We are officially announcing that the Sportlight brand has joined the Chronicle family.
Founder of Sportlight, George Howson, who regularly hosts the Grid Talk podcast for the F1 Chronicle, was eager to combine his resources with those of the Chronicle suite of sites.
‘I’m buzzing about this move, as I think it is the next step in the evolution of what I dreamed of achieving with Sportlight.
‘F1 Chronicle has a huge following, and I’m eager to get stuck in and help to grow that even further.
‘My other passion, football, was very popular on Sportlight and I look forward to the work we did there continuing on the newly-branded Futbol Chronicle website.
‘This progression helps the Sportlight team tap into the resources of the Chronicle, while we bring our excellent writing and analysis to the table.
It’s a win-win for both brands!’
Co-founder of the Chronicle brand, Jarrod Partridge, was equally as excited, adding ‘I’ve seen the work George put into Sportlight over the years, what he has built there is an absolute credit to him and his writers. I can’t wait to be able to offer my expertise and help them all take the next step in their sports journalism careers.
While there is still some work to be done behind the scenes, in the coming weeks the Sportlight website and social media channels will be rebranded to reflect the new direction of both businesses.
“Impact” – That’s perhaps the single most important thing about any sportsman; how can he impact a contest?
It’s the currency sportsmen deal in. It’s the basis for their selection in a team. This is also the cause for which they fight and sweat it out.
Lewis Hamilton’s impact in Formula 1 is that he made winning a habit. So utterly dominant was he until 2020 (from the onset of 2014) that he made the likes of Ferrari and Red Bull merely banal participants in the fastest form of motor-racing on earth.
Similarly, Rafael Nadal’s impact can be gauged by the way he devoured – and still does- opponents on the clay turf. There’s no better athlete on the red surface than the ‘King of Clay!’
But as a famous career comes to an end in the world of cricket, one’s compelled to ask what was the true impact of Kieron Pollard?
A big man with a big legacy
There’ll be many who’ll be quick to point to his 99 sixes in the T20 internationals. Others will state his powerful batting that contributed to the 2012 team that lifted the T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka. If you were to separate Pollard from the narrative statistics paint, though, you’ll notice that his true impact in the sport was fear.
It’s what transformed Kieron Pollard the person into the cult of the personality we know today. Pollard brought fear into the minds of the opposition. Pollard made bowlers conscious. He was utterly unafraid of stepping down even to fast bowlers.
He backed himself to go for those big strokes that have today become famous depictions of the mayhem he caused with the bat. The blows he hit against one and all; whether a Malinga or Watson, Dananjaya or Bumrah, McBrine or Saini, Afridi or Maxwell, Boult or Jordan.
All have suffered the Pollard plight. The West Indies, meanwhile, have lorded many a time on Pollard’s ferocity. It’s in this impact where part of the Kieron Pollard success story lies.
Few have gone on to extract as much from a truly behemoth physicality as the right hander. At 6’5”, you were intimidated by Kieron Pollard’s presence around you, forget the feeling he hit you with when you landed anything in ‘the slot’ or too short for his comfort.
Just the kind of man you didn’t want to be stuck-hypothetically speaking- in an elevator with. The game, well and truly speaking, wasn’t over for as long as Pollard was at the crease.
How good is Pollard?
Make no mistake, Pollard was no master of technique akin to a Kallis, Jayawardene or Dravid, the Wall. He didn’t wield a watertight technique that could suppress a bowling attack. Nor was he gifted much like Lara or Chanderpaul, his famous compatriots, to focus for long hours at the crease.
Much of what Pollard did- 3 ODI centuries, 19 white-ball fifties, 4275 runs, 224 caps for West Indies- was down to brute power and quick judgement of length.
He was the mayhem maker; that he arrived in T20 cricket with a huge six in New Zealand and ended his favoured format, one where he struck almost 1600 runs, with a boundary against India, offers sufficient evidence that Pollard was power and stroke play.
That was his true impact. The fact that he was ready to take you on. Someone who switched quite comfortably into the battle mode.
Very often that was much to the surprise of the opposition that would think that a quiet start – say 0 from 4 deliveries- would also end the over quietly, which is where he’d lift the slower leg spin easily over long on for a 90-metre six and suddenly you’d read the scoreboard- Pollard 6*(6).
What contributed to Pollard’s success is that he backed himself to clear the ropes at any given point in the match. That 970 of his 1569 T20I runs for West Indies, which is more than half of this share of runs, came only through fours and sixes is evidence of Pollard’s brute strength as also the damning condemnation of bowlers.
It wasn’t all about batting and bowling…
But his was also a dramatic career that insinuated fans that expected a great deal more from the man who was unafraid to take on any bowler.
Pollard was caught up in the whole stand against the WICB skirmish of 2014, which resultantly truncated his international journey; at times, he’d make himself unavailable and on others, he’d be simply overlooked.
How on earth did a batsman who was in great touch in the T20 World Cup, wherein his brutal 35 off just 14 against Australia helped Windies march into the finals not play in the 2014 World Cup? The board thought of others as being better than him. It wasn’t his fault.
