Monthly Archives: August 2013

Bowled Over – Fifth test falls to bad light – By Luqman Liaqat

England missed out on a chance to record a 4-0 Ashes victory over Australia for the first time as they fell agonisingly short of chasing down 227 on the final day in the fifth test at the Kia Oval.

Still requiring 21 with four overs and five wickets in hand, umpires Aleem Darr and Kumar Dharmasena decided the light was too poor to continue with play, leading to the players walking off to a chorus of boos from the capacity crowd.

After the Australian skipper Michael Clarke won the toss and chose to bat first, David Warner fell early driving at James Anderson which wicket-keeper Matt Prior held behind.

But Shane Watson had other ideas as he hit himself back in form taking the assault onto the England new boys Chris Woakes and off-spinner Simon Kerrigan. Watson scored 28 runs from Kerrigan’s first two overs to move onto 80 as Australia reached lunch at 112-1.

England fought back in the middle session as Graeme Swann removed Rogers (21) and then Anderson nipped a full delivery past Clarke’s defence for just seven.

At the other end, Watson kept his composure to reach his first 100 in 48 innings with a drive through the covers off Anderson. Only 71 runs came from the second session with two wickets going down as Australia moved to 183-3 at tea.

Watson found a good partner in Steve Smith in the final session, who hit eight hours and a six. Woakes had Watson given out for lbw on 166 but the review showed the ball completely missing the stumps.

England finally had him for a devastating 176 when hit a short ball from Stuart Broad straight to Kevin Pietersen on the square leg boundary. With Peter Siddle joining Smith on 66 the pair saw out the remaining overs as Australia closed day one on 307-4.

The second day didn’t get underway until 14:30 to the annoyance of the capacity crowd waiting to see some action at the Kia Oval.

Broad and Anderson found movement under the clouds, as Siddle (23) was bowled out by Anderson with a beauty. Smith drove Anderson through the covers to move into the nineties and a mighty six off Swann took him from 94 onto a century before he raised his arms in delight.

Brad Haddin’s partnership of 65 with Smith was over when he chopped a full delivery from the unlikely wicket-taker Jonathon Trott back onto his stumps as the Aussies reached 397-6 at tea on day two.

Woakes had his first Test wicket when debutant James Faulkner (23 from 21 balls) miscued a pull shot to Trott.

Swann bowled out Mitchell Starc for 13 before Ryan Harris then smashed him over the top for a maximum twice.
Harris fired 33 off 27 balls before being caught and bowled by Anderson and Smith was still unbeaten on 138 before Clarke called it time on the innings at 492-9.

The hosts survived the remaining 17 overs in the day before bad light stopped play on 32-0.

Cook fell early on day three for 25 when Harris had him caught behind to Haddin. Root’s half-century included 11 boundaries and Trott supported him well as the pair moved England onto 97-1 at lunch.

After lunch, Nathan Lyon removed Root for 68 as the young Yorkshireman fell to Clarke’s plan as Watson held a sharp catch at short fine leg.

Trott only scored two fours as he grounded to 40 off 134 balls before Starc trapped him lbw in front of leg stump. Pietersen’s 133-ball century was his slowest in tests and surprisingly he hit only four boundaries.
Starc finally removed Pietersen (50) when a thick edge off a full delivery flew low to Watson at slip leaving England 217-4.

Ian Bell and debutant Woakes blocked out the final few overs to keep six wickets in hand in a session where only 66 runs were scored in 34 overs as England closed on 247-4.

Due to heavy overnight rain there was no play possible on day four, persistent rain continued through the morning and afternoon and play was eventually abandoned at 16:00 BST while England still needed 46 to avoid the follow-on.
Woakes was on his way for 25 when he attempted a drive off Harris which Clarke caught at second slip.

Broad only managed nine before Starc ripped his middle stump, allowing Swann to come and entertain the full house, the pair put on 48 for the eighth wicket taking the score on 350-7.
Prior (47) made his top score of series before attempting a third four in the over only for Starc to hold onto a stunning catch. Faulkner removed Anderson to claim figures of 4-51 on debut.

