My 2019 NRL commentary samples (2019 GB Lions Tour – Papua New Guinea vs. Great Britain)

 

2019 Brazil Grand Prix – Preview

Lewis Hamilton claimed his sixth Formula One World Championship to move to within one of Michael Schumacher’s record of seven after finishing second behind his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas at the 2019 United States Grand Prix, and will be looking to not only match and surpass his race victory tally in 2014 and 2018 over the course of the last two rounds of 2019, but also score 400 points or more for the second-straight season as the grid heads to the Autódromo José Carlos Pace in São Paulo in Brazil for the 2019 Brazil Grand Prix, Round 20 of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship.

Hamilton (381 points) leads by an insurmountable 67 points over Bottas (314 points) after a season which both him and his team have faced some challenges, the death of three-time world champion Niki Lauda, who was the non-executive chairman of Mercedes, and the surge of form towards the end of the season from Ferrari, but a year which Hamilton has confirmed his place as a legend of the sport.

He won Formula One’s 1000th race back at the Chinese Grand Prix in April, and in Monaco, produced arguably the best drive of his career, certainly one of the two best defensive drives of his career, along with the 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix, to win the Monaco Grand Prix for the third time, keeping Max Verstappen (who had a five-second penalty to be added), Sebastian Vettel, and Bottas behind him, and then we had the race-long battle between Hamilton and Verstappen at the Hungarian Grand Prix, with Hamilton and Mercedes taking a strategic gamble in switching to a two-stop strategy on Lap 48, and with a lack of challengers from behind, it worked with Hamilton catching and passing Verstappen with the best part of four laps to go to clinch a memorable victory.

However, Hamilton’s legendary career has had so many moments that we will remember forever, his first race victory in Canada back in 2007, his fourth race victory of his career in torrential rain at Fuji Speedway in Japan in 2007, his dominant victory in Australia in 2008 in scorching hot conditions, his first win in Monaco in 2008, his first win at the British Grand Prix in 2008 in extremely wet conditions, winning by over a minute from Nick Heidfeld, to his charge to victory at the 2008 German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, his first victory of the 2009 season in Hungary after McLaren managed to get back up to speed after a difficult start to 2009, his amazing drive in China in 2011 after almost being forced to start from the pit-lane due to a technical issue, then his first victory with Mercedes in Hungary in 2013, to a number of countless performances over the last six seasons that have left us all watching in awe!

The question for 2020 for Hamilton is, can he equal Schumacher’s record? Only time will tell with that one, but you wouldn’t bet against him, that is for sure!

For his teammate Bottas, he has only been outscored by two points by Hamilton over the last four races, and will be looking to beat him over the last two races to give himself a huge confidence boost heading into 2020.

Behind the two Mercedes drivers, there is a three-way battle for third in the championship between Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc (249 points), Max Verstappen (235 points) from Red Bull Racing-Honda, and Leclerc’s teammate in Vettel (230 points).

Leclerc has had a magnificent first season at Ferrari, winning both in Belgium and Italy, as well as taking seven pole positions, while Verstappen has been simply superb in dragging the Red Bull car to two race victories in Austria and Germany, as well as securing his first career pole position in Hungary, but Vettel hasn’t quite been at his best in 2019, with his only win this year so far coming at the Singapore Grand Prix.

Leclerc can claim third in the world championship this weekend if he outscores Verstappen by 13 points, and Vettel by eight points.

Behind the Top Five in the standings, Alexander Albon (84 points) has moved up to sixth in the championship for Red Bull Racing-Honda after finishing fifth at the Circuit of the Americas, and has now been officially confirmed as Verstappen’s teammate at Red Bull for 2020.

However, Carlos Sainz Jr. (80 points) for McLaren-Renault, and Pierre Gasly (77 points) for Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda will be looking to challenge Albon for sixth in the standings over the course of the final two races of 2019.

Completing the Top 10 in the world championship are Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo (46 points), and Sergio Pérez (44 points) from Racing Point-BWT Mercedes.

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (695 points) lead by 216 points over Ferrari (479 points) as they look to score 700 points in a season for the fourth time in the last six seasons, with Red Bull Racing-Honda (366 points) 113 points behind Ferrari, with both Ferrari and Red Bull locked into second and third respectively.

