Claire Williams Becomes Deputy Team Principal At Williams

Andy's GP Blog

It has been confirmed that Claire Williams has been appointed as the Deputy Team Principal of the Williams F1 Team, a role she will assume with immediate effect. This new role will see her work alongside her father and Team Principal Sir Frank Williams, and has created a clear succession path for the Grove-based outfit.

The announcement of this new appointment was initially scheduled to take place before the start of the new Formula 1 season, however with the death of Lady Virginia Williams earlier in the month, both Sir Frank Williams and Claire Williams elected postpone the announcement due to family privacy. Claire will play a pivotal role in the day to day running of the team, and will continue her role as the Commercial Director of the British outfit. Claire Williams began her career within the team in 2002 as the press officer, and has since worked her…

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Sebastian Vettel: Brutal, Childish, Ruthless; Superb.

The great Ayrton Senna once uttered the now immortal words of “We are competing to win. And if you no longer go for a gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver.” And those words seem to have resonated with no one more so than Sebastian Vettel. His defying of team order “Multi 21” (to bring the cars home in formation) behind team-mate Mark Webber showed that there is a difference between simply driving a Formula 1 car and racing one. Quite a few incredibly fit athletes can drive a car in formation and happily amble around a track to the finish, but I could probably count on one hand from the archive of past drivers that would actively disobey their employers to go and get the result for themselves. Not that I’m condoning what Vettel did at all, the 25-year-old shouldn’t have won that race. Like a naughty child, when he was told not to do something, the first thing he does is to go out and do it.

Thanks to the coverage that is available to us, the humble fans of racing, we were able to hear most of the communication in the pit lane surrounding the fracas that was the Malaysian Grand Prix. “This is silly, Seb, come on.” Was the call from Christian Horner on the pit wall, after he passed his team-mate for the lead. This was instead of the more obvious “Give the place back, you were told to stay behind and that’s what we expect you to do.” Way to assert your authority, there. Vettel had the front after the race to plead miscommunication, but we all heard it from Francis ‘Rocky’ Rocquelin (Vettel’s race engineer) “Okay, Sebastian… three-second gap, save your tyres”. The response slightly later on: “Mark is too slow, get him out of the way.” sheer ignorance if nothing else. It’s not as though he could have misheard all of the transmissions, for example “Careful, Sebastian, careful” (when the two cars were close together). Also, to preserve tyre life the drivers are often asked to stick to target lap times, Vettel was asked for a 1:42.0, he went out and set a 1:40.446 on the lap before he passed Webber.

To rub salt in the already gaping wound, Vettel then took to the radio to attempt to justify his taking of the lead “I was really scared, all of a sudden he was swooping and I had to lead the line”. No wonder he got the one-finger salute from the Australian across the garage. But this was going to happen. Sebastian sensed an opportunity. Fernando Alonso (whom he would consider one of the biggest rivals to the title) was out of the race with a spectacular front wing failure at the start of the second lap, and Vettel wasn’t going to let anyone get in his way of another seven points, even his own team-mate. The general consensus of this has been ‘He shouldn’t have done it, but that’s the mark of a champion’.

While his championship qualities were shining through, as ‘Rocky’ told him immediately after the race “You wanted it bad enough, but now you’ve got some explaining to do”. Mark Webber had just as much right as Seb to go out and win that race. And seeing as team orders are currently allowed in F1, that’s what the team wanted as well. Even though Seb broke the in-house rule, Mark could have just as easily have gone ‘You want a war? You’ve got one…”, turned up his engine again and fought him to the finish. But he didn’t take the chance. Fuel saving may have had something to do with it, but while Vettel wasn’t wanting to cast himself as the Number Two, Webber seemed almost content with second place, among the seething that would’ve undoubtedly been happening under the helmet.

I’m going to be honest with you here, I don’t like Sebastian Vettel. While he has a chirpy, affable exterior, his will to win (while admirable) borders on Schumacher levels. And that’s dangerous. His target has always been known: he wants to become a legend. His mentor and friend the Seven-Time World Champion himself is a legend. But whenever you talk about the career of Michael Schumacher in retrospect, amid all the brilliance there’s always going to be a ‘But’. Surely, Vettel doesn’t want that for himself? His almost enthroned position within Red Bull and the eyes of Helmut Marko have led him to have these outbursts of Spoilt Child Syndrome moments. I’m sure that, at the age of 25, he has many victorious years ahead of him. But if he continues in this vein, he’s not going to be a legend with many friends left.

Should Football Managers be recycled in the same way as Players?