As many will look back at a career that was chequered with blazing hits but also peppered with lost chances, one’ll question why Pollard never appeared in the 2016 World Cup? Probably, fair to say he wasn’t as motivated and refrained from participation.
The final score line reads 2700 plus ODI runs and had he participated in more national duties instead of the growing number of seemingly repetitive T20 leagues, then many more runs than his 1569 in 20-20 for Windies. And that is where one’s got to address a conundrum before passing a lame verdict.
Yes, Pollard’s growing fascination for T20 leagues around the world- think WBBL, PSL, BPL, IPL- was often at the cost of forgoing national duties.
Pollard came at the perfect time
But wasn’t he naturally inclined to be part of the culture that became Cricket’s dominant tide, debuting in 2007, which is when T20 concept truly boomed into being something spectacular?
Little is spared to note that the year Kieron Pollard first wore the Windies maroon, cricket evidenced its first showpiece T20 event: the World Cup of 2007. The Lara’s and Chanderpaul’s, Hooper’s and Sarwan’s were part of an era where Test cricket – still the sport’s most respected format- was truly the litmus test of measuring one’s worth.
But the generation that came after, the Sammy’s, the Bravo’s, the Pollard’s were caught up in the counterculture of cricket at a time where the sport, perhaps in a bid to reach wider geographies, was experimenting with T20s.
What helped Pollard, a man of big muscles and even bigger sixes, was that he was licensed to thrill in a format that was about entertainment. He readily plied his trade, clearly also to amass the moola.
What didn’t help, the West Indies of course, was that they didn’t compensate players as lavishly as some of the other boards at the time did and still do: think India, Australia and England.
That Pollard, at the ripe age of 32, chose to focus on re-calibrating a fledgling white ball career by becoming captain is worthy of respect.
Under his leadership, West Indies smashed Afghanistan in a popular bilateral series held in India, circa 2019. He’d collect famous wins thereafter, such as the ODI triumph against Ireland in 2020 and as seen in the last six to nine months, the fantastic T20I series triumphs against Australia of all teams and England.
But it was also during this stint that Pollard’s leadership earned the growing wrath of a public that believed he was egotistical. That he was responsible for ignoring Odean Smith’s inclusion in the 2022 T20Is held in the Caribbean. And lest it is forgotten, Pollard was at the helm when Ireland posted their first ever ODI series win in the West Indies. He’d later fail to inspire his team in India as the visitors found themselves quite simply, crushed.
He was a miserable failure with the bat.
But you win some, you lose some. When we assess Pollard and point to all we think he could’ve achieved it’s also important to recollect that his craft wasn’t that of a seasoned match winner. He wasn’t marked to be, for instance, the next Sir Viv or Sir Sobers or his greatest immediate predecessor, Brian Lara.
It’s only fair to state Pollard did the maximum he could with a craft that was high on power if not necessarily on long term performance.
More of a holiday shack instead of a plush holiday home. A car that zipped on cruise control, never mind if it wasn’t a sports car.
And in some sense there’s gladness that perhaps Pollard gave back something invaluably good over and above his breathtaking strokes in mentoring the man who could be the next West Indies white ball captain: Nicholas Pooran.
In these articles, I tend to look back on the past month and comment. However, as December was an awful to month to witness as a Chelsea fan, I thought I will skip it and look ahead to what I want to see in 2022.
There is a lot to talk about in terms of where the club is at the moment as well as where it looks like it might be going.
So, with the blinded optimism that the new year brings, let’s look into 2022 and what the new year could bring for Chelsea football club.
We need to talk about Lukaku
The last couple of weeks have been a strange one with the club and most of it refers to an interview Romelu Lukaku’s interview with Sky Italy.
I’m sure you’ll be aware what was said, and in any circumstance, a player speaking out against the manager within 5 months of joining is never a good sign.
It came at a terrible time as well. There has been a lot of pressure on Tuchel over the last couple of the months, but the last thing we needed was a coup in the dressing room.
Lukaku hasn’t been good enough this season and couple that with injuries and Covid, he’s not had much playing time. He can’t blame that on Tuchel and his system, because when I watch Lukaku, he doesn’t get involved enough.
Also, with the injuries and Covid-positive players, Tuchel has been forced to try new things and he is only going to choose those players that have been doing the best out on the pitch and that isn’t Lukaku.
Granted, Lukaku did get a goal on his return to the team against Villa but watching him against Spurs was uninspiring and I don’t think he would have made a difference against Liverpool.
I hope these “clear the air talks” with Tuchel does mean we will see a better Lukaku and that it can be a morale boost to the entire team.
I don’t want to see Tuchel sacked because a player who got too big for his boots decided he was the big dog at Chelsea because he was their most expensive signing and wanted to manager sacked because he wasn’t happy.
It’s January, who’s in and out?
I don’t expect any Chelsea players to leave this January, but there are still a few futures to decide upon over the next month.
Antonio Rudiger, Cesar Azpilicueta and Andreas Christensen are all out of contract at the end of the season and seem to be looking for the door.
Rudiger has already made up his mind and it looks as though he will be going to Real Madrid in the Summer as a free agent. Chelsea have been trying to get him to sign a new contract for months, but it’s clear from both sides that the wage demands will not be met.
