my most intense sport moments of 2010

notice that this is a personal list of how i perceived this year’s sport events. the most intense sport moments of 2010, in chronological order.

february 16, whistler (canada)

anastasiya kuzmina from slovakia had won the first gold medal of the olympic games in female biathlon, just two seconds ahead of german star magdalena neuner in her first olympic games. but right in the beginning of the pursuit race, neuner passes her rival and increases her advantage after two error-free shootings to an incredible advantage. in the fourth and last shooting, neuner makes her second mistake and kuzmina has a perfect shooting, but it is not enough -12 seconds advantage at the end give the young bavarian her first ever olympic gold medal.

february 21, whistler (canada)

in the 12.5 km mass start, only 13 of the 30 starters make a mistake in the first shooting – and neuner is one of them. after her perfect second shooting, she was now in 8th place, still dreaming of a medal, but another mistake in her third shooting made it look tough. thanks to a perfect fourth shooting and her incredible pace on the slopes, magdalena neuner manages the incredible and wins her second gold medal – an even more exciting race than the one five days earlier.

march 9, fiore (italy)

in a cold, windy day, the people from fiore were all there, seemingly. it was the greatest day in football for this italian town, that had had european glory, but never in the main competition, the champions league. to eliminate bayern would be their biggest success ever, and the players knew it; bayern couldn’t control the wind or the opponent, and early in the second half, fiorentina were up by 2×0. mark van bommel managed to score a lucky goal at the mark of 60 minutes, but the dream of extra time vanished only minutes later with jovetic’s second strike against a desolate defense, 3×1. the italians looked like the certain winners now, but just a minute later, arjen robben silenced the crowd with an incredible masterpiece of a shot. with luck and robben, bayern were through to the quarterfinals.

march 24, gelsenkirchen (germany)

what a semifinal match between schalke and bayern for the german cup. the kind of 0x0 that lifts the soul, good football and very nerve breaking. but even with the stress in the weeks before, and with only a few minutes to play in extra-time, arjen robben takes the ball, dribbles passed five people and concludes with a perfect shot – the goal of the year, and once again such a decisive one!

march 30, munich (germany)

it didn’t look good at all for the home team. rooney had scored an early goal, and bayern were trying to get the best possible result since then; they dominated the match, but weren’t able to convert their advantage into goals; only ribéry was able to score a goal against the favorites and 2008 champs, and that goal only came in the 77th minute. in stoppage time, the 3-minute mark was coming close as mario gomez won a ball against rooney in midfield and somehow got it to the united box, where evra lost orientation for a second and olic scored the most exctiting goal of this life. incredible! 2×1 and munich now had a chance!

april 3, gelsenkirchen (germany)

schalke against bayern – the decisive match for the title race in the bundesliga, where felix magath’s team could’ve made a great leap towards the title with a simple victory over their pursuers. bayern, though, scored twice in the first half, conceded a goal and got a red card very early in the game. but they were able to play the match so well and united that schalke did not have one goal scoring chance in the second half, running away with the victory and, finally, with the leadership in the table.

april 6, barcelona (spain)

lionel messi wrote his name in golden letters that evening. historians might call this the greatest performance ever by a football player, in history. against arsenal fc in the quarterfinals of the uefa champions league, messi’s game was near perfection even without scoring a single goal; but he scored four, after arsenal had scored the first goal of the match. 4×1 final score, four messi goals in a perfect night for the argentinian, who marked his name as the best of the world – and applied for the “best of all time” category, although he’ll need a world cup victory to state that claim.

april 7, manchester (england)

what a day. manchester seemed to show that olic’s last-second goal wouldn’t matter at all. they demonstrated modern, fast and agressive football in the first 45 minutes, scoring three goals even without a good rooney (but with a great nani), and even olic’s goal right before the break didn’t seem to change that fact. in the second half, bayern were more present, but still found it difficult to score what would be a decisive 2×3. but they did: corner kick ribéry, volley from 20 meters by robben – perfect goal, a third all-decisive goal of the year for the incredible dutch! after that, bayern controlled the game and manchester had no answers. olic’s goal from the first leg was worth gold, after all.

april 28, barcelona (spain)

the last ten minutes of fc barcelona’s semifinal second leg match against internazionale milan were some of the best sporting minutes of the year. inter had held  0x0 for a long time, and they could lose 0x1 and still advance to the final; but after piqué scored a beautiful goal, the nou camp became an inferno for the italian team (playing without a single italian player); attack after attack rolled onto julio cesar’s goal, and some luck was involved, mixed with a lot of talent. in stoppage time, barcelona scored for the second time, which would see the holders of the title advancing to the final. but the goal was disallowed, and inter advanced. what a match!

