All posts by Matthew Hallett

The Formula 1 silly season starts early with Fernando Alonso signing

With Sebastian Vettel deciding to hang up the steering wheel next season, there was a level of interest as to who would replace him. Well, it only took a couple of days for us to know the answer. Aston Martin announced Fernando Alonso as their new team leader.

Despite being the newer driver on the team, Alonso will be the team leader Lance Stroll is not ready. This is why the decision-makers went with the most experienced driver on the grid. Vettel was certainly the team leader before his decision to retire so it is only fitting that he hands this mantle to another world champion.

Alonso is a true competitor whose fire will bring a whole new focus and zeal to the team. The two-time world champion has been on multiple teams, wearing out his welcome on a number of them. It actually appears that he has fallen out with either the Renault team or his teammate, Esteban Ocon. The way the two were squabbling over the same piece of road repeatedly during the last race gives that away.

Formula 1 silly season is now underway.

With Alonso announcing that he has signed with Aston Martin for 2023 the Formula 1 silly season has officially begun. Now that there is an opening with the Alpine team rumors are beginning to circle. Most of the drivers associated with this seas are young emerging drivers who are currently test drivers or F2 standouts.

This also has a good chance of quietening the rumors surrounding Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian doubled down on his future with the McLaren team. There is little chance of Ricciardo going to the French team. He left that seat to join the McLaren team for this contract.

There is little chance of him being welcomed back into the French team with open arms. Their current remaining driver Ocon has shown that he is a match for the former dual world champion. As such, Alpine would be well served by allowing him to become the team leader. They could then focus all their efforts on getting him up the standings. They would then be able to develop the other young driver for the coming seasons.

The impact of Sebastian Vettel retiring from Formula 1

Formula 1 will be without Sebastian Vettel for the first time since the 2006 season. He has decided to retire from the sport, effective from the end of the season. This is going to be the first seat open for next season, but with the silly season around the corner, it is certainly not going to be the last one. However, the conjecture over who is going to fill this seat has already started.

Vettel has given a lot to this sport. He entered Formula 1 way back in 2006 when he joined BMW Sauber as a test driver. Vettel also debuted with this team. He scored his first points in 2007 when he raced in place of Robert Kubica who crashed out of the Canadian Grand Prix the weekend before. His eighth-place finish ensured that Vettel was the youngest ever driver to score points in Formula 1.

Vettel then joined the Red Bull stable in 2007 with Toro Rosso. During his two years with the team, Vettel became the youngest ever Formula 1 driver to sit on pole position. He also became the youngest ever race winner at the Italian Grand Prix on a very wet day.

Sebastian Vettel was pretty good at this Formula 1 caper.

Vettel joined the Red Bull team in 2009 where he finished second in the World Championship. Then he won his first Championship in his second season with the franchise. This was the first of four consecutive World Titles that he won. His last season with Red Bull was a relative failure where he finished fifth. He then spent six seasons with Ferrari and then two seasons with Aston Martin.

Now that he has decided to retire, Vettel is going to be able to finish this season out without the pressure of getting a seat for next season. However, the problem here is that any driver who is out of contract for next season will probably be linked to Aston Martin. It also means that Daniel Ricciardo, despite doubling down on his future with McLaren will be faced with more speculation about his future.

It also will start the rumor mill circulating about the younger drivers who are currently test drivers for various teams. There is even the chance that Alex Albon could go for the seat. One thing that is for sure, there will be no shortage of rumors. Aston Martin is a team who are trying to become relevant again. Without a team leader with the experience of Vettel, they may be in danger of slipping even further to the back of the field.

The decision by South Africa shows money is running cricket.

It has long been the case that money is the driving force behind most professional sports and the decisions associated with it. That is not a new concept. However, the decision made by South Africa regarding their one-day squad and the tour of Australia. The tour is to start in mid-December with three tests. Then the South Africans were scheduled to play three one-day matches.

Unfortunately, this is the same time that the South African cricket board has scheduled their newly formed domestic T20 league. Being in the southern hemisphere, the South Africans play at the same time as Australia as a rule. When they tour Australia, they must play the Boxing Day test in Melbourne. The reason for this is that it attracts more spectators than every other test in the world.

This means that if they need to play home international games, or want to put on their domestic competition, they have limited time to do it. As this is going to be the first iteration of the event, they obviously want it to be a success. In order for this to happen, the South African Cricket Board wants its best players to be available. They did request to reschedule the series but there is no room in the very crowded cricket calendar to accommodate this.

South Africa sold out their World Cup hopes for a T20 cash cow.

With the games being canceled, the South African cricket team has almost no chance to qualify for the One Day International World Cup in 2023. Teams have until May of 2023 to qualify directly. They sit in the 11th spot on the ODI qualification table with just four wins from 13 matches.

