NICO ROSBERG – CHAMPION!

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Few would  argue that Rahul Dravid and Sashin Tendulkar are legends in the game of cricket. The same is true of Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers or Ricky Ponting and Steve Waugh, Brian Lara and Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

And yet when people talk about the “greats” it is generally the Laras, De Villiers and Tendulkars that get all the attention. They are the stroke-makers, the cavalier entertainers, the crowd-pleasers… Children try to emulate them on the cricket field. They attempt the pretty cover drive and copy the pronounced back lift of their super hero.

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The stats tell a different story. Graeme Smith was not a pretty batsman. He did not play elegant cover drives. He did not light up the night with flamboyant shots like AB can.  What he had was an unbreakable resolve. He didn’t stroke the ball. He bludgeoned it. He didn’t carve up the field, he bent it to his will. He ended his test career with an average of 50, a mark of the greats of the game.

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Rahul Dravid was nicknamed “the wall” for his resolute defence at a time when India battled to win anything outside of the sub-continent. He racked up ten thousand plus runs during a magnificent career.

Chanderpaul played with Lara, and then continued well into his forties after Lara retired. He was probably the most awkward looking batsman I’ve ever seen. Everything about him was wrong. And yet he was the only West Indian batsman to consistently average above 45 in a dismal period for their cricket. He was the perfect example of “hard work beats talent”.

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So what am I getting at?

Lewis Hamilton is an amazing driver. He has all the talent in the world. He has the superstar image. He has the celebrity friends. Winning in a competitive car is what he does. It comes naturally to him. Much like Lara, Ponting, Tendulkar and de Villiers, he makes it look easy.  Few drivers in Formula 1 have what he has. I can name perhaps Alonso, Vettel and Verstappen of the current crop of drivers.

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Nico Rosberg has been racing Hamilton since they were teenagers. He does not have the same natural ability as Hamilton, but in 2016 he is Formula 1 world champion, not because he is the fastest or most talented, but because he has the will and determination to go out every weekend and race to the best of his ability. He does not give up. He focuses on doing everything within his power to be as competitive as he can. He is consistent. He is brilliant at communicating with his engineers. He does not crack under pressure.

We’ve seen many talented drivers come and go in Formula 1, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jarno Trulli, Alexander Wurz, Jean Alesi, and even Pastor Maldonado. All amazing drivers, capable of winning races on their day. None of them can call themselves world champion.

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He may not be as talented as Lewis, but through hard work and dedication he is and can continue to be just as successful.  He is a worthy Formula 1 world champion. Only 33 people have ever been able to call themselves that…

If Formula 1 Teams were Rugby Teams

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Mercedes – The New Zealand All Blacks – They’re just too good, too fast and too strong. Everyone else is playing catch up. They might occasionally be challenged when the conditions are absolutely ideal for their opponents but will ultimately prevail.

Ferrari – England – They’re good, steeped in history and the architects of the game we know today. In recent years, however, they’ve fallen behind as the other teams have evolved beyond their ability. They are slowly pulling back some ground with some new personnel but still have some way to go.

Red Bull – Australia – They’re smart, very smart, and quick but generally not as powerful as their foes in the engine department. They play to their strengths and do their best to play away from their weaker areas, regularly upsetting more fancied opposition.

Williams – France – They can be blisteringly fast when everything is working for them, but when it isn’t they can fall apart and end up bringing up the rear.

McLaren – South African Springboks – They have the tools to compete with the best, but can fall short because of technical deficiencies in key areas. In 2015 so far it is an inconsistent power unit; in 2014 it was the handling at the back where they fell short. They’re always expected to do well and when they don’t their supporters get very upset.

Toro Rosso – Manu Samoa, Tonga and Fiji – On their day they can take on anyone but it only takes a few small hiccups to set them back as they don’t have the depth or funding of the other teams. They have launched many a young player’s career but ultimately battle to keep them when the big teams come calling.

Lotus – Ireland – They go through periods of dominance, usually driven by a star player and the right mix of players built around him. They can beat the best, but also have a habit of falling short on the world cup stage.

Force India – Wales – They always look the part but for some reason can’t quite keep pace with their opponents when it comes down to the wire.

Sauber – Scotland – They’re ever present but generally uncompetitive against the bigger teams. They’ve been known to cause a few upsets in the rain however, and have a solid and proud history of being a team that play with heart and a never say die attitude.

