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Monthly Archives: August 2011

RED BULL took their twelfth pole-position out of 12 this season in the qualifying session for today’s Belgian Grand Prix.

Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) set a time of 1:48.298 (144.667-mph) around the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the final session yesterday. Vettel will be looking for his and his team’s first F1 win at Spa.

Last year’s winner, Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), will line up second on the grid after setting a time of 1:48.730, while Red Bull’s Mark Webber will start the race from third.

Pretty much all of qualifying was dictated by the infamous changeable weather in the Arden forest, and yes we do have a mixed up grid.

Fourth to tenth on the grid are: 4th) Felipe Massa (Ferrari), 5th) Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), 6th) Jaime Alguersuari (Toro Rosso), 7th) Bruno Senna (Renault. Bruno Senna has replaced the much more experienced but not as rich sponsor wise Nick Heidfeld, who is seeking to take legal action against Renault over this move. It is truly frightening to see that yellow helmet in an ‘80s style Lotus). 8th) Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), 9th) Sergio Pérez (Sauber) and 10th) Vitaly Petrov (Renault).

11th-17th on the grid for today’s race are: 11th) Sébastien Buemi (Toro Rosso), 12th) Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber), 13th) Jenson Button (McLaren. Button and McLaren got their timings wrong in Q2 and the 2009 world champion was left high and dry at the end of the session. But, Spa is known for its changeable weather and in those conditions Button is the best driver on the grid). 14th) Rubens Barrichello (Williams), 15th) Adrian Sutil (Force India), 16th) Heikki Kovalainen (Lotus, who got into Q2 on merit) and 17th) Paul di Resta (Force India, who was going to start 18th having fallen out of Q1, but was promoted on the grid for reasons I will now explain).

In the last seconds of Q2 Lewis Hamilton was on a flying lap as he approached the last corner, the Bus Stop, with Pastor Maldonado in his Williams right ahead of him. Hamilton forced his way past the Venezuelan rookie who he took out of the Monaco Grand Prix in the last few laps when they were fighting over a points place. Hamilton went into Q3 but Maldonado (who himself was being held up by two other cars) didn’t.

As the pair exited the first corner, La Source, and began the run down to the infamous Eau Rouge, Hamilton twitched, causing Maldonado
to pull out and pass him. Then either out of the inexperience of having only raced in 11 Grand Prixs or out of pure anger, Maldonado swiped Hamilton’s McLaren with his Williams, damaging the Silver car and forcing the Woking based team into emergence repairs.

After qualifying, Hamilton was given a warning by the Stewards and Maldonado was demoted from 16th to 21st on the grid. He’s a very lucky boy to be racing at all today in my opinion.

The drivers at the back of the grid are: 18th) Jarno Trulli (Lotus, in the last five races the driver starting 18th has scored points). 19th) Timo Glock (Virgin), 20th) Jérôme d’Ambrosio (Virgin, he is the first Belgian driver in the Belgian Grand Prix since Thierry Boutsen (Jordan) in 1993). 21st) Maldonado, 22nd) Vitantonio Liuzzi (HRT), 23rd) Daniel Ricciardo (HRT) and 24th) Michael Schumacher (Mercedes).

Schumacher’s right-rear wheel fell off on his Q1 out lap as he approached Rivage and slid into the tyre barrier. So Michael Schumacher will start his 20th anniversary Grand Prix from dead last, his worst ever grid position.

Four drivers: d’Ambrosio, Liuzzi, Ricciardo and Schumacher were all outside the 107% time (2:10.339) but will race because of the changeable
weather conditions and times in practice.

I’m not going to say who will win, because at Spa anybody can win.

Winners of the Belgian Grand Prix on the grid today:

  • Michael Schumacher, a record six-times, 1992 (his first F1 win…I wasn’t even alive when this happened) and 1995 for Benetton and 1996, 1997, 2001 and 2002 for Ferrari. Spa is also where he won his seventh world title back in 2004.
  • Felipe Massa, 2008 for Ferrari after Hamilton was (wrongly!) bumped down to third.
  • Lewis Hamilton, 2010 for McLaren.
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2009 WORLD champion Jenson Button (McLaren) won this season’s Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring, the same track where he took hismaiden victory back in 2006 for Honda. This win was made even more special becausethis was Button’s 200th Grand Prix.

Button's second win in Hungary.