As for Azpilicueta, it would appear that Barcelona may be the destination for the Spaniard. I have faith that Chelsea will try more proactively to keep him at the club. He is the club captain and given how versatile he is at the back, we need him.
Finally, Andreas Christensen. Let’s face it, he is a good player, but realistically no club better than Chelsea are going to want him. I feel as though he has seen the Rudiger situation and wanted to cash in on a bigger contract.
This does leave a big defensive problem at Chelsea if these three do decide to leave. It means our only centre backs are an aging Thiago Silva, and a young paring of Trevor Chalobah and Malang Sarr.
This leaves Chelsea with two options. Bend to the wage demands or spend big now or in January to get the likes of Matthias De Ligt and Joules Kounde into the club.
But there is one thing that Chelsea need to do immediately.
We desperately need a left back or left wing-back. Watching Marcos Alonso is like having acid in your eyes. His lack of defensive work-rate is painful to watch.
Lucas Digne has become available from Everton, but I think there may be some better options out there. None come to mind, but I’m sure they’re there.
What can Chelsea achieve this season?
I think it’s pretty clear that the optimism I had a few months ago about Chelsea’s chances of winning the Premier League have now gone.
It’s firmly in City’s hands as it stands, and I don’t think anything Liverpool or Chelsea do will change that.
So now it’s time to see what Chelsea can still achieve and realistically win this season.
Chelsea got a favourable draw against Lille in the Champions League which is winnable for Chelsea. I would love another run in the Champions League and getting through this round will be crucial.
Chelsea are still in both domestic cups (this is written before the Chesterfield game in the FA Cup so hopefully I don’t have to swallow my words here).
After a 2-0 first leg win over Tottenham in the Carabao Cup, Chelsea look in a strong place to get to their first Caraboa Cup since 2019. Once Covid is battled with the Liverpool squad, we will see who Chelsea’s opponent could be between them and Arsenal.
A trophy will be crucial for Tuchel if he wants to be in a job for next season at Chelsea. Unfortunately, winning the Champions League isn’t going to be enough if Chelsea don’t win anything this season.
You only have to look at the likes of Roberto Di Matteo or Antonio Conte as managers who got sacked not long after great success at Chelsea.
All I want is top four and a trophy. It may not sound like much coming from the reigning European Champions, but given that the league is out of reach, I will take what I can get at this point.
Given the strength of this squad, a domestic trophy is well within reach. A good run in the Champions League shouldn’t be difficult with this squad.
I’ve just about caught my breath and had a chance to reflect on what was an unbelievable final race to an absolutely bonkers Formula 1 season. I will do my best to review the controversy and drama of Abu Dhabi, whilst also reflecting on the carnage that the other 21 races conjured up.
Let’s start at the end and discuss the big and final talking point of the 2021 season – the final five laps of the Abu Dhabi GP. Sir Lewis Hamilton was undoubtedly on track to win his 8th world championship in dominant style before Nicholas Latifi’s crash brought out the Safety Car on Lap 54.
At this point, it didn’t look as if we’d get any more running due to the awkward area of the track where Latifi binned in, and the amount of debris on track. Red Bull rightly made use of a free pit-stop to pit both Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez onto soft tyres. Verstappen re-joined the track still in P2, but now with four lapped drivers between himself and Hamilton.
The message that was initially relayed was that the lapped cars would not be allowed to un-lap themselves. This was until Race Director, Michael Masi, decided half way into Lap 57 that four drivers were going to be allowed to overtake the safety car and un-lap themselves.
This call, from one individual, will go down as one of the most contentious decisions in the history of the sport. I don’t want to delve deep into analysing this decision, as there are many other things from the season worthy of mention in this season review. And you’ve probably heard a million different opinions already.
But what I will say is the biggest shame for me is that the championship was decided off-track by a contentious call. This was the one result I was hoping wouldn’t happen. Despite not being a Hamilton fan, it felt hollow and unjust. It is so disappointing that the immediate aftermath and likely, the longer-term reflection on the 2021 season will be focused on a decision by the FIA. That’s the bit I’m struggling to take.
The entire F1 fan base should be reflecting on how lucky we’ve been to see two fantastic drivers engage in a relentless, season-long duel filled with on track battles and brilliant races. And still, it’s difficult to do this when one driver has been unfairly robbed of a championship because the sport’s governing body didn’t follow their own rules.
The Stewards and FIA
I think Abu Dhabi highlighted just how much of a mess the sport is in at the moment in terms of the consistent application of the rules. Albeit particularly poor in 2021, the issue of poor stewarding and incompetency from the FIA isn’t exclusive to this year – its been a problem in recent seasons and unfortunately, it had a major impact in the championship decider.
If I can take one positive from all of this is that I think Masi will rightly lose his job in all the aftermath that is due to follow. Hopefully, we can arrive at a defined and clear system of rules that are consistently applied. Just like football, there will always be some element of subjectivity in the application of rules. But at present, it feels like the rules lead to too many opinionated decisions. And when you have stewards changing every race, this doubles the issue.
Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport. We need to know why it’s okay for some drivers to force another off the track and get away with it whilst others are penalised. There needs to be more consistency and clarity for both fans and more importantly the teams and drivers on what they can and cannot do.