“That’s just modern football, though, innit?” seems to be the response to anything ludicrous or remotely controversial that happens in the game nowadays. Ronaldo being sold for £80m? Arsenal charging closer to that amount than you would think for a season ticket? Even a Manchester United player getting sent off and Sir Alex getting angry… It all leads to that one quote. The rather brutal sacking of Nigel Adkins from Southampton earlier in the season caused a great deal of shock and disgust from the great and the good of football. The Saints at that time had lost just two of their last 12 Premier League outings and were sitting pretty above the relegation places, so the news of Adkins’ departure came as a surprise to say the least. The club brought in Mauricio Pochettino in the hope that he could supersede the achievement of the back-to-back promotions of the Adkins era.

Many were dumbfounded by the decision because Nigel Adkins was actually doing a perfectly decent job at the club. But as is with human nature, you always aim to seek out the optimum option available to you. While Adkins could be doing a job that would keep Southampton afloat, the board think that Pochettino can simply do a better one. Was Nigel Adkins a victim of his own success, perhaps? The same can be said for the recently relieved-of-his-duties Brian McDermott. Both had hugely successful tenures in the Football League, and that hadn’t quite transferred into the Premier League, for one reason or another. While their dismissals may have been cruel, imagine being a player for a second. You’re in good form, then it tails off and you have a spell on the bench. Eventually, you fall out of favour altogether, seeing as the bright young talents have taken your place and are proving themselves to be worthy of it. Next thing you know, you’re being sold on to another team to get first team football again, and the process may well repeat itself again and again until retirement.

It’s almost taken for granted, now, that some players can be shuffled around from club to club, season after season. So why shouldn’t the same apply to the managers that they play under? A managers’ transfer market would be something that I would be very interested to see… Deadline Day filled with frantic phone-calls from Chief Executives and Chairmen to try and wrangle the best manager they can. Implausible, certainly, but not impossible in the future. The cycle of players is one that goes around surprisingly quickly. If you were to take a look at the squad you supported four seasons ago to what it is now, while the core of the squad in some areas may be the same, the players around it are likely to have changed completely. It may not be the ideal way to operate in terms of consistency, but that is just the way the game is, to make each squad as good as it can be and (subconsciously) to change the team so opposition can’t suss each team out very easily.

On the subject of consistency, it seems that managers are being cycled through alarmingly quickly; in the lower leagues in particular. 33 managers out of 92 teams in the Football League structure have received their marching orders this season, a five-year high; with a further 70 coaching staff exiting as well. Taking Blackburn Rovers’ situation of having a new gaffer on a bi-monthly basis into account, around a third of Football League teams have parted company with the boss of the first team since August. Has football become so arrogant as a sport that it sees the players as being ‘above’ the people that choose whether they play or not? Or is that just the way it has to be now? You decide for yourself. When most managers start a job, they usually say something along the lines of “We’re going to need time to adjust”, and very bluntly many don’t seem to get that time. Football is a results-based business, but some forms of human discretion have disappeared altogether. While performances may be worthy of points, circumstances don’t always favour those in bad form. As Brendan Rodgers is always keen to point out, his style of playing has taken time to implement and for the squad to get used to a certain way of playing. To relearn that twice or three times a season as a player must be incredibly difficult; and so unnecessary.

If you’re reading this and running a football club at any level and things aren’t going your way at the moment, think about what is going on. If you actually watch the games, you’ll see why you lose. But if you run a bigger club and you’re detached from the everyday workings of the club, you shouldn’t own one. It’s as simple as that. But I don’t have unfathomable amounts of millions in my bank account, so I wouldn’t know what it’s like. Of course, if your own money is being pumped into a project, you’re going to want good results. It’s only natural. But maybe perseverance is what’s needed, instead of another new face at the helm.

In summary, then, football managers aren’t in safe jobs. Neither are the players. To make the grade, both careers take an exceptional talent and years of moulding and training to be anywhere close to successful. But age and physical fitness are smaller barriers to managers, and the career-span of a player is generally far shorter. So that says to me that players flowing in this conveyor-belt-like nature makes more sense than doing the same for managers. But that doesn’t make it fair, because “That’s just modern football, though, innit?”

F1 2013: My Championship Prediction

As the 2012 season proved, Formula 1 is in rude health. Close racing, a title battle that went down to the last race, and (of course) the statistic of seven different winners to start the year. With everything that went on last year, it would be easy for racing sceptics to say that the sport can’t reach that kind of height for a very long time, right? From a personal view… Wrong.

