2011

Raikkonen to return to Formula 1
Kimi Raikkonen’s two year hiatus from Formula 1 ended with the news that the Finnish superstar will return to the series after mixed success in the World Rally Championship.

World class rallying returns to these shores in 2012
The historic news that the Circuit of Ireland will join the 2012 IRC means that Ireland will once again play host to a world class motorsport event in 2012.

The enigma of Lewis Hamilton
When Lewis Hamilton’s career ends it will be interesting to see how 2011 will be regarded. The former world champion has endured a miserable campaign where for the first time in his career he has been outshone by a teammate. His Abu Dhabi victory showed that the desire to succeed still burns brightly and he clearly knows that personal sacrifices are needed if he is to fulfill his potential.

F1 needs to search for a solution to the “qualifying conundrum”
Qualifying sessions throughout 2011 have been marred by a flaw in the regulations that has seen the final ten minutes of the session featuring empty tracks as some drivers stay in their garages unwilling, or in some cases unable, to set a representative qualifying time.

MotoGP moves on in more ways than one
Reporting from the season ending Valencia Grand Prix was a strange experience with the MotoGP paddock keen to remember Marco Simoncelli while also looking to move on from the tragedy.

Formula 1 needs to let racers race
The decisions of race stewards has been analysed throughout 2011 but the penalty handed out in the inaugural Indian Grand Prix after a crash between Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa once more showed that the penalty for a racing accident can be quite high in modern racing.

MotoGP mourns the loss of Simoncelli
Just one week after the death of Dan Wheldon the MotoGP paddock was rocked by the death of Marco Simoncelli. The long-haired Italian had built a reputation as a hard charging racer and his aggressive riding style had given him a legion of fans. The 2008 250cc champion had started to adjust to life in the premier class and his first victory was clearly on the horizon before a crash on the opening lap of the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Wheldon’s death illustrates the omnipresent danger of racing
The tragic death of Dan Wheldon sent shockwaves reverberating throughout the motorsport community and showed that the sport can never become complacent with its attempts to improve safety.

Button cements his position as McLaren’s leader
When Jenson Button signed for McLaren, as teammate to Lewis Hamilton, the expectation was that Button would be completely overshadowed by his compatriot. However over the course of two years together Button has firmly established himself as the true leader of McLaren.

Vettel on brink of another title
In an era of unparalleled competition at the front of the field in Formula 1 the partnership of Red Bull, Vettel and technical genius Adrian Newey has achieved tremendous success and now stands on the brink of another title

Pressure on Zarco to win soon
Johann Zarco once more snatched defeat from the jaws of victory at Misano after the Frenchman was pipped to the line by Nico Terol. With the Ajo Derbi rider having a strong season his title challenge hinges on his ability to finally take his first Grand Prix victory

Vettel moves in on another title
Sebastian Vettel’s stunning performance at the Spa-Francorchamps saw the reigning world champion take a giant stride towards defending his crown. At a circuit that Red Bull were expected to struggle Vettel took pole position and led home his teammate, Mark Webber, in a dominant one-two for Red Bull.

Formula 1 enters a new golden age
Even though Sebastian Vettel has been superb in 2011 many still question whether his success is due to his talent or the machinery available to him. Doing so does a great disservice to the German and with Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Mark Webber all competing at a high level it is clear that Formula 1 is at a high water mark in terms of competition at the front of the field that can rival any other era.

Cortese takes victory but racing is winner
German 125cc rider Sandro Cortese waited six years for his first victory but at Brno the Aprilia rider finally tasted the victory champagne after a race long tussle with Johann Zarco that was only resolved at the final corner. The racing throughout the weekend was stunning with all three classes providing superb races.

What next for Laverty?
Ireland’s Eugene Laverty has enjoyed a stunning debut year in World Superbikes, including taking a double victory at Monza, but with Yamaha announcing their withdrawl from the series Laverty will be forced to look for new employers. This column looks at where will the talented rookie ply his trade in 2012.

TV contracts dominate Hungarian weekend
On a weekend where Jenson Button took yet another stunning mixed weather victory the Hungarian Grand Prix victory was overshadowed by the storm that developed with the announcement that  Sky Sports will broadcast Formula 1 from next season with the BBC scaling back their involvement in the sport.

