What Verstappen needs to do to finish 2nd in the Driver’s Championship.

The Flying Dutchman has been in the form of his life leading up the summer break, and will now battle with Bottas for runner-up in the Driver’s Championship.

It’s been quite the half-season for Max Verstappen. The 21-year-old is now the main man at Red Bull and looking up to the mark, having outshone former teammate Pierre Gasly to the point of replacement. In the last four races up to the break Verstappen racked up 78 points with wins at Austria and Germany, and found his first pole position at Hungary. It leaves him third in the standings, comfortably ahead of Vettel in fourth and only 7 behind Bottas on 188 points.

Bottas is a man under pressure. The Finn’s contract runs out at the end of the driving season, and there’s mounting speculation that Mercedes will employ a fresh face in Estaban Ocon. But Bottas was doing relatively okay up until the final two races before the summer break. With wins at Australia and Azerbaijan, Bottas made podium in every race this season up to Hockenheim.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff will be on Bottas’ case in the second half of the season, and it leaves the door open for Verstappen to take run away with second.

With Lewis heading for his sixth championship, Bottas and Verstappen will battle for second.

Grid penalties and Singapore opportunities.

The second half of the season throws up some good tracks for Red Bull. But the team faces a grid penalty and that could come soon. With the season resuming at Spar before Singapore the weekend after, and Monza after that, Red Bull could well choose to take the penalty straight away. Already on the second engine update, Red Bull will soon be going onto their third which will initiate the grid penalty. In order to go for the win at Singapore, where the team are expected to excel, Red Bull will likely take it at either Spar or Monza.

Verstappen will be looking for his 8th career win at Singapore before heading to Sochi, where he’s finished 5th in both his races there, and then to Suzuka where again Red Bull are expected to score well. It’s the home race for Red Bull and their Honda engine, and it’s where Verstappen competed in his first practice session with Toro Rosso in 2014 becoming the youngest driver to take part in an F1 Grand Prix weekend.

But the Dutchman scores well in Japan and when that’s over the F1 calendar heads to Mexico, where Max looks to make a hat-trick of wins.

Max is mad for Mexico.

Winning the last two Mexican GPs, Verstappen will definitely have this race in the back of his mind and so wi his team as they fight with Ferrari for second place in the Constructor’s Championship. In 2017 and 2018 Verstappen wrestled his way into the lead at the first corner at Mexico to then go and control the race, last year pipping his teammate Daniel Ricciardo. It’s also where Hamilton won his fourth and fifth championship, and it could well be the venue for his sixth.

After Mexico the races head north for the US GP, before Brazil and the Abu Dhabi finale. Though Mercedes will likely claim race wins in these, Red Bull and Verstappen expect to be there or thereabouts on three tracks where the Red Bull car can deliver – Verstappen has set the fastest lap in two of the last three Grand Prix’ in Brazil, and now warranting an extra point, it could prove pivotal in his battle for second in the Drivers’.

Over to you, Max.

It’s all down to the driver now. For Verstappen, a new teammate shouldn’t affect his form, but a strategic grid penalty is needed by his team, probably straight off the bat at Spar. Finishes need to remain consistent, but the key for Verstappen is qualifying strong and getting wins where Red Bull can compete.

His opponent in the battle for second, Bottas, will be hoping he can compete at the level required, but the speculation surrounding him leaves him in a prime position for Max to state himself at the top, and go for silver.

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Newcastle United: ‘Bruce is the hired face of the club’s problems’

Game week 2 of the Premier League is yet to conclude and already we have a fan base calling for the sacking of their manager. The Newcastle United faithful are lamenting their home grown manager Steve Bruce after two defeats from the opening two, yesterday’s 3-1 defeat at Carrow Road sending the hashtag ‘BruceOut’ into Twitter’s top trending.

But in the midst of all this Bruce-fuelled animosity it’s become apparent that his appointment was not subject to the club’s performances, but in taking the heat off of the man who appointed him.

