Category Archives: Opinion

Chelsea Column: Werner rising as The Blues try not to sink

After another monotonous international break, and with another coming up, it’s time to look back at the last month of action for Chelsea.

For me, it was a very mixed month and one that has been very difficult to put into words. Under Tuchel, Chelsea fans have been able to enjoy very good football regardless of the opponent that they have come across.

This month feels very different, so, let’s get into it!

Unconvincing performances, but we’re still in the race.

Chelsea have been poor in almost every game I have seen over the last month. However, we have only dropped points in one Premier League game and lost one Champions League game.

Thiago Silva opened Chelsea’s account in their 3-0 win over Spurs

How has this happened?

Against Aston Villa at the start of September, we were being comfortably outplayed for much of the game, but Chelsea won 3-0. Against Spurs, we had no control of the ball in the first half, but Chelsea won 3-0.

Two games that the scoreline did not reflect the story of the game, but despite that, six goals, six points; and Chelsea are still in the top four despite a loss to Man City.

This Chelsea are not playing at their best. Far from it. Lukaku struggles to get into games and Werner is not the player that you usually want to turn to for goals.

The game against Spurs was a perfect example of what Chelsea have been like over the last month. All three goals came from defensive players: Thiago Silva, N’golo Kante and Antonio Rudiger. Those three players were probably a better front three than Mount, Havertz and Lukaku in that game.

Lukaku is a game-changing and in games where he hasn’t been able to get involved, it’s been very difficult for Chelsea to get a good result. Despite not getting a goal against Southampton, he was still able to make an impact which saw Chelsea win comfortably.

We are still in the early days of Lukaku and Werner up front and it’s had it’s ups and downs, but Chelsea need to make it work better.

The week from hell

Not winning in three games is a tough pill for Chelsea fans to swallow, especially when it happens in three separate competitions.

Chelsea fans were left worried after defeat to Juventus in the Champions League

It started with a Carabao Cup match against Aston Villa. Werner opened up the scoring, but it was cancelled out in a matter of minutes as Archer’s goal sent the game to a penalty shoot-out. Fortune favoured Chelsea as they won 4-3. Lucky escape.

Chelsea would not be so lucky when City rolled past Chelsea to get revenge for the Champions League final back in May.

Tuchel tried to play two up top with Werner and Lukaku, but behind was very defensive. Chelsea failed to register a single shot on target. When Tuchel finally reverted to the old system, it was too late as City were already a goal up. Pep was not going to give up this lead and he didn’t.

It was now time to end the way of misery with an away trip to Juventus in the Champions League.

This was going to be a tough test. After the disappointment against City, this game provided the perfect scenario for a bounce back. It never came as Chelsea suffered another 1-0 defeat.

Juventus had experience against Lukaku and kept him quiet. From there they resisted everything Chelsea tried to throw at them and struck hard when the opportunity came about.

That opportunity came 11 seconds into the second half. A long ball and a header was enough to break Chelsea’s defence and Chiesa thundered the ball past Mendy.

Questions were rightfully raised, and some were answered a few days later.

A Werner renaissance? Or a Loftus-Cheek masterclass?

Against Southampton, we started to see more of the Werner of old. He scored twice and I am very firm on the view that his first should have counted.

Timo Werner gets his first league goal of the season with an impressive display against Southampton

It was the softest of touches by Azpilicueta as Walker-Peters threw himself to the ground in a performance that was Oscar-worthy. But Timo did not give up. He had another chance, but it was excellently saved by McCarthy.

Southampton had levelled the game when James Ward-Prowse equalised through a penalty. But with six minutes to go the mighty German stepped up and scored the winner. This was further cemented through a third goal, this one scored by Ben Chilwell.

Werner played further up top than Lukaku in this game as Lukaku was paired up with Hudson-Odoi in attacking midfield.

Lukaku used his strength and speed to create great opportunities for Werner and we finally to got to see Werner play some great football.

But other than Werner, we saw the return of Ruben Loftus-Cheek to the Chelsea starting XI. What an impact he made.

Loftus-Cheek has been a forgotten man at Chelsea since his injury a few seasons ago. He went on loan to Palace and Fulham and never made much of an impact.

In this game, he was quick. His work rate in both halves of the pitch was like his was a much taller N’golo Kante. He looked phenomenal and it was great to see.

I have often worried about his career and wondered if he needed to leave Chelsea permanently to forge a meaningful career. The fact that Tuchel has been willing to give him a chance in this team, must be a great showing of faith in what he can do, especially with Kante out with Covid.

Does anything need to change?

At the moment, I think that Tuchel is just trying new things, because performances haven’t been the best lately and something did need to change.

Gabriel Jesus scores the winning goal in Chelsea’s first league defeat this season

I think it was down to some players not being at their best yet rather than the system. Mason Mount is a player that I could point to and say that he has not been at his best. The same could be said for Havertz or Ziyech.

By introducing Loftus-Cheek, Hudson-Odoi and Barkley back into the team, we are seeing almost new life being put into the squad. These are players who are looking to make an impact to secure a place in the squad and the team.

The players have another international break to stop and go again in two weeks. October should be a very straight forward month for Chelsea with games against Brentford, Norwich and Newcastle in the Premier League.

If Chelsea hope to continue their title push, these games have to be wins. We shall see.

In the Pit Lane – What is Dimitry Mazepin’s next move?

The “American” Team

As the F1 circus moves on to Sochi for the next round of the 2021 season, Russian President Vladimir Putin will no doubt be pleased the Haas cars can circumvent the ban on drivers racing under the Russian flag with the adoption of the ‘Russian-themed’ livery.

Haas have courted much controversy for their perceived Russian flag livery. Image: Autosport

The irony of course is Haas arrived on the F1 scene with the emphasis on the team being F1’s American team!

Much has been written over why Gene Haas remains in F1, with various theories doing the rounds.

One school of thought is Gene Haas turned down the more than generous offers tabled in 2019 by the Saudi’s and Dmitry Mazepin from a patriot standpoint ensuring an American team remains on the grid. 

This may have been in doubt, as William’s new owners’ American private equity firm Dorilton Capital was also rumoured to be ‘having a look’ at Haas. The patriotic angle can now be dismissed, however, as news has emerged that Michael Andretti’s Andretti Autosport approached Gene Haas to buy the team only to be turned down.

Andretti Autosport is in the process of raising $287.5m to top up its available spending pot to $400m. Andretti was a potential bidder for Force India, and only walked away when faced with what they perceived to be ridiculous valuations.

With Williams, Dorilton outbid all interested parties to secure the ownership for its unknown mystery beneficial owner.

