My 2019 NRL commentary samples (Round 15 – Sydney Roosters vs. Melbourne Storm)

 

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2019 Austrian Grand Prix – Preview

Lewis Hamilton has claimed his sixth race victory of 2019, and his fourth win in a row at the French Grand Prix in what was Mercedes sixth one-two finish of the season, and had extended his lead over his teammate Valtteri Bottas. And with Ferrari failing to fire once again, can anybody stop Hamilton from winning his sixth world championship, and from moving to within one of Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world championships?

That is the questions that all of Hamilton’s rivals will be trying to answer this weekend at the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring, Round Nine of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship.

Hamilton (187 points) leads by 36 points over Bottas (151 points) after a near faultless performance. Pole Position (for the 86th time), race victory (the 79th of his career), led every lap of the race (for the 18th time to move to within one of Ayrton Senna’s record of 19). However, he did miss out on taking the fastest lap of the race, which would have given him his sixth Grand Slam of his career, and would have moved him into outright second behind Jim Clark for most Grand Slams.

However, despite this, you feel like Hamilton is starting to hit top form, and with some races that he loves coming up, most notably the British Grand Prix (Round 10), and the Hungarian Grand Prix (Round 12) within the next month and a half, you sense he could take full control of the 2019 championship.

Meanwhile, Bottas has got to lift if he wants to be any hope of defeating Hamilton, and winning his first world championship, but right now, you feel that Bottas is right at the maximum of his capabilities, and would need misfortune to hit Hamilton hard if the current trend is to be flipped on its head!

Sebastian Vettel (111 points) is third in the championship after Ferrari failed to overturn his penalty in Canada, and after a sub-par qualifying performance (7th), managed to came home in fifth over a minute behind Hamilton, but snatched the fastest lap (the 37th of his career) from Hamilton on the final lap of the race to salvage something on what was a hugely disappointing weekend in so many ways for Vettel.

Max Verstappen (100 points) remains in fourth in the standings for Red Bull Racing-Honda after out-performing his car again to finish in a strong fourth, but Charles Leclerc (87 points) is starting to close in on Verstappen after a second-straight podium finish for Ferrari.

Behind the Top Five in the world championship, we find Verstappen’s teammate Pierre Gasly (37 points), who just managed to scrape into the points in 10th, his sixth points finish of the year, but only three of those six have been Top Six finishes, and the questions will start to come asking whether Gasly’s performance has been up to scratch.

In my opinion, I think Gasly is performing largely to the potential of his car, but Verstappen right now is on another planet in comparison to his teammate, and if Verstappen gets in a better car than what he is in right now, he is surely capable of winning world championships!

Behind Gasly, Carlos Sainz Jr. (26 points) is seventh in the championship for McLaren-Renault after an impressive sixth-placed finish at Circuit Paul Ricard on a weekend where McLaren actually looked faster at times than Red Bull, and is ahead of Kimi Räikkönen (19 points), who finished the French Grand Prix in seventh for Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari.

The two Renault’s of Daniel Riccardo and Nico Hülkenberg complete the Top 10 equal on 16 points after the latter’s eighth-placed finish, and after the former’s two separate five-second penalties due to gaining advantage by exceeding track limits, and then by failing to re-join the track safely.

In the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (338 points) have extended their lead over Ferrari (198 points) to 140 points, while Red Bull Racing-Honda (137 points) are continuing to be left behind by Ferrari.

And, then it is McLaren-Renault (40 points) and Renault (32 points) in a tight battle for fourth, while it is a dogfight for sixth between Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (19 points), Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (19 points), Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (17 points), and Haas-Ferrari (16 points), with Williams-Mercedes still stuck on zero points.

So, who will win the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix?

You feel that if Bahrain and Canada were good for Ferrari, and that for a large part of the weekend in Azerbaijan, Ferrari were on top of Mercedes, then the Red Bull Ring has to be Ferrari’s best chance so far to claim their first win of 2019. Sectors One and to a lesser extent Sector Two should suit Ferrari, and while the more technical final sector should suit Mercedes, you feel that Ferrari should have enough up their sleeves to claim their first race victory of 2019!

