Sunday, March 25, 2012

It Just Had to Happen: Alonso and Grigor Dimitrov

I'll follow up with my regular post about the F1 race later (I have a final, an assignment due, and the Malaysian Grand Prix was quite eventful). I just need to say this: sometimes it is hard not to believe in fate in sports or is it motivation?

Grigor Dimitrov

Image Copyrights: Zimbio

The 20-year old Bulgarian prodigy achieved the biggest success in his professional career today by defeating the seventh seed Thomas Berdych in the Miami Masters. Already by far the most successful Bulgarian male tennis player, Grigor had never previously defeated a Top 10 player in an ATP event (his only success against a Top 10 player was in the ITF 2012 Hopman Cup) and was a massive underdog at 101 in the ATP rankings. Grigor's first attempt at stardom was back in 2009 exactly against Berdych. The teenager won a remarkable three-set game back then in Rotterdam. Then, in January 2012, Berdych and Dimitrov met once more - in an extremely even game, Berdych managed to win in three-sets and prevent Bulgaria from sneaking the tie and the group win from the Czech Republic in the Hopman Cup.

It seems that we were destined for a three-setter once more. Grigor had started to become famous for his very beautiful losses - games in which he played well but just could not quite deliver at the end. Not this time! This time, despite back pains and an unreliable first serve, Grigor stated tough and managed to close the third set. I tend to think that back in January, after narrowly losing against the Czech, he just said to himself - NO MORE! It just had to be Berdych to complete the circle from a teenage prodigy to maybe a rising star!? Tipsarevic is up next for the young Bulgarian. Can he continue delivering in style against Top 10 players?

Fernando Alonso

Image Copyrights: The Jakarta Post

Today, Fernando Alonso's Ferrari also put him as a massive underdog for the win. His abilities, however, did not. He needed one fortunate pitstop and careful tire management to snatch the victory away from McLaren. Driving on the edge of the possibilities of the car, Alonso achieved his first victory since last summer. After the first two races he is also the season leader in F1 with 35 points, five in hand from Hamilton (30 points). Yes, there are a lot of races to go (18!) and the Ferrari is quite weak (the best grid position for the season was Nando's P8 today) but just maybe this will not be the year in which Vettel becomes the youngest triple world champion. Maybe it will be the year in which Fernando does so. As for the race, it seemed destined to happen exactly in Malaysia. On the same track, five months ago, the world of motorsport lost the young Italian star Marco Simoncelli.

Before the Malaysia Grand Prix, Ferrari chose to honor him by taking a picture with the sign "SIC - always with us" (SIC are Mario's race initials) in the corner in which Marco lost his live. Ferrari just had to win on Sepang to honor the memory of Marco. 

If you like this post see also my posts about the Malaysian GP Qualification, the Australian Grand Prix, and the Australian Grand Prix Qualification. I also post a fan art about F1: Haiku Part 1Haiku Part 2Haiku Part 3, and Malaysian GP Haiku. If you like my work, please also leave me a comment. 

F1 Haiku for Malaysian GP

A small dose of pre-race haiku :)

Lotus and RBR
I am a flower,
you are a horrid red beast,
can we stop the arrows?

Image Copyrights: Crash

Raikkonen and Malaysia
In the heat and rain,
the Lotus is a phoenix,
controlled by Ice.

Image Copyrights: Grand Prix

Schumacher on Sepang
You are so close that
I can almost feel your breath
in the silver rain.

Image Copyrights: F1 Fanatic

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Formula 1: Malaysian GP Qualification

The Winners


Image Copyrights: F1 Fanatic

The British team is still the fastest on the field. They did not seem particularly troubled during the qualification on Sepang and managed an easy 1-2 for the race tomorrow. Considering that the cars have not changed from last weekend, I expect they will also snatch the win on Sunday. It will be interesting to see how Hamilton will take it, if Button outperforms him again tomorrow. The balance of power seems to be shifting within the Silver Arrows/Team GB. 