This season was always going to be a battle between board and fan after the departure of the man who held it all together, Rafa Benitez. The Champions League winning gaffer swapped Tyneside for China shortly after the end of last season, citing difficulties between himself and Mike Ashley. Rafa proved his Premier League capabilities with a Championship-standard Newcastle side, and replacing him was going to be a stern challenge for even the best of tacticians.
Bruce looked the likely replacement from the off. Impressing in half a season at Sheffield Wednesday, Ashley felt it was time to reward the Tyneside boy with his dream job. But his appointment raised questions all through the footballing world. A man with one of the lowest Premier League win rates, who has managed all of Sheffield United and Wednesday, Birmingham City and Villa and now Sunderland and Newcastle, has a reputation for relegation and an unwillingness to stick it out in difficult circumstances.

But who can blame him? Bruce was never going to turn down the chance to manage his Newcastle in the top flight, despite the hordes of negativity that surrounded him when he was initially linked with the job. And now, only two games into the season, with Newcastle looking a likely candidate for relegation under Bruce, it seems that Ashley’s plan, albeit a short-term one, is working. With the toon army parading #BruceOut it’s taken the spotlight off of him for once.

The shrudest businessman in the North, Ashley will keep Bruce at the helm for as long as humanly possible. Until fans follow through on their claims of boycotting the matches, or until Bruce physically cant take the strain anymore. But for sure, Bruce is the hired face of the club’s problems.

George Russell: A Future World Champion?

In the years to come, when the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and co have hung up their helmets, the world of Formula 1 will need new stars. Max Verstappen is primed to be the next great in the sport, and one driver who could be the Prost to his Senna is Williams’ George Russell.

The gangly Brit has impressed in his first half season in F1 having stormed the F2 championship last year, and at just 21-years-old he could well have a lengthy and decorated future in the sport.

Jumping into William’s FW42 was going to be a momentous challenge for any driver, given the facts that the team missed pre-season testing, and that the car’s designer Paddy Lowe jumped ship half way through the season.

Nevertheless Russell has more than proved his worth at Williams, who sit last in the driver’s championship with just a single point on the board. He’s drawn praise from the team’s deputy principle Claire Williams who claimed that Russell is ‘world champion material’, and then from Williams’ former technical boss, and now Chief Technical Officer of F1’s Motorsport Division, Pat Symonds.

“Watching George Russell in Formula 2, I’ve been really impressed with him…I’ve seen him race really well in so many different circumstances, leading in the front, controlling the race, coming through traffic, wet weather,dry weather, when things have gone wrong he’s kept at it. I’ve got a feeling he might be a guy to watch.”

Though the team have struggled so far this season they’ve gone into the summer break on a relative high, having received upgrades for the Hockenheim and Budapest races, the latter in which Russell qualified above both Racing Point cars and a Renault.

The second half of the season could be the making or breaking of Russell, but his quality and potential in the motorsport is there for all to see.

UFC 241 Main Event Preview – Diaz v Pettis & Cormier v Miocic.

Fight fans are getting excited about UFC 241 this weekend, where Daniel Cormier defends his Heavyweight title against the man he took it from, whilst Nate Diaz makes his long awaited return to the octagon to face Anthony Pettis.

Diaz has taken three years out the fight game, having not featured in the UFC since 2016 when he lost the rematch against Conor McGregor. Though the Stockton boy has said he’s been in the gym the whole time, and waiting for the right opponent.

The pair agree that the fight should’ve happened a long time ago. Diaz called out Pettis in 2013 when he was Lightweight champ, saying he was constantly injured after every fight. But Pettis was struggling to make weight in that division, most notably when he missed it by 3 pounds when he lost to Max Holloway at UFC 206.

He returned to fight at 170 after eight years at 155, and knocked out Wonderboy Thompson in spectacular fashion earlier this year. And that’s the weight that he’ll fight Diaz at. Diaz stepped in at the last minute to fight McGregor at welterweight and won with a rear-naked choke to take him to joint second most submissions in the UFC with Royce Gracie.

Pettis will welcome Diaz into the octagon after a three-year hiatus.

As for the heavyweight bout, Stipe is out for revenge. Cormier took the belt that Miocic claims is his back in July last year, and Miocic took some time out from fighting to raise his newly born daughter. The loss came as a big blow to the Cleveland man – Cormier ending the longest heavyweight title reign in the sports history against all the odds to become the double champ.

Since the win, Cormier’s fame and reputation in UFC has sky-rocketed. The Olympic wrestler defended his new title with ease against Dereck Lewis, whilst giving up his Light Heavyweight title which Jon Jones now holds.