Swann hit two sixes off Lyon before hitting straight to the fielder in the deep as England were bowled out for 377.
Australia needed to score quick runs for any hope of a morale-boosting victory, which led to a clatter of wickets falling down in a thrilling contest.

Warner was superbly caught and bowled by Anderson for 12 and Watson holed out to Swann for 26. Broad (4-43) claimed the next four wickets to keep the tourists in check, Clarke scored an unbeaten 28 as Australia declared on 111-6.

In chase to the 227 set by Australia in 45 overs, Root departed for 11 nicking Harris behind to Haddin who claimed his 29th catch of the summer, a new Test series record.

Trott put on 64 with skipper Cook (34) before Pietersen arrived to gives the chase serious momentum. He registered the fastest Ashes fifty by an England batsman beating Prior’s record off 37 balls as the equation fell down to 62 runs still required from 64.

However Pietersen and Trott (59) fell in quick succession, leaving it down to Bell and Woakes. The pair put on 36 in 4.3 overs but the run out of Bell by Starc turned out to be the final action.

After a day which recorded 447, bad light stopped England from scoring another 21 runs to create history.
The draw gives England victory in a third consecutive Ashes series and the two rivals will face each again in the Ashes later this year down under. This tour continues to the T20 series starting on Thursday at the Rose Bowl in Southampton.

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Pit Stop – Number 1’s – By Lewis Brearley

Last weekend the structure of both the Formula One and MotoGP championships were cemented. Both championships now have a clear favourite, a number one who has momentum definitively on their side.

Marc Marquez and Sebastian Vettel both scored supreme victories, both looked to be in perfect harmony with their respective machines; and both extended their now impressive championship leads.

Marquez won the Czech Grand Prix ahead of his team mate Dani Pedrosa with Jorge Lorenzo third. Worryingly for Yamaha Lorenzo was a fair distance behind and now stands 44 points behind Marquez.

So much praise has been written and spoken about Marquez that it seems futile to add more. But the sheer looks of despair and hopelessness on Pedrosa’s and Lorenzo’s faces is perhaps the highest praise of all.

The two riders who have been dominantly fastest for the past few seasons are being consistently beaten by a twenty year old rookie and as hard as they try, they just can’t beat the guy.

Nobody has ever entered the premier class and took so little time to become at ease. Many predicted time to adapt from the 600cc Moto2 bikes to the demands of the 1000cc beasts. But he doesn’t seem to have adapted. He rides in a spectacular tail-happy fashion which not only apes the man he replaced, Casey Stoner, but seems to take the style to another level beyond.

As much as Lorenzo blames his bike and Pedrosa stays quiet, one thing is certain, that they need to find another level very soon to have any hope of winning the championship.

Over in Belgium, Sebastian Vettel was asserting a crushing dominance over his Formula One rivals. Winning by a huge 16 seconds with apparent pace to spare from Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton to give himself a 46 point championship advantage.

Again, the beaten rivals looked truly beaten. Post-race Alonso took to staring at the race timing screen as is his wont as of late. It’s almost as if it’s his last resort, after all the failed developments with his Ferrari, to just hope the situation will magically change.

Yet there was some positives for Alonso. The Ferrari was much better than it had been in the past couple of races where it looked as though Alonso was going to slowly fade away from the championship battle.

Mercedes, on the other hand, were disappointed with third. Looked at objectively it’s a great sign of how far they have come from their troubles that their expectations are now so high. But they really couldn’t afford to drop more points to Vettel, now 58 points ahead.

While Alonso was staring away, Hamilton simply said to Vettel, “too fast.” Indeed he is.

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It’snowheaven – Where it all started – By Jess Softley

Snowboarding is enjoyed by thousands of people recreationally and professionally and is one of the fastest growing sports in the UK, combining elements of surfing, skateboarding and skiing.

With such easy access to dry slopes and indoor snow domes, becoming a snowboarder has never been as easy. However, it wasn’t always this easy.

Before the 90s, snowboarding was a sport which had very limited access, as the only way to practice was to travel to places such as France, Switzerland, Canada and the USA. After the establishment of dry slopes, snowboarding thrived as a sport and continued to develop over the years.

