Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Formula 1, 3 Rounds to go, Rosberg or Hamilton?

As the year is coming to an end, some of the sports competitions will also reach their conclusion. Champions will be crowned while losers will suffer the ignominy of defeat. A whole of the others will ponder to themselves during their off season, “what if we had done this and gotten the results…”.

What a year it has been for Formula 1 this year. While Mercedes has definitely dominated the field with their deep understanding in producing the new power units required for this season, they had left the field with a lot of catching up to do. In fact, they are so far ahead in the competition where usually Mercedes GP usually wins the races. Not only that, with them being the engine supplier for Williams, they too managed to get into the front-runners consistently. Even though Mercedes GP has already secured the constructors titles, the real fight has only just begun with their 2 drivers.

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg has been going at each other throughout the season. While Hamilton had won the title before, this year seems to be Rosberg’s breakout year, with a string of good results and wins. Both drivers were also dogged by reliability issues where they did not finish in a couple of races.

The 2 of them were actually team mates during their karting days and forged a good friendship throughout the years. Since Hamilton joined Mercedes last year, I had actually thought that the 2 of them could actually work well together to put up a good show for the team. Last year was not that bad as Mercedes did not have a particularly good car and there was not much pressure on anyone of them. This year was actually a whole new story. With Rosberg being more consistent in his car and Hamilton having reliability issues in the first half of the season, Rosberg led the standings throughout. Even when Hamilton was racing, both of them were so far ahead and the team principal actually allowed them to race each other. They provided a lot of close wheel to wheel actions throughout the season. They seemed to enjoy every moment of that and it seemed like 2 close friends having friendly competitions between them.

As Rosberg continued to lead, Hamilton was fast gaining onto Rosberg’s lead. The pressure to win and become champion proved too much for the 2 drivers. Slowly their friendship would be severely tested until the point that during media interviews that only address each other as team mates. Testy relationships are pretty common when you have 2 ace drivers in the rank. Just think back towards the last few seasons with Redbull Racing. Sebastien Vettel and Mark Webber clashed constantly, but their objectives are to win and they helped Redbull brought home 4 consecutive constructors’ title. Going a bit further back when Fernando Alonso joined Mclaren Mercedes, he was welcomed by then rookie, Hamilton. Although Hamilton was a rookie, he showed his talent and pushed Alonso all the way. In the end Alonso left Mclaren Mercedes after just one season.

The pressure could have gotten into Rosberg this year because he really felt that he can be a world champion. He might not even have the luck or opportunity after this season, but he is coming up against his team mate. Rosberg had shown that he has the hunger to win every races and he want’s to be a world champion. Hamilton seemed more matured in his drives this year and looked just a little bit faster and more consistent when it mattered.

Provided the 2 of them finishes the next 2 races in United States and Brazil, the championship will definitely come down to the final race at Abu Dhabi. With double points on offer at the last race, the pressure for each of them will be so huge that one can only anticipate a good fight till the end. Although as much as I prefer Rosberg, I believe Hamilton will prevail comes Abu Dhabi. His experience and guts and precision during overtaking will push him through to win his second world driver’s title this year.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

S League 2014

As we come to the end of the 2014 S League season this Friday, we will witness the crowning of a new S League Champion, but who will it be? In addition, the legendary and well respected Aleksander Duric will be playing his last match of his professional career, finally drawing his curtains to a close after an illustrious decade in Singapore.

Although the championship could go either ways, Brunei DPMM is the clear favourites when they beat Albirex Nigata to put them level on points with Warriors FC and ahead on goal difference. However their last match will see them playing against Tampines Rovers, the defending champions for the last 3 seasons. It will definitely be a close and tough match, considering the Rovers would surely want Duric to go out on a high. 

Albirex Nigata should have won against Brunei DPMM and made the final day a 3 horse race. But with their domination of possession football and coming close a few time, they failed to break down DPMM. a lapse of concentration in defence saw DPMM nicked in a header which proved to be the winner, thus sending the White Swans out of the title race. If they had won the match, their final match will be against Warriors FC and what a match it could turn out to be. The epic last day battle between 2 title challengers while their destinies might also depend on the results elsewhere. 

The Warriors might have started out slowly in the season, they have slowly and surely shown their quality and commitment by constantly producing results. Their mental toughness brought them to the top of the summit only just a few weeks ago, while Brunei was inconsistent and unable to extend their advantage. Alex Weaver had done well with the team since taking over midway last season. There's a lot more fight in the team and they are grinding out the results. Winning the league title will also help Weaver in his credentials where he was unceremoniously dumped by Hougang United. 

So now it's down to the wire between Brunei and Warriors. As a Singaporean, I hope the S League title can stay in Singapore, which means Warriors have to win and hope Tampines beat or draw against Brunei. It is not a good feeling that our local teams could not even win in our local domestic league. Just ask the Malaysians how they felt when we last won the Malaysian Super League in 2013. On top of that, Brunei could not even qualify for the Suzuki Cup, where their players are effectively their DPMM local players and coached by Steve Kean. So if Brunei DPMM wins the S League, that could really show our quality of football and development compared to the region.