A season that will be remembered… for the wrong reasons

A season that will be remembered… for the wrong reasons

As we prepared for the lights to go out to mark the beginning of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, we knew that the race would end with history being made. Either Lewis Hamilton would earn his record 8ᵗʰ title, or Max Verstappen would have his name added to the list of World Champions. With the pair going into the race level on points, we expected a close fight, but nothing could prepare us for what would come next.

With 10 laps left of the race, Lewis Hamilton seemed destined to win. Having got a lead on the opening lap, his pace had been consistently better than Verstappen during the early and middle phase of the race, and while Max had gone for an extra stop for fresher tyres, he was not getting enough of a pace advantage to catch the Brit before the end. As Red Bull Racing’s Team Principal Christian Horner stated to the Sky commentary team, it would take a miracle from the F1 gods for Max to win. 

f1 abu dhabi gp safety car lapped cars

That miracle happened as Williams’ Nicholas Latifi crashed with five laps to go, prompting a safety car. With the work max had put in to catch Lewis, there was not enough of a gap for Lewis to pit for fresh tyres and retain his lead, however Max was able to pit for a fresh pair of soft tyres and still come out in 2ⁿᵈ, however with a handful of cars between them that Max would have to lap. Now normal process under a safety car would be that all lapped cars would be allowed through once the track was clear to unlap themselves, however the initial call from Race Director was that no lapped cars would be let through. However, on the penultimate lap, the call suddenly came for all lapped cars between Max and Lewis (not the rest of the lapped cars) to be let through and get down the road, with the remainder of the cars getting 1 lap to race to end the season. With faster, fresher tyres, Verstappen passed Hamilton for the lead and successfully held off the Brit to win the race and his maiden title.

f1 abu dhabi gp 2021 lewis hamilton max verstappen

What should have been a wonderful moment for Max became overshadowed though, as Mercedes lodged protests as to the way the final laps were handled by Michael Masi, while social media was rife with people saying that the FIA were corrupt and did not want Lewis to win, some even going as far as to say it was racially motivated. Meanwhile others saw it as karma, after Lewis was allowed to retain the lead on the opening lap despite going off track and cutting a corner, a decision that baffled the assorted former Champions who were on pundit duty.

Sadly these issues dogged the whole season, with no consistency in any decisions, and many going in favour of Mercedes. When Lewis crashed into Max and sent him to hospital at Silverstone, it was Max who was blamed. Valtteri Bottas received little punishment for truly reckless driving after taking out a number of cars at the opening corner of the Hungarian Grand Prix, which left Max racing with a damaged car so struggling for pace and Sergio Perez out of the race. The just last week in Saudi Arabia, Mercedes escaped punishment for a number of questionable acts, and yet when a lunge up the inside from Max saw both him and Lewis go wide, he was forced to give the place back to Lewis, only for the Mercedes driver to slow down and remain right behind him, which resulted in him rear-ending the Red Bull as Max braked unexpectedly.

Personally, I feel that the right person won the championship for the season, but the wrong person won the race, as Lewis’ car looked much faster than Max’s, so much so that even giving the place back on the opening lap would have probably only delayed the inevitable, especially as the Mercedes miraculously (or illegally, depending who you ask) managed to stop losing performance in dirty air in the final few weeks. To have the title decided in such suspicious circumstances just harms the credibility of the sport where already so much of the action is manufactured. Take away the DRS and you lose the majority of overtakes in a race, while the Netflix series Drive To Survive may be bringing in more viewers to the sport, but is creating manufactured rivalries and tension for entertainment purposes.

Despite that, there has been so much to love about this season, with so many fantastic drivers out there, and moments that should be remembered fondly: Think of Esteban Ocon benefitting multiple times from the big names all fighting for space in early corners and passing through the chaos like Moses parting the Red Sea. Think of Lewis Hamilton beating Sergio Perez off the final lap restart in Azerbaijan after tyre failure saw Max crash out, only for Lewis to get the braking wrong at Turn 1 and go straight on as everyone else made the turn, going from maximum points to no points in the space of a second. Even in this race, think of Sergio Perez—who at one point looked like he would not have a team for this season—playing the ultimate wingman role by holding up Lewis with a couple of laps of fantastic racing to allow Max to come up. Sadly, too many moments like this will be forgotten in the controversy of the season.

So what next? 2022 is going to be a new era for F1, with very different cars. What also needs to change is the inconsistency of the FIA, Michael Masi and the Stewards, as another season of decisions like this will see drivers taking things into their own hands, and that’s when things will get deadly…

Movember 2021: Day 6

Movember 2021: Day 6

It’s that time of year again! That time when I brave cold cheeks in the name of charity. Yes it’s Movember!