Mind out Jenson, you might break it.

Button once again proved he is the best driver on the grid in changeable conditions, but if his McLaren team-mate, Lewis Hamilton, was on the right tyres Button may not have had it all his own way. Hamilton ended up finishing back in fourth behind current championship leader Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso who came second and third respectively.

Red Bull’s Mark Webber came fifth just over a second behind Hamilton, while Ferrari’s Felipe Massa was sixth and the last driver to complete the full 70 lap race distances.

The most dramatic moment of the race was when Nick Heidfeld’s Renault caught fire just before Turn 1 on lap 24 and then exploded, almost wiping out the marshal who was attempting to put the blaze out.

As far as I know he is okay.

Massa set the fastest lap of the race on lap 61 with a 1:23.415 (117.389-mph) tour.

Top 10 finishers of the XXVII Hungarian Grand Prix:

  1. Jenson Button (McLaren-Mercedes), 70 laps, 1h:46m:42.337s @ 107.145-mph. 25 points.
  2. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull-Renault), +3.588s. 18 points.
  3. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), +19.819s. 15 points.
  4. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren-Mercedes), +48.338s. 12 points.
  5. Mark Webber (Red Bull-Renault), +49.742s. 10 points.
  6. Felipe Massa (Ferrari), +1m:23.176. 8 points.
  7. Paul di Resta (Force India-Mercedes), + 1 lap. 6 points, his best finish in F1.
  8. Sébastien Buemi (Toro Rosso-Ferrari), + 1 lap. 4 points, not bad from 23rd on the grid, plus this was Toro Rosso’s 100th Grand Prix.
  9. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), + 1 lap. 2 points, this was also Rosberg’s 100th Grand Prix.
  10. Jaime Alguersuari, (Toro Rosso-Ferrari), + 1 lap. 1 point.

 

I’m sorry for the lateness and shortness of this report, but my University placing hasn’t gone exactly to plan.

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP – After 11/19 Races.

Pos

Driver

Constructor

Points

Gap From 1st

1

Sebastian VETTEL (GER)

Red Bull

234

2

Mark WEBBER (AUS)

Red Bull

149

85

3

Lewis HAMILTON (ENG)

McLaren

146

88

4

Fernando ALONSO (ESP)

Ferrari

145

89

5

Jenson BUTTON (ENG)

McLaren

134

100

6

Felipe MASSA (BRA)

Ferrari

70

164

7

Nico ROSBERG (GER)

Mercedes

48

186

8

Nick HEIDFELD (GER)

Renault

34

200

9

Vitaly PETROV (RUS)

Renault

32

202

10

Michael SCHUMACHER (GER)

Mercedes

32

202

11

Kamui KOBAYASHI (JAP)

Sauber

27

207

12

Adrian SUTIL (GER)

Force India

18

216

13

Sébastien BUEMI (SWI)

Toro Rosso

12

222

14

Jamie ALGUERSUARI (ESP)

Toro Rosso

10

224

15

Sergio PÉREZ (MEX)

Sauber

8

226

16

Paul DI RESTA (SCO)

Force India

8

226

17

Rubens BARRICHELLO (BRA)

Williams

4

230

 

CONSTRUCTORS’ CHAMPIONSHIP – After 11/19 Races.

Pos

Constructor

Engine

Points

Gap From 1st

1

RED BULL (AUT)

Renault

383

2

MCLAREN (ENG)

Mercedes

280

103

3

FERRARI (ITA)

Ferrari

215

168

4

MERCEDES (GER)

Mercedes

80

303

5

RENAULT (ENG)

Renault

66

317

6

SAUBER (SWI)

Ferrari

35

348

7

FORCE INDIA (IND)

Mercedes

26

357

8

TORO ROSSO (ITA)

Ferrari

22

361

9

WILLIAMS  (ENG)

Cosworth

4

379

LOOTING scum on the streets of England on Monday night (8 August) meant that England’s (6) match at Wembley against the Netherlands (2) on Wednesday (10 August) was cancelled.

But fortunately for me, there was still a full day of international football to look forward to.

There was one Euro 2012 Qualifier amongst all the friendlies, a Group C tie between Northern Ireland (62) and the Faroe Islands (112) at Windsor Park in Belfast.

