champion of the world Fernando Alonso driving with Ferrari, Jaime Alguesuari also likely to be competing in a Toro Rosso. Two grand prix races, hosted in the glamorous Barcelona and the less glamorous Valencia (shame both tracks produce poor quality racing) and also a new Formula 1 team, in Campos Meta.

But it isn’t the first choice of all things motorsport, hardly any world famous tracks in the country and only one notable driver to speak of (compared to Britain, Germany). Or perhaps, until now?

Formula 2 was dominated by one driver, thrashing everyone else in his way. Andy Soucek amassed an amazing 51 points ahead of Canadian rival Robert Wickens. Wins came calling at Brno, Brands Hatch, Donington Park, Oschersleben, Imola and two at Catalunya. A mighty fine performance if you ask me, touching on the scale of absolute dominance.

The younger Soucek also won the less prestigious Spanish F3 in 2005. A series which also featured a certain Sebastien Buemi (who, admittedly, hardly competed in the series).

Towards the end of 2009, Soucek appeared in the Formula 1 tests, designed especially for young drivers, at Jerez in Spain. On the first day, in a Williams, Soucek topped the charts. This ahead of promising driver Paul di Resta, as well as experienced testers in Mike Conway and Gary Paffett.

The speed is there for sure. In a underperforming Williams car to get to the top of the time sheets ahead of other experienced drivers is something not to be laughed at. For 2010, Soucek will remain in Formula 2, and this is my only concern. Is the level of competition good enough in that series for a competitive driver like himself to be driving in? I would have thought the next logical step for the Formula 2 champion would be GP2. With much more competitive driving, more races and a better experience of F1 race weekends.

But watch out for him, I like him. He could be the next Fernando Alonso.

No pressure.

Thursday Thoughts : The Question

2010. The start of a new decade. And an exciting looking one at that.

Thursday Thoughts, for those not in the know. Is a weekly blogging thing to do on a boring old Thursday evening. I have sometimes taken part in the initiative. This week, it is my turn to set the question. And here it is:

Which young driver, who is currently not in Formula 1, would you like to see in the series in the next few seasons?

Young drivers really shouldn’t have any limits, it can stretch from karting right up to GP2, or even the likes of IndyCar. The age limit can be decided by yourself as well, but if you wish to have a recommendation, anyone under 23 should be considered.

The question comes from the Formula 1 tests which occurred at the start of last month, which allowed young drivers to compete at the tests for three days. It made me think which young guns should be in Formula 1.

So, when you have come up with the question, please do link to it in the comments. It will be lovely to get 2010’s offering the Thursday Thoughts off to a brilliant start.

5 Sporting Events to Look Forward to in 2010

I love sport. You may have picked up on that already. As you may or may not be aware of, 2010 is a massive year for sport. So I shall be taking a close look at the sporting calendar and picking the five dates I am anticipated the most about. I should say a big thank you to Jon from The Feeder Series, which had a similar post and inspired me to do something similar, with a little bit of tweaking. So, in a logical order, let us begin.

Sunday 31st January : Africa Cup of Nations Final

I have been getting rather excited by this competition. We are only a few days into the competition in Angola, but we are seeing surprise after surprise so far. Africa’s biggest nations against each other, brilliant football being played, with the two best nations going to the final. It is going to be a brilliant final.

Of course, the tournament has been sadly marred with the Togo shootings in the north of Angola. Three people were killed. The tragic incident has indeed put the football seemingly to one side, but I want to think the football should now do the talking.

With the tournament already underway, I have found the perfect opportunity to say this doesn’t involve the best African teams. I am not too sure why Mozambique and Benin managed to get in. Never mind how they are in the same group.

Final prediction: Egypt vs Ivory Coast

Friday 12th February – Sunday 28th February : Winter Olympics

AUDI FIS World Cup - Women's Slalom

I am certainly going to make more of an effort to watch the Winter Olypmics this year. 2010 will see the games held in Vancouver, which will most likely mean I will need to require watching the highlights program on iPlayer, quite a lot. That is a shame. It should be an enjoyable Olympics.

I am going to be cheering on Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong, a plucky Ghanaian alpine skier. The ‘Snow Leopard’ will be the first person from Ghana to compete in the Winter Games, and from research, has a very distinctive outfit, a leopard skin.