Image CopyrightsFormula 1 Official Website

The F-duct (in the picture above) seems to be working quite well for Mercedes AMG Petronas. They are really fast during the practices and the qualification sessions when DRS is allowed everywhere. The problem is that last time the pace in the race was not as good. I think they can get in the mix between Red Bull and McLaren but I'm not sure if it will be her or later in the season. A great time from Michael - less than 0.2 off the pace of Hamilton who will be on pole tomorrow. I hope the King still has the great start reaction that one him so many positions last year. It will definitely be heated with the two McLarens in the front and the two Red Bulls at his back.

The Losers

Red Bull

The Red Bulls are definitely not quite there yet. They did not even try putting up a fight for the pole. Webber outperformed last years' record maker Vettel (P5) and will start from forth on the grid. Webber was, however, disturbingly close to not making it out of Q1 in the qualification. I think every time a team has such a great year as they had in 2011, there is inevitably a feeling of relaxation and overconfidence that causes a loss in pace the year after that. I hope Newey still has some aces up his sleeves for the next races.

Qualification Results*

Image Copyrights: Official F1 Website

*Kovalainen and Raikkonen have 5 place grid penalties

Friday, March 23, 2012

More F1 Haiku

Infiniti lies 
within your grasp, victory
echoes in each gasp.

 Image Copyrights: Sky Sports

New F1 Season
Who can tame the bull?
The iceman, the shoemaker,
the king of buttons?

Image Copyrights: Deccan Chronicle

Wounded torreador
in a mechanical rodeo
fights bulls and horses.

Image Copyrights: Formula 1 On Live

If you liked this, check also F1 Haiku: Part 1 and F1 Haiku: Part 2, or just leave me a comment:)

Tributes to F1 Champions

Fernando Alonso

This tribute to Fernando Alonso includes the Abba classic "Fernando:" very clever! In part of the video, Alonso features in a Ferrari rodeo-style commercial. It is quite impressive, if it was actually Nando doing the stunts with the horse.

Michael Schumacher

This video has no real horses or music: just the engines of F1 cars and the brilliance of the undisputed King of Formula 1. I hope that soon Michael will find it within himself and the Mercedes AMG Petronas W03 car whatever it takes to became this driver again. Ferrari and Michael Schumacher from the beginning of the millennium are without a doubt the best racing team to have ever been in Formula 1. However, since the Champion left, the legendary Italian team seems lost.

Sebastian Vettel

The video features Sebastian Vettel, winning his first title (2010) and first Grand Prix (Monza 2008). Those were also the maiden title and victory for Red Bull and Toro Rosso, respectively. Seb is really giving wings to the bulls in F1. Midway through the video, there is a short clip with Vettel as a child in his room. There we can see that a picture with Schumacher from a cart  race was obviously among Seb's most prized possession. This boy is not only a great talent but also has a very good taste. I wonder how it feels like when he actually gets to race Michael.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

F1 Themed Haiku, Part Deux

This is part two of my series of F1 inspired haiku posts, check also Part 1

Schumi & Kimi, Monza 2006
The father, the heir:
two kings in the dawn of Fall
and the end of hope.
Image Copyrights: Sisi's Blog

Schumi in 2003
A black horse on fire:
the power of the west wind,
the orphan horseman.
Image Copyrights: BBC

Fiery bull with wings: 
silver cup and a rainbow
in a teardrop.
Image Copyrights: BBC 

F1 Themed Haiku

We are midway through the week between two races so I decided to post some F1 inspired haiku.

Ferrari & The Australian Grand Prix
Black horse, red horseman.
A morning full of hope,
awaits down under?
Image Copyrights: Viva F1

Ferrari, Red Bull, Schumi & The Australian Grand Prix
The red sunrise flash,
the renaissance of the bull,
or the king's return?
Image Copyrights: Auto Car Information

The Australian Grand Prix 
It lies down under,
the land of sand and asphalt,
where dreams are born.
Image Copyrights: Totally Cool Pix

PS: The new episode of The Grid is posted on Youtube. Go check ir out, some rumors of Massa being given the boot are circulating.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Football: Leaving at the Wrong Time

Loyalty is not in fashion in the world of football. In the last ten year, the players that played during their entire career in one team are very few. Big football players tend to leave their clubs when the first signs of crisis strike or when >30,000,000 euro are put on the table. Such players join team after team to "pursue their dreams." Funny enough, two of those players that never left their youth team are Paolo Maldini and Ryan Giggs.

