Eurovision Sofa: How did we end up in Azerbaijan?

AD4_8090

A step back even moments after last year’s contest and you would have been stunned to ask how Azerbaijan won. On the night, there were so many better songs that were performed so much better, yet Azerbaijan prevailed with a comfortable margin to the even more surprising runners-up Italy.

I can’t complain with ‘Running Scared’, the studio version for me was brilliant enough to warrant a thought that it might be up there and competing for the win. But the live version was shockingly bad, especially the vocals from Nikki, and was saved only by the good ones from Elgar. On reflection, the theme of white was like a highly disappointing heaven, it just wasn’t what was in the brochure.

Without a question Azerbaijan will put on one impressive show, and in any case it was only a matter of time until they went and won it. It’s just unfortunate that the year they finally do it (I say finally, they have only been competing since 2008), is with virtually the worst song they have sent. Safura would have been with a chance the year before had she not been the opener, and AySel and Arash were well worth their third in 2009. If hadn’t been for the outstandingly good songs from Norway and Iceland.

Ifs and buts of course, but it is wondering which songs, on the night, we’re superior to Azerbaijan. Technically, Italy’s Raphael Gualazzi and Slovenia’s Maja Keuc were by far the best, and I still can’t help myself listening to Keuc’s ‘No One’ every now and then. However they really failed to capture the general audience’s inspiration and wouldn’t have got where they did (2nd and 13th) without the jury vote. The running order certainly hampered others, Dino Merlin started from the dreaded 2nd spot, while another of my favourites, Denmark’s A Friend in London started 3rd, although performed brilliantly, would have benefitted from taking Azerbaijan’s spot.

Then the frustrating voting system ruined others chances. While Jedward were seen as the sixth best song by the jury (yeah right), a poor performance by Blue, on the day before the final itself, saw them rated 20th, only better than eventual wooden spoon winners Switzerland, the cocky Russians and the usual woeful Spanish. Yet again, while a 50-50 split between the jury and the public votes is the fairest and less likely to end up in a mass British acceptance that political voting is to blame, the fact the jury vote is based on a totally different performance to the actual final is unbelievable. It should be the same performance, and it is ridiculous that the jury performs on a dress rehearsal, where clearly Blue were out of sorts and weren’t up to the standards they set themselves in the Final. And while we’re at it, surely an out of sorts Blue is not fourteen places worse than Jedward in any situation.

But while we’re going through songs that were better than Azerbaijan, lets not forget the ever left field Moldova. It must have been hard for Zdob şi Zdub to top bringing the lead singers Grandma on stage in 2006, but with unicycles, cone hats and clear insanity, they managed it, and we all loved it. Lena didn’t humiliate herself on her return, Eldrine was surprisingly enjoyable and Eric Saade, was, well, popular.

While we’re at it, can I include the opening featuring ‘Mr German Eurovision’ Stefan Raab and Lena with a brilliant rock and roll cover of Satellite, which I would have happily voted for back in 2010. Or how about the gigantic screen in the background, I could have easily spent three minutes just staring at it. Actually, I did, with Ukraine.

So that’s nine songs I’ve decided were more worthy of a win than Azerbaijan. Granted it’s not much use complaining now, they’ve wasted a lot of money on a good looking stadium to host Eurovision. As a whole, the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest was highly enjoyable, especially with very few songs that I didn’t like reaching the final. And in those cases, the gimmicks were usually good enough to get me through the three minutes. It’s something I don’t expect this years contest to match, no matter the propaganda spread out by Azerbaijan. They’ll go big and spectacular, with a few pyrotechnics added in for good measure, but the quality simply isn’t there, and that is really going to hamper the overall quality. And quality, is what Azerbaijan crave.

Advertisements

Eurovision Sofa 2012: The Return

VUG_6341

I simply couldn’t stay away. Eurovision Sofa has returned for the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest in Baku, Azerbaijan. Of course, the whole concept is that I’m not interested in going to Baku (it’s a bit far, and well, I’ve got some fairly important exams around the corner), and instead I’m commenting, complaining and analysing things from my very own sofa and on my very own laptop.

Granted, the quality of this year’s songs are very much on the ‘bad’ side. I think I can count on two hands how many songs I like/can just about listen to, which is less than a quarter than all of the songs. Sadly, we’ve lost Poland because their broadcasting company thought the European Championships were more important. And even more sadly, Montenegro have returned, with something which definitely isn’t a song.

So that’s the introduction done, all without mentioning a certain someone too. My final point is Eurovision Sofa is taking over the Northern Waffler on a permanent basis, but not to worry, all posts prior to this one will remain in one place. For whatever reason you might want to go back to them. So, from now until the first semi final on the 22 May, and the final on the 26 May, it’s Eurovision Sofa.

From Marussia With Not Much Love

Oh Timo, what have you done?

Two and a bit years since Toyota stopped F1 operations, and a huge gamble in joining one of the three new teams, Timo Glock seems to have made a huge mistake. Marussia are now in a mess, a massive mess, a mess so big finally Hispania can actually look down on a team. On Monday they failed part of their crash test, will miss the final test session in Barcelona and it will be the first practice in Australia on March 16th when we finally see what they have produced.

