Archive for the ‘Formula 1’ Category

As is the way with most sporting blogs, it’s time to look back at the year past, see what was good and what was not so.

And why should I be any different, as I restart this page with a look to 2010 and do some cap doffing and some sorrowful head-shaking. Here are my five winners and losers from the past calendar year.

WINNERS

A P MCCOY – HORSE RACING

I Can’t do this without acknowledging the winner of BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year. And a quite deserved one really, as Tony McCoy has now won everything having completed the set with the Grand National in April.

Still one of the most personable people in the sporting world, this was the crowning achievement on a glittering career that will give him legendary status in the ‘Sport of Kings’.

JESSICA ENNIS – ATHLETICS

It could be said that I haven’t given too much attention to women’s sport in this column. So I’ll apologise and attempt to amend that with recognition to Jessica Ennis, who has had another good year and stepped that up to claim gold in the heptathlon at the European Championships to follow world success in 2009.

In addition to claiming the title, Ennis set a Championship record of 6823 points to confirm her position as the best heptathlete in the world currently. She also announced that she became engaged on Christmas Eve to top off a perfect year for her.

GARETH BALE – FOOTBALL, TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

From the fringes of a Spurs side and potential loan move to the Championship to one of the most feared left wingers in 12 months is an incredible achievement in anybody’s books. With injury problems and a winless hoodoo hanging over his head at the end of 2009, Bale took advantage of an injury to Benoit Assou-Ekotto to reclaim his place in the team and produced several sparkling performances to help Tottenham seal a place in the Champions League.

Having helped get them there, Bale then destroyed Inter Milan’s Maicon twice to earn a spot in FIFA’s team of the year. Linked with Nottingham Forest at the start of the year, Bale now has a £50million price tag on his head, with rumours circulating of interest from Real Madrid and Barca. An outstanding transformation in fortunes for the new Welsh Wing Wizard.

GRAEME SWANN – CRICKET, ENGLAND

There can be few arguments against the notion that Swann is now the best spin bowler in the world on current form. With Shane Warne and Murali Muralitharan’s retired, there is nobody in the class of Swann, who has a knack of being a game changer on any surface.

He has developed a knack of coming into the England attack and breaking batting partnerships, even when the wicket suggests that spin won’t be effective. Nobody turns the ball quite like Swann and it is he that has transformed England into a remotely feared outfit and helped England retain the Ashes Down Under for the first time in over 20 years.

SEBASTIAN VETTEL – FORMULA 1, RED BULL

It may not have been plain sailing with rumours of in-team disputes circling Red Bull’s emergence as a serious force in F1 and a fractured relationship with teammate Mark Webber.

But at the end of the day, Sebastian Vettel came out the other side as the champion, the youngest that Formula One has ever seen to cap a remarkable rise to prominence.

LOSERS

 

WAYNE ROONEY – FOOTBALL, MANCHESTER UNITED

What a year for Wayne Rooney. 2009 ended with him lauded (rightly or wrongly) as one of the best forwards in the world, but 2010 was a whole different story. He failed to score a goal in open play after March, as Manchester United surrendered the title to Chelsea and then proceeded to be unimpressive for England in their failed World Cup campaign.

This included that rant at the England fans who were disappointed with a goalless draw with Algeria for some reason. Few were keen on him after that, and he isolated those United fans by trying to force a transfer away, only to sign an improved deal to make him one of the best paid players in the world despite having been frankly poor upon the resumption of the season.

See Tevez, Carlos under that bracket too. But his performances justify it.

RICKY PONTING – CRICKET, AUSTRALIA

It would seem unlikely that Ponting will remain as captain of Australia after this Ashes series, as his tenure has become somewhat laughable of late. Australia now sit the lowest in the international rankings I ever remember them being in my lifetime, and as stated above, surrendered the Ashes on home soil for the first time 20 years. This is having whitewashed England in their last visit.

Is it his fault necessarily that there is a paucity of talent emerging in Australia? Well, no, but the lack of dignity he has carried in losing positions ensures that he enters this list, complaining at officials for completely absurd decisions as he may well be remembered for this late decline in his tenure. A shame for a talented batsman, but the latest achievements or otherwise are what people are remembered for.

GAVIN HENSON – RUGBY, SARACENS

Rugby has in the past couple of decades held a better class of competitors than its footballing counterparts. Real men played this game, not those preening pansies that adorned the round ball game, afraid to take a tackle or get their kit dirty.

Somehow you feel Gavin Henson has made it into the wrong game. More focused on his appearance than any other rugby player I can care to think of, he just doesn’t fit in with the sport. This is why rumours have circulated about him quitting the sport, to go sailing or whatever nonsense seemed to suit him whilst he dodged his contractual commitments (although injury was stated as a reason there).

Having regained fitness and escaped his contract with Ospreys, he was set to join Saracens, but could only do so having ponced about on Strictly Come Dancing. He’s a bit of an embarrassment to the sport.

AUDLEY HARRISON – BOXING

Why? What was the point? David Haye deserves as much of a mention for dodging a real title fight to engage in that utter waste of time. But Harrison’s talk of knocking Haye out with his ‘big left hook’ seemed the stupidest trash talking to ever have taken place, as he only landed a solitary punch in the three rounds it took for the referee to stop the fight.

It was a joke of a fight and he remains a joke of a fighter. He should never have been put in such a position of embarrassment in the first place, but all the talk prior to his ritual dismantling was just pathetic.

TIGER WOODS – GOLF

What a disaster of a year for one of the most iconic sportsmen to have ever graced the Earth. As stated earlier, people are often remembered for what happens at the end of their careers and Woods remarkable trophy haul will forever be overshadowed by the very public way his marriage fell apart after accusations of infidelities.