may 15, berlin (germany)

what a match. bayern played almost perfect football in the german cup final against holders werder bremen. beautiful, efficient, dominating, fast. 4×0 was the final score, and the second title was in the sack for bayern; trully a great moment for louis van gaal and his football philosophy.

may 22, madrid (spain)

the uefa champions league final was too important to really be a fantastic game. bayern had the ball possession, inter the wit and experience; diego milito and wesley sneijder made the difference on the positive side, daniel van buyten and martin demichelis on the negative one. 2×0 to inter, in a game that seemed more like a 0x0.

may 30, istanbul (turkey)

in the most exciting championship race in history, race 7 had everything to be spectacular. mark webber and sebastian vettel led the pack with equal points but more wins for the australian, who had just won monaco. alonso had 75 points, only 3 points behind the duo, and button had 70, with felipe massa at 61. lewis hamilton, the most spectacular driver of the year thus far, wasn’t even in the top five. and it was a battle between red bull and mclaren, between webber (pole man) and vettel, between hamilton and button. and between all four, who were racing on similar pace through the circuit during most of the race. vettel an edge faster than the leading team mate, and with hamilton pressing him. so he attemped a pass, encouraged by his mechanic – but webber didn’t know of it, closed the door, and the two drivers crashed. vettel was out, webber still managed third, but the race was not over; in sight of the red bull drama, mclaren advised their drivers to “save fuel”, in other words, hold positions. hamilton thought he was okay, but button still attacked him and passed with an incredible move. hamilton was determined not to let that happened and answered in specatular fashion. incredible! great race, and hamilton now emerged in third place in the standings – two places ahead of vettel, with mark webber still leading the pack.

june 11, johannesburg (south africa)

a pretty good opening match, but what  a goal by tchabalala, to erupt the stadium and the hearts of all african people. a singular moment in this sport year.

june 13, durban (south africa)

finally the world cup gets started in terms of quality. germany plays a perfect match and impresses the whole world with its incredible speed and light way of playing, a new kind of “beautiful game”. 4×0 against australia, who didn’t lose after that and had a good world cup in 2006. mesut özil, now at real madrid, appears to the world for the first time, even without scoring a goal – that’s how well he played.

june 23, london (england)

john isner against nicolas mahut. no one could have guessed that this might have been one of the most exciting moments in tennis history, but it was. round 1 in wimbledon, court 18. the match had started one day earlier, with four sets completed and a fifth set in need; darkness was the reason for the ending of the playing that day. basically what happened is that the american and the frenchman played the whole day and still didn’t find a winner between them, due to the rule that you have to outscore your opponent by two games in a grand slam fifth set match, no tie breaks allowed. 59-59 was the astonishing score after that day, and for the second time, darkness impeded that match to be concluded. the match was concluded a day later, with an incredible 70-68 scoreline.

june 23, pretoria (south africa)

another american victory on the same day, and what a victory: landon donovan’s deciding goal in stoppage time was one of the most deserving lucky strikes in this sports year and in any fifa world cup. the us had been denied a couple of decisive goals and would face elimination without the life-saving strike by the american soccer star.

june 24, johannesburg (south africa)

the reigning champions are eliminated in last place of their group, after a gripping second half in the match against slovakia, who qualified for the knockout stage with an incredible 3×2 victory – many beautiful goals, lots of drama and an italian team playing like it should have during the world cup only in the last 10-15 minutes. the typical too litte too late.

june 26, rustenburg (south africa)

asamoah gyan is a world cup star. he had a great group phase, but his decisive and beautiful goal against the us team kept african dreams alive, and it was in extra time after a 1×1 tie during the match. one could feel the whole continent united supporting the black stars.

june 27, bloemfontein (south africa)

arguably the best soccer match of the year. the first half was the best half of football i can remember watching, mostly because of the incredible performance of the german team in the first 35 minutes (and their 2×0 lead, more than deserving) and the great english performance after the 1×2, including the disallowed goal by frank lampard, the answer the the wembley-goal from 1966. germany shook, but didn’t fall. england’s pressure was on in the beginning of the second half, but after one of those incredible and fast moves, germany scored with müller. 3×1, and shortly thereafter, 4×1, again müller. a pitty that i watched that game by myself.

july 2, port elizabeth (south africa)

brazil had impressed me and the whole world with their focussed performances in the group phase. it was a different brazil, a more intelligent brazil, but a much less beautiful one. against chile, one could only come to the conclusion that this team could only beat itself, and that it wouldn’t. so brazil were favorites against holland, not only by tradition. and the first half was a demonstration of the new brazilian way of playing: very firm in the defensive midfield, combative, efficient and cool. the 1×0 advantage could have easily been a 2×0, holland had not even seen julio cesar in the match. but the brazilians beat themselves; a goalkeeping error by julio cesar, very rare indeed, enabled an own goal by felipe melo later credited to free kicker wesley sneijder. melo saw the red card after the whole team had become nervous, and the game was now gone. the netherlands dominated the second half and won the game, 2×1. brazil was out, and the country didn’t even care too much about it. a sign of how the public viewed the “new brazilian football”.