And it’s hard to expect much from it. The team, first under it’s incarnation of Virgin Racing and it’s current form in Marussia are on one impressive downhill slope, failure in that crash test puts their season into turmoil, this stage last year, with HRT were in a similar boat, the Spanish team failed to qualify in Australia. Even after that, HRT went on to be decent competition against Virgin Racing, on some occasion justifiably beating them on pace. And for all the stick HRT gets, it is pretty embarrassing for Virgin Racing, and especially a good driver in Glock.

It wasn’t too long ago he came close to even winning the odd race, prior to his ‘injury’ in Japan (I will maintain he was never actually injured and they only brought in Kobayashi as a desperate plee to keep Toyota going), he finished in a brilliant second in Singapore, equalling his best finish in an F1 race. In the period between his first second place finish, in Hungary 2008, and his second, Singapore 2009, his team mate Trulli couldn’t match it, despite starting on pole in Bahrain.

So the kid has potential, and little of it has been shown at Virgin Racing so far. He can’t show it really, it’ll be damn near impossible to. How do you when the car is left pottering around at the back trying and struggling to beat a team everyone laughs at. It won’t be long before the tide turns, and everyone is laughing at Marussia.

Glock doesn’t deserve to be at the team when it does happen, he gambled a lot to go to Marussia. By all accounts the Renault job was up for grabs at the time, and I was certainly one of the main people trying to persuade him to go to them. He has the talent for the top five team, but the risk he took to take a new team up the ranks has to be respected. Usually though it’s hard to respect when it goes horribly wrong, and you have to wonder where his career could be if he had just said yes to Renault.

Last year he struggled somewhat to the less inexperienced Jerome D’Ambrosio who, unfairly, got the boot for 2012. This could show his desire to race for the team is diminishing, or a strong talent in D’Ambrosio which wasn’t fully shown in the car, or even noticed in the teams chequebook (I think those still exist).  I like to believe its a bit of both, and with Marussia fading into obscurity and behind the 107% rule territory. Glock can’t stay there, he shouldn’t stay there. He is still a good driver, a very good driver.

But jobs for 2013 seem to be limited to those with sponsors and those who are already in a good team. Very few roles seem to be genuinely up for grabs. And not that I wouldn’t love him to go to Sauber when Sergio Perez goes to Ferrari and Kamui Kobayashi gets the boot, but realistically it seems that team is the only viable alternative. IndyCar would not be alien to a driver who won Champ Car Rookie of the Year in 2005, and naturally endurance racing is always an option. But Timo Glock could have been a very good Formula 1 driver, but he has practically destroyed that chance by remaining in the Marussia.

Waffling About Sports Films: Miracle

“Do you believe in miracles?”

        – Al Michaels

The Introduction

*creeks open half-hanging door, shouts ‘hello’ to hear it echo around the empty room, steps aside to let the bats dash out of said front door*

I know, I know. I’ve been bad, and to be honest, if it wasn’t for the next door neighbour Benji, I’m sure the wrecking ball would have turned up and knocked this place down. To help, I’ve decided to actually do something about this place, to help it get back on its feet. Basically I’m thinking spiral staircases, a massive TV and maybe even a shed for the non-sport related stuff to go.

So, the start of a new feature that has been inspired (or stolen, depending on how you prefer to describe it) by a few blogs out there, notably the lovely mrschristine.com and toata.co.uk. Now only recently, I remembered I have access to Sky Go, and while it allows me to watch the Super League or IndyCar from my own bed, you can amazingly, also watch films that have been on the movie service.

But to be different, and because we like sport around here, I’ve decided to limit myself to sport only films. At least to look at. A warning though, I’m new to this game, so some spoilers may creep in. Here goes nothing.

The General Information

Released in 2004, notably one year after the lead character, Herb Brooks, died in a car accident. Directed by Gavin O’Connor and written by Eric Guggenheim. Leading roles featured Kurt Russell as Herb Brooks, Noah Emmerich as assistant GM Craig Patrick, and everyone’s favourite New York detective Eddie Cahill as keeper Jim Craig.

The Background

For those who aren’t aware of arguably the greatest hockey match of all time, the ‘Miracle on Ice’ was the medal round game between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics. The set up is simple, the US were the massive (by massive, think that David probably had better odds on beating Goliath than the US did beating the Soviets) underdogs, while the Soviet Union destroyed anything that even thought about standing in their way.

But in one of sports great upsets, amazingly even better than Ronnie Radford’s goal against Newcastle United that we see every single time the FA Cup Third Round comes around, the US won 4-3, and proceeded to win gold with a 4-2 defeat of Finland in the final round-robin fixture.

The Film

There is a reason Miracle is the first on the list, aside from the fact of some nice BBC2 scheduling, but because I really do love the story behind the game. For once, you want to see the Americans win. They have this uncanny team bond that is strengthened as the training and the film goes on, led by Herb Brooks and his ‘herbies’ (variants of which I’ve been forced to endure throughout my, short, spell as a goalkeeper), and the fact that the players want to play for their country, something very rare these days.

What makes the movie is Kurt Russell, he is brilliant. The many faces of Herb Brooks are perfectly portrayed, from the hard working hockey coach to the never at home family man. His trails in terms of keeping his team happy and his family happy at the same time, at times overstepping the mark so he can achieve his dream. Determination leads to some pretty unsympathetic and painful moments, the aftermath of a draw to Norway is never-ending. And that isn’t put in a bad way, it shows how far Brooks is willing to go to get his win over the Soviet Union. Certainly shown by the discontent he airs over the Soviets, their threats to pull out, their actions in foreign affairs. Ah what the heck, boo you USSR, boo (speaking of which, Soviet stereotyping at its best, and this film wasn’t even made during the Cold War).