On top of that, his sporting performance suffered as well, going the entire season without an victories for the first time in his career. He also surrendered the top ranking spot to Lee Westwood in October, the first time he’d done so since his brief slip up to Vijay Singh in 2005. A year to forget for Tiger.

For all the pre-season furore about how the FIA were going to make this year’s Formula One Championship more exciting, the drama has occurred not on the track, but in the pit-lanes.

The talk prior to the Australian Grand Prix was about the new points system and how it would make the chase for the title more interesting, but the level of in-fighting and rule-bending from the pit-lane.

Sunday’s German Grand Prix finally saw Red Bull working as a team, with attention flicking to the Ferrari duo of Fernando Alonso and Filipe Massa.

Massa was seemingly instructed by the Ferrari garage to allow his team-mate past him to claim victory at Hockenheim, with the Brazilian not cutting a happy figure after the race, which marked exactly a year since his horror crash at Hungary.

A cagey press conference followed, indicating Massa was not pleased with the decision and seeing his Spanish team-mate being given preferential treatment.

Ferrari also saw themselves fined for their actions, as a race result is forbidden to be influenced by instructions from the pit-lane.

They are not the first team to fall foul of issues behind the scenes, as Red Bull have endured a campaign riddled with rumours that drivers Sebastien Vettel and Mark Webber do not see eye-to-eye.

Both drivers have wanted to be the number one at Red Bull, yet recent events have seen a split between the two. Webber’s victory at Silverstone saw him proclaim, “not bad for your number two driver” over the radio, following a disagreement over a front wing that was only applied to Vettel’s car.

So the pit-lane action has proved for more inspiration than what has happened on-track, despite the emergence of a five-way tussle for the Championship. Offensive over-taking has remained reasonably minimal, regardless of the incentives introduced to encourage such behaviour.

Even Massa himself described the Turkish Grand Prix earlier in the year as boring. Frankly, if the drivers’ imaginations aren’t sparked by the ongoing events unfolding in an adrenaline-fuelled sport, then it’s hard to muster any enthusiasm from the comfort of our armchairs.

Instead, we salivate in wait for the post-race action, led by the very likeable Jake Humphries and the out-spoken Eddie Jordan.

Interviews with nervous looking engineers and technicians about the follies of their team and the friction between their race drivers are what make Sunday afternoons special.

Watching Christian Horner squirming under the intense questioning of Jordan gave us all a perverse pleasure. The fiery former owner has proven to be a valuable addition to the BBC team, refusing to dilute his opinions and ensuring they get the interviews they desire with his aggressive style.

So whilst the action on the circuit may not have us on the edge of our seats, the controversy off it ensures we tune in every round to see where the next thrills will emerge from.

This summer has proven one thing to the world. And that is when you leave something, you should never go back.

For two of sport’s greatest ever stars have fallen victim to that particular pitfall. Step forward Michael Schumacher and Lance Armstrong.

Both once dominated their respective sports and retired at the top with the world worshipping their talents and lauding them up with the best ever to compete.

Yet both were then convinced to come out of retirement, whether through boredom, a love for the sport that hadn’t been quite quenched or financial (we don’t know the exact reasons). And now their names will now have a black mark against them, as they have failed to make any impact back in competition.

Schumacher had won 7 World Championships between 1994 and 2004, and was hailed by such legends of Formula One as Niki Lauda as the best ever to have stepped into an F1 car, when he retired from the sport in 2006.

This year, however, Mercedes GP convinced the German to come out of retirement for a season. How it would have been conceivable for him to do such a thing, if it had been a team worthy of challenging for any major honours. Unfortunately Mercedes are some way off the abilities of the McLaren, Red Bull, Ferrari and Williams cars and won’t be in the mix for anything some October.

Those 91 career wins seem a long time ago now, as Schumacher has barely troubled the podium, with a fourth place finish in Turkey proving to be his best effort so far. This was in turn followed by a 15th place finish in the European Grand Prix, his lowest ever placing.

Silverstone saw Schumacher scrape into the top ten and claim points, but saw him over-taken by Sebastian Vettel, who had been relegated to the back of the field due to a first-lap puncture. Vettel produced a drive reminiscent of Schumacher himself in Brazil in 2000, proving the baton has already well and truly been passed to his compatriot and that his return to the sport has proved unnecessary and unfitting with the rest of his glamorous career.

Lance Armstrong falls in a similar vein to the German Driver. Armstrong is perhaps the greatest cyclist ever to have graced the Tour de France.

Having battled back from testicular cancer in 1996, Armstrong went on to win seven consecutive titles in between 1999 and 2005. This final victory saw him retire from the sport to spend more time with his family, acknowledged as the best ever owner of the famed yellow jersey.

In 2009, he announced his comeback and actually completed the tour in a respectable third place, behind team-mate and overall winner, Alberto Contador.

This year (his final year) at the age of 38, has looked beyond him though. The first major climb on Sunday saw his fall from grace virtually completed, as he fell twice on the course and was dismounted from his bike on another occasion.

This saw him come in over ten minutes behind the stage winner, Andy Schleck, leaving Armstrong’s hopes of regaining the title in tatters and virtually over. A sad and painful end to a glittering career. Once again, the de-retirement has failed to offer anything but disappointment, despite the amicable starting aim of raising cancer awareness.

Other recent examples have seen Mike Tyson and Martina Hingis attempt similar comebacks and fail. Sometimes, when retirement is called, it’s for a good reason and should be stuck with.