Paolo Maldini and Ryan Giggs
Image Copyrights: AC Milan BG

Those two have between them won the following major trophies:
UEFA Champions League/European Champion Club Cup:  7 times (2 for Ryan with Manchester United, 5 for Paolo with AC Milan)
Domestic Titles: 19 times! (12 for Ryan in England, 7 for Paolo in Italy)
UEFA Supercups: 6 times (5 for Paolo and 1 for Ryan)
Intercontinental Cup/FIFA Club World Cups: 5 times (2 for Ryan and 3 for Paolo)
Domestic Cups: 9 (4 FA Cups for Giggs, 4 League Cups for Giggs, and 1 Italian Cup for Maldini)
Domestic Supercups: 13 (8 for Giggs, 5 for Maldini)

It can be easily said that while some other players have careers, those two have history! However, this post is not about those that are loyal. It is about those that are not. It is about the players that left in the worst possible moment (worst for them, not for the team they left). This is a list of very unlucky players and their misfortunes.

Michael Owen
Image Copyrights: BBC 

After years of waiting for Liverpool to win the title, in 2004 Michael Owen decided it was enough. He joined Real Madrid, known as Los Galacticos back then. In the team, he became a part of a very interesting collection of Golden Ball winners. Ronaldo had two Ballon D'Ors, Zinedine Zidane had one, Figo had one, and Michael Owen had one - five in total. Yet, this did not help them win any major trophies in 2004/2005. Michael left for Newcastle in the summer of 2005 still without a domestic title. He would go on to win one only in 2011 with Liverpool's archrivals Manchester United. The precious 19th title that made Manchester the most successful team in the domestic league, just ahead of Liverpool. What is the problem with Owen leaving then (considering that Liverpool are still without a title)? The problems is that in May 2005 Liverpool won the Champions League. In a remarkable game against Milan (which I still remember in my nightmares), Liverpool managed to win on penalties their fifth European Champions trophy. A win that also allowed them to keep the cup forever (it is given for three consecutive or five total European crowns). In the mean time, Michael was struggling in the domestic league in Spain and Real could not advance beyond the round of 16 in the CL. Sorry, Micky. Bad timing! 

Image Copyrights: Cabronos 

Andriy Shevchenko
Image CopyrightsFootball Pictures

For seven years, Shevchenko was the King of Milan. The fans, the president, and the vice president adored him. It was the spring of 2006 and Milan were trophyless for 2 years (since winning the domestic title in 2004). They suffered a painful loss to Liverpool in the 2005 CL final in Istanbul and then lost against Barcelona in the 2006 semi-final. The Calciopoli scandal was looming large. And then rumors started to appear that Roman Abramovich, the extremely rich president of Chelsea, wanted to buy the Ukrainian star of Milan. At this point Shevchenko was filling in for Paolo Maldini as team captain. So it came as a complete shock for the "tifosi rossoneri" when their idol said basta and decided to move to Chelsea. The explanation was that he wanted to learn English! The result was that Milan won the Champions League again the year after than in Athens (May 2007), while Chelsea failed to retain the domestic title in England and their star coach Maurinho was fired. The coach was fired but not before he managed to turn Sheva into a shadow of his former self. Sheva had already won the Champions League but it would have been nice to win it twice, wouldn't it?

Image CopyrightsFootball Pictures 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic'
Image CopyrightsThe Offside

It is hard to say how a player that is on a series of 8 domestic titles in a row can be unlucky but it can happen. Actually it can happen (twice!). Back in the summer 2009 Zlaran Ibrahimovic' lost hope that Internazionale could possibly win the Champions League and decided to join the "Best Team in the World" - aka 2009 title holders Barcelona. The Catalan club had Messi and two European titles in the last four years. But it was not meant to be for Zlatan. Barcelona did win the domestic title and cup but they lost CL semi-final against Zlatan's old team - Inter. The nerazzuri went on to win the final and Zlatan was left without an European champions trophy and in a serious fight with Barca's coach Pep Guardiola. 

Image CopyrightsGuardian

The result from the feud was that Zlatan once again switched teams in the summer of 2010. Ever the football nomad, the Swede joined AC Milan, completing a "hat-trick of shame" in Italy (playing for JuventusZlatan (to have a chance at winning the CL due to his unlucky team changes), if only I did not know better - Zlatan is the heart and engine of the rossoneri. If there is some (small) chance that Milan defeats Barcelona in the Champions League quarterfinals, it will be because of Zlatan. Go ahead, Nomad. Keep dreaming!