While the top eight automatically go through to the World Cup, forfeiting these three games makes life really difficult to qualify directly. This will bring them up to 16 matches and they will still only have four wins. To make matters worse for the South Africans, the eighth-placed Australians take on Zimbabwe at home. Zimbabwe has been a minnow nation in cricket for a number of years. This should move them further back up the table.

Add to this the points that they will get from the South Africans series and they will be hard to catch.  On top of that, the seventh-placed Indian cricket team has three matches against Zimbabwe as well. South Africa will most probably have to qualify through a tournament for the final two World Cup places.

Given that Sri Lanka is in the bottom five, there is probably going to be one spot remaining to qualify. Anything can happen in sports and having to qualify through extra games will be dangerous for the teams qualifying. A World Cup without the South African cricket team is hard to imagine. However, with their desire to get revenue from the domestic T20 competition, they have made a rod for their own back.

Unfortunately, making money is more crucial for cricket boards these days. To be the best in all formats of the game is not the ultimate goal, financial viability is.

Haas Formula 1 team show us what is possible with a level playing field

The Haas Formula 1 team has gone from the rear of the field last season to very much being in the middle of the pack this season. Part of the reason they were so bad last season was they chose not to develop that car. Instead, they spent all their time and money developing this season’s car.

The regulations surrounding the specifications of this car are totally different from last season. This decision has paid dividends with the American-owned team sitting in the seventh position in the constructor’s standings.  This is a massive gain for a minnow team.

In fact, their current haul of 34 points is the third-best result in their seven-year history. They had 47 points in the 2017 season and 93 points in the 2018 season. The other interesting fact is that those 34 points are more than they have accrued in the last three seasons. They only won 31 points from 2019 to 2021 which puts a massive hole in any formula 1 team’s budget.

The Haas Formula 1 team has been battling with the big boys.

Over the last few races, the Haas team has been battling with the seven-time world champion, Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes. They have in fact been beating Hamilton at a few of the races. The team that finished last in the constructor’s championship last season is mixing it with last season’s winner of that championship. To say that this is huge is an understatement.

So, what is the difference between last season and this season? Well, the regulations as to how the car is designed are one reason. Mercedes, which had the dominant chassis for the last seven years had to completely redesign their car. Now, normally this would not be a problem as the huge team would just throw money at the problem until they solved it. They simply cannot do that this season.

Another of the regulations that were introduced was a cost cap. This cap means that Mercedes can only spend the same amount of money as everyone else on car development and upgrades. This is the same across all constructors and is putting pressure on Red Bull, who are asking for the cap amount to be raised. However, it appears that they are not going to get their way.

Formula 1 distributes its money incrementally

Haas has never been a big-budget team and as a result, has not been able to compete with the big boys of the sport. This means that they are not able to win the prizemoney required which puts pressure on the team and sponsors. Now, team principle Gunther Steiner is suggesting that Haas could finish as high as sixth. This is important as the prize money increases incrimentally the higher you finish in the constructors championship.

If the minnow again finished in tenth, they would get a smaller share of the revenue. however, now they are able to use the same money to develop their car as everyone else. They are showing that they are going to be a true force moving forward. We want to see the best drivers competing with each other on merit, not on who has the best car.

It is so good that the action is now back on track rather than off it.

One act from Jonas Vingegaard will define his cycling career

With the Tour De France coming to its conclusion, it is likely that Jonas Vingegaard will win it for the first time. He finished second to Tadej Pogacar who has won the previous two tours. Traditionally, unless the margin at the top is only a few seconds, the rider who is in front is not attacked. This is going to be Vingegaard’s first tour win.

He made a decisive move on stage two which gave him a two-minute lead. Then on the final stage in the Alps, Vingegaard stretched his lead thanks to a huge effort by his team. Finally, he extended his lead again in the individual time trial where he finished second to his teammate.

While Pogacar has been strong in this tour, he has not been his dominant best. He has won three stages but he has not been able to shake Vingegaard. The Danish rider has shadowed the pre-race favorite the entire way. That is, except when he has been ahead of him.

What was the moment that will define Jonas Vingegaard’s career?

It was in the final stage of the Alps, the one where Vingegaard extended his lead. He and Pogacar had been together on the road up the first two climbs of the day. Then, descending after the second climb, Pogacar fell. It was not a hard fall but it was one that Vingegaard could have pressed his advantage. He could have seen that Pogacar was disadvantaged and pressed home his advantage.

Instead, what did Vingegaard do? He sat up and waited for the rider who beat him last year. He decided that taking advantage of the bad luck of a competitor was not the way he wanted to be remembered. Had he kept going, the story would have been that Vingegaard had taken advantage of his opponent’s mistake.

Instead, he sat up and beat Pogacar up the next climb. The Slovenian rider congratulated Vingegaard, saying that he was the better rider on the day. He also said that the fall had nothing to do with why he lost. It is these moments in sport, in the heat of the battle which can define people’s legacy.