Despite the shenanigans of the final race, I still feel lucky to have watched the 2021 season unfold. From the get-go in Bahrain, it looked like Red Bull had a car capable of taking the fight to Mercedes and a driver capable of ending Hamilton’s dominant reign.
For me, the title fight had everything – two brilliant drivers, two operationally excellent teams, on-track battles, strategy dilemmas, collisions, off-track antics and close, hard racing.
Looking back, I can’t actually think of many bad races. Even tracks like Sochi and Paul Richard which have traditionally been poor, served up absolute crackers in 2021. Not to forget as well – Bahrain, Budapest, Baku, Silverstone, and others which were an absolute pleasure to watch.
Behind the top two (usually very far behind), the rest of the pack played their part in putting on a brilliant season of racing. Watching Lando Norris get amongst the big boys particularly in the first half of the season was great. Carlos Sainz also impressed, surprisingly beating his teammate Charles Leclerc in the driver’s standings.
Pierre Gasly is also worthy of a mention for another impressive season at Alpha Tauri. And it was great to see Alonso back on the grid, putting in consistent strong performances to prove he’s still got it.
Despite the events of the last week, I think Formula 1 in many ways is in a great place at the moment. The sport will have inevitably lost some fans after Abu Dhabi, but it has also gained many in 2021. It needs to ensure it hangs onto these by creating defined rules and consistently applying these fairly in races.
Looking ahead to next season, weirdly, I hope the big regulation changes don’t spice things up too much. The pessimist in me is worried that Mercedes will turn up in Bahrain half a second clear of the pack just like 2014. And the optimist believes Red Bull will produce a car that is a worthy challenger again. If the latter transpires, we’re in for another barnstormer in 2022 and I cannot wait.
What can we say about this that hasn’t already been said? Not a lot.
So we won’t. To try and make this regular feature a slightly safer haven from the silliness spouting from the mouths of some corners of the internet, we’ll see what memes we could find out there. Take a look.
Given that Kimi has never been one for the spotlight of Formula 1, particularly when there’s not a prize he cares about at the end of it, perhaps it’s no surprise the Iceman retired halfway through the race when he was sure to get driver of the day.
Whether or not that was the case on Sunday we’ll never know, but either way it was sad to see Raikkonen leave without a last hurrah.
The biggest target of the ire throughout the season, but particularly THAT last lap, was Michael Masi, the race director.
Personally, I’d like to make it clear I understand that the Race Director’s job is not easy, particularly with screaming from two team principles coming at you.
That being said, the disregard of the procedures set by the FIA themselves could be seen as a dangerous precedent where no rule is safe from the race director’s discretion. As with all the controversial decisions this season, that needs changing as soon as possible.
The way the FIA have investigated potential wrongdoing by one of their own appointees could be seen as incredibly shady. This feeling is exacerbated when you think the FIA has a vested interest in finding them and their representatives innocent.
We’ll not be explaining the story as there are many articles which do that better, and this is meant to be a lighter look at this weekend’s action, so much as we can take one.
The online discourse has been incredibly toxic through the yeah with every twist and turn taking the situation ever closer to devolving into outright mud-slinging.
You’ll notice a conspicuous lack of comment on the actual events that unfolded during the grand prix, and that’s deliberate.
Neither driver deserved to lose this world championship in our opinion. The contest between the two drivers has driven both their levels to unprecedented levels, as it always does and should for that matter when the title is this close.
There are concerns that should be allowed their time in the sun as we re-evaluate, as we periodically should, whether the rules are fit for purpose.
Lastly, and it’s a great shame to say that as I’ve had a blast making these meme reviews all season. And what a wonderful, intriguing, sometimes controversial and always entertaining season it was, right until the last 30 seconds.
Given that the gap between the two rivals was under 12 seconds across 22 races and over 3800 miles that’s akin to the Le Mans 2011 finish in both distance and gap between the leaders.
That race was what this race has been. A classic, one for the ages, and a tough act to follow.
Your move F1 2022.
So that’s it. F1 2021 (almost) in the books. Please do check out our previous meme round-ups over the off season, and also keep up with our Formula 1 coverage over the off-season before we see you all again in March to do this all over again.
Grid Talk Podcast
To help recap this race and the whole season in general, along with this race, do take a look at the Grid Talk Podcast as our exceptional panellists break down this an every week’s action.
The Grid Talk crew produce a preview, qualifying analysis show and race review for every Grand Prix weekend. You can check out the latest show on our Podcast section.
We’re here, the final Friday practice sessions of the 2021 season and boy do they mean a lot.
The Yas Marina track has gone under some reconstruction over the last 12 months and many of the slow 90-degree corners have been taken away to allow for closer racing.
Also, two new hairpins have been installed to help promote overtaking.
For the final time in 2021, let’s get into the Friday action!
With the new track layout, drivers were eager to hop out onto the track and get to grips with it.
We got to see immediately just how quick this new Yas Marina track is. Without the slow and unnecessary chicanes and the new profile of the final sector, drivers were going 11 seconds faster than last year.
The midfield teams look like they are going to be in a tight battle once again. We’ve seen how chaotic they have been in both Qatar and Jeddah.