Northern Ireland needed to win in order to stay in the race to get on the plane to Poland and the Ukraine, and win they did. A 4-0 victory for the Green and White Army sees them climb up to third in their group behind Slovenia, who are two points better off but have played one game more. The Faroes on the other hand (who drew 1-1 with Northern Ireland in the reverse fixture last October) cannot now make it to Euro 2012.

Japan (16) held onto their crown of Unofficial World Champions by beating rivals South Korea (28) 3-0, in their friendly at the Sapporo Dome.

Just in case you don’t know, the Unofficial World Championship is past around like a Title Belt in Boxing, and if you go back far enough, you will find yourself at the first ever international between Scotland and England in 1872.

Japan took the title away from Argentina on 8 October 2010 in a friendly they won 1-0, then defended it against: South Korea (0-0, friendly), Jordan (1-1), Syria (2-1), Saudi Arabia (5-0), Qatar (3-2), South Korea (2-2 a.e.t. 3-0 pens.) and Australia (1-0 a.e.t.) as they lifted the Asian Cup for a record fourth time, before drawing 0-0 in both their Kirin Cup matches against Peru and the Czech Republic before this 3-0 over South Korea.

The next defence of their title comes on 2 September in their first 2014 World Cup Qualifier against North Korea. Also in Japan’s group (Group C) are Syria and Uzbekistan.

Select International Friendly Results (World Ranking in Brackets)

Albania (59) 3 – 2 Montenegro (17)

Côte d’Ivoire (14) 4 – 3 Israel (32)

France (15) 1 – 1 Chile (11)

Germany (3) 3 – 2 Brazil (4), which I watched.

Germany is a young team now that looks like they can beat anybody. Brazil on the other hand seems a shadow of the side they were at the turn of the millennium.

Hungary (47) 4 – 0 Iceland (121)

Italy (8) 2 – 1 Spain (1)

The reining European and World champions suffer another defeat to a top-class nation – the others being Argentina (1-4) and arch-rivals Portugal (0-4).

Latvia (83) 0 – 2 Finland (75)

Liechtenstein (118) 1 – 2 Switzerland (30)

Norway (12) 3 – 0 Czech Republic (38)

Poland (69) 1 – 0 Georgia (57)

Portugal (7) 5 – 0 Luxembourg (128)

Republic of Ireland (33) 0 – 0 Croatia (9)

Russia (18) 1 – 0 Serbia (27)

Scotland (61) 2 – 1 Denmark (21) 😦

Turkey (24) 3 – 0 Estonia (79)

Ukraine (45) 0 – 1 Sweden (19)

Wales (112) 1 – 2 Australia (23) 🙂

U.S.A. (30) 1 – 1 Mexico (20)

OVER 170 nations held their breath last Saturday night (30 July) as the various draws for each Football Confederations next (or first) Qualification round(s) for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil were made in Rio de Janeiro.

The African zone had their draw first, followed by Asia, North, Central America and the Caribbean, Oceania and finally the reason why there isn’t a draw for South America (it’s one big group).

But then came the headline act, the draw for the European Qualifying groups.

Just like the 2010 qualifying format, the 53 UEFA nations would be seeded into five pots of nine and one pot of eight. Based on the July 2011 FIFA world rankings the top nine nations would be in Pot 1, tenth to 18th in Pot 2 and so on.

The 53 nations were to be drawn into eight groups of six and one of five. The nine group winners will qualify automatically for Brazil 2014, and the eight best second-placed teams (based on their record against the first, third, fourth and fifth-place teams in their group) will play-off in four
separate head-to-head home and away matches to determine the other four European teams at the Finals in Brazil in three years time.

The Pots for the draw looked as such, world ranking in brackets:

POT 1

POT 2

POT 3

POT 4

POT 5

POT 6

Spain (1)

France (15)

Switzerland (30)

Bulgaria (48)

Armenia (70)

Wales (112=)

Netherlands (2)

Montenegro (17)

Israel (32)

Romania (53)

Finland (75)

Liechtenstein (118)

Germany (3)

Russia (18)

Republic of Ireland (33)

Georgia (57)

Estonia (79)

Iceland (121)

England (6)

Sweden (19)

Belgium (37)

Lithuania (58)

Cyprus (80)

Kazakhstan (126)

Portugal (7)

Denmark (21)

Czech Republic (38)

Albania (59)

Latvia (83)