I am tipping Sebastian Vettel to claim the Austrian Grand Prix for Ferrari, just ahead of Lewis Hamilton, while it will be a tight battle between Valtteri Bottas, Charles Leclerc, and Max Verstappen for the final spot on the podium.

2019 Dutch TT (MotoGP) – Preview

The 2019 Catalan Grand Prix was a championship-defining race in the 2019 MotoGP World Championship after Jorge Lorenzo, who showed much improved form at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, took out Maverick Viñales, Valentino Rossi, and Andrea Dovizioso like a bowling ball on Lap Two of the race, while Marc Márquez managed to just avoid the incident and took the lead on his way to his 74th Grand Prix victory across all classes, and his 48th in the premier class to move into outright fourth for most premier class wins ahead of Lorenzo, and is now just two wins away from moving to equal-fourth alongside Mike Hailwood for most race victories across all classes.

However, most importantly, Márquez extends his lead in the championship to 37 points over Dovizioso as MotoGP heads to Assen for the 2019 Dutch TT, Round Eight of the 2019 season.

Márquez (140 points) leads the way for the Repsol Honda Team over Dovizioso (103 points) for Mission Winnow Ducati, and right now, given the way Márquez is riding right now, Dovizioso (and others) are firmly out of championship contention, unless Márquez has two or probably three retirements, or misses two or three races, or has a combination of each, and although Márquez does have a tendency for taking a few risks, the possibility of others getting back into world championship appears highly unlikely.

And, what’s worse for the rivals of Márquez is that it could have been a lot worse if the defending world champion had not crashed out of the Grand Prix of the Americas, a race where Márquez was previously undefeated at. It is going take a miracle, perhaps beyond that, for someone other than Márquez to win the 2019 MotoGP World Championship.

Álex Rins (101 points) is third in the championship for Team SUZUKI ECSTAR after finishing fourth in Barcelona, and remains just ahead of Dovizioso’s teammate Danilo Petrucci (98 points) who finished third.

Valentino Rossi (72 points) is fifth in the world championship for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP after a second-straight retirement, the first time that has happened since the final three completed races of 2011 when he was at Ducati (NOTE: Does not include the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix), while Jack Miller (53 points) leads the battle from behind for Alma Pramac Racing after his fourth points finish of 2019 (all Top Fives).

Fabio Quartararo (51 points) moves up into seventh in the championship for Petronas Yamaha SRT after claiming his first premier class podium in Barcelona, finishing second, and looks likely to challenge for a race victory before the season comes to an end.

Behind him, Takaaki Nakagami (48 points) is eighth for LCR Honda, and Pol Espargaró (47 points) is ninth for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing after strong points finishes, while Cal Crutchlow (42 points) slips to 10th in the standings for LCR Honda after failing to finish for the second time in 2019.

So, who will win the 2019 Dutch TT?

The race at Assen is always a good race that always tends to suit most bikes on the grid, and is loved by all of the riders. I am going to tip Marc Márquez to continue to extend his championship lead, ahead of Fabio Quartararo and Jack Miller in what will be a thrilling race!

2019 French Grand Prix – Preview

The 2019 Canadian Grand Prix was largely uneventful, but in the end, it proved very controversial with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel given a five-second time penalty by the race stewards for re-joining the track unsafely at Turn Three, and forcing Lewis Hamilton off the track on Lap 48, with Hamilton being forced to take evasive action to avoid hitting the wall, and Vettel, which would have resulted in a massive accident!

This meant that Hamilton claimed his seventh Canadian Grand Prix victory to equal Michael Schumacher’s record, in terms of race wins, at the Canadian Grand Prix, despite Hamilton crossing the line in a close second behind Vettel.