Andretti back in F1?

Andretti Autosport is a serious player running a 4-car Indy team. a Formula E team with BMW, a 4-car Indy Lights team, and an LMP3 car in the ISMA’s Sportscar series.

Andretti’s IndyCars are just one of the outfits racing teams

Undeterred by Gene Haas’ rebuttal, Michael Andretti confirmed a continuing interest in F1 telling Racer magazine, “If the right opportunity comes up, we’ll be all over it. But we’re not there yet, It would be great, but there’s a long way to go if it were to happen.”

Instead of selling, Gene Haas took Mazepin’s sponsorship Rubles in return for Junior’s race seat and of course the opportunity to brand the cars. Mazepin Sr. may or may not be disappointed with Nikia’s performance to date, but he is apparently delighted with the global exposure his company Uralkali has received.

The sponsorship has been instrumental in opening doors and has resulted in new business that has more than recouped his investment.

Could Mazepin invest outside of Haas?

The world’s biggest potash producer has just got even bigger, and this may have increased his desire to own a team not only for his son’s career but for the business opportunity that F1 presents not dissimilar to Lawrence Stroll’s F1 journey.

Unsurprisingly, Mazepin Senior has funded his son’s racing career from the get-go

If Mazepin wants to own a team, there are only two other realistic options, Williams, or Sauber, but both will in all likelihood be out of reach. 

In William’s case, if Mazepin writes a big enough cheque, you would naturally assume a private equity firm would do what private equity firms do, namely take the money and run. 

A similar scenario exists at Sauber aka Alfa Romeo which is owned by billionaire Swedish Finn Rausing worth $14.4bn courtesy of the Tetra Pak empire. Rausing became involved in F1 when back in 2016, he was approached by fellow Swede Marcus Ericsson who drove for the Sauber F1 team that was in financial difficulties.

Rausing bought out owner Peter Sauber and chief executive Monisha Kaltenborn initially through his secretive Swiss investment firm Longbow Finance SA, later transferring the ownership to himself. He appointed trusted family friend Pascal Picci as chairman and took no active role in the running of the team.

Rausing quietly attendees race weekends without any media attention.

He is a regular visitor to the factory in Hinwil, Switzerland spending hours happily chatting away to engineers. Rausing currently supports the team to the tune of $20-$30m, so it may be like Williams a heart and not a head decision. Well, he’s got to spend his money on something!

Mazepin F1 on the way?

The million-dollar question, or more accurately the multi-million-dollar question, is would Mazepin start a new team with all that involves?

Well, Liberty Media would like to expand the number of teams on the grid after the pandemic has ended. Sporting Director Ross Brawn commented to Russian broadcaster RT in July 2020, “If there was interest from a Russian team or any other that we thought was sustainable then we would be fully open to exploring the opportunity.”

One option for Mazepin would be to join forces with fellow Russian billionaire Boris Rotenberg, founder of the Russian bank SMP. Along with his brother Arkady, Boris owns the SGM Group, the largest construction company for gas pipelines and electrical power supply lines in Russia.

Rotenberg is a close confidant of President Vladimir Putin from his childhood. Both men learned judo together in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg).

Rotenburg has had a few issues…

It’s not all been plain sailing for Boris. Image: Moscow Times

The SGM Group was involved in large infrastructure projects in Crimea, which after the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014 led to American sanctions of both brothers and their assets.

The U.S. Treasury claimed that Putin had awarded the Rotenberg’s billions of dollars in contracts from Gazprom and for the Sochi Winter Olympics. 

EU sanctions followed, but only covered property in Rome and Sardinia valued at €30m.

As Rotenberg held Finnish citizenship, due to a previous marriage to a Finnish citizen, he bypassed the sanctions. The assets included three villas in Eze, Nice, and Rotenberg’s racing team SMP Racing, which also trains drivers in the city of Le Luc, France.

SMP Racing has a host of Russian drivers on its books, including ex-Williams F1 driver Sergey Sirotkin and rising star Robert Schwartzman.

Rotenberg has more than money behind him…

Rotenberg is a confirmed petrolhead and raced in a variety of series from 2011 to 2014 with his biggest achievement coming 2nd in the 2012 – 24 hours of Barcelona race.

Rotenberg is interested in forming an all-Russian F1 team using SMP racing and made clear his intentions back in October 2019 at the Russian Grand Prix. He said, “The more you try to create in motorsport, the more chance you have to flourish. Do we want to create a Formula 1 team? I think the more teams there are, the more opportunities there will be for our drivers.

“Everything is possible. The main thing is to make the effort. First of all, are the financial considerations.”

Well, in 2020 Rotenberg planned to invest in Dutch car maker Spyker that would enable the company to resume producing a range of three sportscars in 2021 namely The C8 Preliator supercar, the D8 Peking-to-Paris SUV, and the b6 Ventator supercar. 

Hoping to emulate Ferrari, McLaren, and Aston Martin with a sportscar manufacturer sponsoring their own F1 team Rotenberg ambitiously claimed, “Our group of companies will launch the Spyker brand successfully in the league of the world’s best super sportscars.”

Alas, it all ended in tears with the investment never materialising and Spyker filing for bankruptcy in January.

In May 2021 BR Engineering, the race car constructor established by SMP Racing released details of their third single-seater car, the BR03 developed specifically for the Russian market.

Rotenberg may be down but is not out and no doubt is planning his next move aboard his brother’s $75m superyacht ‘Rahil’.

So, will a combination of Mazepin’s money and Rotenberg’s expertise create a new all-Russian F1 team?

Time will tell.

Garry Sloan is an author, columnist, and podcaster more details at garrysloan.com

Copyright ©2021 Garry Sloan

[Note: The opinions expressed on this website are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors and/or publishers.]

Chelsea Column: Could this be the start of a Title winning season?

Football is back. The Premier League is back, which means that my monthly Chelsea columns are back.

Chelsea are the reigning European champions which means that expectations have never been higher and there will be a lot more pressure of Tuchel this season.

The Premier League seems to be the target set by the fans, and given how Chelsea have strengthened over the summer, it looks like it could be in reach.

While I have been cynical on Chelsea’s chance, the last month has given me an insight on what could be a great season for Chelsea.

Have Chelsea already proven themselves championship worthy?

Chelsea have taken seven points from their first three games, breezing past Arsenal, and getting a crucial draw at Liverpool.

Kai Havertz got his first goal of the season against Liverpool. Credit: NBC

After going down to 10 men and conceding a penalty away to Liverpool, it did look as though Liverpool would run away with the game in the second half. However, Chelsea dug deep and held on.