For a country that lacks the snowboarding terrain to rival the likes of the Alps, the UK has produced some world class talent. Over the past decade, the popularity of the sport has almost quadrupled with the support of sixty dry slopes and six indoor real-snow centers in the UK.

Also, the number of Brits taking snowboarding holidays has increased from 187,000 in 2000 to 230,000 within a matter of seven years. 1998 was a huge year for snowboarding, not just in Britain but all over the world, as snowboarding was accepted as an Olympic sport in its own right at the Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

Here, men and women both competed in two events, the giant slalom and the halfpipe. A Giant Slalom is an alpine snowboarding discipline which involves snowboarding between sets of poles, spaced at a greater distance to each other than in an ordinary slalom slope.

A halfpipe is a structure used in gravity extreme sports such as snowboarding. It is essentially two concave ramps, where snowboarders aim to ride the pipe from right to left and visa-versa, whilst attempting to do tricks throughout their runs.

The giant slalom event took place at Shiga Kogen on Mt. Yakebitai, a ski resort which formally did not allow snowboarders, until the Olympics. However, this did cause some controversy and as a result of this, the International Snowboarding Federation was founded.

The British Ski and Snowboard (BSS) organisation was founded in 2010 to support British athletes get recognition from the FIS discipline and help them prepare and enter for the Winter Olympics. They aim to get British riders out on the podiums at world events and challenge other countries to achieve medal success at next year’s Olympics.

This then paved the way for today’s British riders to develop their skills and showcase their talents against some of the world’s best riders.

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Pit Stop – SPA – By Lewis Brearley

When Formula One arrives at the circuit of Spa-Francorchamps, there’s always a special feeling in the air.

Personally, the first grand prix I ever saw was the 1998 Belgian Grand Prix, but it’s not just me who regards the place as special.

Kimi Raikkonen, winner on four occasions and the most successful of the current grid of drivers, has nothing but positive vibes, “For me there have only been good memories from Spa and it’s great to go racing there.

“You can’t get the same kind of a feeling anywhere else. It’s a proper circuit which has such a great tradition”.

Whether Kimi can add to his good memories and take a fifth victory in Belgium will be discovered this weekend, when Formula One returns from the summer break.

Raikkonen goes into the race knowing that he won’t be a Red Bull driver next season, as many, including this column, had predicted.

Why the talks between Kimi and the team broke down is as of now, unknown, but they seem to have been stopped by the team, rather than the driver. This indicates Red Bull have decided to show faith in their young driver programme by choosing their own Daniel Ricciardo, rather than an experienced hand.

How much Kimi wanted the deal with Red Bull is also unknown. His management was certainly actively pursuing a seat and the opportunity of driving alongside Sebastian Vettel is a golden one. However, Kimi is well known to be enjoying driving for the Lotus team, but that he is concerned about the teams finances, and hence its ability to deliver him a second world championship.

Lotus are trying to secure a deal with Infinity, the car manufacturer which already has title sponsorship with Red Bull and are publicly confident that they will get it signed. But officially nothing has yet been agreed, and when you combine that with the current absence of a 2014 engine deal, Kimi’s concerns about his team’s future look well founded.

With his top alternative option now out of the picture, rumours are rife that a Ferrari drive could be possible.

To people who remember how Kimi’s stint at Ferrari ended, with two seasons of regularly poor performances followed by team boss, Luca di Montezemolo paying him not to drive for the team in 2010 to make way for Fernando Alonso, this may seem rather unbelievable.

And this is probably what the rumours are – unbelievable. Raikkonen doesn’t fit the Ferrari culture and in a team where Alonso’s concerns are prioritised, other drivers would certainly make better and less difficult number twos.

Yet a deal is possible. Raikkonen appears to be in a much more determined mindset than he was at Ferrari and his qualities behind the wheel may help Ferrari out of their current predicament. But it’s an outside bet.

Talk of next year’s driver line ups is distracting from the championship picture. This weekend will be a real chance to see whether the Mercedes has the ability to challenge Red Bull through the rest of the season. The long, fast corners produce high lateral loads which will really test teams’ tyre degradation. If the Mercedes wins at Spa, they could win anywhere – promising for the championship.