july 2, johannesburg (south africa)

what a match between ghana and uruguay, and what dramatic moments at the end. muntari had scored a beautiful goal right before the half time break, but forlan equaliezed in the beginning of the second half. ghana were stronger in he first half, uruguay had a better second half. but ghana was the team pressuring the south americans in extra time, and then it happened. after quite a lot of confusion in the uruguaian box, a defender saves from an shot, and a header is fished out of the goal by uruguay star attacker luiz suarez. red card, penalty, but no decisive 2×1 right before the penalty shootout. asamoah gyan could score it from the spot – but the ball hit the aluminium and went out. drama was not over, more penalties were one the program now. this time gyan scored, but two of his team mates didn’t – africa cried, uruguay celebrated – mostly bad-boy suarez.

july 3, cape town (south africa)

i’d watched argentina’s 3×1 win over mexico and was not impressed. no tactics, only talent. a lot of talent, sure. but enough to beat germany’s beautiful and efficient fast-paced way of playing the game? after 2 minutes, shooting-star and world cup golden boot winner thomas müller answered with the first goal. bastian schweinsteiger played the match of his life, eliminating lionel messi from the game and even organizing all attacking moves. he played it like a true quarter-back, and the runners scored another 3 goals. 4×0, and title favorites maradona were out. germany had convinced the world that they can actually play the most attractive football on the planet, not only the most efficient one.

july 7, durban (south africa)

germany couldn’t play. spain didn’t let them. it was as simple as that. and when germany finally started to have a little chance after after almost 70 minutes, the spaniards found their goal – after a corner, with a header. the deserving winner with perfect timing and somewhat boring, but extremely exact and perfect passing style. efficient enough for he germans not to get into the game at almost any time.

july 11, johannesburg (south africa)

there were only two good things about the final: it was thrilling and the right team won. the football was pretty poor, the netherlands weren’t even try to play football most of the time, which is totally contrary to the country’s football history and philosophy. they played more german than the germans, and they could’ve won – robben missed the decisive goal twice. but spain was strong in the beginning and in extra-time, in the rest of the match they were only able o control the game. the goal by iniesta was deserving, the title as well; the best team won!

august 29, spa-francorchamps (belgium)

this has always been my favorite race (and i plan to watch it live next year), and it didn’t disappoint; at least not in the spectacle, which had vettel trying to win the race. he was the fastest on the track, once again, and as it was getting dry, he tried to pass jenson button; but he crashed into him, provoking widespread criticism. lewis hamilton won the race and took over the lead of the championship after 13 races, ahead of mark webber. at this point, it seemed that the two of them would decide the title race, but things changed quite a lot after that.

october 4, newport (wales)

a ryder cup final day on a monday was uncharacteristic, and it is not every time that the decision goes to the last hole. the young american zach johnson kept the us-hopes alive, and their great final day seemed to be able to produce a historical comeback after trailing by three points on sunday. at the end, greame mcdowell kept his cool under enormous pressure: the us open champ of 2010 beat hunter mahan and gave europe another title in this, the arguably greatest competition in golf.

october 10, suzuka (japan)

fernando alonso had won the last two races and was back in the title race after a great end-of-summer run. japan was the last chance for sebastian vettel to still run for the title, with hamilton also in front of him and webber leading the standings. and he had a simply superb weekend (just like a year earlier) to claim a fantastic victory in the land of the rising sun. kubai kobayashi gave his home crowd an incredible show and made five passing moves, making it his own personal show and finishing in 7th. vettel had now passed hamilton, but alonso was still ahead of him – and so was leader and team mate webber.

october 24, yeongam (south korea)

the championship leader had held on to his lead without winning any of the previous four races, but this time, his nerves cost him the top spot. after a mistake, he crashed out and tried to take then-second placed fernando alonso with him, but actually hit nico rosberg. vettel now was the virtual leader, since he completely dominated the race; it would have been his first championship lead of the season, the sixth man to do so. but it was not to be, since his motor failed and alonso went on to win the race and become the runaway championship favorite. with only two races to go, vettel was a race victory (25 points) behind, webber only 11 points – a team order seemed the logical strategy for brazil and abu dhabi. but that also was not to be!

november 7, são paulo (brazil)

the podium was vettel, webber, alonso. which was curious in this order, since alonso remained on the top of the standings, only needing a second place in the emirates to win his 3rd title. but webber was denied the team order privilege, since his team mate still had slim chances himself. so vettel won an exciting brazil race, and went into the final race having to leave team mate webber and alonso behind him – and not only that!