There is not a single person who would have thought less of Vingegaard if he had pressed on. Now, the cycling community and anyone in the wider community who saw the act this higher of him. Jonas Vingegaard is a deserved winner of the hardest event in the world.

For a sport that has had issues with its image over the years, this is incredible. We all get to leave this event feeling good about the future of cycling.

Why the supermax system is flawed – A Portland Trail Blazers study

The Portland Trail Blazers extended Damian Lillard‘s contract for a further two seasons in this current offseason. This is an intelligent move for the franchise at the right price. However, the price is certainly not right for the franchise. This is especially so with the age Lillard will be when the extension kicks in.

The problem is that Lillard is already 32 years old, before the start of this season. He then has two seasons left on his current deal before his extension kicks in. This means that the superstar will be 35 before it kicks in. In the final year, he will be 36. He will earn $58.5 million in 2025-26 and then $63.2 million in 2026-27.

To put this into context, the current salary cap for the 2022-23 season is only $123.6 million. The Trail Blazers are already over the luxury tax, which is set at $150.2 million. The Blazers are going to hope that the salary cap explodes over the next few seasons. Otherwise, they are going to struggle to put a competitive team around him.

The Portland Trail Blazers rebuild is going to be a struggle.

The Blazers had been tied to the Lillard, CJ McCollum backcourt until the trade deadline this season. They had invested almost $80.0 million for the next few seasons. They managed to trade McCollum’s contract to the New Orleans Pelicans. Now, instead of giving over $30 million to one player, they have split that between Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic.

However, going forward, it is going to be difficult to split the remainder of the salary cap enough to get quality players to stay. The supermax system was designed to help the smaller-market teams keep their star players. What it is actually going to cost them the ability to win championships. The goal was for these franchises to keep their good players. They should have then been able to add solid role players to round out the team

Instead, teams are just paying out huge sums of money to these stars. They have to choose if they want to go into the luxury tax if they want to win a championship. In order for there to be a fairer playing field, these franchises need a new system. What that system is, I can’t tell you. The NBA is still not a level playing field but it is better than it was. Let’s hope the next CBA helps make it even leveler.

Why Virat Kohli is not playing in the T20’s against the West Indies

The Indian Cricket team is really strong at the moment, especially in the T20 format of the games, with their ranking seeing them at No. 1 in the world. They just completed a 2-1 series victory against England and now they are gearing up to take on their next competition, the West Indies in the Caribbean.

The West Indies series does not have the billing as the previous to against England, it is still a dangerous series. You would not know that the English team is ranked second in the world. With the exception of the third game, the Indian team simply dominated the series.

By contrast, the West Indies sit seventh in the T20 rankings which means very little on the day. The Calypso Kings still have a swagger about them and can turn on performances from nowhere. This was the case even when they have been down at the bottom of world cricket

Are the Indian cricket team taking the West Indies for granted by resting Virat Kohli?

Virat Kohli is one of the best players of this generation, but every player has a down stretch. Currently, as discussed previously, Kohli is not playing anywhere near his best. While he is not playing badly in other forms of the game, he is really struggling in the T20 format. He showed the intent to play the current Indian style of T20 cricket but the results are not good enough.

Kohli picked up a groin strain during the tour of England which is the reason that the BCCI has rested him from the tour of the West Indies. They are still saying that he is part of their plans for the T20 World Cup in Australia. However, if his replacement performs well enough in the upcoming series then surely the Indian selectors will have to consider emitting Kohli from the World Cup squad.

Unfortunately for the superstar, the writing might be on the wall. The previous success of his career has given him some leeway but the clock is ticking. If Kohli is going to make a return to the side, he needs someone to fail. Otherwise, Kohli’s T20 days could very well be numbered.

The Deandre Ayton saga with the Phoenix Suns has another chapter

The Deandre Ayton saga has been going on for months now. The Phoenix Suns pinned a portion of the blame for their playoff exit on the young star, However, this is not the first part of the story. Ayton believes that he is a max player and the Suns did not believe this to be the case and let him test the waters of restricted free agency. This could have been to save the Suns a heap of long-term money. It may have also been done to continue the Kevin Durant pipedream.

Ayton was the first pick in the 2018 NBA draft and he has seen players like Trae Young, Luka Doncic, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander get rookie-max deals but he has missed out. This has to hurt because he is the only player from his draft to have a key role in a team that has made the NBA Finals. We are quick to point out his deficiencies, every young player has them, but why are his good qualities not praised?

How many other players in NBA history have averaged a double-double over their first four seasons. The answer would not be that many. Thanks to knowing his game, Ayton is also able to hit 59.9 percent of his field goals. He is an excellent offensive rebounder and has averaged one blocked shot per game over his career. These are incredible numbers for the third option of a team.