Miracle has a large cast, it needs to be considering the 20 man roster for the 1980 Olympics. They all do an OK job, I feel the relationship between Jim Craig and his father could have been expanded on, as could the rivalry between Rob McClanahan and Jack O’Callahan (their surnames being, eerily, similar), but if you focus on Brooks’ strive for that one moment of glory, then you can’t go wrong.

The Verdict

Sure it’s got the traditional stereotypes and cliches, but for the one of the greatest sporting moments of all time, it does a pretty damn good job of recreating it. And while the irony of the USA beating the Soviets using Soviet tactics during the Cold War is pretty brilliant, Miracle makes for a good underdog story.

4/5.

5 Sporting Events to Look Forward to in 2012

I’ll start with an apology. My suggestions last year were, frankly, dreadful. The Cricket and Rugby Union World Cups were dreadfully dull, the South American teams forgot how to score in the Copa America and Haye v. Klitschko was quite the one-sided affair. Even the Masters, won by Charl Schwartzel, will only be remembered for Rory McIlroy’s spectacular collapse in his final round.

So I’ve told myself to be better this year. Have a finer judgement, be more original, everyone knows about the Olympics, and to be honest, the only thing about that I’m looking forward to is the Closing Ceremony.

Speedway: New Zealand Grand Prix – 31 March

I’ve said it many times previously, but speedway is having a torrid time of it. The domestic scene in the UK is frankly a shambles, the rules in Poland exclude some of the very best from driving in the best league, and the only thing that isn’t going horribly wrong is their showpiece events. On the contrary from the rest of the speedway world, the Speedway Grand Prix is looking good. Especially with the introduction of the race in New Zealand, at the Western Springs Stadium near Auckland.

After Greg Hancock’s World Championship win at the young age of 41, he’s hoping to defend his title, and start by doing so with a win in New Zealand. On the face of it, it is difficult to predict who is going to win the title overall. Runner-up in 2011. Andreas Jonsson, is prone to starting his season slowly, Jason Crump and Tomasz Gollob seem to be on the decline, and the likes of Emil Sayfutdinov have so far failed to continue living up to expectations.

This could be the time for Chris Holder to step up. The Australian is still young, and has shown more than enough times he is capable to challenge at least the podium. Two wins are already under his belt, including the massive British Grand Prix. Failing that, Jaroslaw Hampel has been knocking on the door for two years now, meaning this could be the year he manages to break in.

Formula 1: Bahrain Grand Prix – 22 April

sam14032010000395

Putting this under ‘events to look forward to’ isn’t probably the right option, but ‘events which will be very interesting’ will certainly feature this. In 2011, despite the constant reports of violence against protestors in Bahrain, forming a small part of the Arab Spring, it was decided by the FIA that the race would go ahead. After some pressure though, it was eventually cancelled for the second time, but strangely placed back on the 2012 calendar.

So far, I’ve been surprised with the lack of anger against this. To the best of my knowledge, their is still protests going on, and those protests are being crushed on by the government. With only four months now until the Bahrain Grand Prix, this one may not actually happen, but it will no doubt continue to make the news.

The race itself is nowhere near being any good, with constant dullness since 2004 (apart from when Robert Kubica got pole, of course, but then I am heavily biased). The cancellation of it in 2011 spared us of another waste of 90 minutes, but the effects of the race on the actions of the protestors, governments, and the bottle of the fractured teams and governing bodies, will be highly interesting to follow.

Rugby League: Super League Magic Weekend – 26/27 May

Sometime next year, the world will be descending on the United Kingdom (and Ireland… and France…and probably half of the rest of the northern hemisphere) for the 2013 Rugby League World Cup. International strength was shown in the recent Four Nations, with Wembley and Elland Road both being used to boost the game and attendances, and it worked. Even if Australia decided they fancied winning again.

This year, while the international scene rests with no World Cup or Four Nations, its crucial that the domestic game is given a bigger stage to stand on. The second biggest selling point of the Super League season is the Magic Weekend, which is very much similar to a model strutting down the catwalk showing how good their costume is. It’s Richard Scudamore’s 39th game proposal, but without the excessive travelling.

For a change though, the sport isn’t trying to venture outside its comfort zones. Previous weekends in Cardiff and Edinburgh had seen the sport go into the unknown, and seemingly work, with the first Welsh club in the Super League coming soon after (albeit they have now lost their licence). This year though, its in Manchester and the Etihad Stadium, and a lower train fare for fans of the twelve of the fourteen clubs (I guess its always long for the Catalan Dragons, and to be honest, I’m sure Harlequins changed their name to the London Broncos so I’d remember they were there).

Football: Euro 2012 – 8 June to 1 July

Germany v Spain UEFA EURO 2008 Final 0fg76OSb_Lil

There are two major football championships coming up in 2012. The African Cup of Nations is being hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea in January, and usually it comes up with fireworks. This year, the fireworks sadly probably happened in the qualifiers, with the likes of current champions Egypt, Nigeria, Cameroon and South Africa all failing to make it to the finals.