november 14, abu dhabi (emirates)

vettel cries. he’s done he impossible, and thanks the team for the opportunity to do so. he wins the race, webber finishes back in 8th (worst race of the year for him), alonso in 7th. schumacher has a frightening accident right at the beginning, ferrari ignores rosberg and petrov going to the box (i’d seen it all along!) during that safety-car phase, and their second mistake is to “mark” webber, who goes early into the pits after hitting one of his wheels. alonso goes to, worried to lose his spot in front of that red bull, and gets stuck behind petrov. vettel wins with luck and superb driving, after a year of some mistakes and lots of bad luck. and he cries. the youngest f1 champions ever, what a career so far!

november 28, london (england)

what a year it had been for rafael nadal. although there was no nadal x federer final in a grand slam, in 2010 (the first time this had happened for quite a few years), nadal had won the last three slams and is going for a “false” grand slam in australia, to make it four in a row, but not in the same year. nadal finally met federer in the atp world tour finals, the inofficial world championships of tennis. and federer taught the spaniard a lesson of who still hasn’t given up on the dream of coming back to become number one – and maybe even winning the grand slam itself. after this superb match, 2011 can come in the tennis world!

here some high class tennis, maybe the best there has ever been:

my personal top five moments:

5- ivica olic scores the winning goal for bayern munich against manchester united in the first leg, seconds from stoppage time.

4- arjen robben scores a spectacular volley to eliminate manchester united in old trafford, making olic’s goal count.

3- lukas podolski’s 2×0 against england, a fantastic goal as an example of the new german game (great work by thomas müller) and virtually eliminating the until then astonished englishmen, traditional rivals.

2- sebastian vettel passing the finish line in abu dhabi and, half a minute later, realizing he’s the world champion, breaking into tears.

1- arne friedrich’s goal against argentina, eliminating the gauchos with the 3×0; bastian schweinsteiger’s brilliant assist was the reason, and of course the tension breaking after another incredible performance of the best german team that ever played.

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sebastian vettel – too reckless for truimph?

ayrton senna was a phenomenon. even winning most of his races and all of his titles after double-champion emerson fittipaldi and triple-champion nelson piquet, the brazilian was able to become the biggest star not only of the sport in his native country, but maybe the biggest star ever, alongside the king of football, pele. but after him, it’s been tough for any other landsman to really shine. barichello and massa both got to drive ferraris for quite a while, but they were both beaten by superior adversaries (schumacher and currently alonso); massa only really had a shot for the title in 2008, when raikkonen was his team mate. but it was not to be. and the zontas, pizzonias, di grassis & such will probably never even get close to winning races. basically, it’s tough to be  brazilian f1 driver, with senna’s shadow overcasting all.

 

seb vettel, here as a 17-year old test driver for bmw.

what does this have to do with sebastian vettel, who has a small chance of clinching his first f1 drivers title on sunday? well, he also has a fellow countryman who has quite a few successes under his belt. michael schumacher dominated formula one for years, in unseen proportions. he had more than twice of senna’s world championships, and more than twice of his grand prix wins. how could anyone even get close to his success our popularity, in the future?

vettel is far away from schumacher’s success, although he would be taking a first step towards a shiny career if we were to become the youngest f1 champ ever, this weekend. but schumacher was never as popular as senna, and vettel is today probably more popular in germany than schumacher ever was. it’s important to limit it to germany, since vettel doesn’t seem to enjoy too much sympathy outside of german borders. it’s not dislike or hate, the way schumacher at times experienced it (although that was also rare), it’s more of a “he’s too young and too wild”. not that f1 specialists and the public don’t like those adjectives, they just have given them away to f1’s current favorite driver, the brit lewis hamilton. and there is a parallel to be drawn between vettel and hamilton, as they do have a lot of the same personal and professional characteristics. both had great success in the business right from the beginning, both are always eager to attack and pass, both sometimes lose balance and make mistakes, and in both cases, it has costed one or the other championship title. and the question is justifiable: did vettel through away the drivers championship in 2010?

 

vettel in his toro rosso days...

vettel was a test driver at bmw in a very young age, and when he starting testing in the friday free sessions, posting best lap times, he caught everyone’s attention. the austrians from red bull saw the talent and the market (germany’s sport and f1 market is probably the biggest in he world) and hired him in the middle of the season, to driver in the ex-minardi team toro rosso – still italian, but already red bull. funny that all three championship contenders started their career at the italian team. vettel became a rising star almost instantely, with good performances in qualifying and race. the second half of the 2008 gave him a particular boost, as he was able to constantly finish in the top 5 with what was considered the eight or ninth best car in the field (=16th places would be in order). vettel won monza in a toro rosso, an amazing feat by any standards. and even in the big finale in interlagos, when massa failed to take the title out of hamilton’s hands, it was vettel who almost decided the championship in favor of the brazilian, passing hamilton in the rain of the last few laps. people commented on a possible duo of young, talented drivers for mclaren, but vettel stayed at red bull and moved up to the main team. a mistake, many people remarked, since the toro rosso seemed faster than the red bull, at the time.