Behind the Top Three, McLaren-Renault (121 points) are on the verge of officially securing fourth in the championship, which would be their first Top Four finish in the Constructors’ Championship since 2012, when they finished third, with Renault (83 points) looking like finishing in fifth, a spot worse than in 2018.

Behind those two, Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (65 points) and Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (64 points) are in a titanic battle for sixth with only a point separating the two teams with two races remaining, while Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (35 points) and Haas-Ferrari (28 points) are in a battle for eighth with Williams-Mercedes (one point) looking certain to finish 10th and last.

So, who is going to win the 2019 Brazil Grand Prix?

Mercedes have found some form in recent races, winning the last four, and you feel that a big weekend, and a huge performance is just around the corner from Lewis Hamilton to really put the icing on the cake celebrating his sixth world championship. I think he will win in Brazil for the third time, and end his eight race drought without a pole position in the process!

2019 Valencian GP (MotoGP) – Preview

Maverick Viñales grabbed just his second race victory of the season at the 2019 Malaysian Grand Prix, Marc Márquez came from 11th on the grid to be second after the opening lap, and after an early battle with Jack Miller, managed to hold second place right until the end of the race, while Andrea Dovizioso finished third from 10th on the grid after a race-long battle with Valentino Rossi.

So, the season is about to come to an end, and the grid heads to Valencia in Spain for the 2019 Valencian Grand Prix, the 19th and final round of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship.

Márquez (395 points) leads the championship by a dominant 139 points for the Repsol Honda Team over Dovizioso (256 points) from Mission Winnow Ducati in what has been a truly extraordinary season for the Spaniard.

Márquez has achieved 11 wins in 2019 so far, just two away from his tally in 2014, but has had 17 podiums, the most by anyone in a premier class season, one more than he had in his rookie season in MotoGP back in 2013, and three more than what he had in 2014.

However, what is mind-blowing is that he has now scored the most points in a premier class season, 12 more points than what his current teammate Jorge Lorenzo did back in 2010, and now only needs five points in Valencia to become the first rider in any class to score 400 points or more in a single season.

Also, if Márquez can outscore Dovizioso by nine points or more in Valencia, it will be the biggest world championship winning points-scoring margin in history, surpassing the 147-point winning margin Rossi had over Marco Melandri in the 2005 MotoGP World Championship.

However, regardless of whether this happens in Valencia or not, the question will be afterwards whether Márquez can replicate this in 2020, and by the way he has performed on the Honda, you struggled to see anyone truly halting his charge towards immortality in the sport.

Meanwhile, Dovizioso just needs six points to score more points in 2019 than in any other season since he has been in the premier class since 2008. He scored 261 points in taking Márquez to a final round championship battle back in 2017, but has been nowhere near challenging the great Spaniard in 2019.

Behind the Top Two in the world championship, there is a battle for third between Viñales (201 points from Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP, and Álex Rins (194 points) from Team SUZUKI ECSTAR.

Both riders have had inconsistent seasons by their standards, suffering four and three race retirements respectively, but have shown some flashes of their brilliance, with Viñales producing magnificent performances at Assen and Sepang, while Rins won at the Circuit of the Americas, taking advantage of the only race crash of 2019 for Márquez, and then beating the now six-time MotoGP World Champion in a race long duel at Silverstone.

So, for Viñales to finish third in the 2019 MotoGP World Championship:

1. If he finishes ahead of Rins.

2. If Rins wins in Valencia, Viñales must finish in second.

3. If Rins finishes in second, Viñales must finish in third.

4. If Rins finishes in third, Viñales must finish seventh or higher.

5. If Rins finishes in fourth, Viñales must finish 10th or higher.

6. If Rins finishes in fifth, Viñales must finish 12th or higher.

7. If Rins finishes in sixth, Viñales must finish 13th or higher.

8. If Rins finishes in seventh, Viñales must finish 14th or higher.

9. If Rins finishes in eighth, Viñales must finish 15th or higher.

10. If Rins finishes ninth or lower.

Behind the Top Four in the standings, Danilo Petrucci (176 points) is fifth in the championship for Mission Winnow Ducati despite not achieving a podium in his last 11 races, just ahead of Fabio Quartararo (172 points) from Petronas Yamaha SRT and Valentino Rossi (166 points) from Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP, while Jack Miller (149 points) from Alma Pramac Racing, Cal Crutchlow (133 points) from LCR Honda, and Franco Morbidelli (115 points) from Petronas Yamaha SRT complete the Top 10 in the world championship.