For me though, there is one international tournament that is worth watching, that being the European Championships held in Poland and Ukraine. The Euros, for me, always tend to be an exciting occasion. Though sadly, I fear this could be the last time I feel this way, with the expansion to 24 teams in 2016 probably going to ruin the competition.

The groups themselves are tasty, with the group of death featuring Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal, and even the group of… un-death, with hosts Poland, Russia, Czech Republic and Greece, which is bizarrely, looking very interesting to watch.

Despite my positivity, I can’t see a final four, right now, that doesn’t feature Germany, Netherlands, Spain and Italy (I lack any hope for those who qualify from groups A and D), those are the four best in Europe right now and well, I’d love to see the matchups between them too. Can Spain be the first team to win to win back to back Euros? There’s a good chance, but my money, is as always, on the Germans.

Golf: Ryder Cup – 28 to 30 September

I tried watching the Presidents Cup, and I really, really wanted to get into it. But it didn’t work out. Because, for me, and for many others, their is only one team event worth watching in golf.

In 2010, Celtic Manor played host to one of the most dramatic Ryder Cup’s in memory, with the schedule being ripped up because of the rather unsurprising early-autumn weather in Wales. It went down to the final game between Graeme McDowell and Hunter Mahan, which went to the wire and was effectively won by McDowell on the 16th, which his incredible, unforgettable putt, that rolled in to the cheers of the thousands huddling the green.

2012 should be once again enthralling, lets be honest, when does the Ryder Cup disappoint? The ever popular Jose Maria Olazabal will captain the Europeans, while Davis Love III captains the Americans. With the strength of European golf at the moment, it is difficult to see any other result at the Medinah Country Club, but it would be foolish to suggest what could happen come September.

And with any luck, the whole summer won’t be full of stories with the words ‘Tiger’, ‘Woods’ and ‘Captain’s pick’.

RIP Liverpool

Respect is a thing hard to gain and easy to lose. Liverpool proved that today with their statement.

Sounding like a bunch of bitter children, they slated the FA, slated Evra, and defended Suarez, who we can now remember has been found as a racist. There is no class, it is no different to eleven footballers surrounding the referee even though it was a clear penalty.

It doesn’t matter about the length of the ban, or if it was just. The reaction of Liverpool Football Club and their fans has been simply appalling. It’s all the FA’s fault, they were always going to do this, they’re a bunch of corrupt idiots in charge, you know.

Well done Liverpool, from the clubs management to their fans, you’ve made me a rather depressed football fan today. Good going.

Good in Europe, But Nowhere Else

I found it interesting that after Tottenham Hotspurs defeat to POAK Solonika, many Spurs fans were more than happy to find themselves out of the Europa League so the Premier League form wouldn’t suffer from the admittedly longer than it should be knockout stages.

Part of me thinks this could be just a myth, something that seems like it could be true. So, here’s for a little experiment, the semi finalists of the 2009-10 and 2010-11 Europa League seasons, the 2007-08 and 2008-09 UEFA Cup seasons, and the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons of the UEFA Cup, which were the last to incorporate the knockout stages which seems to be a very popular option for those who want the Europa League to change back to this format.

2002-03 UEFA Cup (13 games including final)

  • Porto. UEFA Cup Winners. League Winners.
  • Celtic. UEFA Cup Runners-Up. League Runners-Up.
  • Lazio. UEFA Cup Semi Finalists. League 4th.
  • Boavista. UEFA Cup Semi Finalists. League 10th.

All the teams performed well in the far shorter competition, aside from Boavista, who would have had every right to be disappointed after a 2nd place finish in the Primeira League the year before. Celtic were very unlucky after losing the league by one goal on goal difference.

2003-04 UEFA Cup (13 games including final)

  • Valenica. UEFA Cup Winners. League Winners.
  • Marseille. UEFA Cup Runners Up. League 7th.
  • Newcastle United. UEFA Cup Semi Finalists. League 5th.
  • Villarreal. UEFA Cup Semi Finalists. League 8th.

A lot more mixed fortunes to the team. For the second year in a row, the UEFA Cup winners also went on to win their own league. In this case, Valencia, who were the last team before the Barcelona and Real Madrid dominance to win La Liga.

2007-08 UEFA Cup (15 games including final)

  • Zenit St. Petersburg. UEFA Cup Winners. League Winners in 2007, League 5th in 2008.
  • Rangers. UEFA Cup Runners-Up. League Runners-Up.
  • Bayern Munich. UEFA Cup Semi Finalists. League Winners.
  • Fiorentina. UEFA Cup Semi Finalists. League 4th.

Zenit St. Petersburg is a difficult team to judge, as the Russian league was completed in a calendar year, so two results could be looked at. They won the league in 2007, but struggled a lot more in 2008 finishing down in 5th. The other league winners were Bayern Munich, while both Rangers and Fiorentina qualified for the Champions League qualifying stages.

2008-09 UEFA Cup (15 games including final)

  • Shakhtar Donetsk. UEFA Cup Winners. League Runners-Up
  • Werder Bremen. UEFA Cup Runners-Up. League 10th.
  • Hamburg. UEFA Cup Semi Finalists. League 5th.
  • Dynamo Kiev. UEFA Cup Semi Finalists. League Winners.