However, Ferrari have requested their right to have the decision reviewed, and is arguably the biggest subplot heading into the 2019 French Grand Prix at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet for Round Eight of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship.

Hamilton (162 points) leads the championship for Mercedes by 29 points over his teammate Valtteri Bottas (133 points) after claiming his fifth race victory in the opening seven races of 2019, and it is the ninth-straight race that Hamilton has finished either first or second. And, in the six previous occasions that Hamilton has won five or more races in a season, he has gone onto win the world championship five times.

While for Bottas, you feel that the French Grand Prix has turned into a must win race for him after finishing 51.043 seconds behind his teammate in fourth at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. If Bottas can’t win this weekend, and is beaten by his teammate, you sense that his world championship hopes might start to slip away.

Vettel (100 points) is third in the championship after having the almost perfect weekend, claiming pole position ahead of Hamilton by a margin of 0.206 seconds, and then led 63 of the 70 laps to cross the line first ahead of Hamilton. However, Vettel made a mistake on Lap 48, running wide at Turn Three, missing the corner, and then in the opinion of the race stewards, re-joined the circuit unsafely, and almost causing what would have been a massive accident with Hamilton, with Hamilton having to take evasive action to avoid a collision.

Looking at the incident over and over again, I feel like it was one of those 50/50 incidents where you could argue that Vettel did all he could to re-join the track safely and not have the situation of a potential collision, but you could have also argued the opposite.

I think though what the race stewards (and in large the FIA) are trying to say is that if a similar thing happened involving one or two inexperienced drivers (in terms of Formula One experience), especially if the inexperienced driver had been in Hamilton’s position, it would have almost certainly have resulted in a massive accident, and with safety being absolutely paramount in the sport today, the race stewards really had little choice but to penalise Vettel, much to the disgust of most fans, and most certainly to the anger of former Formula One drivers, most of whom participated in the sport in an era(s) where safety was of lesser consideration than it is today, and no matter how they justify their opinions on this and similar incidents, they cannot remove the fact that they participated in the sport in an era(s) where danger was almost at every turn, and that their opinions are shaped by those experiences, even if it is merely subconscious.

In the end, I don’t think Ferrari’s chances of overturning the penalty are that strong, and will have to regroup after Vettel’s “near perfect” race, and unfortunately in this era of Formula One with a team like Mercedes producing the results they are producing right now, being “near perfect” is just not good enough!

Max Verstappen (88 points) is fourth in the world championship for Red Bull Racing-Honda after finishing fifth in Canada from ninth on the grid, and the last car on the lead lap, and remains ahead of Vettel’s teammate Charles Leclerc (72 points) in the standings despite Leclerc finishing a close third in Montréal.

Behind the Top Five in the championship, Verstappen’s teammate Pierre Gasly (36 points) is 36 points behind Leclerc, and seemingly a mile away from being in contention for a race win, but remains ahead of McLaren-Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr. (18 points), and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo (16 points), who put in a magnificent performance to finish in sixth after qualifying in a remarkable fourth! Ricciardo is now eighth in the standings, ahead of Haas-Ferrari’s Kevin Magnussen (14 points), and Racing Point-BWT Mercedes driver Sergio Pérez (13 points), who is equal on points with Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari driver Kimi Räikkönen (13 points).

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (295 points) still dominate to the tune of a 123-point margin ahead of Ferrari (172 points), with Red Bull Racing-Honda (124 points) in a lonely third. Behind them, McLaren-Renault (30 points) are still in fourth, but Renault (28 points) are right behind them, and are starting to show the form that we were expecting, with Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (19 points), Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (17 points), Haas-Ferrari (16 points), Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (13 points), and sadly Williams-Mercedes (zero points) behind them.

So, who is going to triumph at the 2019 French Grand Prix?

Although I think the characteristics of the Circuit Paul Ricard could potentially suit Ferrari, I still think it will suit the characteristics of the Mercedes even better, and I feel like Lewis Hamilton will make it four wins in a row this weekend!