Luxembourg (128)

Italy (8)

Slovenia (22)

Bosnia & Herzegovina (41)

Scotland (61)

Moldova (85)

Malta GC (173)

Croatia (9)

Turkey (24)

Belarus (42)

Northern Ireland (62)

Macedonia (96)

Andorra (203=)

Norway (12)

Serbia (27)

Ukraine (45)

Austria (66)

Azerbaijan (111)

San Marino (203=)

Greece (13)

Slovakia (29)

Hungary (47)

Poland (69)

Faroe Islands (112=)

The eagle-eyed amongst you would have noticed that the Faroe Islands and Wales have the same ranking (112) yet were not in the same pot
because that’s just the way it worked out. FIFA were going to put Wales in Pot 5 until Eduard Ranghiuc – a 30-year-old Romania computer programmer who runs a football ranking website – pointed out to FIFA that the Faroe Islands were 0.07 points better off than Wales.

FIFA listened for once and placed the Faroes in Pot 5 with the likes of Armenia (70) and Estonia (79), who they beat nearly beat in Tallinn and did beat 2-0 in Toftir in their Euro 2012 qualifying matches. Wales on the other hand were placed in Pot 6 with the minnows that are Liechtenstein (118), Andorra and San Marino (both 203).

So anyway, as I like to say before the start of every major championship: “Enough with the preliminaries and now on with the main event!”…the draw for the preliminaries.

Group A

Former Yugoslav nations Croatia (9), Serbia (27) and Macedonia (96) will have to deal with a resurgent Belgium (37) and the Home Nations of Scotland (61) and Wales (112=).

Croatia finished third in France ’98 on their debut, while Serbia has only been to one World Cup (the last one) as ‘Serbia’. Belgium came fourth in Mexico ’86 and Scotland hold the record for most number of World Cup appearances without advancing to the next round – eight. Macedonia has never qualified for the World Cup and suffered their heaviest defeat, 0-5, at the hands of Belgium. Wales’s only Finals appearances was at Sweden ’58 (after initially being eliminated and then reinstated in qualifying) where they reached the last eight.

I sense some battles both on and off the pitch with this lot. Croatia and Serbia will have to watch out in case Belgium spring a few surprises.

Group B

Four-time world champions Italy (8) were drawn with: Denmark (21), the Czech Republic (38), Bulgaria (48), Armenia (70) and Malta GC (173).

Despite winning Euro ’92, Denmark have only been to four Finals but came fifth in France ’98. The Czech Republic has only been to Germany ’06 as the ‘Czech Republic’ where they failed to get out of the Groups. Bulgaria surprised everybody in U.S.A.’94 by knocking out then reigning
champions Germany en route to finishing fourth. Armenia and Malta GC have never qualified for the Finals.

Italy should ease this, but write-off the Danes and Czechs at your peril.

Group C

Triple world champions Germany (3) – who have only lost two World Cup qualifiers got: Sweden (19), the Republic of Ireland (33), neighbours Austria (66), the Faroe Islands (112=) and Kazakhstan (126).

Germany, Austria and Kazakhstan are all in the same Euro 2012 Qualifying group, so they will have some good up-to-date knowledge of some of there opponents.

Sweden finished as runners-up to Brazil when they hosted the 1958 World Cup and also finished third in 1950 and 1994. The Republic of
Ireland should have been in South Africa last summer but were cheated out of their place by France. Their best performance in a World Cup was in 1990 when they ended up seventh. Austria earned the bronze medal in 1954, while the Faroe Islands and Kazakhstan have never boarded the plane to the Finals.

Germany will waltz this lot, but the Sweden-Ireland games will prove decisive.

Group D

Three-time runners-up the Netherlands (2) will play: Turkey (24), Hungary (47) and their neighbours Romania (53), Estonia (79) and joint lowest ranked team in the world Andorra (203=).

The Netherlands beat Hungary 4-0 and 5-3 in four days during their Euro 2012 qualifying group.

Turkey spectacularly came third in 2002, while Hungary went one better in 1938 and 1954 when they lost to West Germany in The Miracle of Berne. Romania’s biggest loss, 0-9, was against Hungary and they came fifth in 1994. Estonia and Andorra have never been to a World Cup.

The Netherlands vs. Turkey games should prove to be terrific to watch. The Dutch don’t have it all that easy in this one.