but right at the beginning of the season, it was clear that vettel would be fighting for the title. his car was an instant success, leaving only the new team (brawn gp) in front, because of a technical advantage. thanks to button’s incredible consistency in that first half of the season and one or the other reckless mistake by vettel, the championship seemed decided early in button’s favor, but red bull had positioned themselves in front of mclaren and ferrari – and vettel in front of webber. it was one of the rare occasions when the world champion was not voted driver of the year.

 

monza winner in 2008 with toro rosso must be his most spectacular performance to date...

this year, vettel has made a couple of mistakes. but most of all, he’s had an incredible share of bad luck. it started in the first race of the year, when a certain victory was taken away from him by malfunction in the gear box. he lost three gears, but still was able to finish the race in 4th position, quite an impressive performance. alonso won that race (do the math in your head). in the second race, once again leading, vettel’s car lost torque (a clear team error) and he had to abandon the GP – instead of 50 points, he had 12. he won in malaysia, even after losing to team mate mark webber in qualifying (vettel’s first non-pole of the year). one can clearly state that if it weren’t to reliability problems in his car, vettel would’ve started the season with three wins. but even with the mishaps, he was only two points short of championship leader felipe massa.

in china, vettel qualifyed on pole again, but ever-changing weather conditions and one mistake during the race dropped him down the field, to 11th position; he eventually finished the race in 6th, a good result considering the circumstances. in spain, for the first time in the year and in his career, vettel was completely dominated by his team mate mark webber, who managed pole and a 100% race lead to the checkered flag. to top it, red bull made a mistake in the german’s pit stop, costing him second place in the race. our tally of points lost by team mistakes (and not driver mistakes) is now up to 41 points.

monaco started to worry vettel’s fans and himself, since once again it was webber who claimed pole and victory in this tradicional race. was the status quo changing and webber putting himself into championship contention? vettel showed better pace than webber during the race, which he finished second, but now both of them had taken the lead in the championship, with 78 points each, three ahead of fernando alonso. in midst of this doubt about who was trully red bull’s number one driver, the turkish grand prix arrived, seventh race of the season.

 

another win for vettel, here in suzuka a few weeks ago.

here is my take on that race: webber once again beat vettel for pole, and this was the third time in a row. the duo led the championship, and the afternoon’s winner would be sole leader. webber continued to push forward during the race, and vettel managed to get past hamilton. at a certain point, webber, vettel, hamilton and button were all in one “train”, which in f1 usually means that the first car is the slowest. and, in fact, vettel’s pace was better than webber. and he was being pressured by hamilton. so an overtaking manouver was necessary for him, and the team gave its okay, without announcing it to mark webber. it was still pretty clear, though, that webber should let his team mate pass in case of an attack, since he clearly was not up to the pace (read the article https://figobay.wordpress.com/2010/11/08/in-defense-of-red-bull-racing-and-ferrari/ for my stand on team order). vettel did see an opportunity and actually was ahead of his team mate at the end of a straight, but webber did not leave enough space and the two collided as vettel prepared to take the next curve. that would’ve been 25 points and the lead in the championship, but instead it was 0 points, down to 5th place in the standings – and a lot of angriness. i’ll stop counting now, but this is 66 points already. no matter what other bad luck other drivers out there had, vettel should be the championship leader at any point, and he isn’t. it’s true that he did make a couple of mistakes after the turkish grand prix, one of them in an attempt to pass jenson button at spa francorchamps, but even with those episodes, he would confortably lead the championship before the korean grand prix.

but he didn’t.

 

he's had a lot of bad luck this season... time for some luck?

incredibly, though, he went on to dominate that race in the rain, while his team mate webber made a mistake and striked out. finally, for the first time in the season, the championship lead was in his hands – when his motor blew up.

no driver can come back from 91 points lost due to outside factors and at least 25 due to own mistakes. and sunday might prove this to be true. but it is in fact astonishing that vettel is still in the running, after so much bad luck. vettel is, at times, reckless. but most of the time, he is talented and fast, and he would be this year’s deserving champion. or will he? only if the others finally have one of these vettel days…

Published in: on November 10, 2010 at 15:02  Comments (3)  
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mark webber – the people’s favorite

 

mark webber wants to become world champion - and he has a good shot at it on sunday...

today, tomorrow and on thursday i will publish posts taking a closer look at each one of the three championship contenders (lewis hamilton will be ignored in this one). and i’ll start today with the aussie mark webber.