Cormier has also made his name in punditry and was awarded an ETSY for MMA fighter of the year for 2019, showing his domination of the sport in the last two years. It looked as though he would fight Brock Lesnar after beating Miocic, and that fight may come to fruition should he beat Stipe for a second time.

But for Stipe, a man who seems to have been at the height of UFC for so long, it feels like this fight may be all or nothing. With a family to think about, Stipe could well retire from the octagon if he is beaten for a second time against Cormier, having been on a whirlwind career beating legends like Junior dos Santos, Alistair Overeem and Mark Hunt in his career.

Predictions.

Diaz win by unanimous decision – though hes been out the game for a long time, Diaz has been keeping active and should have the chin and the dirty boxing skills to see off a tough opponent in Pettis.

Cormier win by TKO – he shocked people when he kocked Stipe out cold last time, but Miocic will have learned his lessons and will go into this fight stronger. But I think DC has too much power and a wider skillset to get the job done.

Kadeem the Dream: Wednesday’s new star.

Sheffield Wednesday have a new hero in Kadeem Harris. In his first two games for the club he’s shown fans his Premier League quality with a goal in the opener at Reading, and a second solid performance in Wednesday’s 2-0 over Barnsley on Saturday.

The winger joined from Cardiff City in the summer having run out his contract at the Welsh side, and seems to have settled into Lee Bullen’s high-pressing, attacking minded side that have won the opening two games of a season for the first time in 23 years.

Having played 15 games in the Premier League last year for Cardiff, Harris has instantly shown that he has the potential to play at that level. He’s been an integral part of Bullen’s philosophy so far, which favours ‘old fashioned’ wingers who like to take the ball forward and get into the box, working hard to press the opposition defence high up the pitch.

And it seems like Harris’ energy has lifted his teammates too. Him and fellow new boy Jacob Murphy linked brilliantly against Barnsley, whilst Steven Fletcher looked to benefit from being less isolated upfront as he has been at times at Hillsborough.

It’s easy to get carried away so early into the season, but Harris and Wednesday look hungry for success this season, and if Bullen can keep his key players fit and maintain the standard they’ve set so far, they could be in for a successful season.

Norris: “It was an alright weekend”

The summer break is now upon us and we face a whole month without Formula 1. Not until the first of next month at Belgium will the action return, but we’ve been treated to two exciting races in as many weeks leading up the summer break.

Last week we had the craziness of Hockenheim and the weekend just gone was an entertaining one too in Hungary. Lewis Hamilton claimed the victory, starting second to Max Verstappen – the sport’s 100th pole sitter and the Dutchman’s first ever.

It was a decent weekend for most, and an ‘alright’ one for McLaren driver Lando Norris.

The British driver started in P7 and he and his driving partner Carlos Sainz jumped Pierre Gasly at the start, though it was the Spaniard who claimed P6.

The McLaren duo occupied P6 and 7 for a good stint of the race until a slow pit sotp for Norris set him back. But the Brit battled back to take his points tally to 24 for the season with a solid performance at the Hungaroring:

“I got past Gasly straight away, but I knew Carlos was somewhere on the inside, so I played it safe and gave him plenty of space” said Norris after the race.

With hindsight, I think I could’ve stayed ahead but I didn’t want to take the risk… P7 in the first stint was alright, following Carlos the whole way. Then we did our pit-stop… we basically lost all our positions there.”

The pace was good but the Mercedes was a bit quicker at the end… apart from that, it was an alright race.”

Danis slams ‘sloppy’ Covington.

Bellator featherweight Dillon Danis has slammed Colby Covington’s UFC Newark victory as ‘sloppy’, after ‘Chaos Covington’ beat Robbie Lawler via unanimous decision.The Florida man extended his winning streak to seven with a rounded performance against Lawler which includes victories over Demian Maia and Rafa Dos Anjos, as Covington sets his sights on Kemaru Usman’s welterweight title.Many were impressed by Covington on the night, but former UFC fighter Danis took to Twitter to disagree.https://twitter.com/dillondanis/status/1157777797340942339?s=19Danis is partial to a Twitter row, having beefed with Covington before, and more recently with Light Heavyweight champ Jon Jones.Little has been reported of Danis since he made his Bellator debut in April last year, with ‘El Jefe’ fighting just once since then.A UFC return for Danis is unlikely, and so to is a bout between he and Covington, who’s UFC record now stands at 15 wins and 1 loss, seven by stoppage.