Ukrainian and German teams dominated the UEFA Cup in 2009, with two from each country reaching the semi finals. The German teams had a weak year in the league, with Werder Bremen. However Breman would still qualify for the new Europa League on the basis that they won the German Cup. The Ukrainians were more successful and it was a role reversal.

2009-10 Europa League (Fulham and Hamburg 19 games including final, Atletico Madrid and Liverpool 9 games including final with Champions League)

  • Atletico Madrid. Europa League Winners. League 9th.
  • Fulham. Europa League Runners-Up. League 12th.
  • Hamburg. Europa League Semi Finalists. League 7th.
  • Liverpool Europa League Semi-Finalists. League 7th.

The massive amount of fixtures to reach the semi-finals and final took a rather large toll on the teams, Atletico Madrid fell from 4th to 9th, Hamburg went from 5th to 7th, Fulham from 7th to 12th and Liverpool with the worst collapse, 2nd to 7th. There were various circumstances, Champions League had six games on top for Liverpool, while Fulham and Hamburg entered from the Third Qualifying Round being forced to play obscure teams from Lithuania and Denmark.

2010-11 Europa League (Porto and Villarreal 17 games including final, Braga and Benfica 9 games including final with Champions League)

  • Porto. Europa League Winners. League Winners.
  • Braga. Europa League Runners-Up. League 4th.
  • Benfica. Europa League Semi Finalists. League 2nd.
  • Villarreal. Europa League Semi Finalists. League 4th.

This is a very difficult one to judge. As three Portugese teams performed above expectations and got to at least the semi final, culminating in an all-Portugese final in Dublin, it levels out the playing field a lot more. Sporting CP were the only team to benefit from the extra matches (although they went out in the Round of 32 to Rangers) and finished third. Villarreal, unlike previous years, improved their position from 7th to 4th.

So lets look at the teams improvement based on the previous year:

UEFA Cup Knockout:  3 Improved. Stayed. 5 Worsened.

UEFA Cup 5 team group: 3 Improved. 1 Stayed. 4 Worsened.

Europa League 4 team group: 2 Improved. 0 Stayed. 6 Worsened.

If anything makes it look less conclusive, its this. No doubt the extra matches have a mainly negative effect. If you ignore the Portugese league, only Villarreal make improvements on their previous year. But the UEFA Cup knockout system also had a more negative effect, as did the group stage.

Overall the UEFA Cup and Europa League, more often than not, will have a negative effect on the teams chances in the league, it could be more useful to look after a few more Europa League seasons. But generally, second tier European competitions don’t help you out domestically.

Kovalainen Finishes Season in Style

d11bra1881 

Brazilian Grand Prix

Pre-Race

So one last race of the seemingly never-ending sleep-inducing Formula 1 season, and really, nothing was up for grabs anywhere in the pitlane. The only interesting battle was for 7th in the Constructors between Sauber and Toro Rosso, and if I can be unbiased for a moment, isn’t anything to rush to the blogs and write about.

New Teams Championship wise, the only thing to look out for was who would round out the top three, Timo Glock (who finished 3rd in 2010) or rookie Jerome D’Ambrosio.

In 2012 news, HRT surprised a few people by signing Pedro de la Rosa, who just won’t go away, for two whole years. It seems being old is quite ‘in’ at the moment.

Qualifying

Like with most races, Heikki Kovalainen outqualified Jarno Trulli for the 18th time this season. But the big shock of the weekend came at the expense of Marussia Virgin, who locked out the back row while facing the rear wings of Hispania. Vitantonio Liuzzi was ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, while Jerome D’Ambrosio started ahead of Glock.

Race

As is norm these days, Kovalainen flew off the line and shot up to 16th by the end of the first lap, however he struggled to stay their, and the slower starters in Alguersuari and Barrichello soon passed. It had been a bad start for Ricciardo, who had fell to last, while his team mate, for once, was having a half decent race.

Truth be told, apart from the retirements, very little happened for the six cars. On lap 24, Timo Glock was too quick coming out of the pits, and his rear left tyre was quick to dismantle itself from the car. This was crucial in the outcome of who would finish third.

A few laps towards the end, Vitantonio Liuzzi suffered from an alternator failure, forcing him to retire into turn one, even though he was ahead of Ricciardo at the time.

So, for the umpteenth time in a row, Heikki Kovalainen finished in first, in 16th which was also ahead of Bruno Senna, who had horrible luck at his home race. Trulli was 18th, and in second, ahead of D’Ambrosio and Ricciardo.

  Driver Team Pos. Points
1 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 16th 10
2 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus 18th 6
3 Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin 19th 4
4 Daniel Ricciardo Hispania 20th 3
R Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania Ret 0
R Timo Glock Marussia Virgin Ret 0

Post-Race Thoughts

Heikki Kovalainen (Team Lotus – 16th): “All year we’ve kept on progressing and we’ve finished on a real high with that tenth place so we’re set us up perfectly for next year where we can take another step forward in the development of this team.”

Jarno Trulli (Team Lotus – 18th): “It was really just about getting the car home in one piece so we could seal our place in the championship. I want to thank the whole team for the work they’ve done this weekend and all year. We keep on progressing and it’s great to be part of something that shows real signs of where it can go.”