Image Copyrights: Backpage Football

The Conclusion: Do not run for the door immediately! There is a light ahead of every (football) crisis.

If you like this post, check also Football: Where were you moments?.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Football: Where Were You Moments?

For every sports fan, there are those moments that you always remember. The moments that made you cry, the moments that made you fall in love, the moments that made you fill alive. You can never exactly explain why you care so much, why you think about them years later as if they were yesterday. These are main:

1998 World Cup: Argentine vs England

Most people remember this round of 16 game with Beck's red card. I don't! I recall only Michael Owen's goal. That goal, that very moment made me fall in love with football. I had seen other games before but I never cared about them. Michael's goal made me care. I cried when England lost on penalties because it was too much to bear. Such beauty and such a loss. I have never stopped loving football ever since and I will never forget that goal because the first cut is the deepest. Every time I look back I know exactly how I felt that night and I sense it all over again. I know Michael is not the same player anymore, not for the last 10 years, but this one goal is so brilliant that it defines an entire career. Thank you, Michael for making me dream!

2003 Champions League: Milan vs Ajax

It was in the quarterfinal of the Champions League. Milan had not won it since 1994. Pippo Inzaghi had a great season in the league that year but this is probably his most important goal/assist (it is not clear if Thomason's touch at the end was before or after the goal line). That night Milan were on the bring of going out if the tournament. After 0-0 in Amsterdam, minutes before the end the result was 2-2 and Ajax were about to advance on away goals. Before this goal scored in the last possible minute to help the rossoneri stay in the CL. It just had to be Pippo - no other forward burns in the game as much as him.

2003 Champions League Final: Milan vs Juventus

Milan was playing against arch rival Juventus in the first (and only) all Italian final in the league of champions. A disallowed goal at the beginning and a heavy evenly matched 120 fight meant that the final would be decided on penalties. Dida did a good job to save three before Shevchenko stepped up for the fifth penalty for Milan. The result was 2-2. Andriy had to score - and he did. I still remember this look of complete determination in his eyes. I knew that no matter what he will score that penalty and give Milan the European Champions crown for the sixth time. Simply magical! It's not Sheva's best goal but it was definitely his most important one.

2006 World Cup Final: Italy vs France

I really hate penalties (mostly because of England-Argentine). It is so strange that this other great moment was also during penalty shootout. Fabio Grosso was the Italian to take the fifth and last penalty for the Squadra Azzura in 2006. After their lost on penalties in 1994, the Italians were determined to never let it happen again. So before Grosso all four players scored for Italy. I did not see Grosso's penalty live - I saw many replays after that. It was just too much to bare so I looked away and then I heard the noise - Grosso SCORED, Italy WON. I am not an Italian but I do not think I could feel more love and happiness than I did in this moment. This is how I imagine nirvana - complete and absolute calmness - the moment when all your dreams come true and you know that you cannot possibly want anything more.

There have been so many other great and happy moments in football for me but those are the ones that I go back to whenever I fell let down or disappointed, whenever I have doubts. I know that my feelings towards these moments will never change. I will never be lost.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Vettel - Annoyingly Nice

I just saw again this video of Sebastian Vettel in Top Gear's "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car".

I really liked one of the comments for it: "Damn, he's annoyingly nice! I REALLY want to hate him but I can't" (by perrotthill). This just sums Vettel up completely - he is a genuinely nice person. I am not sure if this is because he is still a child inside (let's face it: he's been racing ever since Schumacher won his first titles, this does not leave a lot of time to grow up) and he is just happy with whatever he can get. Or maybe this is just character - warm and smiley. 

The thing is: it is not hard to be happy when you are doing well (i.e. Messi, Barcelona, ...) but being happy even when you are not fulfilling your potential takes a lot. Hamilton obviously cannot do it. Vettel is still this guy that was dreaming about being in Formula 1. I don't think that even in his widest dreams Seb ever imagined he will be a double world champion before his 25th birthday. Thus he is just happy, even with being second on the podium - as long as the fight is going, Seb will be there with his big warm heart. This is why even Brits love him:)

Australian GP: Button Wins

The Year of the Champions is under way with a Button win in Albert Park, Melbourne. Vettel and Hamilton joined him on the podium with Webber a close fourth.