Stability in regulations in the past has usually had the effect of cars ‘bunching up’ in terms of lap times (2008 springs to mind here, with most of the pack running within a second of each other for a large part of the year), and I can’t see a reason why 2013 should be any different. Testing is reliably unreliable in the sport, but whether teams are sand-bagging the cars or not, the lap times do tell a story. The so-called ‘new’ teams of Marussia and Caterham have shown in testing that they were merrily lapping around a second off last year’s Spanish Grand Prix pole lap. But such is the level of development in the sport, Nico Rosberg’s lap of 1:20.1 in Barcelona was a full 1.6 seconds faster than the pole lap set by his now team-mate Lewis Hamilton last year (before he was sent to the back of the grid for insufficient fuel levels, but let’s gloss over that…) So the cars are expected to be running closer together at the front, while going faster at the same time. What’s not to like?

Because the cars are expected to be incredibly competitive amongst each other, this means that we now have more genuine world title contenders. But the big question is this: Who can build a fast car and have the ability to drive their way into stopping Sebastian Vettel winning a fourth consecutive title? It’s a tough one to call. The raw engineering nouse of über-brain Adrian Newey has built championship-winning cars that span the decades, and not many among the paddock can see why this year will be an exception to that rule. The favourite for the Championship, without too much doubt.

The obvious answer to the question, though, would be Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. He was the choice of the majority among surveys and pundits as ‘Driver of the Year’ last year when he wrestled his often off-the-pace Prancing Horse to within three points of the title. Not that testing is a good indicator at all (as previously mentioned!) but on the face of it, the team back at Maranello have seemingly got their act together from the start to build a car that has been on or very close to the front running pace throughout the winter. And now that Alonso has a rejuvenated Felipe Massa alongside him to seriously back up his title charge, Ferrari can be seen to be in serious title contention in both championships.

So, what of Mark “Not bad for a Number Two Driver” Webber? He’s a multiple race winner, mounted proper title charges in the past, but it’s never quite come together for him over the course of an entire season. On his day, he has been unbeatable. To win twice each at the traditional “Driver’s Circuits” of Silverstone and Monaco is no accident. Now the oldest driver on the grid, whether he will have the capabilities to put together a run of performances to rival and out-score his young German team-mate remains to be seen. Nonetheless, still a World-Class driver.

McLaren have taken some hits in the past few years. Losing Adrian Newey, Fernando Alonso , Lewis Hamilton, Ron Dennis and now Paddy Lowe have had some doubting whether they can still attract big names to the team in the same way that they used to. That being said, Sky F1’s Natalie Pinkham believes that 2009 Champion Jenson Button will take the crown this year, and early indicators have shown that McLaren have built a solid base to start the year; with the MP4-28 being among the favourites to grab pole position in Melbourne. Many eyes will also be tracking the progress of young Sergio Pérez to see if he can handle the pressure of driving for a big team. He probably won’t realistically put in a title challenge this year, but the team will definitely want a strong showing from him.

Lotus had shown their ability to build a race-winning car last year (with the threat to have won more, in Bahrain in particular), but their season culminated in the returning 2007 Champion Kimi Raikkonen taking the chequered flag in Abu Dhabi, after two years in the WRC. Leave him alone, Lotus, he knows what he’s doing. And The Enstone Team (as those working within the factory prefer to be called) will be looking to build on that for 2013 after the Finn took an impressive third place in the Championship in 2012. After being branded a “First-Lap Nutcase” by Mark Webber, and being given another chance by Team Principal Eric Boullier, Romain Grosjean knows where he needs to improve. This isn’t through lack of speed, though, as Grosjean has proven himself to be more than capable of challenging his more experienced team-mate; in qualifying in particular. Lotus will certainly fancy their chances of pushing for both titles this year, if they can keep up with development, and in the case of Grosjean, finish consistently and finish well.

Lastly out of the main contenders, and perhaps the most interestingly, Mercedes. Signing Lewis Hamilton was certainly a major coup for them, and along with Hamilton’s old karting team-mate Nico Rosberg outperforming the great Michael Schumacher over the course of three seasons; some would argue that the Silver Arrows have the strongest driver line-up in Formula 1. Also, the sheer development of the car over the winter testing alone has put Mercedes right up among the big guns. Hamilton and Rosberg have been good friends for a number of years, and if Nico does outperform Lewis, like he is definitely capable of, that relationship could well be tested. Hamilton had said towards the end of last season that he expects to win the World Championship with Mercedes, but not this year. This could be his way of taking the pressure off of himself for this season, but being a driver of his calibre, he won’t want to settle for a mediocre year.