In terms of the Teams’ Championship, only two points separate Mission Winnow Ducati (432 points) and the Repsol Honda Team (430 points). For the Repsol Honda Team to win the Teams’ Championship, they must outscore Mission Winnow Ducati by two points or more in Valencia.

So, who is going to win the final race of the season in Valencia?

It should be a cracking race, as it usually is in Valencia, and with fine, but cool conditions expected, it should give every top competitor a chance of victory, but given his dominance in 2019, and that once in 2019 has he failed to bounce back after not winning the previous race, you would have to tip Marc Márquez to finish 2019 on a high!

2019 United States Grand Prix – Preview

Despite expectations of not being as competitive compared to their rivals, Lewis Hamilton delivered Mercedes a wonderful victory at the 2019 Mexico Grand Prix, his 10th for the season, the 83rd of his career, and is now very much on the verge, if he wasn’t already, of becoming a six-time world champion as the grid heads to the Circuit of the Americas for the 2019 United States Grand Prix, Round 19 of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship.

Hamilton (363 points) leads the championship by 74 points over teammate Valtteri Bottas (289 points) after a brilliant drive at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, with Mercedes outsmarting Ferrari on strategy to allow Hamilton to jump ahead of Sebastian Vettel in the battle for the win, and Bottas to move, and then stay ahead of Charles Leclerc in the fight for third.

With that result for Hamilton, he has an even better opportunity to move to within one of Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world championships this weekend if (and please note that you must finish inside the Top 10 in the race to claim a point for setting the fastest lap):

1. If Bottas wins the race (with the fastest lap), Hamilton must finish 8th or higher.

2. If Bottas wins the race (without the fastest lap), Hamilton must finish 9th (with the fastest lap if he finishes in 9th) or higher.

3. If Bottas finishes second or lower (with or without the fastest lap).

Behind the Top Two in the championship, Leclerc (236 points) sits in third in the standings for Ferrari, six points ahead of teammate Vettel (230 points) after finishing a disappointing fourth in the end at the Mexico Grand Prix after inheriting pole position from Red Bull Racing-Honda driver Max Verstappen, his seventh for the season, which means he cannot be overtaken for most pole positions in 2019, but Ferrari must review and rectify their inability to convert pole positions, and front row starts in victories in the last three races of 2019 if they are going to give themselves the best chance of success against Mercedes in 2020.

Verstappen (220 points) is fifth in the world championship after a disappointing Mexico Grand Prix after firstly being stripped of pole position after failing to adhere to the yellow flag after the Bottas accident, followed by a scruffy opening lap of the race, and then being forced to pit at the end of Lap Five after suffering a tyre puncture after the front wing of Bottas’ car made contact with the right rear tyre on Lap Four, but managed to fight his way back to finish in sixth.

The circumstances surrounding Verstappen being stripped of pole position, and the subsequent three-place grid penalty, will be something that he will learn from going forward, but the race stewards should have reported the incident earlier than they did, and quite possibly, both Verstappen and the race stewards should have taken into account that Verstappen would have still been on pole position even if that final lap wasn’t completed, and you would hope that both parties will learn from this experience going forward.

Behind Verstappen in the championship, there is a huge three-way battle for sixth between Pierre Gasly (77 points) from Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda, Carlos Sainz Jr. (76 points) from McLaren-Renault, and Alexander Albon (74 points) from Red Bull Racing-Honda, although you sense that Albon will be the favourite to take sixth by the end of the season due to the superior car that he has underneath him, compared to the Toro Rosso and McLaren.

Racing Point-BWT Mercedes driver Sergio Pérez (43 points), and Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo (38 points) complete the Top 10 in the standings after both achieved points-scoring finishes in Mexico.

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (652 points), who are just four points from surpassing their points tally of 2018 (655), and 17 points from surpassing their points tally of 2017 (668), lead by 186 points over Ferrari (466 points), with Ferrari being 125 points ahead of Red Bull Racing-Honda (341 points) with three races remaining.