Conversely, Alonso and Raikkonen could slip more than fifty points behind Vettel and Red Bull. If their teams show no improvement in pace, their hopes for 2013 may be over early.

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It’snowheaven – Brits invade Kiwi Slopes – By Jess Softley

With the Winter Olympics right around corner, the GB Slopestyle team are doing everything they can to secure their place at Sochi next year, with each qualification event having a huge impact on their chances.

Therefore the stakes were just as high, as athletes from all over the world came flooding in to compete at the FIS Snowboard Slopestyle World Cup in New Zealand.

Kicking off the first FIS Snowboard World Cup of this season, our GB athletes would be coming up against some tough competition.

However, this was not their biggest obstacle, as poor visibility and high winds forced FIS officials to postpone the Men’s slopestyle qualifiers for several days, resulting in only two out of four, actually taking place.

Despite the issues with the weather, the remaining men’s qualifiers and women’s slopestyle qualifiers went ahead the day after to decide who would be competing in the finals.

Amongst those who qualified for the men’s final, was Britain’s very own Billy Morgan who came a respected fourth place in the second heat, to join Maxence Parrot, Roope Tonteri, Peetu Piironinen, Gjermund Bratten and Eric Willet.

Also, on the women’s side, Brit Jenny Jones made it through the qualifiers, to not only boss her run, scoring a whopping 87 points, but taking home the silver medal. Jenny was extremely relived to have landed her run, with memories of previous missed chances lurking behind her.

Sadly, Aimee Fuller and Katie Ormerod didn’t quite make it to the podium spots in the qualifiers, placing 9th and 10th.

Unfortunately for Billy, his final was cancelled due to ‘unrideable’ conditions; however he remains in second place in the Overall Men’s Slopestyle World Ranking list, leading up to the next qualifier at Copper Mountain, Colorado in December.

So far the GB Slopestyle team are becoming an even bigger threat at each and every event as the Olympics creep that bit closer.

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Pit Stop – Moto GP is back – By Lewis Brearley

After a four week break MotoGP returns this weekend for the first race of a triple header. The races in Indianapolis, Brno and Silverstone will take place back to back and will be critical in the race for the championship.

Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo both need to get back on to the podium after a three-race streak where neither has finished higher than fourth to stop Marc Marquez gaining a sizable championship lead.

The collarbone and shoulder injuries that caused this troubled run of form have had the whole summer break to mend so both riders should be in much better condition to take the battle to the ever improving Marquez.

However, in order to challenge Marquez, both Pedrosa and Lorenzo really need to be 100% and whether that will be the case in still in doubt. They were nowhere near Marquez at the last race at Laguna Seca.

Another obstacle blocking comebacks from the Spanish pair is that the podium battle are much more competitive than they were at the start of the season when it was basically an all-Spanish affair.

Cal Crutchlow has four podiums from the last six races, Valentino Rossi has three podiums in a row; and Stefan Bradl made the leap up after a mighty impressive performance at Laguna Seca.

It won’t just be the championship rivals hoping for more at Indy. Ducati have experienced a dismal first half of the season and are without a podium finish all season.

The disheartening thing for the team though is that no progress seems to be occurring and the team are nowhere near the Hondas and Yamahas. The fact that the next version of the Desmosedici that Ducati had been developing was turned away by their riders for being no better than the current version, is even more worrying.

Where Ducati has gone wrong nobody, not even their own engineers, can seem to tell and that isn’t very promising for their new signing, Crutchlow.

Next season Crutchlow will replace Nicky Hayden on the Italian bikes, having favoured riding a factory effort to a satellite one such as his current Tech 3 Yamaha.

Hayden never seems to have got any sort of handle on his Ducati, even back in 2009 when the team was a regular winner thanks to Casey Stoner. Three podiums in five years on the bike attest to that.

Let’s not forget even Valentino Rossi could only manage three podiums in his two year spell at the team. Whether Crutchlow can emulate Stoner rather than the string of failures will only be known next season, but more pertinently for him is probably whether or not he can get a win this year.

With a bike a couple developments behind Lorenzo’s, he would probably need the world champion to make an error or not be up to full fitness to be top Yamaha, but we’ve seen that he can beat Rossi fair and square.