Image CopyrightYahoo! Sports

The Winners

Jenson Button

Image CopyrightYahoo! Sports  

Great win for the 2009 world champion. The dynamics in the McLaren team seem to have stayed the same. Button is obviously in a very good place mentally, Hamilton - not so much. Button managed to snatch the lead even before the first corner. After that, besides a brief spell behind the safety car, no car was even close to him in the race. Jenson leads the champtionship for the first time in two years. 

Sebastian Vettel

Image CopyrightYahoo! Sports 

Sebastian had a pretty bad (especially for his standards) qualification yesterday and managed only a six place on the start. A good start and pitting immediately after the safety car went out (to allow the stewards to remove Petrov's Catheram that was parked on the start lane) helped Sebastian to gain a second place in the race. Sebastian could not really challenge Button for the victory but he did a great job to stay ahead of Hamilton in the final 15 laps.  Vettel was obviously very happy to get on the podium, despite not winning.

Fernando Alonso

Image CopyrightYahoo! Sports  

Nothing seems to have changed in Ferrari as well. Nando is again driving the car 1 second and 5 positions further than it should have been. Still not enought for a podium but finishing 5th from 12th in qualification is almost a victory with this Ferrari car. Alonso did a great job at the start to launch himself in the front but at the end of the race was struggling to keep Maldonaldo before the Scot smashed his Williams in a spectacular fashion in the last lap.

Kimi Raikkonen

Image CopyrightYahoo! Sports

Great return for the "eloquent" Finn. After starting from P17, Maldonaldo + Perez + Rosberg's accidents in the last lap saw him finish in 7. While teammate Grosjean outperformed Kimi on Saturday, the champion for 2007 showed that he still has the intensity to be a factor in Formula 1. I take back my words from yesterday - Kimi is definitely at a better place now. He seems somewhat cooler. If this is even possible for a driver called Iceman.

The Losers

Lewis Hamilton
Image CopyrightYahoo! Sports 

Lewis is back with Nicole but the 2008 Hamilton is still MIA. He started the Melbourn race from the pole but managed only third at the end. His body language on the podium was very negative in contrast with Button's and Vettel's. It feels that Lewis is mentally still in the last season. Regretfully, he could not really launch an attack on Button once Jenson got the better of him on the race towards the first corner. It also seems that the good friendly atmosphere from 2010-2011 in McLaren might be vanishing as Jenson regularly outperforms the not-so-young-anymore prodigy.

Mercedes AMG

Image CopyrightYahoo! Sports 

After the great qualification yesterday, the silver arrows could not even snatch a point in Melbourne. Despite a great start that saw Michael and Nico launch themselves into third and fourth, respectively, Mercedes underpeformed in the opening race of the season. Schumacher retired early after a gear box problem, while Rosberg lost a position in the points because of a last lap accident with Perez. Very unlucky but it was also evident at the beginning of the race that Brawn's team still does not have the pace to really compete with McLaren and Red Bull.

What is your take on the first race of the F1 season? Please post in the comments below.

If you liked this post, you might also appreciate my review of the Australian GP qualification, my season 2012 preview, and my review of the new motorsport show The Grid.

Here are the final results of the race:

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Vettel and Schumi

Image CopyrightQuizlexic

If somebody still wonders why Vettel is called Baby Schumi - this is why! I cannot wait to see how the race tomorrow plays out. 

If you liked this, check also Australian GP Qualification2012 Season Preview, and The Grid

Formula 1: Australian GP Qualification

OK, I think I've been massively wrong with my predictions last night. For a start here is the grid for tomorrow:

1. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes)
2. Jenson Button (McLaren Mercedes)
3. Romain Grosjean (Lotus Renault)
4. Michael Schumacher  (Mercedes)
5. Mark Webber (Red Bull Racing-Renault)                   
6. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing-Renault)                 
7. Nico Rosberg  (Mercedes)                     
8. Pastor Maldonaldo (Williams-Renault)               
9. Nico Hulkenberg (Force India Mercedes)                 
10. Daniel Ricciardo (STR-Ferrari)               
11. Jean-Eric Vergne (STR-Ferrari)               
12. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)           
13. Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber-Ferrari)           
14. Bruno Senna (Williams-Renault)                   
15. Paul di Resta (Force India Mercedes)                     
16. Felipe Massa (Ferrari)                   
17. Sergio Perrez (Sauber-Ferrari)                 
18. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus-Renault)                 
19. Heikki Kovalainen (Caterham-Renault)           
20. Vitaly Petrov (Caterham-Renault)                     
21. Timo Glock (Marussia-Cosworth)                     
22. Charles Pick (Marussia-Cosworth)                   
DNQ Pedro de la Rosa (HRT-Cosworth)
DNQ Narain Karthikeyan (HRT-Cosworth)

McLaren Mercedes  
Image Copyright: Top Gear

A dominating performance by the two British former world champions in the third qualifying session today gave McLaren P1 and P2 on the grid for tomorrow. No other team came even close in terms of single lap performance. If this car can keep the same tempo in long runs (and I think it can), McLaren are massive favorites for tomorrow. One of the only two cars not guilty of the "ugly nose" sin, the new MP4-27 might be the car to beat this year. This is also the first time in which Button and Hamilton will start side by side on front row. Will there be a fight for the first corner? Hamilton once again outperforms Button in the qualification to put another pole under his tally but can he beat his teammate in the actual race? 

Lotus Renault
Image CopyrightAutomedia

There is a Lotus on P3 but it is not Raikkonen. The rookie Romain Grosjean demonstrate a very stong performance in Q1 and Q3 to snatch a place in the company of three former world champions in top four on the grid. It seems that E20 actually has its chances this year but Kimi is not taking them. A really disappointing start for the 2007 F1 champion who managed to get only to P18 and went out of contest in the first qualifying session. We will see from the next few starts which Kimi returned to F1 - the one that won the title by a blink of an eye in 2007 or the one that was very unmotivated and retired in 2009. In the mean time, Grosjean is the real Cinderella of the Albert Park qualification but can he hold his own against the likes of Schumacher, Webber, and Vettel on the start tomorrow?

Mercedes AMG
Image CopyrightAuto India

A solid performance in the testing and in the practice sessions yesterday suggested that Mercedes are really close to the top this year. It seems this is indeed the case. After a one-two in Q2, Schumacher and Rosberg managed to collect P4 and P7, respectively, on the grid. Brawn obviously has not lost his acumen to design amazing F1 cars, despite the disappointing W01 and W02 in the previous two years. Schumacher's start from the second row alongside Grosjean is his bet performance in a qualification since his comeback. MS could not really challenge the McLarens but it is noteworthy that he managed to outqualify Rosberg, a feat that seemed impossible last year. Is the seven-time world champion smelling blood? Can he roll back the years and not only defend himself against the two Red Bulls behind him but also attack the MP4-27s at the front? We all remember that in 2011 the King was really great at snatching places during the start.

Red Bull Renault
Image CopyrightFormula 1 On Live

R8 seems to be a mediocre successor of R6 and R7 as for the first time in a long while Red Bull are not even close to the front row. Not only were Vettel and Webber slower than the McLarens but even the fellow Renault-powered Lotus and Mercedes got the better of them in all qualifying sessions. Mark uncharacteristically outperformed his teammate and reigning double world champion Sebastian. Vettel who time and time again would just take 0.7 of second in Q3 out of his pocket last year seemed dismal during the Albert Park qualification in 2012. Can he still make it three in a row? Can the Red Bulls put a better performance during the race? 

Image CopyrightFormula 1 On Live

Mamma Mia, where are Ferrari? After Alonso went into the gravel midway through Q2, Massa's could not manage more than 16 on the grid, leaving the team with out a top 10 driver for the start tomorrow. Ferrari's deteorating performance starts to look quite similar to the state of the Scuderia BMS (before Michael Schumacher). Even after retiring in 2006, he retained a consulting role with the black horses for two more years that actually kept his championship-winning team together. Far more than driver, Michael was the unifying force behind Ferrari's success (even after retirement). As he went to Mercedes to become once more an active driver, the Scuderia Ferrari seems lost. If I was Luca di Montezemolo, I would kick Massa in the end of the season (he is obviously not the same driver since his 2009 accident) and hire Schumacher back. On the other hand, if Schumi does retire again in the end of the season, the second he does so I would hire him as team principal. He obviously knows how to pull the strings in the Italian team and they are still the team of his heart. Why not? It can hardly get any worse than not qualifying for the last session of the qualification.