Group E

Norway (12) was handed: Slovenia (22), Switzerland (30), Albania (59), Cyprus (80) and fellow Nordic nation Iceland (121).

Norway has only been to three World Cups while Slovenia has been to two of the last three, and was in South Africa because the Czech Republic and Russia weren’t. Switzerland’s best showing in a World Cup is sixth back in 1950, and they hold the record for most consecutive minutes without conceding a goal, 559. Albania and Cyprus have never been to the Finals, and coincidently Albania’s biggest win, 6-1, came against Cyprus. Iceland to has never qualified for the World Cup and have been drawn against Norway for the third straight time in World Cup/Euro qualifiers. Norway’s largest win, 12-0, also came against Iceland.

This group is wide open. It could come down to who has the best record against Iceland or Cyprus as to who advances.

Group F

Portugal (7) will travel to: 2018 hosts Russia (18), Israel (32), Northern Ireland (62), Azerbaijan (111) and Luxembourg (128).

Portugal has (surprisingly) only played in five World Cups, but they have finished third and fourth in 1966 and 2006 respectively. Russia hasn’t qualified for the last two World Cups and will be out to push home their home advantage over the warmer nations. Israel has only been to a single World Cup, Mexico ’70, while Northern Ireland has been to three. Azerbaijan has never played in a World Cup Finals match, and Luxembourg has been trying and failing to qualify since 1934 – a rather unwanted record.

This one is between Portugal and Russia. I can’t pick the winner.

Group G

Euro 2004 champions Greece (13) will fancy qualifying for their third World Cup in a group also containing: Slovakia (29), Bosnia & Herzegovina (41), Lithuania (58), Latvia (83) and Liechtenstein (118).

Greece and Latvia were in the same 2010 World Cup qualifying group and are currently in the same Euro 2012 qualifying group, as are Lithuania
and Liechtenstein. The Baltic nation recently lost 0-2 to Liechtenstein.

One of Slovakia’s largest wins came against Liechtenstein (7-0) and they famously dumped out the previous world champions Italy last summer in their only World Cup appearance as ‘Slovakia’ on their way to finishing 16th. Bosnia and Herzegovina almost qualified for the last World Cup but lost 0-2 on aggregate to Portugal in their Play-Off. They along with the other sides in this group have never reached the Finals.

This group should be Greece’s, but I fancy Bosnia and Herzegovina will cause an upset or two.

Group H

1966 world champions and perennial international underachievers England (6) got handed a group they should advance from, but then again you don’t get trophies for winning qualifying groups and this is England we are talking about.

Montenegro (17) will play England again (they are in the same Euro 2012 Qualifying group and drew 0-0 at Wembley). Both Euro 2012 co-hosts the Ukraine (45) and Poland (69) are in this group as well, as are ex-Soviet side Moldova (85) and the tiniest minnow of them all, San Marino
(203=) who are also in Moldova’s Euro 2012 Qualifying group.

Since they played their first match in 2007, Montenegro have rocketed up the world rankings like it was going out of fashion and will be fancying their chances of qualifying for their first World Cup. The Ukraine has only been to one Finals (Germany ’06) but they did come eighth. Poland almost won the World Cup in 1974 and 1982 but wound up finishing third on both occasions. They also prevented England from going to the 1974 World Cup after earning a 1-1 draw at Wembley. Moldova has never made it to a World Cup. Neither have San Marino who hardly score any goals and have only won one match, but they do ironically hold the record for the fastest international goal ever. In a 1994 World Cup qualifier, Davide Gualtieri scored after just 8.3 seconds…against England.

The draw could have been better for England who should be able to win this group. But as we shall see, the draw could have been so much worse.

Group I – The Group of Death

Reigning World and European champions Spain (1) were drawn with none other than 1998 world champions France (15) who are on the rebound
after their shameful World Cup campaign last summer.

The other three sides in this, the smallest group are: Belarus (42) who beat France 1-0 then drew 1-1 with them in their Euro 2012 qualifiers, Georgia (57) and Finland (75) have never made it to a World Cup…and won’t this time either.

I can’t call who out of France and Spain will win this group, but there will be at least one team to avoid in the Play-Offs.

All group matches are scheduled to be played between 7 September 2012 and 15 October 2013. The Play-Offs will be completed around a month or so later.