Liverpool threw everything they had at Chelsea and a defiant defence stopped Liverpool getting a winner. Despite being a man down, it didn’t stop Chelsea getting forward and almost winning it themselves.

That result shows how far Tuchel has brought this Chelsea in the 8 months that he has been in charge. The Chelsea of old would have failed to keep Liverpool at bay, but the discipline in the defence is going to make it incredibly difficult for any team to score against Chelsea.

This goes to show that the result against Liverpool could be the result that defines them as Championship contenders this season, more so than the cruising victory over Arsenal.

Lukaku showed in that Arsenal game just how much of a difference he is going to make. Watching Werner linger offside and miss sitters was very painful last season. Lukaku kept himself onside and bullied the defence.

He did the same against Liverpool and if it wasn’t for some poor decisions in the final third, he could have scored a couple.

Chelsea have all the ingredients to do it, but there are still 35 games remaining and anything could happen.

Another fortunate Champions League draw

Next month, Chelsea will start their defence of their Champions League title. Considering the last time they failed to get out of the group stages, I’ll be hoping for better this time around.

Trevor Chalobah has burst into the Chelsea squad with two impressive games. Credit: Getty Images

Chelsea have been drawn against Juventus, just like in 2012, as well as Malmo FF and Zenit St. Petersburg. On paper, this should be a pretty simple group, and one that Chelsea will be expected to win.

Of course, PSG will be the favourite for the Champions League, but I wouldn’t rule out Chelsea going far in the competition again. Chelsea still have a very strong side and they are capable of beating each team in the competition.

I’m not expecting Chelsea to win the Champions League, far from it. I’ll be happy with the Quarterfinals and anything beyond that will be a bonus.

My expectation of Chelsea is just to compete in cup competitions and as long as we can do ourselves proud then I’ll be happy.

I am really looing forward to playing Juventus. It has been a long time since Chelsea have played Juve in a competitive game. With the Old Lady no longer having Ronaldo, I do believe that Chelsea have a better chance of topping the group.

I expect a big step up from English teams in the Champions League this season and I think it’s going to be very competitive, so if Chelsea can get into the quarterfinals then that will be an achievement.

What should be Chelsea’s goals for this season?

In terms of the Premier League, Chelsea have to compete for the title. People seem to think that Chelsea have to win it after the Champions League victory, but I don’t think that is the case.

Marcos Alonso kicked off Chelsea’s season with a fantastic goal against Crystal Palace. Credit: Getty.

City, United and Liverpool are all going to be very competitive this season. The battle for the league could be one of the closest amongst the top four that we have seen in a long time.

Chelsea are going to have to work hard if they want to come out on top spot, but whether or not it’s possible is still yet to be seen.

September is going to be a very tough test for Chelsea and their title hopes. First up after the international break is Aston Villa, followed by Manchester City and then Spurs. If Chelsea can go through that undefeated then their stamp on the title race will have been made.

As for domestic trophies, Tuchel will want to make up for the loss against Leicester in the FA Cup final last season. It feels like it’s been forever since Chelsea won a domestic trophy, despite being in a domestic final for the last seven seasons running.

It’s about time that someone ended City’s dominance in the EFL Cup, so that would be nice for Tuchel to get another one up on Pep.

With how good the top four in England are at the moment, it’s going to be very difficult to get any kind of double, so getting a domestic trophy will be a good season. However, I do expect Chelsea to go on a good cup run in both domestic competitions.

For Chelsea, competing for trophies has been the minimum requirement. Now that Tuchel has won the Champions League in his first season, though, winning trophies now have to become the minimum requirement

In the Pit Lane – Lando Norris bucks the trend

A surprise pay driver

Lando Norris continues his impressive season with a podium in Austria leaving his expensive teammate Daniel Ricciardo scratching his head. Lando owes much of his success to his father’s deep pockets.

F1 has a trio of billionaire fathers backing their sons to various degrees of success namely Lawrence Stroll, Michael Latifi, and Dimitry Mazepin.

Stroll and Mazepin seniors have both backed their sons’ Formula 1 careers so far

The debate on a father paying for a race seat goes along the lines of is it fair or right that the sons concerned get the drive regardless of talent compared to other drivers who get a drive and financial backing due to talent.

Well, Lando Norris may be bucking the trend. Lando is a pay driver, a fact not often publicised, but his millionaire father has coughed up $44m to date to ensure Jnr’s racing career.

The good news for Norris and McLaren is the kid has the talent, witnessed by multiple karting championships, a F3 championship, and now top ten finishes in F1.

Who is Norris senior?

His dad Adam Norris made his fortune as a founder of stockbroking firm Hargreaves Landsdown and is believed to be sitting on a $200m cash pile.

Even by F1 standards, Norris Snr is a rich man

He first got the chequebook out at McLaren through his Horatio Investments fund back in 2017 to secure Lando’s role as test driver. Lando was upgraded to reserve driver in 2018 before landing the coveted race seat in 2019 in a three-year deal costing Snr $12m a year.

A true win-win

The difference from say Latifi is McLaren knew Lando was potentially the real deal, so it was a win-win for the team.

This year it was announced Lando had signed a three-year deal but not before Norris Snr had got the chequebook out again this time paying $5m a year.

2021 Austrian GP
Norris has done his talking out on-track and showed why he’s a special talent

Norris Snr knew McLaren had the upper hand as they could provide a competitive car unlike other teams who would welcome his cash and so he went in for a penny in for $59m. McLaren again scored a win-win with Norris agreeing to pay the cash-strapped team the three-year cost of $15m upfront.

Lando has always rather naively played down his father’s cash stating, “I don’t really like to talk about it, but compared to Lance Stroll my father is not nearly as wealthy.” For the Norris family, it’s worth spending big bucks matching the talent to a competitive team and avoiding the scenario that is Williams or Haas.

Uncertain future for other teams

At Williams, Nicholas Latifi brings a staggering $30m to the team in the shape of both his father’s money and sponsorship from Royal Bank of Canada and coffee giant Lavazza. Williams also tap another billionaire, Sylvan Adams who pays $6-7m for his protégé Roy Nissany’s role as test driver.

It does beg the question if Russell goes to Mercedes, will Adams write a bigger cheque to secure the race seat for Nissany in 2022?

At Haas, Mazepin Snr is backing Nikita by providing Gene Haas with $12m of sponsorship and a ‘contribution’ of $8m in what may be a ‘try before you buy’ deal.

For Mick Schumacher, the German communications company 1&1 pay $12m in sponsorship but with the caveat, Mick gets the drive.