The Rest

Williams managed a surprising eight position just behind McLaren, Lotus, Mercedes, and Red Bull as the 1996 champion with them Damon Hill kick-started a commenting gig with Sky. Can the grey haired Brit out-perform fellow former Williams driver Coulthard in the off-track battle for the hearts and TV sets of Britain?

If you liked this post you might also like my review on first three episodes of The Grid and my somewhat inaccurate 2012 F1 season prediction. What are your expectations for the race tomorrow? Are you as exited as I am that the balance of power on the grid seems to be shifting. 

You can also follow me on twitter, where I will be live-tweating the race tomorrow at @dsj070 :)

Formula 1 Season 2012 Preview

So the 2012 season of Formula 1 is (almost) upon us. This weekend is the kick-off in sunny Australia. 1,5 months after the dramatic finale of Ausie Open, Melbourne hosts the other worldwide famous sport event on the continent.

Image CopyrightGem Tennis

The Albert Park race is one of twelve this year that will not be hosted in Europe. In a bid to make the Formula truly global, Bernie Ecclestone's management team has secured contracts with tracks in Asia, Australia, North and South America. This year the number of races hosted in Europe and in Asia will be the same - 8 each. A representation equality that FIFA cannot afford in its World Cup. As Formula 1 race visits remain prohibitively expensive for most developing countries, except for the Asian Tigers and BRIC, there will be  no races in Africa (the last race on the continent was in 1993). This season will be the longest in the history of the championship with 20 (expected) races, spanning more than eight months between the middle of March and the end of November.

Image Copyright: Wikipedia

 Despite no major rule changes, this is a year of firsts. Besides the length of the competition, this will also be the season with most former champions starting on the grid. The title of Sebastian Vettel will be contested by five other former champions and maybe Massa, Webber, and Rosberg. The overall winners of 14 titles will meet to determine the "King of Kings."
Image Copyright: Yalla F1

The Champions

Sebastian Vettel
Image CopyrightBettor
Titles: 2 (2010, 2011)
GP wins: 21
Pole positions: 30
Nickname: Baby Schumi

The 24-year-old current F1 champion holds most youngest ever records in the series. He was the youngest driver to score points in a race, to achieve a pole position, to win a race, to win the title, and to become a double world champion. In the fight to become triple world champion, Vettel will race Michael Schumacher, whose first title was one in 1994 when Vettel was 7(!). Being a German and an evident F1 fan, Sebastian grew upon supporting Michael. However, once he gets on the track all feelings of respect for MS and Ferrari disappear and Vettel is ready to do whatever it takes to win. He has mixed feelings towards the nickname given to him by some fans. While Seb is pleased to be compared with the Great Michael, he obviously wants to leave his own mark on the history of the formula. 

Funny Quote on the subject: "Well, its just a joke. I've asked my mum and Michael really isn't my father."

Further to being the fastest man on the grid in the last two years and a really great driver, Sebastian is also a "media darling." He willingly gives interviews, always with a big smile on his face. He seems to be able to hold his liquor quite well, an ability necessary to survive the post-race pressures of the F1 grid. The funny video below demonstrates this and his talent of a stand-up comedian.

Expectations for 2012: The pre-season performance seems to suggest that Vettel will gain be very hard to beat. I expect him to retain the title, even though the challengers will be closer than last year.

Jenson Button
Image CopyrightDaily Postal
Titles: 1 (2009)
GP wins: 12
Pole positions: 7

After spending eight uneventful years in F1, Button seemed almost content that he would never be one of the selected few, who become champions. Until the new regulations in 2009 came along and his Ross Brawn-designed car brought him the title. He joined McLaren in 2010 to start a British dream team partnership with Lewis Hamilton. Despite Hamilton's seniority in the team, Jenson managed to repeatedly outperform him in the races and reach the runner-up spot in 2011 (Vettel was untouchable at the top). 