in most polls all around the web, if asked who people favor for the title this year (and not who you think will actually get the gold), mark webber comes out victorious. and this has quite a few reasons, the most popular are these: he is the underdog, it’s probably his last chance to fight for the title (since he’s the oldest), he’s the most handsome, he’s the nicest. in general, people love it when specialists are wrong, and they have never really regarded mark webber as someone deserving of the formula one driver’s championship. and it seems pretty likely that mark can do the trick. but before we look at the irony of life, let’s look back to his career.

when mark was 20 years old, he finally moved to england to persue his dream of a f1 cockpit. over 13 years ago, he started his first formula 3 championship, but even with some good results there, in formula 3000, in fia gt and even le mans, it took him another five years to land a job in formula one – and at the smallest team on the grid, minardi. his career had really started when he earned a job test driving benetton for 2001, and became a personal client of his then teamchef, flavio briatore. flavio arranged a seat at the also italian minardi (replacing also briatore-client alonso, who replaced webber as a test driver for benetton) and webber had his first race at home, in the australian gp 2002. he actually finished in the points in that race, the only points the team would pick up in the entire year; still, mark webber was voted rookie of the year for that feat and for being faster than his team mate yoong in every single qualifying and race. in that vote, he beat the other rookies including felipe massa and takuma sato. this earned him a seat at jaguar, then the seventh best team on the grid.

 

as a rookie of the year, for minardi

mark webber proved himself in that he once again gave his team mate not a bit of a chance; when the brazilian antonio pizzonia, who had tested for then giants williams the previous season, was fired, mark webber had scored incredible 13 points, against zero from his team mate. at the end, jaguar ended up in seventh place in the cosntructor’s, but webber was tenth, carrying 17 of the 18 team points. although he was now a sought after driver, his age was never an advantage, since he was already 27 at the beginning of the 2004 championship, another season for jaguar. his new team mate was the austrian christian klien, who just recently came back to f1 in the hrt team.

mark webber had eight top ten finishes that season (against 4 by klien) and scored 7 points, out of ten for the team. jaguar, still seventh best constructor, wasn’t progressing, and mark webber knew that this would be his chance to fight for podiums or even the championship – if he could only get a new job for 2005! he’d proven himself in three pretty good season, taking easily care of his competition within the team. and he wasn’t getting any younger.

williams was supposed to give him the opportunity to win...and he did get a pretty good job. williams f1 wasn’t at the top any more, but it was still the fourth best car in the grid, destined to always be in the points. 2004 found them finishing on the podium only four times, though, but with one victory in the last race, by juan pablo montoya. it was a bad year for williams, who had slipped from ferrari-chasers number one to fourth, and they wanted to come back. montoya and ralf schumacher left the team powered by bmw, and nick heidfeld joined mark webber for a brand new season and attempt to get back to the top.

it wasn’t  good season for williams, and it was even worse for mark webber. for the first time in his career, his team mate was getting better results than him: the german nick heidfeld had three podium finishes in the first seven races, two of them as the race’s runner-up. webber managed a third place, his first podium, in monaco – but heidfeld finished second there. after the turkish grand prix, heidfeld had scored 28 points, 4 more than webber. then he suffered two different accidents and had to sit out the remainder of the season; antonio pizzonia, webber’s former team mate, replaced the german for the remainder of the season. and it was the same as two year earlier – pizzonia scored two points, webber 12. still, williams had slipped behind toyota and mclaren and were now only the fifth best car in the grid.

 

horrible accident in montreal for webber in the williams

bmw left the team for the 2006 season; mark would be 30, and williams didn’t seem to improve. a new and young driver replaced heidfeld, and it was another german: nico rosberg, today maybe one of the most valued drivers in formula one. as a rookie, rosberg didn’t have the same results as webber. everytime they both finished a race, webber ended up in front of his young team mate, but he retired a massive 11 times and only scored 7 points in this, the most disappointing year of his career. rosberg retired eleven times and had 4 points, leaving the williams team with an all time low of 11 points in a single season; that was eight place, behind bmw sauber, honda, toyota and even red bull ferrari, at the time with coulthard and klien as drivers.

