My 2018 NRL commentary samples (Round Eight)

My call of the match between the Penrith Panthers and the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs! Enjoy!

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My 2018 NRL commentary samples (Round Eight – ANZAC Day Cup)

My call of the ANZAC Day Cup match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Sydney Roosters, including the pre-match ceremony! Enjoy!

2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Preview

After an exhilarating and breathtaking Chinese Grand Prix, where Australian Daniel Ricciardo claimed the sixth race victory of his career, none of which have come from the top three spots on the grid, Formula One heads to the streets of Baku for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Round Four of the 2018 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula One World Championship, with the championship interestingly poised!

Sebastian Vettel (54 points), who had a difficult race in Shanghai after leading the early stages of the race, being overtaken by Valtteri Bottas during the pit-stops, and then a collision with Max Verstappen saw him finish seventh in China, still leads the championship for Ferrari by nine points over Mercedes driver and defending world champion Lewis Hamilton (45 points).

Hamilton, with his fourth-place finish in Shanghai, became the record-holder for most-consecutive race finishes inside the points in Formula One history. This weekend, he will look to turn around his underwhelming record in Baku, where he has finished fifth in each of the last two years.

Bottas (40 points) is third in the world championship in his Mercedes after consecutive podium finishes in Bahrain and China after his disappointing performance in Australia, and will be looking to continue the form of the last two races into this weekend in Azerbaijan. He is ahead of Ricciardo (37 points) in the championship, with Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer showing in China that they are very capable of challenging for the world championship.

Vettel’s teammate at Ferrari, Kimi Räikkönen (30 points), is fifth in the championship, 24 points behind his teammate after rebounding from the awful pit-lane incident where one of the mechanics broke his leg with a well-deserved third-place finish in China.

Fernando Alonso (22 points) and Nico Hülkenberg (22 points) are sixth and seventh in the world championship for McLaren-Renault and Renault respectively after scoring three points-scoring finishes each. Alonso is ahead of Hülkenberg in championship by virtue of his fifth-place finish at the Australian Grand Prix.

Ricciardo’s teammate at Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer, Verstappen (18 points), is eighth in the championship after mixed performances in each of the first three rounds with a sixth-place finish in Australia after a spin, a transmission failure with his car in Bahrain after three laps, which happened after a very early racing incident with Hamilton, causing Verstappen to puncture his tyre, and then the collision with Vettel in China adding to his woe, where he finished fifth, but could have won the race!

Verstappen has got to find the happy medium between being aggressive and being conservative going forward without losing the ability to be bold on the circuit, which will take time that is for sure!

Pierre Gasly (12 points) for Toro Rosso-Honda, and Kevin Magnussen (11 points) for Haas-Ferrari complete the top 10 in the drivers’ championship.

Looking at the standings in the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (85 points) lead by a single point over Ferrari (84 points) with Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer (55 points) having plenty of work to do to catch up with their main rivals in third, ahead of McLaren-Renault (28 points), Renault (25 points), Toro Rosso-Honda (12 points), Haas-Ferrari (11 points), Sauber-Ferrari (two points), Force India-Mercedes (one point), and Williams-Mercedes (zero points).

So, who will win the Azerbaijan Grand Prix?

On paper, this has been a circuit which has suited Mercedes, pace-wise at least, as it has been a power circuit, rewarding straight-line speed and engine/power-unit performance. In saying that, Ferrari believe their engine/power-unit performance is close to being on-par with Mercedes, so this could be an interesting battle!

If Mercedes wins, you sense that they are still the car and team to beat in terms of the championship, but if they don’t win or aren’t ahead of the field on merit, you sense Ferrari, and perhaps Red Bull are a strong chance of taking the championships away from Mercedes.

My gut feel is that Mercedes still has an advantage, and I believe it will be third-time lucky for Lewis Hamilton in Azerbaijan to take his first race victory of the season!

2018 Grand Prix of the Americas (MotoGP) – Preview

After one of the most dramatic and strangest races in MotoGP history a couple of weeks ago in Argentina, Round Three of the 2018 MotoGP World Championship takes place this weekend from the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas for the 2018 Grand Prix of the Americas, and the battle in terms of the championship is most certainly the widest that we have seen in some time!

Cal Crutchlow (38 points) is leading the championship for LCR Honda, becoming the first British rider since Barry Sheene in 1979 to lead the premier class world championship at any given time after his shock victory in Argentina, raising questions among many people as to whether he can win the world championship this year?

In my view, I don’t think Crutchlow against this field on his current machinery has what it takes over the course of a season to win the world championship in 2018, but if there are more crazy races like the last one, he could well be a chance!

Andrea Dovizioso (35 points) is second in the championship on his Ducati after finishing sixth in Argentina, a weekend where Ducati simply had no pace, with Johann Zarco (28 points) after his brilliant second-place finish on his Tech3 Yamaha in Argentina sitting third in the championship, ahead of factory Yamaha rider Maverick Viñales (21 points), who finished fifth at the Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo.

Then we get to Marc Márquez (20 points) who sits in fifth in the championship on his factory Honda after his trials and tribulations in Argentina, in which he was penalised in the race three times!

He was given a ride-through penalty for failing to adhere to the instructions of marshals/stewards after stalling his bike after the warm-up lap after the start of the race was delayed. However, after looking at the 2018 FIM World Championship Grand Prix Regulations, I raise the pertinent question of whether the start of the race should have actually have been delayed in the first place?

My answer to that question is No!

In my opinion, if the conditions are improving, the conditions are getting safer! So, why would you (race direction) delay the start of the race? Would it be to get more suitable tyres onto the bike?