Alpha Tauri were looking solid once again in Free Practice, but we have yet to see it materialise in the race so it’s difficult to gauge if this early pace will pay off.
They were forever closely followed by the Alpines who have been very impressive in the last two races and look to continue this great run of form that we are seeing from them as they look to confirm 5th in the constructors championship.
McLaren weren’t pushing too hard as they stuck to their programme as they often do on a Friday, but they were showcasing their special livery for this weekend which was looking stunning out on track.
It did appear from early on that Lando Norris has the pace over Daniel Ricciardo. Norris would need that pace as he will be fighting with both Ferrari drivers for 5th in the driver’s championship.
But by the end of the session, it was Max Verstappen who topped the first practice session of the weekend ahead of Valtteri Bottas and then Lewis Hamilton in 3rd place.
While it may seem Red Bull have an edge, tricks are being played by both teams and we won’t see where they are until Saturday evening.
The sun was setting over Yas Marina as the drivers started to push the times as they did some qualifying runs.
Lewis Hamilton was the first of the title challengers to cross the line on a set of the Medium tyres and put it fastest.
When Max put in his lap, he could only go second but then had his lap time deleted for track limits.
Valtteri Bottas was also pushing his Mercedes to the max and hit the Armco barrier for good measure. The rear stepped out through turn 14 and tapped the barrier with his rear tyre, however he was lucky to sustain no damage.
Nicholas Latifi was not able to avoid damage however when he lost the rear of his car through turn 13 and went backwards into the wall. He kept the car going but would have to pit for a new rear wing.
The drivers then made the switch the soft tyres for their second qualifying runs as we got to ride on board with Fernando Alonso in his visor and got to see him set a very impressive time before it was deleted.
A weird game of cat and mouse was being played between Red Bull and Mercedes as they didn’t look to want to show their hands too early.
Both Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton were towards the top of the timing sheets, but they weren’t the fastest.
That accolade went to the Alpines who were dictating the pace throughout the middle of the session and, until Lewis Hamilton pipped him, it was Esteban Ocon who was topping the timing sheets.
Valtteri Bottas was going fast but seemed to be struggling with the car. He had a huge lock-up going into the fast right handers in the final sector and was overall 4 tenths off Lewis Hamilton’s fastest time and also slower than Esteban Ocon.
Red Bull could only manage 4th and 5th with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez respectively.
Just as the chequered flag dropped on FP2, Kimi Raikkonen was in the barrier after a hefty shunt at turn 14. Not the way he would have wanted to end his final Friday practice session.
It all comes down to this
Plenty of games have been played between Red Bull and Mercedes throughout both sessions today and there are going to be plenty more as the weekend unfolds.
The amount of pressure on the shoulders of Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen is going to be immense and so far both drivers have looked very calm and collected on track.
You may see how both drivers have performed so far and see that Lewis Hamilton looks to have the edge, and you could be correct, but I believe that we haven’t seen the true pace of the Red Bull so far.
Max Verstappen didn’t set anywhere near a representative fast lap time in FP2 so that 6 and a half tenths gap between Lewis Hamilton and the Dutchman is not the true gap between them.
We will have to wait until tomorrow to see where the true pace lies on this track and I for one can’t wait to see just how close this battle is going to be.
Sports of all kinds share cliches meant to describe the pinnacle of their events. They’re all meant to convey a sense of importance and finality to that event despite the sun always rising the next morning. Those cliches are overused and applied to pedestrian matches or games far too frequently.
Locker rooms and broadcasts are filled with them and it’s cheapened the effect. But every so often, there is an event nobody has to print a word about for the epic nature to soak into the lore. It’s already being discussed in every fan’s garage, living room or device. And, for F1 fans, that event is this weekend.
Inserting a cliche here would do nothing more than discuss the fairytale truth: we have arrived at the last race of the 2021 season, the 22nd, and two drivers are tied for the championship lead. They also happen to be indisputedly the best drivers on the grid and near complete opposites. It’s an early Christmas present.
Finally, some good news about Yas Marina! One of F1’s more boring tracks – though, far from the worst – got a much-needed upgrade this year. Intending to smooth out some of the slow, jerky sections into rhythmic corners where cars can actually pass, the circuit now offers a track possibly worthy of the fight on it’s doorstep.
This is no longer the track Hamilton slowed his then teammate Nico Rosberg into the challengers behind in 2016. It was a cheap, tactically brilliant last move to try and salvage a championship. And it largely worked because of the former layout of Yas Marina.
In its place are faster, more flowing corners that will leave room for even more wheel to wheel racing: exactly what Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen are itching to give us.
Jeddah was dynamite
Last weekend was the first weekend F1 has spent at the Jeddah track in Saudi Arabia it gave us a terrifying edge-of-your-seat ride. From the very beginning, drivers were noting how close and hard the walls were and how fast it was.
The race had to be red flagged and restarted twice, the lead was changed more times than I can remember and controversy swirled like a tornado with post-race penalties adding to in-race reprimands. Ultimately, Hamilton prevailed over Verstappen to continue his triumphant surge in form over the past six races. The Dutchman was able to salvage second to stay even with Hamilton heading to Abu Dhabi.
Verstappen? Or Hamilton?