Expectations for 2012: He will be a lot closer to Vettel but not good enough (the qualifications are his big weakness) - a runner up.

Lewis Hamilton
Image CopyrightEzine Mark
Titles: 1
GP wins: 17
Pole positions: 19

A real F1 prodigy. Hamilton's first two years on the grid were particularly eventful. He lost the title in the last race of 2007 and won it 2008 in the last corner of the last GP. After that, however, his form has slumped. A conflict with his father and problems with on-again, off-again singer girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger only amplified his on-track tendency to participate in crashes (usually with Massa). He managed to achieve 3 wins last year but was never even close to challenging Vettel, who won eleven races.

Expectations for 2012: If he sorts his personal problems out maybe he will begin regaining his old form. Since he announced his second brake-up with Nicole last year, he was seen again with her, suggesting that the book is not closed there. This means that he might still be out of it mentally this year. I don't think without his full focus he can be a real competitor this year - third place.

Kimi Raikkonen
Image CopyrightAusmotive
Titles: 1 (2007)
GP wins: 18
Pole positions: 16
Nickname: Iceman

After coming close to challenging Schumacher in 2003, Raikkonen finally managed to become champion himself in 2007 by the narrowest of margins. Kimi won the title for Ferrari by 1 point in the last race, even though just before it he was third. His drop of form in 2008 and especially 2009 led to his retirement from F1.   Two years of WRC disappointment, however, have driven him back to Formula 1 for a meet-up with his old rivals Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso and the (barely adult) prodigy Vettel. Most other F1 stars seem quite excited that Kimi is coming back as he is notorious for his drinking habits. Kimi is known for being specifically economical with word so taking an interview with him is always a formidable task.

Expectations for 2012: The real speed of the new cars is still unclear but it is unlikely that Kimi's Lotus would be able to match Red Bull and McLaren. A position somewhere in top 10 would not be unrealistic. 

Fernando Alonso
Image CopyrightSports Blog
Titles: 2 (2005, 2006)
GP wins: 27
Pole position: 20

A couple of years ago, Alonso was the also the youngest double world champion. His domination with Renault in 2005 and 2006 were among the reasons for Michael Schumacher to retire in 2006. After a disappointing spell with McLaren in which he was never treated with the respect that the reigning double world champion deserves and a brief return to Renault, Alonso ended up taking MS and Raikkonen's position as Ferrari's lead driver. He narrowly missed the title in 2010 and in 2011 managed to completely outperform teammate Massa. 

Expectations for 2012:  Ferrari's new car has probably the most revolutionary of the so called ugly noses but seems not to be fast enough to compete with the Red Bulls during the testing. I expect Nando to be on top of the car again but I'm not sure he can really advance further than forth.

Michael Schumacher
Image CopyrightF1 Zone
Titles: 7 (1994, 1995, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004)
GP wins: 91
Pole positions: 68

Almost all Formula 1 "most" records belong to one man and that's Michael Schumacher. He is undoubtfully the greatest F1 driver ever and my personal favorite since the very first races I saw back in the 90's. He has the most titles, the most wins, the most pole positions, and ....the list goes on and on. He is the King of F1 but he seems lost lately. MS retired in 2006 but decided to come back in 2010 because Formula 1 is more than a job for him, it is his life - it is what he loves doing. I think the decision to drive for Mercedes is part of the reason why Schumi seems unhappy. Ferrari was his family and being in Mercedes simply cannot compete with that. Both after his first title with Ferrari (2000) and sixth overall (2003) Michael stated that he was not as happy for himself as he is for Ferrari. Driving for Mercedes just seems wrong: MS does not belong there and his heart will always be in Maranello.

Image CopyrightVisit Switzerland
On the funny side of things - Michael is probably the only F1 star that can successfully match Kimi Raikkonen's drinking abilities. MS is a beautiful memory of the romantic Formula 1 of the past - rougher, tougher, less media-friendly. 

Expectations for 2012: I don't think MS has the car to make a successful title challenge but I do hope he will manage to snatch at least one victory before his contract with Mercedes expires at the end of the year. And after that I hope he will just go back home to Ferrari.

If you liked this post, you might like also my post on the new online motorsport show The Grid: The World After TV: The Grid

Who is your favorite among these six current and former champions?