Timo Glock (Marussia Virgin – Retired): “A very disappointing way to end the season. It’s a real shame to have had to retire after losing the left-rear tyre after my first pit-stop but unfortunately these things happen. So it wasn’t the way I would have liked to end the season but, anyway, I want to thank the team for all the effort they have put in during the whole year. It has been great to work together.”

Jerome D’Ambrosio (Marussia Virgin – 19th): “We did a good job in qualifying yesterday and today was one of my best races so far. I’m happy this has happened here in Brazil, as I love this track. I’m also glad to finish ahead of HRT- definitely a very positive way to end the season. I want to thank the team for all their hard work. I have really enjoyed working together with them this year.”

Vitantonio Liuzzi (Hispania – Retired): “We wanted to finish the season with a strong result. It’s a shame because we could have achieved it. Now we have to work hard for next year and try to recover from this problem and make up for it in the future because we need to be strong and competitive in every race”

Daniel Ricciardo (Hispania – 20th): “It’s been a really good six months and I’m happy with how the season has gone, you always want a bit more but realistically it has been really good and I have learned a lot. I want to thank HRT and Red Bull for giving me the opportunity to come and do it.”

Standings

Drivers Championship

So that’s a wrap on 2011. Heikki Kovalainen finishes a whole 31 points in front of his team mate Jarno Trulli, who was agonisingly close to reaching triple figures. Kovalainen’s 128 points is a record, ten up on last year. He’s also finished the year with seven back to back wins, yes, seven. Vettel-esque.

For the second year in a row, Timo Glock has been beaten by a rookie team mate. Third goes to Belgian Jerome D’Ambrosio, who’s four points in Brazil provided to be crucial.

The trio of Hispania cars are ordered as expected, Liuzzi ahead of Ricciardo ahead of Karthikeyan, although arguably Ricciardo has looked the most impressive driver. Hardly surprising considering of all the drivers, he is tipped for bigger and better things in 2012.

And dead last is Karun Chandhok, with two solitary points from his pretty poor race in Germany.

  Driver Team Points
C Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 128
2 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus 97
3 Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin 70
4 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin 68
5 Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania 36
6 Daniel Ricciardo Hispania 27
7 Narain Karthikeyan Hispania 16
8 Karun Chandhok Team Lotus 2

Teams Championship

As expected really. Team Lotus and Virgin both improve on their points from last year, but Hispania have fewer, no doubt because of better reliability from the arguably two quicker teams.

  Team Points
C Team Lotus 227
2 Marussia Virgin 138
3 Hispania 79

2012

All but one seat for 2012 has been confirmed. At the former Lotus Racing/Team Lotus and now Caterham team, two time New Team Champion Kovalainen continues alongside two time New Team not quite as good as his team mate, Jarno Trulli.

Former Virgin Racing/Marussia Virgin and now Marussia keep Timo Glock (presuming no bigger team don’t come in and buy him out of his contract (one can hope)), but drop D’Ambrosio, who beat him this year, for Charles Pic. You could say though their line up for 2012 looks pretty as a Pic-ture. Ahem.

Hispania, as previously mentioned, have brought in Pedro de la Rosa, and their second race seat could, frankly, go to anyone who has ever touched a car before. Logic would suggest someone with a bit of cash could get it, or the could keep Liuzzi, or they could bring in a Formula 1 driver who is desperate to stay in the sport at all costs, like Nick Heidfeld, or even Chandhok, just so he can claim to have driven for all three new teams. A unique achievement.

What about the performances, well, I expect Marussia and Hispania to fight with themselves at the back, while Caterham (this will need some getting used to) should be at worst, amongst the weaker midfield cars. Next year is their big test, an improvement is needed, they’ve talked the talk, and a bit more, now the walking of the walk needs to occur.

Final Thoughts

Another year over and I’m rather glad for it. While the first two thirds of the season were something spectacular, the end of the year was an immense disappointment. Once again though, the new teams, or whatever they should be called now, provided some entertainment. Whether its upsetting the odds (Liuzzi’s 13th in Canada), or some insane, crazy decisions (Chandhok in Germany), they do tend to provide most things.

I do think Kovalainen should be racing at a team better than Team Lotus, but with they way they are progressing, soon he might be where he deserves. If Renault fancy forgetting Grosjean and Petrov, they could do a lot worse than bringing the Finn back in. Sadly, it will never happen.

So, once again, a massive thank you to everyone who has commented and read my New Teams updates each race weekend. I’m unsure of its future, part of me is tempted to wait until Australia and see how close Caterham are and if its worth continuing for a third year.

I would like to continue doing something that I can update at the end of each race next year, I’ve had a few ideas for a BBC/Sky Championship, and one or two thoughts that aren’t quite there. If anyone has got an idea, please do leave it in the comments. Or, you could keep it to yourself, do it yourself, and gain international recognition while I struggle on here. Whatever is good for you.

Thank you once again, and I promise, a lot, that I will do more ‘proper’ blog posts soon. I’ve had a little less enthusiasm of late to do any.

Kovalainen Continues Dominance in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Pre-Race

Pretty much any meaningful battle in the Championship is over, with only the battle for third up for grabs. Heikki Kovalainen secured his title back in India, and is in the form of his life, easily the quickest of the six drivers in the new teams and even some in the more established teams.