this is when mark webber decided to switch from a rapidly declining team to a seemingly ascending one: red bull racing became the aussie’s home in 2007, and many experts judged that the once promising driver had just given up on any win or title hopes, similarly to his much more successful new team mate, david coulthard. red bull started seventh in the constructor’s hierachy that year, which meant that they would hope for one or the other point. it took webber seven races to get his first two points for red bull, and at the end of the season he had 10 points, 4 less than coulthard. still, it wasn’t to be considered a loss (or a win), since webber won the qualifying duel and did normally beat the scot when both finshed a race (which only happened four times), most famously in the european gp, when he got his second career podium finish in a great day for red bull. still, webber needed to prove the world and himself that he could beat an opponent like david coulthard, himself a gp winner, but not one of the greats in the sport. by the way, after that podium finish, the daughter team toro rosso (used to be minardi), bought by red bull to train and observe young talent, fired the american scott speed and hired the young german sebastian vettel…

last week in korea, both cars were still in the race at this point...red bull racing had rise to fifth place in the f1 hierachy, and wanted to go higher in 2008. webber had a good start to the year, finishing in the points in six out of the first eight races and getting his tally up to 18 points before the middle of the season. coulthard had finished on the podium once in these races (which webber hadn’t managed), but that was his only point finish, so he only had a third of his opponent’s points at the time. things seemed to be going well for webber. but the second half of that season was to become pretty humiliating.

webber only managed 3 additional points in the last 10 races, still one more than his british team mate. but the tragic in it was the performance of the daughter team toro rosso; destined to be a true second team with theoretically second hand material and a much smaller budget, the frenchman bourdais scored two points and finished in front of webber three times. much worse, though, was the performance of young german sebastian vettel. even without his incredible victory in monza, vettel scored 20 points in those 10 races – and with he victory, a whopping 30, ten times as many as mark webber’s! as vettel accepted red bull’s offer to move up to the main team in replacement of the retiring coulthard, the f1 world was asking itself if that wasn’t a major downstep for the german. and webber knew: here comes someone younger than me, praised by f1 boss ecclestone himself, and destined to be the future of the team. and what seemed worse: he seemed to be a better driver.

that would be a first for webber, who had been miles ahead of yoon and pizzonia, and slightly, rosberg and coulthard. only heidfeld was at the same level or slightly above him. but vettel could be a problem. to be a number two driver anywhere is a career breaker. at least the kind of career that looks for victories and world championships.

webber’s fears came true. although he was glad that red bull went from seventh to second best car of the season in one year, his first two victories and fourth place finish in the world championship were personal highlights, for sure. after all, when the won the german grand prix in july last year, he was almost 33 years old. but vettel outshone him in what was supposed to be his moment, in this 8th season of f1 circus. 4 wins, best man of the second half and elected the best driver of the year (instead of world champion jenson button), vettel was the man of the season for red bull and for most f1 specialists. and the defeats in qualifying, once webber’s domain, were normal. webber ended the season with few mistakes and 69.5 points, vettel ended it with more mistakes and still 84 points. and he would enter the year 2010 as one of the main contenders for the crown.

the irony is that vettel has been faster than webber most of the year, and will probably be on sunday, again. still, webber depends on his enemy in the team to be world champ. even if the aussie manages to win the race on his own merit coming weekend, he needs vettel to be second, in front of alonso (who is driving the second best car, currently). if vettel where to finish third or below, alonso’s second place would guarentee the spaniard’s title. and there’s still the more likely option of vettel having to hand webber the world title in the last round, which would be gentlemanlike, but still pretty humiliating. even for an underdog world champion.

 

will it be this time, mark? now or never!

webber came into formula one replacing fernando alonso after his successful rookie season at minardi. alonso got webber’s job of testing the benetton. now, alonso has two world titles, both for benetton, and is close to the third. irony wherever you look in the small world of formula one.

Published in: on November 9, 2010 at 16:27  Comments (2)  
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total defeat for mclaren in suzuka!

 

 

title race over for lewis and jenson?

 

there were times when mclaren was top in the most famous japanese circuit. ayrton senna times in the late 80s, even mika hakkinen times in the late 90s. but this race was maybe the worst possible for the traditional british team, because they might have lost all championship hopes in both competitions.

lewis hamilton didn’t even have a bad weekend, performance wise. he surprised all with a great third place on the grid, but because of a gearbox change, he started from 8th. but he still managed to move up o 5th place very early in the race, and at times was the fastest man on the track – until his 3rd gear broke away, and he even had to concede a place to current world champion jenson button.

button himself had quite a good qualifying performance, seeing that he marked the 6th best time with the the harder tyres. but even then, he could’ve managed an even faster performance sunday morning in japan; in the afternoon, his team and he were to blame for not using the different strategy to their advantage. button simpy stayed out for too long and lost his spot in front of hamilton – just to gain it back after his team mate started struggling.

 

 

one of these three should be the world champion, and they finished on the podium today.