Whatever happens this Sunday, 2021 will go down as one of the greatest seasons in F1 history. It has been a beautiful tapestry of interwoven racing lines, epic heroics and a chaotic, aggressive mess all at once.
Will Verstappen, who seems to be summoning demons trying to stop his opponent, take his first and destined world championship? Or will Hamilton take his finest?
This season has been defined by close and aggressive racing between the two. Frequent penalties to Verstappen, clashes and crashes, and wild swings in momentum have pronounced themselves at nearly every event. It will be unfortunate if a crash between the two determines who wins the championship. But, as has been the truth all season long, the level of skill and commitment to winning is supreme from them each. And it won’t come down to who “wants it” more. Clearly, they’re both desperate to win and possess the skills to do so.
The end of the season is here again. Only, this season was magic, carrying nearly impossible levels of excitement. I can’t tell you who is going to win but I do know that Sunday may be one of those times a sporting event makes you remember where you were that day – so don’t blink.
Practice 1, Dec 10th: 9:30 – 10:30 (4:30 – 5:30 EST)
Practice 2, Dec 10th: 13:00 – 14:00 (8:00 – 9:00 EST)
Practice 3, Dec 11th: 10:00 – 11:00 (5:00 – 6:00 EST)
Qualifying, Dec 11th: 13:00 – 14:00 (8:00 – 9:00 EST)
Race, Dec 12th: 13:00 (8:00 EST)
All times are UK time (GMT), unless stated
Grid Talk Podcast
Want more content to preview your Abu Dhabi GP weekend? The Grid Talk crew have you covered with their latest podcast, the Abu Dhabi GP Preview. Owain Medford hosted Tom Downey in episode 159 of the show. Both audio and video versions of the podcast are available below:
From four points clear at the top to two points off City down in third place. November hasn’t been a kind month for Chelsea and possibly the worst run of results we have seen in Tuchel’s first year in charge.
Is there any need to hit the panic button? Maybe. However, things may not be as bleak as things look going into the very busy December schedule.
Let’s have a look at the last month at Chelsea.
Have Chelsea already peaked this season?
It was at this point last season that things started to go wrong for Frank Lampard, and we all know how that ended.
Now, I’m not suggesting that Thomas Tuchel has started down the road to a sacking, but something needs to change in his tactics because Chelsea have looked off the ball all month.
This season was always going to be a tight battle with Man City and Liverpool for the title and dropping seven points in a month is not the form Chelsea require to compete.
Looking back on the fixtures, they weren’t the most difficult run of games that Chelsea have come across this season.
The 1-1 draw to Burnley wasn’t amazing, but Burnley has always been a tough game for Chelsea. A win against Leicester was nice. A draw to United was expected given Chelsea’s record, but the way Chelsea played was poor.
The win against Watford was a dreadful performance and I was shocked that we managed to win that game. Finally, a poor performance and some good luck from West Ham saw them beat Chelsea 3-2.
That loss to West Ham really bugged me. It was the first time that Chelsea have conceded more than 1 goal in a game in all competitions this season. Chelsea aren’t good at scoring goals and watching Chelsea attack at times is like pulling teeth.
Tuchel’s decision to start Ziyech, Hudson-Odoi and Werner against Manchester United was one of the most painful performances I’ve ever seen from a Chelsea attack.
Not one of them could score if their lives depended on it. We relied on a Jorginho penalty to save us (more on him later).
We need to start scoring goals if we wish to get back in this title race.
Is Chelsea’s midfield good enough?
Chelsea have some of the best midfield options in the Premier League, however with Tuchel’s formations and tactics, it seriously impacts Chelsea’s selection.
With Kante out because of injury most of the season, the responsibility falls to Jorginho to fill in that role. Which he can’t.
Kovacic has also been out this month and Chelsea have dearly missed his passing ability and while Ruben Loftus-Cheek has tried his best to fill in that other holding midfielder role, he’s just not who we need right now.
Tuchel has tried to bring Saul Niguez into the team over the last month, but I honestly wish he would get shipped back to Atletico Madrid. He is dire.
The reason why we have seen the full backs take on such a major role at Chelsea this season is because our holding midfield has been so poor that they have to make up for it.
Now that Ben Chilwell is out, we have to play Alonso or Azpilicueta as a wing-back which is not always the best. Azpilicueta is a brilliant defender, but he doesn’t have the legs to play as a wing-back.
He’s a better option than Marcos Alonso whose defensive work rate leaves a lot to be desired.
We need all the player in the holding midfield to step up. There is only so much the likes of Mount or Pulisic can do up front without the help from the holding midfield behind providing some assists.
My hope is that Kante is fit soon, and he can bring some energy back to the midfield.
Is Jorginho the third best player in the world?
He’s not even the third best player at Chelsea.
The Balon D’Or is a load of rubbish. Next.
Is there any positives to take away from Chelsea this month?
The champions League is going very well. Easy pickings against both Malmo and Juventus means that Chelsea are back into the knockout rounds of the competition.
It’s already better than our last Champions League defence.
The 4-0 over Juventus did feel like a real high point of this season. After being beaten in Turin after a sloppy piece of defending, it was great to bring them to London and beat them so convincingly.