 

RULES ARE MEANT TO BE BROKEN

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“How do you make a car go faster? Give it better brakes.”

I read that quote once, can’t remember who it is by. It was in reference to the controls and procedures businesses put in place in order to streamline their operations and ensure that the company works as effectively and efficiently as it can.

Imagine if, say, the delivery driver had authority to change the production plan, or if the tea lady was given access to the company’s bank account with no co-signatory. It would be chaos; the company would go bang in a matter of a few months. That is why companies have a management structure and rules in place limiting authority and assigning people to tasks based on their education, skill level and experience. It is why only people who understand the supply chain place orders based on expected production and forecasted sales. It’s why the CEO makes the strategic decisions that affect the company’s direction, and not the product development engineer who thinks that a levitating fridge would be a good thing to plough all the company’s R&D money into.

However, it is human nature to over complicate and to over regulate and when that happens it can strangle the organisation. People cannot make decisions because it takes too long and there is too much red tape to wade through, too many signatures to get, too many forms to fill out, too much time spent with the faffery around a task than on the actual task at hand. This environment is usually driven by what I like to call “the regulators”. They have their place but when they outnumber the innovators it becomes a problem.

Success depends on a balance between innovation and regulation. It is true for anyone that develops and manufactures a product. Too much innovation and your product becomes too expensive too quickly. Too much regulation and you become stagnant, you do not grow and eventually you get killed off and consigned to the scrap heap of ideas and businesses that have run out of ideas or are simply too concerned with how things are being done instead of why they are being done.

Formula 1 is at a tipping point right now. The sport has become over-regulated and over-innovated at the same time. The rule makers have forced the manufacturers to come up with mind bogglingly complicated cars. In theory that is what they are there for but in reality they have taken it too far.

People buy into Formula 1 for the following reason. They want to watch the best drivers in  in the fastest and best cars in the world racing against each other on the ragged edge of performance and safety.

At the moment you have the best drivers in the world and the cars may be the best in the world but they’re certainly not the fastest. The V6 hybrid engines sound like diesels and the tyres only last three laps, give or take. How can the drivers push themselves and their cars to the ragged edge when they run out of tyres? They can’t!

The engines are reliable, well at least they’re supposed to be, but the teams aren’t allowed to develop their engines during the season. That makes no sense, surely you’d want the teams to be working as hard as they can to improve their cars, looking for every improvement , no matter how tiny so that they might catch up or get ahead.

They’ve lost sight of why they’re doing Formula 1 in my opinion. The need to ease the regulations and let the teams do what they are supposed to do, make the fastest, best cars in the world. I’d recommend the current rules get scrapped completely in 2017 and the following guidelines be given by the FIA regarding the cars.

1 – The car must be a maximum of x m long and x m wide and a minimum of x m long and x m wide and a max of x m high.

2 – The engine must run on petrol and have a maximum of ten cylinders and a minimum of six

3 – Safety requirements remain as stringent as they are.

4 – The aerodynamic characteristics of the cars are at the teams’ discretion, within the height and width regulations of the car.

Thats it, see what the teams come up with. It may be crazy, but they have the necessary management structures in place to stop the whackier of the engineers from building leviting cars, or maybe they’ll just go with it. It may be a lot of things, but it certainly won’t be boring.

A McLaren… McLaren??

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If you want something done properly, then do it yourself! I’ve heard and said this many times. It is an unfortunate fact of life that one’s vision and philosophy may not resonate with those to whom you assign the task of executing it.

Take a rugby team, the Hurricanes from Wellington. For years they have been famous for their enterprising attacking play, but lacked the necessary “mongrel” up front to compete with the Crusaders, although not for lack of trying. They just didn’t have the necessary player resources. They tried a few different coaches but in the end it was the home grown coaching team of Chris Boyd and ex Sharks coach John Plumtree who solidified them into an all-round team. They kept the dynamism they’ve always had, but eradicated their old weaknesses, turning them into strengths and the results have been quite spectacular. The Hurricanes are miles ahead of the next best team in this year’s competition. Not that long ago they were languishing in mid-table mediocrity and all it took to get them out of there was a bit of home grown determination and vision.