Great Britain are not the best nation. Unsurprising really from a nation with hardly any ski slopes or decent training facilities for these athletes. In 2006, Shelley Rudman secured Britain’s only medal, a silver in the Women’s Skeleton (that is the one where they go down on a little tray while they somehow manage to stay on it). Our last gold came back in 2002, the Salt Lake City games being witness to a fine curling game between the all-Scottish team and Switzerland. Led by Rhona Martin, the British won it with the last throw of the dice. Or, whatever the term is called in curling.

Top Medalists prediction: Canada

Friday 11th June – Sunday 11th July : FIFA World Cup

Like I was going to miss this one out. The World Cup, the pinnacle of football. 31 of the greatest international teams on the planet (and New Zealand) compete against each other. Second major football tournament to be held in Africa, this time South Africa becomes the first African nation to host the World Cup.

I can’t wait. There are going to be some awesome games, especially in the group stages. Who can not find Brazil vs Portugal and England vs USA mouth watering?

Granted, England got lucky in the group. But it might not be easy of course after that, if push comes to shove, a route of games against the likes of Germany, France or Argentina. Brilliant.

This short space can not show how excited I am about this. Do expect me to go a bit crazy on the World Cup nearer the time on this blog.

Winners prediction: Netherlands (Got to be their year)

Saturday 12th June – Sunday 13th June : 24 Hours of Le Mans

Le Mans 24h Race

I am not a sportscar fan. I won’t lie to you about that. I do try to get into it, but inevitably I end up getting bored about the idea of something lasting 24 hours. I just simply do not have the patience to watch it.

This year, I haven’t totally decided. I will once again give it a go. Of course, I won’t manage to watch the whole 24 hours of it, I do require sleep to keep me going. The second problem is that the race also happens to go on during the World Cup. More notably, England v USA.

I’ll give it a go I think. Have it on in the background, the entire concept of the 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans could be exciting still. Will Audi get back at Peugeot. Will Franck Montagny manage to win it? Can Rob Bell shock the world and win it? (Fine, the last one might have been a bit biased). For sure, I will check out the results.

Winner prediction: Peugoet

Friday 1st October – Sunday 3rd October : Ryder Cup

WGC - HSBC Champions - Round two

Colin Montgomerie. Big pressure for you. Get the Ryder Cup back of the Americans. They got lucky last time, now its Europe’s time to shine, again.

Quite frankly, I’ll be amazed if we don’t win it at Celtic Manor in Newport. Everything for America seems to be going to pot. Well, Tiger Woods has, but that news story has managed to find every needle in a haystack. Europe are looking promising as well, the rise of talented golfer Rory McIlroy, the impressive form of Paul Casey and Lee Westwood. If I could, I’d play the Americans now.

Best Golfer prediction: Padraig Harrington

So that is my five that I’m looking forward to in this new decade. If you have any other events you are looking forward to in 2010. Please do share in the comments.

Its Snow Joke

Freezing Temperatures Continue To Grip The Country

Recreation Ground, home of Bath Rugby Club, earlier this week

Well, it has been warmer.

Sport, as some may know, is really important to me. I could go on and on about what sports I loved. But this weekend, sport, at least on the British Isles, has been badly affected by the weather.

Snow and ice have put a halt to simply too many games for my liking. As Sky Sports News puts it, ‘The Big Freeze’ is shooting at sports fixtures and wounding them for a short while. Football, rugby and racing appear to have been the most fatally hurt.

The snow and ice has affected football big time. Right from the Premier League down to the lowest depths of non-league football, games have been called off. Reasons are slightly different, the lower league teams (mainly League 1 down), don’t have any sort of undersoil heating, meaning clearing the pitch is much more of a significantly harder work. The Premier League and the Championship, with the undersoil heating (and some even with oversoil heating) have had their problems come from outside of the stadiums. The dangerous conditions mean it is unsafe for fans to travel to the stadiums. For the benefit, here are all of the games that are still ON in the English football pyramid (kick off Saturday 3pm unless stated):

