Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Why the Four Hills Tournament is my favorite wintersports event

The Four Hills Tournament starts today in Oberstdorf. While alpine skiing is my favorite winter sport, ski jumping still has my favorite wintersports event.

Photo: Brigitte Waltl-Jensen, OK Vierschanzentournee

Most ski sports have the season-long World Cup and are featured in the Winter Olympics or have their own World Championships. While the Olympics and Worlds get the biggest recognition, I am reluctant to rate them above the season-long World Cup, especially in a sport as sensitive to weather conditions (or other random factors) as ski jumping (or alpine skiing or even cross-country skiing).

Sure, in some ski sports some of the best athletes skip some World Cup events to concentrate on the Olympics or Worlds. Then somebody can score easy points in their rivals' absence to win the World Cup title while getting beaten by rivals peaking at the major events.

The Four Hills Tournament has nicely the best of both worlds. All the best athletes are there and want to win. But unlike at the Olympics and Worlds, getting hot for two jumps doesn't win the title, one needs to be consistently good for eight jumps, in four different hills. And that is different to the World Cup where one can recover from bad competitions whereas at the Four Hills even one bad jump can end the title hunt. Still, small differences in wind conditions are less likely to decide the title than at the Olympics or Worlds; at the Four Hills there are eight jumps instead of only two for luck to even out.

Of course, one can get hot for the Four Hills, win the title, and disappear after that. But that is harder to do over eight jumps compared to two jumps at the Olympics or Worlds. That's why I rate surprise titles at the Four Hills over surprise gold medals at the Olympics or Worlds. That's not anymore luck but peaking at the right time.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Aston Martin in F1 rumours and my opinion on it

Last weekend it was reported Aston Martin is in talks with Red Bull Racing for sponsoring the team Mercedes power units. Meanwhile, today it was reported Aston Martin has been in talks with the current Mercedes customer teams (Williams, Lotus, Force India) for a similar arrangement.

Red Bull currently has a similar contract with Infiniti, a brand of the Renault-Nissan Alliance. Infiniti is the title sponsor of the team and sponsors the team's Renault power units. But Red Bull haven't been happy with the performance of Renault. Previously there was the rumour of the Audi partnership or even buyout of the team but that obviously isn't happening. Red Bull would probably be willing to switch to Mercedes, the best power unit in the series. The Aston Martin deal could enable that. Aston would replace Infiniti as the title sponsor and sponsor the Mercedes power units to the team. Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, owns five percent of Aston Martin and produces engines for their models, so that could be a way to enter the brand into F1. Besides, Red Bull Technologies has a joint road car project with Aston Martin.

But would it make sense for a World Champion team Red Bull to become a power unit customer for the current World Champions Mercedes? Their current partner Renault is possibly going to buy a team, e.g. Toro Rosso or Lotus. Being a Renault customer might not be any better option. At least the Mercedes power unit is the best one they can get, even if the works Mercedes team had some advantage.

But, why would Mercedes supply power units to a team that could be a serious contender for their works team? Maybe they would just welcome a new customer as it would bring them money. And maybe a rival team succeeding wouldn't be so bad if they were sponsored by a car brand partly owned by the same group. And the works team would anyway have some advantage over customer teams.

Then, what about Aston's other options? Force India seem least likely, they are an eternal midfield team whereas Williams and Lotus are former World Champions. Lotus is financially distressed so I wouldn't see it as such an attractive option. Also there are rumours of Renault buying the team again, so it wouldn't be an option for Aston Martin.

The current third in the constructors' championship, Williams, might be an attractive option for Aston Martin. They are a team in the front of the grid but wouldn't be a similar threat to the works Mercedes team as Red Bull would be. And maybe this would be a good deal for Williams. They don't have the financial resources of Mercedes, Ferrari, or Red Bull. Free or discounted engines for Aston sponsorship would help them to fight against financially stronger teams in the front of the grid.