The Schumacher family stump up another $6m.

The reality is, Haas bank $18m and Mick gets to trail around at the back of the grid!

The last council estate F1 driver

At the other end of the grid, we have Sir Lewis Hamilton resigning for Mercedes-AMG wearing his ‘loyalty’ t-shirt to match his ‘loyalty’ tattoo. Lewis did not have a rich father, but Anthony Hamilton held down three jobs and spent every penny he had on his son’s racing career.

Sir Lewis will remain at Mercedes until at least 2023.

So, the F1 world was surprised at the very public falling out in 2010 when Lewis sacked Hamilton Snr as his manager.

Questions were asked of Lewis’s loyalty but as with most events F1-related it was about money.

Lewis lost the bulk of his newly earned millions when Anthony got on the wrong end of a land deal in the Caribbean Island of Grenada waving goodbye to $20m of his son’s money – ouch!

So, the debate will continue on pay drivers which also include drivers who bring sponsorship money to the table, but the crucial difference is for these drivers’ talent was paramount in securing the funding.

Garry Sloan is an author, columnist, and podcaster more details at garrysloan.com

Copyright ©2021 Garry Sloan

[Note: The opinions expressed on this website are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors and/or publishers.]

Chelsea Column: How the Blues Became Champions of Europe

As you can probably imagine, I am writing this with a slight hangover, because Saturday night will live on in my memory and the memories of Chelsea fans for the rest of their lives.

I don’t think that anyone would have thought that Chelsea would be European champions, not only after the season they’ve had, but also the month they’ve had.

It’s been a season of highs and lows, but now that it is all over, it’s time to reflect on the final month of this incredible season.

We’re still the only team in London to win a European Cup!

There can be no shadow of a doubt that Chelsea are the unrivalled biggest team in London now. Chelsea now have two Champions Leagues trophies and have won four European trophies in the last 10 years.

Credit: Getty images

Arsenal may have the history and have gone a Premier League season unbeaten, but that was 17 years ago now, and no amount of FA Cups can keep them at that top position.

We need to remember that this Chelsea team is still so young, and they are at the start of their footballing careers. There is still so much to see from these players and winning a champions League so early is great signs of things to come.

Under Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea have the potential to dominate English football, and there is no doubt that Chelsea have to be seen as title contenders for next season.

While I do have my own reservations about Chelsea’s ability to win the league, we have seen a shift under Tuchel that could see Chelsea have a much easier time in the league compared to the last couple of seasons.

But for now, it’s time to let this feeling sink in that we are European Champions. I was only 11 when Chelsea won the Champions League against Bayern Munich and while it was an amazing, I was a bit too young to fully understand the significance.

If Chelsea can beat City, why not Leicester?

Two weeks before European glory, Chelsea put in a woeful performance against Leicester City in the FA Cup final.

You could tell from minute one that Leicester wanted it more, and for Chelsea it looked like an inconvenience.

Credit: The Irish Sun

It wasn’t until Leicester went a goal ahead that Chelsea finally decide to go for it. Kasper Schmeichel made some glorious saves, before Chelsea were cruelly denied an equaliser as Ben Chilwell was only inches offside.

It was Leicester’s day and I imagine Tuchel took a lot away from that game which did help Chelsea’s preparations for the Champions League final. It was disappointing that Chelsea didn’t win the FA Cup as well, as shown a few days later, Chelsea had the ability to beat Leicester fair and square.

I had hoped that this season would be the repeat of the 2011/12 season with Chelsea getting a new manager during the season and then going on to win the FA Cup and Champions League double, but it just wasn’t to be.

However, I have to say fair play to Leicester in that game. Youri Tielemans’ goal was sensational and one that was deserving to be the match winning goal.

Chelsea have to thanks Spurs for top four

While Spurs may have not been able to finish in the top 4 this season, Chelsea fans owe them a debt of gratitude.

While it may not have mattered in the end, it did look like Chelsea would not get into the top four on the final day when Leicester went 2-1 up against Spurs.

Credit: The irish sun

Chelsea were playing Aston Villa and were losing 2-1, meaning that Chelsea would miss out by a single point and Leicester would get Champions League football.

After a Schmeichel own-goal and then two goals by Gareth Bale, Chelsea would retain their spot in the top 4 and Leicester drop down into 5th.

This season felt like a long fight to get 4th place. When Tuchel took charge, Chelsea were in 10th place. It would have been made clear to Tuchel that getting top 4 would be the highest priority.

After Lampard managed to get top four with a transfer ban, it would seem like getting top four would be easy given Chelsea spent over £200 million in the summer transfer window.

Tuchel started on the back foot and needed to turn things quickly and that’s exactly what he did. Straight away, Chelsea started to climb the table and were able to take full advantage when West Ham and Leicester started to drop off at the end of the season.

In football, you need a bit of luck and Chelsea got that in the league, but you can’t say that Chelsea didn’t deserve it.

Is Tuchel already one of the Chelsea’s best managers?

Despite the fact Di Matteo was sacked months after winning the Champions League with Chelsea, his achievements will live on in Chelsea history forever.

Credit: Getty Images

Tuchel has been in charge for only four months and yet his record as Chelsea manager is better than most that we have seen come through the revolving door at Stamford Bridge.

The impact that Tuchel has had since coming to Chelsea is up there with Jose Mourinho, yet Tuchel has managed to actually win a European trophy.

Tuchel does have a poor record with falling out with clubs and Chelsea have a poor record of falling out with managers, so it doesn’t look like a match made in heaven.

But after the game Tuchel looked so happy and it was great to see when Tuchel and Abramovich met for the very first time. Hopefully Tuchel will sign a long-term contract at Chelsea and keep building on this success.

It really is about time that Chelsea got a long-term manager and Tuchel is one of the best managers in the world. If the club can make this work then this could be the start of something great at Chelsea.

Let’s not forget about Frank Lampard

While Lampard was sacked by Chelsea four months ago, the club and the fans still need to thank him for the success that Chelsea have seen this season.

Credit: CNN

I think it goes without saying that if we had carried on with Frank this season then we would not have got top four, or got to the FA Cup final, or have won the Champions League.

But at the end of the day, Frank guided Chelsea through the Group stages in great fashion and put us in a good spot for the knock-outs.

Frank was also responsible for Chelsea’s amazing summer transfer window. The new additions to the Chelsea’s squad this season have made it easier for Tuchel to hit the ground running.

The likes of Ben Chilwell, Kai Havertz and Thiago Silva have shone under Thomas Tuchel. Werner has been getting better, but his failing are his own and nothing Tuchel can really do anything about it.