Hamilton stares down critics
After a tumultuous summer Lewis Hamilton came under increased pressure following a series of accidents that led many to believe that the 2008 world champion had lost focus on his task at hand. The German Grand Prix however showed that Hamilton’s racing instincts are as sharp as ever with one the best victories of his already illustrious career seeing the McLaren driver bounce back to form in stunning style.

Dominant Dani back on form!
Dani Pedrosa emerged victorious after a thrilling German Grand Prix that saw the Spaniard battle all the way with compatriot Jorge Lorenzo and teammate Casey Stoner. The German race showed that even in the current 800cc era of MotoGP it is still possible to have stunning races.

Alonso kickstarts Ferrari’s season at Silverstone
The British Grand Prix marked the first Formula 1 Grand Prix where stephenenglish.ie gained media accreditation and with Fernando Alonso taking his first win of the season it was clear that this was an unforgettable weekend. The Spaniard struggled earlier in the season to challenge the race pace of McLaren and Red Bull but on a day of mixed conditions the double world champion was peerless as he took a dominant victory ahead of reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel.

Mugello Magnicence from Lorenzo
Jorge Lorenzo was not supposed to win at Mugello. The Yamaha YZR-M1 lags behind the Honda in terms of straight line speed and this advantage was sure to give Casey Stoner a distinct advantage in Italy. Lorenzo however was sublime in the Tuscan Hills to rubber stamp his 2011 title credentials with his second victory of the season.

Spies joins the elite at Assen
American Ben Spies has had the pressure of huge expectations heaped on his shoulders since entering MotoGP in 2010 but at Assen the Yamaha rider showed his ability with a stunning first Grand Prix victory at “The Cathedral.”

MotoGP grid sizes grow for 2011
With confirmation that 2012 will see “Claiming Rule Teams” entering the premier class of motorcycle racing Thee Chequered Flag looks at the teams set to make the move from Moto2 to the top tier. With Moto2 championship leader, Stefan Bradl, set to race for Kiefer it is clear that a special crop of rookies will join the elite in 2012.

Casey Storms to victory
For the first time stephenenglish.ie and the Dundalk Democrat were present at a MotoGP round! This column has full qualifying and race reports from all three classes from the British Grand Prix at Silverstone

Racing gets redefined
The fallout from the French MotoGP continues to be felt on two wheels with the Catalan round also blighted by stewards decision to penalise a rider over an incident that would have been judged as harsh but fair in past years. This time Johann Zarco was robbed of his first Grand Prix victory

Gambles pay off for Vettel
Sebastian Vettel’s superb start to the 2011 season continued with victory in a stunning Monaco Grand Prix. The race was action packed with safety car intervention and a red flag allowing Vettel to guarentee success at the end of the race. Without the late race red flag would the German have held off Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Button?

Vettel holds off Hamilton
Sebastian Vettel was shadowed all the way in the Spanish Grand Prix but the reigning champion managed to stay in front on a day when tyres once more showed how crucial they are in modern day Formula 1.

Stewards rob Simoncelli of first podium
The French MotoGP saw Dani Pedrosa and Marco Simoncelli clash midway through the race with disasterous consequences. Pedrosa broke his collarbone and stewards deemed Simoncelli at fault. The Italian was given a ride through penalty that cost him his first premier class podium for a racing accident. Was Simoncelli really at fault or did his hard charging reputation cost him dearly?

Double top for Laverty at Monza
An inspired Eugene Laverty took the first WSBK victories of his career at Monza. His double success has thrust the Irishman into title contention while his speed and intelligence has also shown just how deserving he would be of a return to Grand Prix racing.

The Turkish Grand Prix saw Sebastian Vettel take victory for Red Bull as the new regulations continued to provide exciting racing and plenty of overtaking.

Pedrosa is now ready to win title
Dani Pedrosa’s talent has never been in doubt but his victory at the Portuguese Grand Prix showed just how much he has matured in the last year and also that he is now ready to win his first premier class title.