So why did the Phoenix Suns not offer Deandre Ayton a rookie-max extension?

The rumor is that Ayton did not want to sign anything less than a max deal. On the other side of the fence, the Suns did not believe that he was a max player. There are not many places to go when both parties have such variances of worth. This was the exact scenario that just panned out in Atlanta with John Collins.

In that case, there was no second team that wanted to sign Collins for what he thought he was worth. The Pacers basically forced the issue with Ayton such as his level of talent. Thanks to them making all the moves to sign Ayton. They cleared some players off cap space by waiving players. They then offered Ayton the biggest offer sheet in NBA history, which he signed.

It took the Suns three minutes to match the offer. This means that they had every intention of keeping Ayton. However, the machinations of this move are a thing of beauty. Ayton got close to the maximum that he could get. However, the Suns got their man for a year less and without the usual kickers that are associated with a rookie max deal. This could save them close to $80 million over the term of his contract.

What could the drawbacks of the deal be for the Phoenix Suns?

The drawback of the deal is that the Suns cannot trade Ayton until the middle of January. After this time, Ayton has veto power on any trade until the first year of his deal is complete. So apart from the money savings, the Suns now have the ability to trade players and remain over the cap.

This is going to be crucial if they are to trade for a superstar like Durant. The Suns have not given up any of their first-round draft picks in any trades so they could satisfy any trade requirements to land a superstar. If they put any superstar player with Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and Ayton then this is a superpower team.

However, if this does not happen then the Suns have the flexibility to potentially trade him. There is always a team down the bottom of the pack that is looking for a franchise player. They have made sure that they did not lose their former No. 1 pick for nothing.

Daniel Ricciardo addresses his future with McLaren

Over the last season and a half, there has been plenty of speculation around Daniel Ricciardo. It has all been surrounding his future with the McLaren Formula 1 team. Since he sensationally left Renault Ricciardo has not really felt confident in the McLaren car. However, that changed after the Monaco Grand Prix.

The team was able to make some changes to the car and he has been a lot more competitive. In fact. he has been in the points in two out of the last four races. He even finished 11th in the Canadian Grand Prix. This is better than the first part of the season where he scored once in seven races.

The first rival that you are compared to in formula 1 is your teammate. Lando Norris has finished in the points three times in the last four races. He was a lot more successful at the start of the season so is, therefore, higher up the driver’s standings. Still, Ricciardo has finished higher than his teammate twice in the last four races as well.

Daniel Ricciardo’s form reversal has allowed him to address his future with McLaren.

Ricciardo has been incredibly patient with reporters and fans who have asked about his future. He has steadfastly expressed that he is not going anywhere. However, there have been rumblings behind the scenes and these have felt to be responses by wrote. With the fact that he is competitive with his teammate now, there is a little more weight behind his comments. See the latest statement made by Ricciardo below.

His competitive, yet fun nature s evident in this tweet. Ricciardo is committed to seeing out his contract which finishes at the end of next season. While Ricciardo appears to be a laid-back guy, you do not get to Formula 1 without some serious drive and passion. We see this in his wheel-to-wheel racing and hopefully, we will see more of this as the season progresses.

The impact of Pat Connaughton’s extension with the Milwaukee Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks have extended the contract of wing Pat Connaughton for another three seasons. The contract is valued at $28.5 million per Woj of ESPN. The seven-year veteran played his first three NBA seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers. After those three seasons, he then signed on as a free agent with the Bucks.

Connaughton has a player option for next season which he is obviously picking up. This means that the Bucks have bought back another member of their 2021 championship team. This is going to keep them competitive in the Eastern Conference. Given how much of their salary cap is taken up by the big three, it was crucial to get a rotation piece like Connaughton cheaply.

Given that he has spent the past four seasons with the Bucks, he understands how to play with Giannis Antetokounmpo. This is crucial given how vital he is to the franchise. Playing with Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday is also important. However, without Antetokounmpo, this team is middle of the pack at best. Finding players who can highlight Antetkounmpo’s strengths is the best way forward.

Pat Connaughton gives the Milwaukee Bucks flexibility

Connaughton naturally swings between the two-guard and small forward position. He is a good backup for both Khris Middleton and Grayson Allen. This flexibility has been a huge reason for the Bucks’ success. Their ability to throw a multitude of quality lineups at their opposition with Antetnokounmpo at the heart of it all makes them hard to defend.

Connaughton has come off the bench for all but 35 of his 417 career games. However, he is certainly capable of starting. In the 19 games that he started last season, he averaged 11.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in 30.4 minutes per game. These numbers were moderately up from his reserve sats, where he averaged 9.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.1 assists in 24.2 minutes per game.

As long as the Milwaukee Bucks continue to surround Antetokounmpo with players who can play off him, they will compete.