My 2018 NRL commentary samples (Round 25 – Melbourne Storm vs. Penrith Panthers)

 

2018 Italian GP – Preview

Sebastian Vettel capped off a dominant weekend for Ferrari with his third Belgian Grand Prix victory, which was the 52nd of his career, surpassing fellow four-time world champion Alain Prost into outright third for most wins in Formula One, and is just behind his current championship rival Lewis Hamilton (67 wins) and seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher (91 wins) in the record books, and now heads to Monza with all the momentum in the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship as he continues to battle with Hamilton in the quest to join Juan Manuel Fangio with five world championships.

However, Hamilton (231 points) still leads the championship over Vettel (214 points), but the lead of the Mercedes driver has been cut to 17 points, with the Italian Grand Prix shaping up as a must win for Hamilton and Mercedes as he looks to win at Monza for the fifth time, and equal Schumacher’s record for most victories at the Italian Grand Prix. Of course last year, Hamilton surpassed his record of most pole positions in Formula One in what was one of the all-time great laps in the wet, almost 1.2 seconds quicker than Max Verstappen, who along with his teammate grid Daniel Ricciardo had grid penalties for power-unit and gearbox changes last year.

Meanwhile, Vettel will be looking to end the domination of Mercedes at arguably the most power-dominated circuit in Formula One, and take Ferrari back to the top step of the podium at Monza for the first time since Fernando Alonso won for the Prancing Horse in 2010, and take his third Italian Grand Prix in the process after winning in 2011 and 2013.

Behind the two drivers who are often regarded as the best of the current era, we have close battle between four drivers for third in the world championship between Vettel’s teammate and 2007 world champion Kimi Räikkönen (146 points), Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas (144 points), and the two Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer drivers in Verstappen (120 points), who has overtaken his teammate Ricciardo (118 points) into fifth in the championship.

However, you would expect both of the Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer drivers to struggle at the low downforce, power-dominated circuit, which doesn’t suit their rebadged power-unit.

The back end of the top 10 in the championship is completed by Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg (52 points), Haas-Ferrari’s Kevin Magnussen (49 points), McLaren-Renault’s Fernando Alonso (44 points), and Force India-Mercedes driver in Sergio Pérez (40 points).

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (375 points) extended their lead to 15 points over Ferrari (360 points) despite not winning the Belgian Grand Prix, with Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer (238 points) in a comfortable third.

Behind them, Renault (82 points) lead the battle for fourth, ahead of Haas-Ferrari (76 points), with McLaren-Renault (52 points) in a lonely sixth, with Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (30 points) and Sauber-Ferrari (19 points) following, with Force India-Mercedes (18 points), who were stripped of their former points tally due to technically being a new entrant after their change of management, climbing up to ninth, and are ahead of Williams-Mercedes (four points), who will be hoping the Italian Grand Prix will be their chance to score some more points in what has been an annus horribilis in 2018.

So, who will win the Italian Grand Prix?

As strange as it might sound, given Mercedes dominance at Monza over the last four years, it is a circuit and a race that should actual suit Ferrari better, and that is a danger sign for Mercedes given their poor speed since 2014 (relative of course) at the Singapore Grand Prix, and while a number of circuits after the next two should suit Mercedes, you sense this is Ferrari’s chance to take a stranglehold of the world championship, and for Sebastian Vettel to move one step closer to a fifth world championship.

2018 Belgian GP – Preview

After a summer break of almost a month, the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship is about to recommence in earnest from arguably the most famed circuit in Formula One, and perhaps the world of motorsport, the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium for the Belgian Grand Prix, and the battle between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel is set to intensify as both of them attempt to claim their fifth world championship crown in 2018.

Hamilton (213 points) leads the world championship for Mercedes by 24 points over Vettel (189 points) for Ferrari as we head into the second half of the season. Hamilton was magnificent, both in qualifying (when it was wet), and in the race at the Hungaroring in claiming his fifth victory of the season, while Vettel was disappointing, considering the expectations of him and Ferrari, in the last two races before the mid-season break, crashing out while in the lead of the German Grand Prix, and Ferrari not performing up to expectations at the Hungarian Grand Prix, despite finishing second.

You sense in the championship battle, Hamilton has the upper-hand, but Vettel has the car with the most potential of world championship glory, but needs to cut out the silly mistakes in order to extract the full potential from the Ferrari.

However, there is a strong battle for third in the championship between four drivers in Kimi Räikkönen (146 points) for Ferrari, Valtteri Bottas (132 points) for Mercedes, and Daniel Ricciardo (118 points) and Max Verstappen (105 points) for Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer, all separated by just 41 points.