But, Red Bull and Williams are former World Champion teams and surely want to be title contenders also in the future. Maybe right now, the Mercedes power unit is what seems like the best option. But being a customer puts them into disadvantage compared to the Mercedes works team. The works team can better design the car around the power unit, get updates first, and in general could get preferential treatment. Being a customer isn't what a title contender team wants unless there are no competitive alternatives. Personally, as a Williams fan, I would like them to enter into a works agreement with a car manufacturer if there were one entering the series. Of course, new manufacturers don't seem very likely right now so Mercedes power units are the best option available. So, maybe that might drive also Red Bull switching to Mercedes power units now, especially if they got the Aston Martin sponsorship. There was even the rumour of Red Bull going to Ferrari power units, and given the poor record of Ferrari customer teams, being a Mercedes customer may not be the worst option of all. But being Mercedes customers can't be the ideal option in long term if these teams want to win titles.

As for Aston's F1 involvement, it feels somewhat unfortunate that such a traditional car manufacturer would come only as a sponsor. A bit like the Group Lotus as the title sponsor of the Lotus F1 Team. I would rather see them expanding their involvement in sports cars where they are really manufacturers. An LMP1 project might be too expensive for them but maybe they could be one of the engine suppliers for IMSA prototypes like another British luxury car brand Bentley is rumoured to be planning. But that's just how I would like it to be. In F1, they would probably get more exposure for their brand, even if they weren't showcasing their technology.

Do I expect this to happen? We'll see. I can see why this could make sense but this came quite surprisingly so I'm not convinced yet. The Red Bull-Audi rumour seemed just as sensible and still it doesn't seem to be happening.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

My vision of the future of IMSA's Prototype class

ACO, the organizers of Le Mans, announced the new rules for Le Mans P2 cars starting from 2017. Without going into details, ACO will approve four chassis suppliers and one engine supplier. IMSA, the sanctioning body of the Tudor United SportsCar Championship, is planning to adopt a modified version of the P2 regulations for their Prototype class. But IMSA and ACO have different needs. P2 will be IMSA's lead class with manufacturer involvement and all-pro lineups whereas for ACO it's a pro-am class with no manufacturer involvement. The proposed solution to that issue is allowing multiple engine manufacturers and manufacturer-specific bodykits in IMSA with also ACO-spec P2s being allowed there. ACO would allow multiple engine manufacturers only at Le Mans with their performance balanced and all cars using the ACO-spec bodykits.

Le Mans-compatibility is an issue here. Spec bodykits might make balancing the performance easier but it would also mean IMSA teams using engines that are designed to use with a different bodykit with different air intakes, etc. So probably the teams using ACO's spec engine would be at advantage. Also, ACO requires a pro-am lineup in the P2 class whereas IMSA allows all-pro lineups. That might be another issue for IMSA teams willing to race at Le Mans.

So, obviously racing at Le Mans wouldn't be so appealing for IMSA teams not using the ACO-spec P2. And the ACO-spec P2 with pro-am lineup wouldn't probably be winning against manufacturer-supported P2s with all-pro lineups in the Tudor Championship. How I would do it would be to split IMSA's Prototype class into two: Pro and Pro-Am classes. The Pro-Am class would use the ACO-spec P2s and those Pro-Am teams could get an invitation to Le Mans. In the Pro class, teams would be allowed (but not mandated) to use car manufacturers' engines and bodykits. If the car count is sufficient, then Pro-Am P2 could replace the Pro-Am PC class.

In my opinion that would be the sensible solution given ACO's and IMSA's differing needs for P2. IMSA needs manufacturers to their Prototype class and ACO doesn't want them to P2. A Pro-Am P2 class in IMSA would be an American route to Le Mans for privateer P2 teams. The Pro class would keep manufacturer involvement in IMSA's top class. And if the Pro class were based on the P2 chassis, the ACO-spec Pro-Am cars might be reasonably competitive against them.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Porsche win the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans

Porsche have won the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans. The winning no. 19 car was driven by Earl Bamber, Nico Hülkenberg, and Nick Tandy. Porsche also got the second place with the no. 17 car driven by Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley, and Mark Webber. The third place went to the dominant manufacturer of this century, Audi, with their no. 7 car, driven by the defending winners Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer, and Benoit Tréluyer.