It was Frank who was able to bring in those players and also we must not forget the young talent that Frank brought in the fold which have also been a huge part of Tuchel’s success.

I was annoyed when Lampard was sacked, and I did think that he should have been given more time and it’s easy for me to say now that I am thankful that I was wrong.

I was forced to eat my words and hopefully Tuchel will continue to make those comments look foolish. This night was Tuchel’s night, and I was happy to witness his brilliance beat one of the greatest managers of all time on the biggest stage in world football.

The Rangers Invincibles – How Did They Do It?

With all the commotion arising out of Glasgow over the last few days, you may have forgotten that Rangers were recently awarded their 55th League Title. The celebratory scenes have caused significant controversy on both sides of the divide in Scotland for various reasons. However, this reporter has yet to see an article on how the league was won. Let’s change that shall we?

The Previous Season

Let’s start with some context- Celtic had been awarded their 9th title in a row due to last season being controversially ended due to the Covid-19 pandemic. At the time, Rangers could still have mathematically caught up to Celtic. Rangers were even in the driving seat to win it all at one point, but suffered a second successive post-Christmas lull.

Rangers knew they could beat Celtic on the pitch- but to win the league, they just needed a way to win crucial games against the rest of the league that they had previously suffered setbacks against, such as against Aberdeen and Hibernian.

What happened this Season?

Well, Rangers responded in a big way. While Celtic celebrated being handed their 9th title last season, Rangers rebuilt and came back swinging. They went the entire league season undefeated, having won 32 and drawn 6. They maintained a 100%-win record at home, equalled the Scottish Topflight record for most clean sheets in a season (26), the highest final points total they’ve ever recorded (102), and the highest ever points margin over Celtic (25).

Celtic’s internal troubles may have contributed somewhat to this, however, there is no denying that a change in the Rangers system led them to having this dominant league campaign.

So, how did they turn this around?

Summer Recruitment and Squad Depth

Wise recruitment over the summer meant that Rangers had sufficient depth throughout the season to cover all positions should an injury occur.

Kemar Roofe has added extra creativity to the Gers’ midfield. Image: HITC

Jon McLaughlin was signed from Sunderland to provide cover for Allan McGregor in goal, and successfully covered him at the start of the season by breaking the Scottish League record for most consecutive clean sheets at the start of the season. McLaughlin proceeded to keep 12 clean sheets in 13 appearances.

More options up front gave Rangers a chance to alternate the forward 3 in order to preserve form and to adapt to different setups. Signing former Leeds forward Kemar Roofe proved to be valuable from a creative and goalscoring viewpoint. Swiss international Cedric Itten became a sort of super-sub that was also able to change the game late on.

Changing the System Throughout

One of the biggest issues last season was that Rangers did not have a way to break down defences that parked the bus. Teams such as Motherwell and Hamilton knew if they could come and play a defensive formation with 5-at-the-back and stop Rangers from scoring.

So, how was this addressed? The addition of Roofe allowed more creative play to find ways through. Joe Aribo stepped up from midfield and was able to drag the ball through defences. But arguably the most important factor was a change in Alfredo Morelos’ role.

Gerrard’s ability to adapt his team’s approach to different opponents has been key in the teams’ success. Image: Indian Express

Morelos’ goal scoring form and temper often led him to be a target- if the defenders could get him wound up, he wouldn’t be at his goal scoring best.

So, Morelos was deployed instead as a deep-lying disruptor to draw defenders out. This allowed the likes of Ryan Kent, Roofe, and Ianis Hagi to make runs into the middle and have an open shot on goal.

Steven Gerrard’s 4-3-3 system and style of play has also been replicated throughout the entire club system, with the academy adopting it in reserve games to better prepare young players for breaking into the first team. This moulded young players such as Leon King, new young signing Calvin Bassey, and Nathan Patterson to be ready for the first team when called upon.

Patterson in particular has adapted to this well; despite his role in a restriction-breaking house party, he stepped up and covered James Tavernier’s role exceptionally during the captain’s injury in March and April.

A Team of Standouts

On top of that, several players have been in top form all season, so much so that it’s been difficult to choose a standout player. Allan McGregor is in the form of his life in goal in the twilight of his career, making some very important stops to save Rangers on several occasions.

The 39-year-old stopper showed that he may be old, but he isn’t obsolete. Image: Glasgow Times

James Tavernier has had a much more consistent year defensively and a spectacular year going forward- a right-back scoring 19 goals in a season is not a usual feat!

Connor Goldson has become unstoppable in defence- he has played every league game this season and has had a commanding presence in both boxes. His defensive capabilities this season have helped Rangers to concede only 13 league goals all season.

Steven Davis has been another standout- controlling the midfield across the league at 36 is quite something- his passes and possession retention have been key to winning the title.

It would take a while to run through the entire team, but everyone has played a big part in this title win- one that will surely be remembered for many years to come.

Chelsea Column: Champions League final here we come!

April has been a great month for Chelsea. Not only did Chelsea progress into a FA Cup final, but after a brilliant 3-1 win over Real Madrid over two legs, Chelsea have made it through to their third Champions League final.

It’s not just been a good month in cup competitions, either. Since the humiliating defeat to West Brom, Chelsea have yet again gone unbeaten in the league and it looks like they have secured a place in the top four of the Premier League..

How on earth have Chelsea got to the Champions League final?

It’s a question that I have been asking myself since the final whistle blew at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday. It’s not like Chelsea have been terrible in the Champions League this season, we had a pretty easy time of it while Lampard was still in charge.

Credit: The Independent

The group consisted of Stade Rennes, Sevilla, and Krasnodar. A group that, unsurprisingly, Chelsea topped without losing a single game.

Even when Frank was sacked and Tuchel came in, it looked as though the Champions League would be a tough road with Atletico Madrid in the round of 16. However, it was a breeze, Atletico didn’t look up for the fight and were beaten 3-0 on aggregate.

READ MORE: ‘PEPPED UP’ MANCHESTER CITY STORM INTO THEIR MAIDEN EUROPEAN FINAL

In the quarterfinals, Porto put up more of a fight and luckily for Chelsea, the game was over after the first leg, so a 1-0 defeat in the second leg didn’t matter.

The semi-final against Real was always going to be tough. Regardless of Madrid’s form or team, this is a club managed by Zidane, a serial winner. However, Tuchel and Chelsea played them off the park. I never expected that we would’ve dominated over both legs.