After the bikes/riders get to the grid, according to Article 1.18.6 of the 2018 FIM World Championship Grand Prix Regulations: “The Race Director will, at this stage, declare the race as “wet” or “dry” and will indicate this to the riders on the grid and those who may still be in the pit lane by the display of a board. If no board is displayed the race will automatically be “dry”.”

And, according to Article 1.18.7 of the 2018 FIM World Championship Grand Prix Regulations: “Riders on the grid may at this stage make adjustments to the machine or change tyres to suit the track conditions.

“Tyre warmers may be used on the grid.

“Riders may use a generator to power tyre warmers on the grid. Only one generator per machine may be used. The generator must be of the “hand carried” type and have a maximum output capacity of two kilowatts.

“Starter engines may also be used on the grid.

“Generator and starter engines should be located at the rear of the motorcycles.

“All adjustments must be completed by the display of the 3-Minute board. After this board is displayed, riders who still wish to make adjustments must push their machine to the pit lane. Such riders and their machines must be clear of the grid and in the pit lane before the display of the 1-Minute board, where they may continue to make adjustments, or change machine in MotoGP only. Such riders will start the warm up lap from the pit lane and will start the race from the back of the grid.”

So, the teams and the riders had ample opportunity to make a decision as to what tyres they should start the race on, and the race was declared WET, so why did race direction decide eight minutes and 20 seconds later that it was best to delay the start of the race?

The conditions were not dangerous! If your choose WET/RAIN weather tyres, but believe that they are going to overheat, but you aren’t confident the conditions are suitable for slicks, then you do the warm-up, start the race, and come into the pit-lane to change bikes when the suitable time arrives!

Adding to this, only one rider, that being Jack Miller (19 points), who is sixth in the championship after finishing fourth on his Pramac Ducati after starting from pole position, could follow the rules and regulations as stated, and yet doesn’t get to reap the rewards of his decision because of race direction making seemingly, according to the rules and regulations, the wrong decision!

The conditions were not dangerous, the conditions were consistent and improving! It wasn’t like there was a sudden torrential downpour, or one particular corner having significantly different conditions compared to everywhere else. So, why was the start of the race delayed?

I could go on all day about the race that Marc Márquez had, including the subsequent penalties for the incidents with Aleix Espargaró and Valentino Rossi after the first penalty, but really, in my opinion, the race wasn’t run properly, and the FIM, Dorna Sports, and MotoGP need to have a very good, hard, and long look at themselves!

Completing the top 10 in the championship are Danilo Petrucci (17 points), Rossi (16 points), Álex Rins (16 points), and Andrea Iannone (15 points).

So, looking ahead to Round Three at the Circuit of the Americas, I cannot go past Márquez to bounce back and win in Austin after the disappointment of Argentina. He is undefeated at the Circuit of the Americas, and I can see him making it six wins from six appearances in Austin.

 

2018 Chinese Grand Prix – Preview

It is a quick turnaround for all the drivers and teams ahead of Round Three of the 2018 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula One World Championship, which takes place this weekend from the Shanghai International Circuit in Shanghai, and with Sebastian Vettel taking a second victory in a row to start the season, which was the first time since 2011, when he was at Red Bull Racing, that he has won the opening two races of a season, Vettel and Ferrari have taken an early stranglehold on the championship, putting pressure on Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes to respond with a strong performance in China.

Vettel (50 points) leads the championship by 17 points over Hamilton (33 points) after the defending world champion finished third after starting from ninth after a five-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change, with the highlight of his charge to the podium being when he passed three cars at once into Turn One on Lap Five. With that performance, Hamilton equals Kimi Räikkönen’s record of 27-consecutive points-scoring finishes in Formula One

However, Vettel was the star, but not the driver of the race, after managing to outlast Valtteri Bottas late in the Bahrain Grand Prix to claim his 49th race victory. Bottas (22 points) is third in the championship for Mercedes after bouncing back from a disappointing weekend in Australia to finish a very close second behind Vettel in Bahrain.

Fernando Alonso (16 points) is in a shock fourth position in the championship after finishing seventh in Bahrain in his McLaren-Renault, and is ahead of Räikkönen (15 points) after the Ferrari driver was force to retire from the Bahrain Grand Prix after a wheel wasn’t attached properly at his second pit-stop, causing an unsafe release, and breaking the leg of one of the Ferrari mechanics after Räikkönen ran over his leg!

Nico Hülkenberg (14 points) is a surprising sixth in the championship for Renault after his sixth place finish in Bahrain, and is ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo (12 points), who along with his teammate Max Verstappen (eight points), who sits in 10th position in the championship for Red Bull, were forced to retire from the race with electrical and transmission issues after Lap One and Three respectively!

Pierre Gasly (12 points) is eighth in the championship for Toro Rosso-Honda after producing the best result and weekend of his Formula One career to date, qualifying sixth, starting fifth, and finishing in an unbelievable fourth, which was the best result since Honda returned to the sport in a large capacity in 2015.

Kevin Magnussen (10 points) is ninth in the championship for Haas-Ferrari after finishing fifth in Bahrain, which was his best result since the 2014 Russian Grand Prix.

In terms of the Constructors’ Championship, Ferrari (65 points) leads by 10 points over Mercedes (55 points), with these two teams having a clear advantage at this early stage.

Looking ahead as to who is going to win in China, I think Mercedes will be much stronger overall than what they were in Bahrain, as the Shanghai International Circuit is more of a front-limited circuit compared to Bahrain, and given Lewis Hamilton’s strong record on these types of circuits, I expect a big response from him, ahead of a tight battle between Sebastian Vettel, Valtteri Bottas, Kimi Räikkönen, Daniel Ricciardo, and Max Verstappen.