In the two week gap since India, the only news of note has been name changes. For the third year in a row, Team Lotus will be called something else. Having settled the seemingly never-ending battle between Tony Fernandes and Danny Bahar, Team Lotus will be renamed Caterham F1 from next season, with the Lotus name going solely to the team currently known as Renault. Elsewhere, Virgin Racing will also be changing name, dropping the Virgin branding and now simply to be known as Marussia from 2012.

In the two week gap following the race and Abu Dhabi comes the Young Drivers Test. For Team Lotus, American Alexander Rossi will be driving all three days for them. Dani Clos will be driving for Hispania, while Virgin are opting to choose three different drivers, in Charles Pic, Robert Wickens and Adrian Quaife-Hobbs.

Qualifying

There was little surprise at the front, Kovalainen once again outqualified his team mate for 18th place (with Barrichello not opting to set a lap time). Behind them it was Timo Glock, Daniel Ricciardo, who had set an impressive lap time, Jerome D’Ambrosio and Vitantonio Liuzzi.

Because of the grid penalty handed to Pastor Maldonado, all six moved up on position.

Race

Optimism for a good race was slim, but the race start was enthralling. Kovalainen flew off the line, jumping up to 14th after all the pitstops from the contact on the opening lap. For once, he wasn’t the only driver doing well, with Timo Glock in 16th, notably ahead of Maldonado, who hadn’t stopped. Liuzzi had jumped up to 18th, ahead of Trulli, D’Ambrosio and Ricciardo.

Problems for Kobayashi helped Kovalainen into 13th, ahead of both Williams and on good pace, even within sight of the Toro Rosso ahead of him. However problems for D’Ambrosio forced him to retire with faulty brakes.

Meanwhile further behind, the two Hispania cars were scrapping out with each other, which helped both Sauber cars past them, while D’Ambrosio lurked just behind. Not even pitstops would hinder Kovalainen, coming out in 14th, which was ahead of Barrichello. Glock was running as high as 16th before his only stop of the race, where he emerged back in 18th.

The race began to peter out however, with Kovalainen once again flying. His second stop would be when he was in 13th, however he began to fall back on the medium set of tyres, losing out to Alguersuari eventually and ended up in 17th, ahead of Trulli, Glock, Ricciardo and Liuzzi. However another decent race for Ricciardo was to end six laps from the end, with the car coming to a stop.

But once again it was Kovalainen who recorded his sixth straight victory, Trulli finished behind his team once more, and Glock will benefit massively from his team mates retirement in third. Liuzzi was the last finisher in fourth. Ricciardo was only one lap away from being a classified finisher before his retirement.

  Driver Team Pos. Points
1 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 17th 10
2 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus 18th 6
3 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin 19th 4
4 Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania 20th 3
R Daniel Ricciardo Hispania Ret 0
R Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin Ret 0

Post-Race Thoughts

Heikki Kovalainen (Team Lotus – 17th): “What seems to be happening is that in the first couple of stints, as the race sort of settles down, we are able to keep up with the cars ahead, and that’s obviously a sign of how we have progressed, and that’s again what happened here. When we went onto the primes for the last stint the pace obviously dropped a bit but we had another strong push to the end, with Senna losing time on his final set of tyres, and that points to us being able to fight much more closely next year.”

Timo Glock (Marussia Virgin – 19th): “Overall it was quite a good race today. I had a strong start, the speed was not too bad and I was in front of a couple of quicker guys, even though in the end they caught us up. I just drove my race and my engineer kept me updated about the gap to the guys behind, which was quite easy to manage.”

Vitantonio Liuzzi (Hispania – 20th): “The car was suffering from the same balance problems as yesterday. The team worked on the issue all night to try and fix it but, unfortunately, the car wasn’t perfectly balanced today. There was understeer on left turns and oversteer on right turns which meant that it was hard to achieve a good race pace.”

Standings

Drivers Championship

Bad news everyone, Ricciardo simply can’t catch Liuzzi anymore, and that leaves only one battle left in the New Teams Championship, and it looks very exciting. Once again, the two Virgin drivers swap places, and now its Timo Glock who is in prime position to finish third. Two points are in it though, and in Brazil anything could happen.

Amazingly, Kovalainen, with one race to spare, is already on the same number of points he scored during the 2010 New Teams Season. An amazing feat considering he hadn’t led the Championship until Singapore. Timo Glock has also scored more points than last season, which goes to show the mass improvement in reliability from all the three new teams.

  Driver Team Points
C Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 118
2 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus 91
3 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin 68
4 Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin 64
5 Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania 36
6 Daniel Ricciardo Hispania 24
7 Narain Karthikeyan Hispania 16
8 Karun Chandhok Team Lotus 2

Teams Championship

Team Lotus smash their points record from last year. That’s all that is interesting.

  Team Points
C Team Lotus 211
2 Marussia Virgin 134
3 Hispania 76

Next Race

Form

Sad news everyone, one race left, and that is in the fantastic Interlagos circuit in Brazil, which means at least we should see an interesting race, hopefully. Right now it would be insane to bet on anyone but Kovalainen to win in Brazil, his performances at the moment are extraordinary, far better than his team mate, and only bad luck would see him not finish this season on 128 points.

In terms of the inter team battle between Glock and D’Ambrosio, it couldn’t be more difficult to guess who will do better, The form in the last six races sees D’Ambrosio pick up 17 points compared to Glock’s 16, so this one could go all the way down to the wire.