Taking stock after the opening races
The new season opened with new regulations and numerous question marks hanging over Formula 1. Would the racing improve? Would DRS and KERS increase overtaking….The opening races provided the answers to these questions.

A true Formula 1 classic “made in China”
The Chinese Grand Prix was one of the most exciting races in years with different strategies giving  drivers the advantage at different times in the race. Following on from the Malaysian Grand Prix this showed that 2011 will feature the best racing in many years!

Malaysia shows how exciting 2011 could be
The Malaysian Grand Prix was a thrilling mix of tactics and overtaking, this column reviews the main talking points from the second round of the Formula 1 season while also previewing the Chinese Grand Prix.

Lorenzo lays down a marker
The Spanish Grand Prix is one of MotoGP’s biggest races and this year it was also one of the most exciting races in memory. Jorge Lorenzo took the chequered flag but the local hero faced difficult conditions to win his home race.

Vettel victorious in an intriguing opening race/Classy Checa continues his strong start to 2011
This first ever double bill of “The Chequered Flag” sees analysis from the opening Grand Prix of the year in Australia as well as a full report from Donington Park and round two of the World Superbike season.

New Formula 1 season promises plenty of excitement
2010 will long be regarded as a classic season in Formula 1 but 2011 promises to be even better! This column previews the new season with the new Pirelli tyres put under the microscope

Motogp season starts with optimism
This column is a preseason preview for the 2011 MotoGP season which is once more set to be dominated by the “Aliens.” Honda has developed a fantastic bike which could give Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa a significant advantage.

Phoney War nearing its conclusion
The final preseason test will take place this week in Barcelona. Time is running out for teams to find the improvements needed to move up the grid. Testing so far has shown that Mercedes are considerably off the pace, can they find their form before the season opens?

Thoughts on the opening World Superbikes Round
The World Superbike season opened with Carlos Checa dominating aboard a Ducati but there was numerous other storylines coming from Philip Island after a thrilling start to the season.

Little option but to postpone Bahrain
The cancellation of the Bahrain Grand was confirmed this week after intensive poltical distruption in the Gulf state and the realities of life in Bahrain become the central story for the world’s media. Racing though was on the horizon with the World Superbike season about to start in Australia. This column offers a preview of what to expect in that championship.

Kubica crash casts a long shadow on F1
In the space of just a few days the fortunes of Robert Kubica changed greatly. From topping the times at the Valencia test the Polish star crashed heavily in an Italian rally. The Renault driver needed numerous operations to save the use of his arm and will miss the new Formula 1 season. Once news emerged of the accident questions were immediatly asked as to whether Renault should have allowed their star asset to go rallying, and who could replace Kubica for the coming season

Testing, one two three…
The 2011 Formula 1 season gets underway with the opening test of the year held at Valencia. The majority of teams launched their cars in the days prior to Valencia but the focus of attention, once again, would be Red Bull

Season off to a strong start in Monte Carlo
The Monte Carlo rally is the traditional starting point for the motorsport season and this year’s edition was as good as any in recent years. Tyre choice was crucial with snow and ice mixed with dry surfaces making the rally a lottery. The sportscar season starts with the 24 Hours at Daytona. The race is also previewed but Le Mans is never far away with Audi launching their new car

Two icons start their next chapters
With Formula 1 teams counting down to the start of pre season testing the motorsport world’s eyes were firmly fixed on Italy with Ducati launching the bike that they hope will allow  Valentino Rossi to challenge for an eighth world title. The challenge ahead of the Italian is ominous but the final chapter of his career looks set to be captivating. The Monte Carlo Rally celebrates its centenary this week with the IRC season kicking off in style. The Monte has become the most famous rally in the world, read on to see why

Nervous days for Formula 1 designers as testing looms
With pre-season testing just weeks away the launch of new cars is almost upon us. This period of time is the most nerve wrecking for a designer, have they made the right decisions or has another team made a huge leap forward tecnologically? This column also looks at how lateral thinking has helped the two most recent title winners steal a march on the competition.

Can Schumacher still find the magic at age 42?
Michael Schumacher’s comeback in 2010 was quite different to what was expected of the seven times world champion at the start of the year. This column asks the question of whether he will be able to find the form that made him the most dominant driver in history.

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