He got beat by Marquez at the Sachsenring, but could Indianapolis be Crutchlow’s chance to take win number one?

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It’snowheaven – There is no rest for the wicked – By Jess Softley

When it comes to being  the best, you have to beat the best. And on the 8th September, you’ll find them hitting the slopes of New Zealand as Burton holds their second annual High Fives snowboarding competition.

This six day event combines the conventional aspects of a snowboarding as well as other ‘off-snow’ challenges to test teamwork, style and technicality.

The Cardrona Alpine resort will welcome 60 of the best male and female snowboarders around to compete in the, invite-only, Slopestyle and Halfpipe events where each athlete will be awarded on their individuals performances, as well as having the chance to be a part of a team in the range of ‘off-snow’ competitions.

Burton have decided to bring a little of New Zealand to the event, hosting some of those thrill-seeking, adrenaline pumping sports the Kiwi’s love so much.

Co-sponsor of the event, Mini; have provided their Countryman 4×4 cars which the competitors will all drive in an event to test their skills behind the wheel in just one of the ‘off-snow’ challenges.

This event not only holds the prestige of a 5*TTR ranking, but is also a major event for those Olympic hopefuls on their route to Sochi next year.

With some of the biggest names in snowboarding history, there’s no doubt that this event will be even bigger than last year, as 2012’s podium placers will be back to defend or improve their score.

Last year, many riders pushed their own personal boundaries to pull off a triple cork and land it successfully.

However, the trick that so many riders won their titles with has now become the stock trick of many events. So where does this leave this year’s competitors? How will they reach the high scores this time?

Tune in to The Sporting Week to find out.

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Pit Stop – The Future Webber – By Lewis Brearley

Mark Webber is one of the more direct and honest drivers in the Formula One paddock. In many media appearances he has shown no aversion in expressing how difficult his relationship is with his team-mate and his deep dislike of the current style of Formula One racing. Hence, when he speaks people tend to listen.

His latest quotes that the Formula One grid is lacking in quality when compared with the year he debuted in the sport – 2001 – are easy to disagree with. While it’s easy to understand why he holds such a view, having been held up by many unyielding Caterhams and Marussias in the past few years including the scary incident which left him hurtling up in to the air at Valencia 2010, it’s most definitely a rose-tinted viewpoint.

Most of the 2013 grid have proved perfectly adept, even highly talented. The five world champions at the front of the grid are some of the sport’s finest ever competitors and the midfield contains some very fine talent.

One thing that is clear though, is that there are fewer journeymen racers now than there were in 2001. Competition for seats is much tougher and any mediocre talent is quickly disposed of in favour of a highly promising rookie or unfortunately, a money-backed youngster.

Yet the number of such drivers who are only present for their accompanying sponsors is much lower than many commentators have led you to believe. Max Chilton, Giedo van der Garde and Esteban Gutierrez are the only three who have been fast tracked for the cash. Other well-backed drivers, such as Sergio Perez and Pastor Maldonado have proved to be up to the standard needed and just happen to have bounds of talent alongside the money.

Whether the 22 of 2013 would beat the 22 of 2001 is forever to remain unclear but what can be known is who, from the current crop, has been outstanding and who looks like being remembered as just another footnote in F1’s history.

Nico Hulkenberg’s decision to move to Sauber has certainly been proved to be an error. From leading last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix, the hugely respected young German is now scrapping for points, only seven of which are now his. In the longer term, Sauber, together with their newly acquired Russian backers do have the potential to improve on this year’s poor performance, but if

Hulkenberg gets lucky he won’t be around to see such improvements.He is on the short list for promotion to one of the top teams. The confirmed exit of Mark Webber and the likely sacking of Felipe Massa if he doesn’t raise his game leaves room for two more additions to the championship teams. The only major obstacles standing in his way are Paul di Resta and Jules Bianchi, the other two youngsters who look more eligible for a top class seat.

Hulkenberg appears to be the favourite for the possible vacant Ferrari seat, having trumped di Resta in their year as team mates at Force India; and being more experienced than the very raw Bianchi.

This is all conjecture, however and the truth will reveal itself as the second half of the season goes along. What is fact though is who has been disappointing this season.