While the league may not be going in the right direction, I think Chelsea still remain to be a contender in this year’s Champions League and I hope that we can challenge again.
I’m definitely not saying that we are going to go back-to-back, but I would like to hope that we can get far into the competition. I’d like Chelsea to be more than cannon fodder in the round of 16 like we usually are.
If Chelsea end up not winning the league then Tuchel will need a major trophy if he hopes to keep his job.
The expectations on his shoulders are now so much more than what it was when he joined Chelsea last February. Not to mention just how fickle the Chelsea board are with managers regardless of their Champions League prowess. Just look at Di Matteo.
Chelsea just need to up their game. The league is only going to get tougher. Liverpool look unstoppable, City are on fire. Not only that, United have been given a new lease of life and Arsenal have learnt how to play football again.
Chelsea can still win the league, but not playing how we are at this point in time.
We’ll not say too much about what happened, that’s already been said in about a million different ways by a million different people and I’ll not be saying too much on that beyond when it comes into the memes. That said, let’s get into them.
This is probably a factor most people have forgotten (We’re not blaming you if you did, there was about 1000 years of red flag time), but Verstappen’s medium tyres were blistered quite severely after only 10 laps.
Add in Hamilton’s pace which Verstappen had to match to have a hope of winning, it was highly probable that Max wouldn’t have held on for the remaining laps even with all the VSC’s.
As a viewer in the UK, the amount of plugging the Sky TV service that happens during the coverage of the races now is pretty intrusive.
It’s unclear to us whether that makes it into the international coverage using Sky commentary but if it does it’s got to be annoying. Back to the meme though, pretty ringing endorsement for Bose quality if the headphones survived that.
To quote myself during the race in a group chat with other F1 fans “AND WE MISSED THE OVERTAKE”.
As a more seasoned F1 fan, I’m used to watching the gaps on the TV timing tower to see potential overtakes brewing. That doesn’t mean that when the race is completely finished, I don’t want to see the battles play out behind.
Too many times this season have piss-poor decisions be made regarding what to show on-screen and what to leave to a replay.
Given the damage already sustained by Lewis colliding with Ocon, it’d be fair to say that Hamilton had got off lightly with small endplate damage when the whole structural integrity of the mounting could have been compromised. Whole wings have been lost in less contact.
Add the loss of the full endplate when Max and Lewis collided, and it’s like the Mercedes’ damage was set to cosmetic with how Hamilton was able to continue to fight and pass Verstappen without falling back into the Flying Dutchman.
Author’s note: I’m not a neutral fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I do try to put aside my personal biases beyond saying things like that I’m disappointed Lewis didn’t finish in Italy for example.
The level of toxicity and animosity that now exists between the fans of particular drivers is reaching unnecessary levels, and it’s not helped by the amount of rivalry that seems to pervade even Red Bull and Mercedes at all levels of the team.
The management of both teams is adding fuel to the fire and going into the final race it’s looking increasingly dicey between every party involved.
The amount of sensationalism within the Drive to Survive season has always been suspect, but given how the FIA are seeming to kick the metaphorical hornet’s nest, it’s starting to get silly and honestly quite dangerous.
Liberty Media will be happy with that, but the fans are starting to get tired of it when it’s affecting the integrity of the racing.
Right, now we’ve got past the huge gravitational pull of Verstappen vs Hamilton, you’ve got to feel for Ocon, losing out to Bottas at the very last second, within the last 200m. The only small consolation is that the podium will have been mighty tense, and we certainly wouldn’t have wanted to be up there with the two main contenders.
We started to preview this in the Qatar meme review, but it’s only fitting that a phenomenally close, high stakes, narrow margin rivalry and season would come down to the closest championship decider since 1974. We’re equal parts excited and nervous and we hope you’re ready to unpack it all with us next week.
Grid Talk Podcast
Want to make sense of what exactly happened? The Grid Talk crew produce a preview, qualifying analysis show and race review for every Grand Prix weekend. You can check out the latest show on our Podcast section.
After yesterday’s dramatic qualifying session, where Max Verstappen threw away an almost certain pole position lap with a crash at the final corner, the scene was set for a tense penultimate race of this incredible 2021 championship battle.
It was of course his title rival, Lewis Hamilton, who profited to take pole ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, with Verstappen looking to strike back from third and Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari looking to disrupt the party from a superb fourth.
After a chaotic Formula 2 sprint race earlier on in the day, where a scary startline crash between Theo Pourchaire and Enzo Fittipaldi led to both drivers visiting hospital and lengthy red flag delays, many were fearful for a chaotic start to the Grand Prix.
Fortunately this start was incident-free as the top four retained their places, despite a strong attack on Leclerc’s fourth place by the Red Bull of Sergio Perez.
The race then settled into a calm early rhythm, the top three nose-to-tail, with Leclerc and Perez battling for fourth well ahead of Lando Norris, best of the rest in sixth.
Early Safety Car Adds Strategy Dilemma
With the race going along quite smoothly, it was inevitable that the already infamous Turn 22 would soon catch a victim and Mick Schumacher’s Haas was the unfortunate culprit on Lap 10.
The two Mercedes, Leclerc and Perez immediately took the chance to pit. However Verstappen’s Red Bull decided to stay out and gain track position, albeit with a pit stop still to make.