 

so now we have three races to go: the brand new and unknown circuit in korea (alonso might do well there), the brazilian gp (here massa, who had a most dreadful sunday, by his own fault, will be able to help the spaniard) and finally abu dhabi, where red bull should be the fastest car. lewis hamilton and jenson button are almost certainly out of the race, and together, they practically lost the team world championship to red bull, today.

after all, it was a perfect day for red bull. first row in the qualifying session in the morning, 1-2 finish in the afternoon race. vettel is happy because he is only the third driver to win back-to-back suzuka races (hakkinen and schumacher being the others) and because he is now third, 14 points behind the championship lead. and webber was satisfied with 2nd place, since he once again opened up a few points in his lead. he would wish the season to be over sooner than later.

so it is fernando alonso in the ferrari who could ruin a red bull perfect season, just like raikkonen (also ferrari) ruined the alonso/hamilton domination in 2007. one might ask the question why red bull is not favoring mark webber, since he has been in the lead for a few races now. his lead towards alonso would be at 24 points on not 14, and his chances for the title would be very much increased if he had sebastian vettel to help him. the only problem is that vettel is generally faster and therefore not fit to help, since he could also be guaranteed world champion if he won the three remaining races.

 

 

"japanese" vettel wins in suzuka again - only the thrid to repeat a suzuka victory, in history!

 

the good news for red bull, in that respect, is that they didn’t collide today. after all, without the collision in turkey earlier in the season, vettel would lead the season at 231 points, and webber would have 215 (alonso 204). we can all hope for an exciting race in korea, where no-one really knows what to expect from the track.

and if kobayashi has another one of these drivers, spectacular it shall be! what a driver, no tactics, just speed and passion and guts. he passed more times than the rest of the grid together!

Published in: on October 10, 2010 at 09:36  Leave a Comment  
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vettel: now or never in suzuka!

no big surprise this morning. sebastian vettel was the fastest this morning. ferrari was better than mclaren, and renault surprised with some good pace. friday trainings never say too much, mostly fernando alonso can do much better on saturday than on friday.

 

 

alonso on the way to his third title?

 

but that doesn’t hide the fact that red bull are the big favorites, and last year’s winner sebastian vettel has the chance to either stay in the title race, or say goodbye for good. he basically has to win this race, since he should be the fastest on this fascinating japonese circuit. it’s perfect for the car, born to be fast in fast turns. and it’s perfect for vettel, who is more talented than championship leader mark webber. the australian has stated that, even increasing his lead in the overall standings last race, he still doesn’t consider himself to be a favorite. and actually, most people are looking to fernando alonso as the front runner, where a few weeks ago lewis hamilton seemed to be the best bet.

 

 

it's crunch time for vettel - he has to win on sunday!

 

seeing that the rain will intefere in qualifying and possibly in the race itself, it would seem that sebastian vettel would not benefit from it. his car is the best, and he will be hoping for as much dry weather as possible. and in wet, it’s easier to make mistakes – something that him and lewis hamilton have done quite a lot this season. it’s no coincidence that these two, maybe the most talented drivers alongside alonso, are also the youngest in contention. and it’s no coincidence that mark webber, the most constant one (and maybe less talented) is the oldest, and the championship leader. although he did show quality in singapore and is deserving the top spot.

one thing is sure: it will be an extremely exciting race on sunday morning, and a win in suzuka rain could give a great confidence boost to the winner. for me, the winner of this race will take the title; and i hope it’s vettel, in the rain, driving away all the criticism and lack of confidence that even the german fans have in relation to the championship hopes.

Published in: on October 8, 2010 at 17:09  Leave a Comment  
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only 24 points…

alonso wins ferrari's home race and is now third in the championship race

since the beginning of the year, a win in formula one is worth 25 points – instead of 10 points before that, and 9 points until the 80s.

in 2010, we still have five races to go. and it seems to be a spectacular ending, even without schumacher fighting it out for the title in his comeback year. but five other pilots dream of the big title!

webber finished sixth, but he is the new leader in 2010.

the current leader is mark webber, who only managed a sixth place today at monza. before him, lewis hamilton led the way – but a mistake in the first round, when he touched alonso’s car and broke the suspension, leaves him in the first chasing position. said fernando alonso lead the big italian party in ferrari’s home race with an exciting tactical and man-to-man win over jenson button, who is fourth in the standings. sebastian vettel, the young german, saved his weekend by only switching to the hard tyres in the final lap, achieving an incredible fourth position – after having motor problems in qualifying and doing the race.

sebastian vettel in fifth: 163 points, 24 behind his team mate and championship leader mark webber. one point less than one victory. dear reader, this is as if, five races before the end, five pilots were within 10 points last year. INCREDIBLE, i must say.

any mistake, like lewis today, might be fatal. but you better believe that these last races will be fascinating. mark webber is the main favorite for the title, since the remaining races should give the rbr an advantage. but you never know, in f1. even more so in this year.

today, ferrari’s trick (putting everyone on the pit lane and luring button into the box) and their superb trye change gave alonso the win and the third place. this guarantees an even better end to the season, since at least one ferrari is still in the race for the title.

Published in: on September 12, 2010 at 14:37  Leave a Comment  
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