Premier League

  • Arsenal v Everton
  • Wigan v Aston Villa
  • Birmingham v Manchester United (Saturday, 5:30pm)
  • West Ham v Wolves (Sunday, 1:30pm)
  • Manchester City v Blackburn Rovers (Monday, 8pm)

Championship

  • Cardiff v Blackpool
  • Coventry v Barnsley
  • Derby v Scunthorpe
  • Leicester v Ipswich (Sunday, 3pm)

League One

  • Leeds United v Wycombe
  • Norwich City v Exeter

And that is it. West Brom did manage to play Nottingham Forest on the Friday night. Meaning that the total of games going on in England from the 8th-11th January is: 13. And that number could go down a bit still. Wigan v Aston Villa has a early morning pitch inspection. The Sunday and Monday games have time to still be affected by the weather. In Scotland, it isn’t much better:

Scottish Cup

  • Aberdeen v Hearts
  • Dunfermline v Stenhousemuir
  • Hibernian v Irvine Meadow
  • Partick Thistle v Dundee United
  • St. Mirren v Alloa
  • Hamilton v Rangers (Sunday, 12:15pm)

I may just cry. My favourite team, Tottenham, aren’t even playing. Though this could also be good news since Aaron Lennon is currently not fit to play, so it is good to have time to rest him before the big game.

‘The Big Freeze’ is of course hitting rugby union hard as well. Frankly, the situation is so bad, that only one Guiness Premiership game is taking place: Leicester v Wasps. Using an ingenious solution of air blankets, they intend on keeping it on for up to 15 minutes before kickoff. I like the idea, at least one game will go ahead.

I’m not a fan of racing that much, but that has pretty much been swept away from land, with a lot of the races simply called off.

And of course, you know the snow and ice is bad, when an indoor ice hockey game between the Sheffield Steelers and the Cardiff Devils is called off.

In my slightly biased opinion, too much sport has been postponed. There are only 19 football games going on in Britain (Wales and Northern Ireland snowed out), a handful of rugby union games, with local ice hockey in the form of Newcastle Vipers managing to hand out a performance (despite the likelihood of a defeat).

What can be done to keep games on? Without much doubt, the weather may remain like this for a few more days to come, that in my eyes also means a few more games going out by the wayside. So, for possibly the first time in my life I will say this, something can be learnt from the national sport of the USA, American Football.

More specifically, NFL franchise Green Bay Packers. The Packers, from Green Bay in Wisconsin, have an average January temperature of –13.8°C, with a record low of -31°C. Yet, every January when they make it to the NFL Playoffs (which seems to be every few years). In the snow, the battle it out in freezing conditions, in front of a packed crows at Lambeau Field.

So how do they do it? In fact, it isn’t that much different to say the groundsmen at the likes of Old Trafford and Anfield do in similar situations. The pitch has undersoil heating, covers and some decent drainage. And then I came across this:

From this, there is one way to bring back the football matches we have been missing. Manual labour. I know teams are doing it, but are the bringing in enough people to help volunteer. I read online that the Packers paid $8 an hour to do the shovelling. We should be snapping up that offer of money for a bit of work to help see your team play.

It might be too late for this weekends, rather thin amount of games to be saved by my inspired manual labour. But instead of whining about the weather, like I have been doing, go down to your nearest team and help out. And then, watch that team in its football/rugby/ice hockey glory and look at a good job well done you did. Along with quite a few other folk as well.

For this weekend, I notice the Green Bay Packers are up against the Arizona Cardinals in some Wild Card match. I’m not sure when, but ‘The Big Freeze’ in the UK is making me interested.

Edit: Since I published this post, Aston Villa v Wigan and West Ham v Wolves have been called off. Aw.

New Year, New Style

First of all, happy new year to everyone. Secondly, happy first birthday to this blog, which started way back on January 1st 2008. A whole year has passed, I can’t believe it.

So, you may have noticed this is now on wordpress. Yeah, much easier to use and frankly better as well than blogger. Though, if you want to remember the old place, it will always be there when you need it. So a new style, keeping the old dark style to the blog, as I like it. Also staying is Kazuki Nakajima in the header, it feels like he needs to be there. You’ll be able to find all the old stuff from the past year on here.

So enjoy 2010 and the new blog! (Do remember to readjust RSS feeds and bookmarks, I know I’ve changed it again)