I’ve been doing Movember for about 10 years now as it’s a cause that is close to my heart, and this year, as we are now able to be more sociable again, I am back to fundraising for the Movember Foundation. You can find my Mo-Space here if you wish to donate, anything will be greatly appreciated! For those who haven’t heard of the Movember Foundation, they focus on “changing the face of men’s health” with a focus on testicular cancer, prostate cancer, mental health and suicide prevention.

This year, I’m planning to chart my “Mo-gression” with a series of posts on here. I’m aiming for one every 5-6 days but don’t hold me to that. For each one, I’ll let you have an update on how things are going along with my latest picture so that you can see how the growth is going. But this site is all about sport, so of course I have added a slight sporting twist, as each of my Mo-gression posts will also include a quick look at someone in the sporting world who has a notable moustache. I won’t promise that they will be the most famous moustached sport stars in the world, purely the ones who first came to mind as I put this together.

So… let’s get underway!

Day 6

Today is a big day!

After going back to the baby face and seeing the stubble grow back in for the best part of the week—not to mention going to my friend’s wedding reception without the comfort of my beard—today was the day that I officially went for the first shaping of this year’s mo. So without further ado, I present to you 2021’s Monkeytail!

Those who know me will know that the Monkeytail has become a personal favourite over the years as not only does it look suitably ridiculous for a month of fundraising, but it is also surprisingly easy to keep shaped.

A big thank you to those who have already donated this year. I’ve set myself a relatively low initial target of £100 this month, and thanks to your generosity I am already 30% of the way there, but I would love to hit this target ASAP and push for a higher amount, so any donations would be greatly appreciated!

Sporting Mo

So for Day 6, I’ve moved away from the rugby pitch and onto the racetrack, with a look at Nigel Mansell

Nigel Mansell is a British former racing driver. In Formula 1, he raced for Lotus (1980-84), Williams (85-88) and Ferrari (89-90), before returning to Williams (91-92). Mansell won the 1992 Championship, before leaving F1 for the CART Indy Car World Series, which he won in his debut season in 1993. After the 1994 CART season, he returned to Formula 1 with Williams for rounds 7, 14, 15 and 16 of the 1994 season following the death of Ayrton Senna. He moved to McLaren for the 1995 season, but retired after races 3 and 4.

In Formula 1, Mansell turned 191 (187 starts) into 31 wins—the only Brit to have eclipsed this to date is Lewis Hamilton—and 59 podiums. From 31 starts in CART, Mansell managed 5 victories and 13 podiums. Mansell was inducted to the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2005.

My Sporting Preferences

My Sporting Preferences

Hi guys! Something a little different today as I realised that I’ve been writing on here for almost 3 years now (time flies!) and alluding to some of the teams I support but not actually really talked about the sport I like to watch and who I support in them, so I thought today it would be a great chance to get to know me a bit better.

Rugby Union

Rugby Union is unsurprisingly my favourite sport, both the 15 and 7-a-side variations of the game. I got into rugby when I started going to secondary school and quickly fell in love with the sport. Over the years I’ve played for my school, grassroots club (shout out to Longlevens RFC!) and also started my own social 7s team in my last year of uni, and played a number of positions: all the front row, lock, blindside flanker and one match I will never forget against our local rivals where I played at outside centre!

featrugby gloucester sale 4Being a Gloucester boy born and raised, there was only 1 club I was ever going to be following once I was into the sport and that is the Cherry & Whites – Gloucester Rugby – and by extension, Hartpury RFC and Gloucester-Hartpury Women.

I have started watching a lot more rugby around the world in recent years though and the Scarlets have beat out Munster become my second team, courtesy of one of my best mates being a Scarlets fan and their attacking mentality making me always want to watch their games . I’m also really excited by the growth of rugby in the USA, so I consider the Eagles my second international team (after England) and I have tried to pay attention to the MLR – I put my support behind the Seattle Seawolves last season but with the league still expanding and new teams forming I would not say that I have adopted them as my American team. I’ve also tried to pay more attention to Super Rugby in the last few years but would not say that I have adopted a team, although I found myself firmly behind the Western Force when they were put at risk of being axed.