The fluidity in Chelsea’s defence and attack was world class and it denied Real Madrid any real chances to take control. Every time Chelsea went forward it looked like it could be a goal. If only Werner, Havertz and Mount could finish more chances, it could have been 4 or 5-1.

READ MORE: MANCHESTER UNITED HIT ROMA FOR SIX

There is no doubt that Chelsea deserve to be in the Champions League final and Manchester City will be a fine opponent. While I don’t want to count my chickens too early, it’s a winnable game, but it’s going to be far from easy.

May 29th is going to be a rough day for me and I’m going to be a nervous wreck from the moment I wake up until the final whistle.

Even if Chelsea don’t win, I don’t think I can be disappointed. I never thought we would get this far in the Champions League for a few years at least, but here we are.

2012 repeat on the horizon?

It’s not just the Champions League final that Chelsea players and fans have to look forward to, but Chelsea will play Leicester City in the FA Cup final on the 15th May.

credit: The independent

Chelsea are continuing the relatively new tradition of getting through to a domestic final in the years they get to the Champions League final. In 2008 ,Chelsea got to the League Cup final but lost to Spurs, of all teams.

In 2012 though, Chelsea got to the FA Cup final against Liverpool. Despite controversy regarding a disallowed goal for Andy Carroll, Chelsea won the game 2-1.

READ MORE: CLINICAL MANCHESTER CITY BASK IN CARABAO CUP GLORY FOR THE FOURTH CONSECUTIVE OCCASION

Roberto di Matteo had been brought in mid-way through the 2011-12 season and won us the FA Cup. This was before marching Chelsea past a Spanish side in the Champions League semi-finals with help from a misfiring striker. Sound familiar?

Winning the FA Cup would be great momentum for Chelsea in their pursuit of the top four as well as for the Champions League final.

Chelsea’s victory against Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-finals has a lot more weight to it now than it did a few weeks ago. On the day Tuchel set up his Chelsea side very well and I think City fans will agree that Pep got it all wrong.

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City never looked to have much of a chance and Chelsea only needed a single goal, which sealed them their second consecutive FA Cup final.

While people may think that this final means more for Leicester, the FA Cup has always been a special competition for Chelsea.

Chelsea have won the FA Cup six times since 2000, plus a few more final appearances. The FA Cup is always a great trophy to win. For Tuchel, it will be his first shot at a trophy since becoming Chelsea manager, so he will be keen to win it.

Leicester are going to be no slouches and will try their very hardest to win it, and while I think it will be a close game, Chelsea’s ability to kill off games quickly will be tough for Leicester to get past.

What has Tuchel done right that Lampard got so wrong?

Firstly, Tuchel has gotten the players on his side. Lampard lost faith from players like Jorginho and Rudiger. He was playing stupid systems which made Werner obsolete and, let’s face it, Havertz is not a right winger.

Credit : Sports illustrated

Tuchel came in and got those players on his side and we have seen improvement from all of them. While Werner may still need to work on his finishing, he creates so many chances and goals that he is danger to opposition teams.

Havertz has come out of his shell in Tuchel’s false 9 system, and he has been bagging some great goals, especially against Fulham and Crystal Palace.

READ MORE: MANCHESTER CITY ENJOY THE PERFECT NIGHT IN PARIS

Tuchel has sealed up our defence, except for West Brom, of course. However, the three at the back system has been working a treat. It doesn’t matter which players are put in the three, because it’s such a fluid system.

Kante is now back at his best in the holding midfield role alongside Jorginho or Kovacic. Two players that are very much underrated in this Chelsea side.

The new energy in this team is the reason why Chelsea have a three-point buffer to West Ham in the league and why Chelsea are very much on the tail of Leicester, who sit in third.

READ MORE: STALEMATE AT ELLAND ROADS ENDS TUMULTUOUS WEEK FOR MANCHESTER UNITED

This is what you would expect when you bring in someone who is as tactically sound as Tuchel is. While I was wanting Frank to be given more time at Chelsea, Tuchel has shown just how bad of a job Lampard was doing.

This Chelsea side have so much potential. It’s a young team and are still at the beginning of a long journey, but the fact that Tuchel has been able to achieve so much in so little time goes to show how good this Chelsea side are.

Now I don’t expect Chelsea to go on and win the quadruple next year, I don’t even think Chelsea will win the Premier League in the next couple of years.

But what Tuchel has managed to do with this team just goes to show that the future looks bright at Chelsea.

Hopefully.

In the Pit Lane – The Battle for Formula 1’s TV Rights Intensifies

The recently published Nielsen Sports’ report found interest in F1 was driven by younger audiences galvanised by F1’s social media, Netflix’s drive to survive, and esports.

The research found 77% of the growth came from the 16 to 35 age group, which is equivalent to 46% of F1’s fandom in 2021. Nielson Sports also predict a billion people will be interested in F1 by April 2022.

How Formula 1 sees itself

Stefano Domenicali told investors back in February that, “We saw only a marginal reduction in TV audiences, caused by multiple reasons but clearly driven by a shortened and limited geographical calendar compared to 2019, but something every major sport has experienced in 2020.

“We are proud of what we delivered in 2020 and know we have an incredibly strong fan base and audience platform to grow in the coming years.”

So as Liberty Media continues to pursue the promised land of digital streaming, the giants of Amazon, Apple, and Disney may have a serious competitor in DAZN the global sports subscription service and media company.

DAZN has just launched a 24/7 dedicated Spanish language channel DAZN F1 in Spain after reaching an agreement with Telefonica’s Moviestar+ to broadcast races until the start of 2024. The channel will have veteran Spanish F1 commentator Antonio Lobato and ex-F1 driver, Pedro de la Rosa, heading up the coverage.

READ MORE: WHY FORMULA 1 NEEDS TO BE FREE TO AIR

Who are DAZN?

DAZN is already covering most sports and is involved in motorsport covering Indycar, Formula E, Extreme E, the Dakar Rally, the World Endurance Championship, and the World Touring car series.

Extreme E is just one series that is already covered by DAZN. Image: Totally EV

It’s believed that DAZN have their sights on 20 Spanish-speaking countries and the next step will include a Portuguese F1 channel to cover 11 Portuguese-speaking countries.

In February, DAZN announced its sponsorship of the Scuderia AlphaTauri team for the 2021 season and signed Yuki Tsunoda as a brand ambassador in Japan. DAZN means business and in March 2020 they announced the expansion into 200 countries worldwide with its boxing coverage spearheading the growth.

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How DAZN navigated the pandemic

When Covid-19 struck, DAZN suffered the loss of content and an exodus of subscribers from its service which had ironically marketed its cancel anytime policy as a selling point to fans. The service did launch in December 2020 with an aggressive starting price point of £1.99 for its boxing which will have had the likes of Sky Sports worried.