Esteban Gutierrez stands out the most. Before the season even began many claimed that he looked unready for the step up, including his own team. He still stands pointless ten races in and needs to make a big leap if he is not to be unceremoniously booted out at the end of the season.

Formula One has never been more ruthless and in this age of minimal testing, youngsters have never had less time or more pressure to adapt to the class. The cream nearly always ends up rising to the top though.

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Pit Stop – Hamilton Claims First Win – By Lewis Brearley

Lewis Hamilton’s victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix marked the end of the first half of the 2013 Formula One season, one which has seen a cavalcade of drama and surprises.

Indeed the only predictable aspect is that Sebastian Vettel in his trusty Red Bull has a comfortable lead over his rivals.

The question of who is most likely to snatch the championship away from Vettel is an interesting and complex one. Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso are now the remaining leading contenders, the four most take to be the top class of the grid, proving that despite all the accusations of F1 being a very expensive lottery, quality in motor racing always shines through over time.

Despite the huge talent of these three contenders, the success of their respective championship challenges is intertwined with the form of their cars.
Raikkonen’s Lotus is consistently fast but never the outright pacesetter, as zero pole positions and five second place finishes attest.

Hamilton’s Mercedes is a much more complicated beast. Hugely fast – the W04 has seven pole positions from 10 races, four of which are Hamilton’s – the Silver Arrows have a tortured love story with their Pirelli tyres.

A tendency to severely overheat the rear tyres, exacerbated by the metal belt Pirelli introduced for its 2013 constructions retaining much of the heat generated, hampered Mercedes throughout the season and led to nightmare Sundays in Spain and Germany as the heat in the tyres caused profound degradation and the cars slipped backwards.

The events of Silverstone, where Hamilton was one of the victims of exploding tyres as the Pirellis were overloaded by the demands of the high-downforce track, and lost what was looking like a secure and brilliant victory led Pirelli to change their tyre constructions.

Hungary was the debut race for these new 2013 compounds with 2012 construction, which simplistically meant a change from a steel belt to a Kevlar one. As Kevlar is a synthetic fibre rather than a metal, much more of the heat generated by the cars was dissipated from the tyres.

This profoundly affected the dynamics of a few teams, and Mercedes, as the team struggling the most with heat, benefited the most. The W04 no longer dropped back from its customary pole position and remained able to beat the RB9 throughout the race.

A team which this change negatively affected was Ferrari. The scuderia and their star driver Alonso have, at a couple of points this season, had the best race car and after a glorious win in Spain in particularly, looked like the closest rivals to Vettel.

However development has ground to a halt in the past few races, and Ferrari, in a testament to how rapidly the top teams develop their cars, have been left behind. Alonso’s last four race results are second, third, fourth and then fifth, an ominous slide which has surprised a few and disappointed even more, including its star driver.

Management admitted that Ferrari were still having trouble with its windtunnel and a series of under-performing upgrades brought since Alonso’s victory at the Spanish grand prix have put their championship bid drastically back.

Alonso now seems to be as fed up as any other Ferrari supporter. While as in 2012 he optimistically encouraged Ferrari to keep trying as they saw Vettel slowly beat them to the championship, this year the Spaniard appears much more pessimistic in his interviews.

In Hungary Alonso, after three and a half years of seeing Vettel in front of him on a grid, finally had enough. His agent talked to Red Bull principal, Christian Horner in an attempt at one of two things. Either he knew this meeting would be spotted and could be used as a last ditch bluff to get Ferrari to realise that they could lose their prime asset if they don’t improve, or Alonso really is interested in the seat at Red Bull. After all, who isn’t?

Raikkonen looks the favourite to replace Mark Webber to team up with what might then be four time world champion Vettel. Whether or not Red Bull are actually considering Alonso is unknown, they might also be using the meeting as a bluff to disgruntle their Italian rivals, but if they know that he is indeed available then it would be an oversight to not at least consider him for the seat.

As for the remainder of this season, the four person battle looks set to continue, with all four teams confidently claiming their challenges are strong.

The question however remains, are any of them stronger than Sebastian Vettel and his Red Bull RB9. In four weeks in Belgium, we’ll be a step closer to finding the answer.

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