Ferrari can claim second in the Constructors’ Championship for the third-straight season, and the fourth time in the last five years if Red Bull Racing-Honda don’t outscore Ferrari in the United States by 37 points or more.

Behind the Top Three, McLaren-Renault (111 points) are heading towards fourth in the championship, ahead of Renault (73 points), Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (64 points), and Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (64 points) battling for fifth, with Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (35 points), Haas-Ferrari (28 points), and Williams-Mercedes (one point) rounding out the field.

So, who will win the 2019 United States Grand Prix?

This should be a great race, like last year, and while Ferrari have had the one lap speed advantage over Mercedes since the mid-season break, you sense it will be Mercedes with the fastest race car this weekend, and I think Lewis Hamilton will claim his sixth Formula One World Championship in style!

2019 Malaysian GP (MotoGP) – Preview

The margin won’t say so, but the 2019 Australian Grand Prix was one of the best races of the year, with plenty of battles at the front of the field before it became a battle between Marc Márquez and Maverick Viñales, with Márquez shadowing Viñales for a number of laps until the final lap, when Márquez made his move, passing Viñales on the Gardner Straight/into the Doohan Corner (Turn One).

Viñales tried all he could to overtake Márquez, but crashed out on the final lap entering the braking zone of Turn 10, throwing away a certain podium, and Márquez went onto claim his third win at Phillip Island, his 11th for the season, and the 55th of his premier class career, overtaking Mick Doohan into third on the all-time premier class winners list.

However, there is still plenty on the line for not only Márquez, but also the rest of his rivals as we head into the penultimate round, the 2019 Malaysian Grand Prix, Round 18 of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship.

Márquez (375 points) leads the championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 135 points over Andrea Dovizioso (240 points) from Mission Winnow Ducati after winning in Australia, and despite having the world championship well and truly wrapped up, Márquez still has plenty to play for, including equalling his win tally from 2014 of 13, as well as the record for the most points in a premier class season, Márquez currently just eight points away from Jorge Lorenzo’s record of 383 points that was set back in 2010, and the biggest world championship winning margin, with the Spaniard’s lead just 12 points away from Valentino Rossi’s record winning margin of 147 points set back in 2005 when the great Italian was at the peak of his powers.

Meanwhile, Dovizioso has secured second in the championship for the third-straight season in what has been a difficult season overall with two races remaining.

Behind the Top Two though, it is a giant battle for third in the standings between Álex Rins (183 points) from Team SUZUKI ECSTAR, Viñales (176 points) from Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP, Danilo Petrucci (169 points) from Mission Winnow Ducati, and Fabio Quartararo (163 points) from Petronas Yamaha SRT.

However, the only rider to finish the 2019 Australian Grand Prix from these four riders was Rins, who finished in a lowly ninth after another disappointing qualifying session, qualifying 12th in a performance symptomatic of his season, and his performance over one lap is something that must be addressed if he is to ever challenge for a MotoGP World Championship.

Behind those four, Valentino Rossi (153 points) from Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP, Jack Miller (141 points) from Alma Pramac Racing, and Cal Crutchlow (133 points) from LCR Honda are still in the hunt for third in the championship, but it will be a tall order for those three to challenge the four ahead of them in the standings for third.

However, the performances of Crutchlow in finishing second, and Miller in finishing in third at Phillip Island were simply magnificent, and they will be hoping to take this form into the final two races of 2019.

Behind them, Franco Morbidelli (105 points) closes out the Top 10 for Petronas Yamaha SRT.

In terms of the Teams’ Championship, the Repsol Honda Team (408 points) are somehow, thanks largely to the performances of Márquez, just a single point behind Mission Winnow Ducati (409 points) heading into the final two races as Honda look to win the Riders’, Constructors’, and Teams’ championships.

So, who is going to win the 2019 Malaysian Grand Prix?

There is only one rider that you could tip with confidence, supreme confidence, to win this weekend, and is probably in his best form since the first 10 races of 2014. It has got to be Marc Márquez to claim his sixth-straight race victory, and win the Malaysian Grand Prix for just the third time in the premier class.