In April, The Athletic website reported boxing promoter Eddie Hearn had struck a record-breaking nine-figure deal with DAZN, ending an exclusive Sky Sports partnership.

Eddie Hearn has moved from Sky to DAZN in what could shake-up the boxing world. Image: TalkSport

DAZN is ambitious and is not hanging around, with the company securing the rights to show seven exclusive Italian Serie A football matches per week in a deal worth $987m per season.

Even with these sums of money involved, DAZN co-chief executive James Rushton told SportBusiness that DAZN would make money on the deal stating, “DAZN is a high-growth tech business but the most important thing for me is doing deals on solid and sensible unit economics.

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“I’m not interested in vanity projects or making big splashes in the market that don’t make sense. We will make money on Serie A in Italy. No doubt about it.”

Rushton claims the service will be a ‘fans-first model’ by remaining ‘accessible’’ and ‘value priced’.

Not words the F1 fan who watches their sport on free-to-air TV with neither the inclination nor money to watch behind a paywall will want to hear.

Streaming killing the TV star

Rushton believes the move away from TV is inevitable telling Forbes, “There is a seminal change happening in the balance of power between linear TV and [Over the Top (OTT) providers] where rightsholders recognize the future of their sport is with platforms like DAZN,” he says. “The tipping point has happened.”

Streaming giants such as Amazon Prime Video are here to stay.

DAZN is looking to that new younger audience Liberty is cultivating hoping to attract them with flexible contracts, cheaper subscriptions, and the ability to watch on the device of their choice.

Like the other players in the market, DAZN, need to invest upfront often incurring losses witnessed by a 76% increase in subscribers pre the pandemic but a resulting $1.4 billion loss.

DAZN may not have the financial firepower of the likes of Amazon, Disney, and Apple, but it does have deep pockets as it is owned by the multinational industrial group Access Industries best known for its ownership of the Warner Music Group.

READ MORE: IN THE PIT LANE – WOLFF SET TO BECOME A BILLIONAIRE

Who else is involved?

As is often the case in F1 a billionaire is involved, step forward Ukraine-born but London-based Sir Leonard Blavatnik worth $32bn making him Britain richest man ahead of INEOS boss and Mercedes team shareholder Sir James Ratcliffe at $17bn.

Blavatnik has an estimated fortune in excess of £10bn ($13.9bn)

Blavatnick gained control of the DAZN group back in 2014, when Access Industries increased its stake in the company from 42.5% to 77%. Like fellow billionaire Dmitry Mazepin, Blavatnick made his first fortune during the ‘privatisation’ of Russian state assets selling his stake in Russian oil company TNK-BP for $7 billion back in 2013.

Blavatnick, as the 46th richest man on the planet, has all the billionaire playthings, owning the obligatory $80m 242 ft superyacht Odessa 11 and no less than 4 private jets including a $150m Boeing 767.

He is also a philanthropist having pledged over $700m mostly to universities, including Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard. Time will tell who will win the battle for F1’s coverage but no doubt as always the case in F1, cash will be king.

Garry Sloan is the author of “In the pit lane – F1 exposed” details at inthepitlane.com
Copyright ©2021 Garry Sloan

[Note: The opinions expressed on this website are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors and/or publishers.]

In the Pit Lane – Is Lawrence Stroll cash-strapped?

News broke last month that Lawrence Stroll was selling his Canadian racetrack Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant. Stroll has owned the circuit, which hosted the Canadian GP in 1968 and 1970, since 2000.

He has invested in the 2.65-mile circuit, including a new timing tower and enhanced medical facilities, valuing the venue at over $10m.

The sale comes on the back of selling his South Florida penthouse, previously owned by Oprah Winfrey, for $20m.

Citing a conflict of interest with his Aston Martin shareholding, he is in the process of selling his $220m collection of vintage Ferraris with the jewel in the crown being the $25m ex-Mark Donohue/Roger Penske Ferrari 512m.

In August 2020, several credible sources in the yachting world said Stroll’s $200m superyacht Faith had been sold to no other than one Michael Latifi!

So, is Lawrence Stroll cash-strapped?

Well, an individual’s net worth can indeed be tied up in assets and not cash, as pleaded by ex-F1 team owner billionaire Sir Richard Branson. Branson faced criticism when at the start of the pandemic, he asked for taxpayer’s help for his Virgin Atlantic airline.

Branson is obviously wealthy, but his wealth was tied up in assets rather than the bank

He responded with, “I’ve seen lots of comments about my net worth—but that is calculated on the value of Virgin businesses around the world before this crisis, not sitting as cash in a bank account ready to withdraw.”

Branson has a net worth of $4.2bn with $600m in cash and investments outside his Virgin brands.

READ MORE IN THE PIT LANE: STROLL SEALS THE BIG DEAL AGAIN

In Stroll’s case, there are substantial assets with include homes in Geneva, London, Quebec, and the Caribbean island of Mustique. Stroll amassed his fortune selling his shareholdings namely Pierre Cardin, Polo Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, and the jewel in the crown, Michael Kors, leaving him with substantial resources.

His net worth today stands at $3.2bn, up $1.4 billion since 2012, so the selling of some of his physical assets is probably not because he needs the money.

But it’s not only Stroll that owns Aston Martin

Stroll and the word consortium go hand in hand and like Branson, he is an expert in using other people’s money. Branson’s F1 team was funded by Russian sports car manufacturer Marussia and his Formula E team by Chinese wind power company Envision Energy, and both deals substantially reduced his financial exposure.

Although Stroll’s Yew Tree consortium ploughed £182m into Aston Martin an additional £500m was raised by existing investors including fellow billionaire Juan Abello. This subsequently was not sufficient, and last October Stroll refinanced the company with a £1.3bn package.

This has left Stroll with $1bn of debt sitting on the balance sheet, and the Times newspaper estimates an average interest rate of an eye-watering 16%.

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Facing the huge challenge of both the F1 team, and in particular the car company, Stroll is in all probability selling his ‘toys’ so he can remain totally focused with no external distractions. For now, gone will be the Partying witnessed by his lavish 60th birthday party at Villa Lysis in Capri with 250 guests back in 2019.

A distant memory will be last year’s wedding to long-term girlfriend Raquel Diniz, in which he took over the whole island of Mustique for 3 days. 300 guests were flown in with the select few staying at his $100m house ironically called the Great House!