Football

As with (I’d assume) most English kids, football was my initial sport. Just having a kick-around on lunchtimes of after school and with highlights of the Premier League still available on terrestrial TV, it is something that is relatively easy to follow.

football shirt chicharitoAs for my favourite team, I have to admit that I’m a fan of Manchester United. *Runs for cover* Granted, I’ve never been to Manchester, but my support from United came from a number of my closest friends at school being United fans, so I found that we would talk about them more and I found myself paying more attention to their matches. I do also have a soft spot for Cheltenham Town, my local team in the football leagues. As for internationals, I am an England supporter, but I have found in recent years a bit of an apathy towards internationals and I have rarely watched outside of the Euros and World Cups.

American Football

me12189588_10153126166241332_5035862288422859710_nI’ve got family in America and went to visit them a couple of times as a kid, so vaguely remember watching some NFL games on TV when I was out there, but not really understanding what was going on. Then during secondary school one of my friends let me borrow Madden 04 and in learning to play the game, I fell in love with the sport. This love continued as I went to university and started watching games more often and making friends with a number of the uni’s American football team.

From those times I used to go to America, I remember us rushing home one day to watch the Tennessee Titans play back in the days where the late Steve McNair was at QB, so once I finally got into the sport they were always going to be the team I picked. Ironically, when I next went to see my family in the USA, it turned out that they are Cowboys fans and hate the Titans… oops! Too late!

cyc20180730_193504Road Cycling

I’m not even sure how, but I’ve really started enjoying watching the Grand Tours in recent years and also by extension some of the other televised races like the Tour of Britain and the Critérium du Dauphiné. It is a great example of teamwork seeing the domestiques working on behalf of their leaders and then the combination of tactical nous and sheer determination among the lead riders to race each other up climbs that make me shudder just watching on TV. Team Sky are my team and I really love a number of their riders including 2018’s Grand Tour winners Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, while I also really enjoy the Yates brothers and Mark Cavendish – so 2018 was a pretty good year for me!

Rugby League

I just love rugby in general! While I prefer union, I do also enjoy watching rugby league as it is generally a more fast-paced game than union. I really got into watching the Super League a few years back but I’m so busy these days I struggle to find the time to watch anything beyond the England matches and the odd big club game. For this reason I wouldn’t say I fully support a team, but I would say I have a soft spot for Canadian team Toronto Wolfpack, who were founded around the same time I started paying more attention to the sport.

Formula 1

I used to watch Formula 1 religiously when it was on terrestrial TV and I didn’t have such good access to pay-TV sports channels, but these days with the way the sport has come to rely on tyre degradation and pit strategies in order to win, I’ve largely gone off the sport – though I will still watch on occasion. Back from his early days at Mclaren, I’ve been a big fan of Kimi Räikkönen, while I also cheered for Jenson Button when he was in the sport and have found myself supporting Fernando Alonso for a number of years as he has tried to do his best in cars that are nowhere near the quality he deserves.

Cricket

For years I had no interest in cricket whatsoever, however I have found myself paying a bit more attention to the shorter forms like one-day internationals and Twenty20 matches. I will say thought that I have no real interest in the game beyond England matches and would struggle to watch a Test match live for more than a couple of hours, though I would watch a condensed highlights show.

Tennis

Another sport that I find myself watching less now that I have access to extra sports channels. It’s rare for me to watch much beyond Wimbledon, and even then it has often just been Andy Murray or Laura Robson’s matches in recent years. Back in the day though, I was also a big fan of Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick and also found myself cheering for Maria Sharapova back when there were no highly rated Brits in the women’s events.

Snooker

Much like tennis, the amount of snooker I watch has dropped off drastically as my options have opened up. I think the BBC show “Big Break” went a long way to helping stoke an interest in the sport when I was a kid and I have been lucky enough to watch in the heyday of Ronnie O’Sullivan! If I’m at home writing, I may have it on in the background, but its very rare I find myself watching these days.

Baseball

Not something that I usually watch but I do enjoy going to a couple of matches when I’m in the US. Despite having been bought Yankees, Cardinals and Rangers branded goods over the year, there’s no Major League teams that I would say I pay attention to, however I do try to keep up with how the Memphis Redbirds are doing in the Minor Leagues.

 

and finally…

MTS Rocha v Reilly 3The Movie Trivia Schmoedown

I know what you’re probably saying: “How is movie trivia a sport?!”… But the Schmoedown has done a great job of making it one. Taking a movie trivia quiz and combining it with WWE-style entertainment has created a wonderful product that I have fallen in love with! The show has become such a big part of my life and I even write for their website (links to all my articles can be found here) and if you want to know a bit more about this, you can find a piece I wrote over a year ago here.