Räikkönen has been in fine form in grabbing five podiums in the last five races, but hasn’t been able to get onto the top step, and should he claim his 21st victory in Formula One, it would be his first victory since the 2013 Australian Grand Prix when he was driving for Lotus, but his future at Ferrari (and in Formula One) is firmly under the microscope with Sauber’s Charles Leclerc lined up to potentially take his seat at Ferrari in 2019.

Bottas’ seat is safe though at Mercedes, but will want to improve his performances during the final nine races of the season after a mixed bag of races in 2018, while Ricciardo will be looking to finish his time at Red Bull on a high after announcing at the start of the mid-season break that he will be joining Renault next year, partnering up with Nico Hülkenberg, with Hülkenberg’s current teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. joining McLaren-Renault in 2019 to replace the departing two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, who is leaving Formula One, either for the FIA World Endurance Championship, which he has been competing in this year alongside his F1 commitments, or for the IndyCar Series in order to achieve his quest of becoming just the second driver to complete the unofficial Triple Crown of Motorsport (winning the Monaco Grand Prix, 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the Indianapolis 500).

While back at Red Bull, Verstappen is coming on strong as 2018 is progressing, but will be disappointed with his performance in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix in seventh, before retiring after five laps after losing power. Verstappen will be joined by Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda driver Pierre Gasly at Red Bull next year in a team that will be known as Red Bull Racing-Honda.

Completing the top 10 in the championship is Hülkenberg (52 points) in seventh, Kevin Magnussen (45 points) for Haas-Ferrari in eighth, Alonso (44 points) in ninth, and Sergio Pérez (30 points) for Force India-Mercedes in 10th, with Hülkenberg’s teammate Sainz (30 points) tied on the same amount of points as Pérez.

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (345 points) have a 10-point lead over Ferrari (335 points), with Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer (223 points) in a comfortable third. Renault (82 points) have taken a stranglehold on fourth in the championship with a battle raging behind them for fifth between Haas-Ferrari (66 points), Force India-Mercedes (59 points), and McLaren-Renault (52 points). Completing the standings are Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (28 points) in eighth, Sauber-Ferrari (18 points) in ninth, and Williams-Mercedes (four points) in 10th.

So, who will win at Spa-Francorchamps?

I am expecting a tight and tough tussle between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, and I am thinking both the Mercedes and the Ferrari should be well-suited to this circuit, and if that’s the case, it is going to be one amazing race!

 

2018 British GP (MotoGP) – Preview

After another wonderful race at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, where Jorge Lorenzo managed to reel in Marc Márquez on his Ducati to claim a scintillating victory, his third of the season, the 2018 MotoGP World Championship heads to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix for Round 12 of the championship that is heading even further in the direction of the defending world champion.

Despite finishing second at the Austrian Grand Prix, Márquez (201 points) leads the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 59 points over Valentino Rossi (142 points) for Movistar Yamaha MotoGP.

Márquez has finished all bar two races on the podium, only failing to finish in the points in the crazy race that was Argentina, where if all things were normal, Márquez would have won by a country mile, and in Italy, where he suffered a crash early in the race, and looks almost certain (barring injury) that he will win his fifth MotoGP World Championship, and his seventh world championship across all classes.

While for Rossi, his championship ambitions are becoming non-existent after another lacklustre race, finishing sixth in Austria, and has only finished ahead of Márquez in one race this year (Italy), where he finished third, and is about to be swamped by the Ducati’s in Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso in the championship standings.

Lorenzo (130 points) is third in the championship after his win in Austria, and is just 12 points behind Rossi, while his fellow Ducati Team rider Dovizioso (129 points) is fourth in the championship just a further point behind after completing the podium at the Red Bull Ring.

Behind them in the championship is Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (113 points), who just can’t seem to get comfortable and confident with his machinery, and has rarely looked a threat for a race victory in 2018, while Alma Pramac Racing rider Danilo Petrucci (105 points), Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Johann Zarco (104 points), and LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow (103 points) are separated by just two points in their battle for 6th in the championship.

Completing the top 10 in the world championship is Team Suzuki Ecstar riders Andrea Iannone (84 points) and Álex Rins (66 points), while the teammate of Márquez in Dani Pedrosa (66 points) is tied on the same amount of points as Rins heading into the British Grand Prix.

So, who will win the British Grand Prix?

I am expecting on a high speed circuit, where there are plenty of fast corners, and a heavy reliance on power, that it will be another battle royale between the two Ducati’s of Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso, as well as the Honda of Marc Márquez firmly in the thick of things, but if the weather gods play their part in proceedings, then anything can, and will most likely happen!