You Can Always Break The Chain

d11gbr2035

I was on holiday when I heard the news. And in Italy, it was an oddly rainy morning. I say oddly, to be fair, there was a surprising amount of rain in that week. The rain gave me an excuse to check my phone, twinned with trying to watch NCIS in Italian, and see Twitter full of fury and rage.

And it wasn’t about the Greek’s failing to pay up (again), or Harry Redknapp trying to pursue Phil Neville (again), but the fact that the coverage of Formula 1 would be shared between its current providers, the BBC, and the pay per view service, Sky.

I’m sure everyone who gives a damn about this knows about the deal inside out. Sky get coverage of all twenty races from next year, from Australia through to Brazil, and covering the new race in Austin, Texas. The BBC only get to show ten races, these including the season opener and finale, as well as the British Grand Prix. They will also show either full race re-runs or extended highlights several hours after the chequered flag on the ten races exclusive to Sky.

To those outside it should seem fine, however to watch content on Sky, you have to pay. And this on top of the enforced BBC license fee. For some, Sky isn’t an option, it just costs too much. And you can’t really argue about that, there is no alternative for what is a sizeable chunk of viewers of the current BBC audience.

But that isn’t my argument. I’m not here to discuss the inside and outside of the deal, I’m not here to defend the decision, I’m not even here to feel sympathy. All I’m saying is thank God F1 is going to Sky.

One of the first feelings I had when reading the reactions of people, is what right did Formula 1 have to be on terrestrial television? I’ll answer that for you, none. It isn’t part of the listed rights Group A sports mentioned in the 1996 Broadcasting Act. The Olympic Games, FIFA World Cup, and of course, the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final, all have to be aired on either the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 or 5. Formula 1 isn’t even mentioned in Group B, which forces highlights to be aired on the five channels (this list includes the Commonwealth Games and the Six Nations). Formula 1 is given no divine right to be on terrestrial television, it isn’t special, or any better than any other sport at the end of the day. Should Sky want to, they could easily just take it all away from the BBC. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the BBC happily accept.

I’d be glad to. For me, the BBC coverage, something which started so fresh and promising after years of dire we were subjected to from ITV, has become stale and repetitive. It is fraught by smug, poor, and downright annoying people glaring into the camera each week.

The coverage has few redeeming features. Martin Brundle stepped up this year to replace the ever unpopular Jonathan Legard, and has fitted into the role superbly alongside David Coulthard. Part of me is disappointed, if the rumours are true, that the duo won’t be able to continue and develop into their respective roles. There are few genuinely good commentary partnerships in the UK, this could have been one of them. Should David Croft and Brundle go off to Sky like reported, then I remain to be convinced. Both are fine individual commentators, but together I don’t feel convinced about it just yet.

I can’t yet believe how Eddie Jordan is still employed. Between reminding us how he discovered half of the current F1 field (that includes Narain Karthikeyan people), he offers up far too many cringeworthy moments that litter the coverage. Lee McKenzie has also failed to add to her one standard question in her interviews. I feel bitterly disappointed for her. (Cheap and poor, I know.)

Jake Humphrey has provided to be no better, especially after the announcement. His loyalty to the cause is admirable, but each little mention of the viewing figures and clear moments where he wants Formula 1 to have all 2012 races on the BBC have made him virtually unfollowable for me, at least.

And realistically the only thing saving the BBC right now is the fact there is no ad breaks. Something which Sky promise to deliver when they air their first race. The BBC could have developed their coverage into something spectacular, something worth keeping. And while it is still much better than ITV ever achieved, it lacks the ambition of going further. Since 2009, very little has changed in terms of coverage and personnel, and I’m equally tired of hearing the tiresome voice of Christian Horner every race. In some regards the quality has gone down. At the 2010 Canadian Grand Prix, I remember Peter Sauber, who speaks poor English, doing a rare interview in the English language. I feel you wouldn’t get close to that now. I can’t pull myself to watch the coverage anymore, it isn’t worth it. Although this could be well down to my current view of Formula 1 at the moment, or at least qualifying. On purpose, instead of watching the qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix, you could find me lying in bed dreaming about scoring the winning goal in the Europa League Final. Sort of.

With the BBC only getting ten races from next year, the coverage will only go downhill even further. The lack of drive, and the ‘talented’ Humphrey no doubt becoming one of the faces of the highly anticipated Olympic Games, and potentially other things, the last shred of decency is fading. The potential new commentators to replace Martin Brundle don’t sound so exciting. I’ve yet to see a favourable review of Leigh Diffey, who just sounds like a foreign Jonathan Legard.

I’m not going to say Sky is going to be perfect. It does cost to get the coverage to start off, and expected anchors and pundits are so far less than inspiring. But the potential is there, the same potential that the BBC had. If they do something similar to their shows in terms of rugby, an extra show to discuss events in more detail, then it will only be an improvement.

Yet Sky will throw money and effort into their coverage, something similar to what they do for the football, both codes of rugby, the cricket. Assumptions based on their over motorsport events are unfair, IndyCars and Speedway don’t attract the same audience, they don’t get the same money that F1 will get.

The BBC could have done so much with Formula 1, but it didn’t, and for me, it has left me very disillusioned with the coverage. Roll on Sky, I can’t wait to see what you can do.