If I’m going to be brutally honest with you, dear reader, as a huge fan of the sport and someone who follows it almost religiously, I can’t tell you who is going to win the 2013 World Championship. I can’t even tell you who’s going to be in the top five for sure… So in true X Factor judge style, I’m going to keep my thoughts a secret. I’ve written my top three Driver’s Championship predictions and my thoughts on who will win the Constructor’s Championship and placed them in a sealed envelope, to be revealed at the end of the season… But in the mean time, I probably won’t be the only one setting my alarm at a ridiculously early time for First Practice on Friday. We could be in for a treat this year, I’m looking forward to this slightly…

Language is changing, just not simply…

Language is not in a good way. Certain new elements of language are popping up and they’re becoming increasingly problematic as they grow. This is especially as they add next to nothing in linguistic terms. If you disregarded these issues before reading this piece, you’ll be pretty much guaranteed to notice them afterwards.

 

Number One: The Pointless Adjective. Fairly self-explanatory, but like any adjective it acts to describe. Fair enough. Using food and drink as an example here, whether you’re describing what you have just eaten as “delicious” or “vile”, that’s generally how normal adjectives serve their purpose correctly. But when the supermarket you buy said food from decides to make your mind up for you even before you purchase the items? That’s just a no-no. “Tantalisingly Refreshing Duck à l’Orange?”, “Horrendously Artery-Clogging Mature Cheddar?” Sounds, well, just lovely. Some among us may actually (willingly) be swayed into purchasing by these needless acts of time consuming nonsense, but I would preferably like to form my own opinion of what Tesbury’s and Adrose are offering me; if that suits you, Mr Corporate? I mean, we have even witnessed the humble Ready Salted Crisp become victim to being known as “Classically Ready Salted” by a certain firm represented by a large-eared retired footballer. How is this helping?!

 

Some linguist-types may well propose that, while the Pointless Adjective has no official place in language lore as yet, I’m fairly sure it won’t be long before this particular neologism is recognised fully. But maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way, perhaps an extra adjective is Advertising’s attempt to try and get us to use more words again, as they probably know that a defamation of language is occurring right underneath our noses as much as we do. Utterances are generally getting shorter, with a larger use of word shortening measures such as initialism having a detrimental effect on eloquence among some; in the younger generations particularly. The formation of “Text Speak” can’t have helped too much, either.  There is no doubt that this more ‘clipped’ version of language is often more efficient than fully constructed sentences, seeing as we live in a linguistic universe that now has an acronym for near enough any situation. Maybe we’re too lazy to type/handwrite full words now. Maybe our minds are always on the next part of our day, rather than focussing on the current situation; meaning that less really is more. Or I’m just looking too deeply; one or the other. LOL, if you will. 

 

Number Two: Cele-Blending. Admittedly, the name itself is actually blending (or portmanteau, for the more official among us). Ironic, but the point still remains. You’re most likely to find Cele-Blending in glossy magazines or in a tabloid newspaper, so essentially wherever there’s a “Celebrity Gossip” page… Cele-Blending is more often than not used as an affectionate term for a celebrity couple that everyone will find ‘cute’. Think “Brangelina”, “Kimye”, “Robsten” and the like. This probably has pragmatic links to magazines feeling more ‘in touch’ with their readers by using universal Cele-Blending that everyone will know; possibly even endearing the celebrities involved indirectly. Nonetheless, it remains an inconvenience. Imagine if you were Cele-Blended as an individual without wanting to be, forever being known as “K-Stew”, “R-Patz” or “Sam-Cam”. I don’t think being called “Hen-Val” really suits me, do you? However, as many celebrities themselves irritate me too, let’s allow this one to slide. But don’t let it spread to the civilian world, if you can help it. It could turn into the whole country being blended in one form or another. So now and forever more we live in “G-Brit”…

 

Now, it wouldn’t surprise me if you hadn’t have heard of these features before. Hopefully, you haven’t, as I have just made them up (Unless the internet had invented them already, which is also likely! Please don’t sue me, I plead ignorance…) So they haven’t been recognised as official terms as yet. But I’m sure if we use them enough, the Oxford English Dictionary may have to sit up and take note. They usually do. If “Eurogeddon” and “Omnishambles” can get included, so can Cele-Blending. Your copy of the petition will arrive in the post…

 

I understand wholly that there’s nothing that most of us can actually do to stop language changing. And we shouldn’t. That wouldn’t help us develop at all. Language needs to change for it to reflect the age that we live in, and if it has to be this way, then so be it. But for future reference, if we could make language a bit simpler to understand without having to actually Google who “Speidi” are or read through how “Mature yet Mellow” the cheese I’m buying is; that’d be great. Much appreciated.