McLaren partnered with Honda in 2015. Honda make the engines, McLaren make the rest of the car. By all accounts, the parts that McLaren have made are working, the engine made by Honda just isn’t.

We’re just about half way through the 2015 season and they’ve yet to score a point, or show any sort of real speed to be honest. Unless Honda really come to the party in a big way in the latter half of the year I expect there to be some rather unsavoury words spoken, not least by Fernando Alonso who’s pegged his last shot on a third world title on the McLaren Honda partnership.

What I don’t understand is this. Why can’t McLaren make its own engine? Why do they need Honda anyway? They’ve built the F1, P1, and the MP-4C after all, each a technological wonder in its own right. They can build amazing engines!

That’s right, why can’t McLaren build a McLaren… McLaren? Why not take your destiny in your own hands and sock it to Mercedes and Ferrari properly! It couldn’t be any worse than the current Honda engine they’re using or the Renault that Red Bull Racing has to contend with.

Come on McLaren, get your Chris Boyds and John Plumtrees into the factory and build your own engine! Show them what you’re made of!

The Next Big Thing… Or is it?

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There is a young man called Max Verstappen making waves in Formula 1. Not only is he a very good racing driver and a dream for any marketing team, he is also only 17 years old. People are already calling him a future world champion. He even has a new, if completely unsuitable, nickname. They’re calling him “Mad Max” because of an accident caused by a Frenchman called Grosjean. He is the next big thing! I think it is a bit early to tell really. Sure he’s definately talented, but his temperament is yet to be truly tested. He’s off to a good start though. At 17 I was still sneaking out to smoke Chesterfields and falling off my 50cc-popcorn-machine-with-wheels-motorbike.

England cricket are also thrilled to have a new star in Ben Stokes. He isn’t 17 but he is still quite young, and they are calling him the next, next, next Ian Botham, after Fred Flintoff (the first next Ian Botham) and a few others. He is their new hero after playing a large role in winning a test match against the might cricketing nation of New Zealand!

In South Africa we’ve had a few “next big things!”

Derrick Hougaard was the next Naas Botha.

Daryll Cullinan was the next Graham Pollock.

Guthro Steenkamp was the next Os du Rant.

Mfuneko Ngam was the next Alan Donald.

Eben Etzebeth is the next Bakkies Botha.

Butch James was, well, Butch James was the first Butch James and I doubt his like will be seen again anytime soon.

Why is that whenever a sparkling young talent comes along we feel the need to label him or her “the next (Insert name of famous ex sportsperson here). Why can’t they just be themselves!

Ian Botham was a legendary English cricketer. Why do anyone the disservice of calling them “The Next Ian Botham?”

So often these young stars get these labels and then fade from prominence under the weight of undue pressure and media scrutiny, instead of just being allowed to develop into the player that they were destined to be in the first place.

Derrick Hougaard springs to mind as a great example. He had all the tools to be the next Naas Botha, except one. He wasn’t Naas Botha. Naas Botha had, and still has, unshakeable belief in Naas Botha. In his mind Naas Botha is invincible; Naas can do anything, knows everything and will win everything simply because that is what Naas Botha does. Derrick was young and, by all accounts, a remarkably humble nice young lad. He was thrown head first into a rugby world cup, and then thrown a hospital pass that brought upon him the wrath of a man known as the chiropractor because of his ability to re-arrange spines in tackles. Brian Lima tackled Derrick so hard he’s probably still go bruises ten years later. Derrick wasn’t the next Naas Botha, nobody can be the next Naas Botha.

Similarly, nobody can be the next Bakkies Botha. Off the field he is a humble Christian man who lives his faith as well he can. I’ve had friends approach him for photos and he is always accommodating. On the field though, he is an uncompromising force of sheer brutality. He is the enforcer and will step back for no man. Eben Etzebeth, again, has all the tools to emulate the great Bakkies. He is big and strong and also plays lock. But that is where the similarity ends. They’re different players with different personalities. It is unfair to compare one to the other, because it does their unique talents and traits the ultimate disservice.

I say let the young players be themselves. Handre Pollard is the next Handre Pollard. He is not the next Dan Carter for heaven sakes. Just let them play the game they love without the pressure of trying to be the next whoever. I suspect they will surprise us all. I suspect people will say. “That Handre Pollard is something hey. I bet if a young Dan Carter saw him play he’d want to be just like him!”