READ MORE IN THE PIT LANE: ARE THE DAYS OF BIG MONEY DRIVER CONTRACTS HISTORY?

Now Stroll realises that his reputation and legacy rest on the success of his F1 team and the Aston Martin car company, both require his absolute attention.

He may have the Midas touch, but helping him to focus will no doubt be the memories of his $100m loss he and business partner Silas Chou suffered in their investment in the Asprey jewellery business 20 years ago.

Garry Sloan is the author of “In the pit lane – F1 exposed” details at inthepitlane.com
Copyright ©2021 Garry Sloan

[Note: The opinions expressed on this website are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors and/or publishers.]

Will Vettel regret his Aston Martin move?

Last month’s opening round of the 2021 F1 season was not the Aston Martin race debut that Sebastian Vettel, Otmar Szafnauer nor Lawrence Stroll wanted.

On the back of a brilliant end to 2020, with first and third for Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll respectively in Sakhir being the highlight, expectations were high for the newly branding British Racing Green team to solidify themselves as the third best team in Formula 1.

However, whilst Stroll slaved away for a hard-earned 10th place point in Bahrain, Vettel’s performance only raised further eyebrows off the back of his worst season in F1 last year with Ferrari. 

Where did Vettel’s Weekend go so Wrong?

Perhaps it could be considered no huge surprise that Aston Martin and Vettel suffered a turbulent opening weekend when considering their pre-season testing struggles.

Much like their senior Mercedes partners, gearbox issues cost Vettel valuable running on the second morning. Other gremlins left the German bottom of the lap charts amongst all 2021 race drivers. Especially when factoring in that Vettel was moving to a completely new power unit and chassis, undoubtedly this was far less running than the four-time champion hoped for.

Vettel’s smash into the back of Esteban Ocon’s Alpine summed up a difficult opening weekend (Motor Sport Magazine)

After a drama-free Friday at the Bahrain GP, where Vettel was able to get some more crucial running in, the next moment where his weekend was seriously hampered came in Saturday’s qualifying session.

Vettel looked set to make the improvement needed to get his Aston into Q2, until a spin for Nikita Mazepin brought out the double-yellow flags in Turn 1. This forced all drivers behind the Russian on their final runs to abandon their laps, leaving Vettel stranded in the drop zone and out in Q1.

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Things would get even worse for the German when it emerged that he had failed to abandon his lap after Mazepin’s spin, thus earning himself a five-place grid penalty and three penalty points on his superlicence. 

On the Sunday, Vettel started from P20 but, on an alternative one-stop strategy, made a strong start, reaching P14 by the end of Lap 1. Vettel moved into the points as others made their first stops but soon started suffering with high tyre wear, falling back before making his stop for hard tyres.

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The Aston struggled on the hard compound and when battling with Esteban Ocon for 12th place on Lap 44. Vettel made an error synonymous with his latter Ferrari years by locking up under braking and careening into the back of the Alpine.

Vettel was handed a ten-second penalty and two further penalty points for his troubles, leaving him in P15 by the end of the race. Whilst internally, the team were quick to play down their struggles, it’s clear that a lot more will be expected of one of the greatest drivers of all time in the coming races.

Is this just part of a growing trend?

Many people were unsurprised at Vettel’s poor opening show in Bahrain, claiming that this is just part of the German’s continued decline from the elite level of Formula 1. 

Vettel’s worrying trend of preventable collisions and incidents began to emerge in the second half of 2018. After being in control of the title battle against Lewis Hamilton, Vettel quickly fell away as Hamilton won race after race.

Vettel’s slip from the lead in Hockenheim in 2018 is seen by many as the trigger for his decline in form (Goodwood)

Whilst a half season’s worth of problems could be put down to a Hamilton 2011-style blip, Vettel’s alarming racecraft woes only continued as he came up against new teammate Charles Leclerc in 2019.

Whilst Leclerc quickly started to gather his authority on the team, Vettel’s level of spatial awareness and inability to manage the rear end of his Ferrari grabbed a multitude of headlines.

READ MORE: TOP 10 MEMES OF THE 2021 FORMULA 1 BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX

His latest incident in Bahrain looked eerily parallel to the mistakes Vettel made in 2019 and 2020 and perhaps suggested that it wasn’t just a toxic relationship with Ferrari that was to blame for Seb’s poor performances.

If the German has any more collisions or spins in the next couple of races, the media’s daggers will be out, especially with supersub Nico Hulkenberg recently announced as Aston Martin’s new reserve and development driver.

Where does Stroll sit in all of this?

For Lance Stroll, who has had to stave off a number of “pay driver” criticisms since his arrival in F1 in 2017, despite some very credible performances, the arrival of Vettel could prove to be a massive asset in raising Stroll’s stock. 

Stroll has been self-critical throughout his career, admitting to suffering badly with confidence following his hard crash in Mugello and subsequent poor run of results. 

The manner of Stroll’s pole in Turkey raised eyebrows up and down the paddock (Sky Sports)

Thus the inevitable scrutiny of Vettel’s performances could take such much-needed weight of pressure off of the young Canadian’s shoulders. His father’s control of the team means that he will naturally get a longer leash than most, but Stroll has proven on multiple occasions that when he has the belief in himself and the car, performances like his brilliant pole in Turkey last year are possible.

If Stroll gets an early upper hand on Vettel, this could compound the German’s problems by hurting his reputation further still, whilst giving Stroll the kick boost to take his career to the next level.

And of the Original Question?

Sebastian Vettel’s F1 career is an enigma. No four-time world champion in history has had his achievements most discredited by his critics than that of the German. 

Whilst some put his four successive titles down to the genius of Adrian Newey more so than Vettel’s ability, there’s no doubt that in his prime, Vettel was unbeatable.

Sadly, those days do seem a long time ago now, with 2020 painting a sorry sight as he was comprehensively beaten by Leclerc week after week.

The Aston Martin move was supposed to be a fresh start for the German, a chance to build a fledgling team in his image, much like he was a huge factor in taking Red Bull from contenders to champions.

Vettel famously bows down to his Red Bull following his fourth successive title glory in 2013 (Red Bull)

However, if many more races like the season opener in Bahrain occur, then it could only do more to make Vettel’s critics even louder. There were several mitigating factors which contributed to those issues, however the excuses won’t hold for much longer.

Unless Vettel finds his form again soon, we could be witnessing a sorry end to a previously distinguished career. 

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview this weekend’s Emilia-Romagna GP? Ruby Price hosted panellists Alex Booth, Sam Thatcher and Owain Medford in Grid Talk’s Imola preview podcast. Audio and video versions of the show are both available below:

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