Hamilton and Bottas remained P2 and P3 behind the Dutchman after the stops, with Esteban Ocon and Daniel Ricciardo, who also chose not to stop, rounding out the top five. Leclerc was now sixth, ahead of Pierre Gasly (who was yet to pit) and Perez in eighth.
Red Flag Adds Controversy
With the barrier repairs taking considerable time, the red flag was displayed by the FIA to allow them to ensure they proceed safely.
However being able to change tyres during a red flag meant that Red Bull’s decision to stay out paid immediate dividends, as Verstappen could now effectively take a “free pit stop” and take the lead.
After the repairs were completed, the newly reformed grid took a new standing start with this time Red Bull ahead of Mercedes.
The Start (Part 2)
So on Lap 15, the race effectively started again and would only last a few more corners before chaos reigned again.
Verstappen didn’t get the best launch, allowing Hamilton to get alongside and seemingly ahead into Turn 1, before the Red Bull came in late on the brakes and was squeezed off the track by the Mercedes.
Behind them however, Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc got together, causing the other Red Bull to spin across the track onto the path of all the oncoming cars. As George Russell’s Williams slowed to avoid the Mexican, Nikita Mazepin came in unsighted and smashed into the back of the Brit, taking them both out of the race.
Then followed the first of several controversial FIA decisions. Verstappen, deemed to have overtaken Hamilton off the track, was then informed by Michael Masi to Red Bull that he must start behind Hamilton at the restart or he will be referred to the stewards.
The only problem being, Esteban Ocon’s Alpine had forced itself ahead of Hamilton before the red flag in all the melee! This therefore created a new grid for the third restart of Ocon, Hamilton, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Bottas, Gasly and Leclerc.
Third Time Lucky?
At the third time of asking, the race finally got away properly on Lap 17 and Verstappen made amends for his earlier poor start by launching away from P3 and sending one up the inside of both Ocon and Hamilton to lead the race.
Hamilton soon flew past Ocon when the cars came back down the pit straight to take P2, with Ocon, Ricciardo and Bottas making up the top five.
Gasly was now sixth, with Antonio Giovinazzi and Sebastian Vettel doing a great job in seventh and eighth, Yuki Tsunoda and Leclerc the remaining points scorers.
However on Lap 23, this changed again as Tsunoda and Vettel made contact through Turn 2, sending the Aston Martin into a spin and Tsunoda with a broken front wing. As this went on, the two Ferraris went side-by-side into Turn 1, with Sainz getting ahead of Leclerc for now P8.
The Virtual Safety Car was deployed to clear the mess as the race then entered its second half.
The Title Duel Is On
Vettel’s eventful race continued on Lap 27 as a feisty Kimi Raikkonen attempted to fight him round the outside leading to more contact and more debris strewn across the track.
This inevitably led to another Virtual Safety Car, which continued to neutralise the duel between Hamilton and Verstappen at the front. This period in fact lasted several laps, as the marshals attempted a full clean-up of the track from all the various incidents throughout the race.
Finally on Lap 33 the race resumed, crucially giving Verstappen a few extra laps of life for his medium tyres compared to Hamilton’s hards.
This lasted precisely 3 laps before another piece of Aston Martin landed on the track and led to a brief further Virtual Safety Car interruption.
As the green flags came back out, Hamilton was right on the back of Verstappen. This allowed Lewis to get a run into Turn 1 using DRS and as the two went side-by-side, predictably it ended in contact again.
The Most Dramatic Collision of All?
Then came the most confusing and bizarre few laps of the entire season. Verstappen was instructed by the FIA to let Hamilton pass, adjudged to have forced the Mercedes off the track.
Verstappen seemed to oblige, and slowed considerably to let Hamilton through. However, the Mercedes driver was clearly not informed of the situation and confused, stayed behind the Dutchman until he slowed so much that they collided, damaging both Hamilton’s front wing and the rear of the Red Bull.
Verstappen scampered away ahead, however soon slowed again to let the Brit pass into the final Turn 27. He let him through before immediately repassing going onto the main straight, quite cheekily.
However at this point, Verstappen then received a 5-second penalty, although before he got the message to confirm that, he let Hamilton past for good to finally assume the lead in a crazy sequence.
All Tied Into Abu Dhabi
At this point, the lead battle finally calmed down, with Hamilton cruising home to victory as Verstappen nursed his worn mediums and damaged car to finish P2. With Hamilton getting the extra point for fastest lap, this incredibly puts the two drivers level on points going into the Abu Dhabi season finale.
Behind them, Esteban Ocon was on his way to a brilliant podium, until out of the final corner of the final lap, Bottas used DRS to propel past across the line and crush the Frenchman and Alpine’s hearts to take away P3.
Ricciardo drove a solid, and actually uneventful race home to fifth ahead of Gasly, whilst Leclerc repassed teammate Sainz in the closing laps to claim seventh. Rounding out the top 10 were Giovinazzi in a rare points finish for Alfa Romeo, whilst Lando Norris recovered from earlier drama to take home a single point.
With all that drama, Netflix could probably have made an entire documentary on that one race alone. However, there is still one more race to finally decide the winner of the now-war between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.