Porsche were the dominant team in the qualifying but so were they also in the previous WEC rounds at Silverstone and Spa with Audi still winning the races. Being able to do quadruple stints with the same tyres was helping Audi but they were also facing some adversity. The #7 lost time early in the race when a slow puncture forced them to pit for full service at the beginning of the fourth stint on the same tyres. The #8 Audi lost lots of time when it damaged its front after losing control in a confusing incident with a GT Ferrari when some cars were obviously slowing down for a yellow zone. The safety car periods in Saturday evening gave the #17 Porsche a lead of over a minute, thanks to it having been in an earlier safety car queue compared to its rivals. Like in the previous WEC rounds of this season, Audi again had great race pace. Filipe Albuquerque in the #9 Audi was setting great lap times in the Saturday evening, breaking the old race lap record.

I think the race got decided in late Saturday evening after a safety car period that packed the leading cars. The #17 Porsche that had long been leading got a one-minute penalty for ignoring yellows. And as the #18 Porsche had a couple of incidents under braking to Mulsanne, it was the #19 Porsche racing against the #9 and #7 Audis in the lead. While being soft on tyres had helped Audi to make their tyres last longer, it was hurting them at night when Porsche got their tyres work better and Nick Tandy in the #19 was building a great gap in his stint.

Of course, Porsche's advantage in colder conditions was going to end after the night but I think the gap the #19 built at night would've been enough for them even if the Audis had a clean finish to the race. But the Audis didn't have. The #7 of the defending winners was again Audi's strongest contender in the Sunday morning but then its engine cover blew off and the time spent repairing it cost it the chance to race for win or even for the second place. And the other Audi in the lead battle, the #9, had issues with its hybrid systems so the win was pretty much decided before the final hours of the race, Porsche just had to bring their cars home for a 1-2 win.

Audi may have had the faster car in the race; its three cars were the only ones to go under 3:18 in lap times. But most of the time Porsche was controlling the race and maybe didn't need to go all-out in the race. Last year's WEC champions Toyota have been disappointing this year and they were far from winning pace at Le Mans, finishing 6th and 8th and couldn't have a lap under 3:20 in the race. Their budget is behind Audi and Porsche and that's why they fielded only two cars at Le Mans and possibly the smaller budget can also be seen from their performance this year. Toyota have already announced they will be switching from 6MJ to 8MJ hybrid system subclass for the next year and replace supercapacitors with batteries like Porsche does. I wonder what Audi will be doing as they are currently in the 4MJ subclass, using a flywheel.

Formula One driver Nico Hülkenberg was one of the winning Porsche drivers. He became the first active F1 driver since 1991 and Bertrand Gachot and Johnny Herbert to win at Le Mans. I think an F1 driver winning is great for the race, even though I have also seen opposite opinions fearing this to make the WEC look weak in comparison to F1. While some of the pay drivers in F1 would never become factory drivers in the WEC, you can't deny most of the world's best drivers are in F1 and it's great for the WEC to get them to do even one race. Hülkenberg winning doesn't mean the WEC drivers are bad drivers but it shows the world's best drivers want to do Le Mans. I like seeing IndyCar drivers like Bourdais or Dixon doing American endurance events and similarly I'd like more F1 and also IndyCar drivers joining WEC regulars for Le Mans. Unfortunately, if an F1 team is representing a manufacturer, it is hard to race for another manufacturer at Le Mans. That obviously prevented McLaren-Honda's Fernando Alonso driving for Porsche at Le Mans.

Monday, May 25, 2015

2015 Indianapolis 500 review

The 99th Indianapolis 500 is behind. And what a great race it was! Exactly what the series needed after the practice crashes and difficult weather in the qualifying weekend.

Team Penske's Juan Pablo Montoya won the Indianapolis 500 for the second time in his career. After qualifying 15th, I was pessimistic about his chances but the qualifying isn't so decisive for the result, rather just an indication of one's pace. Montoya had a difficult start to the race when Simona de Silvestro hit his rear wheel guard during an early caution and he got as low as 30th. But he made his way through the field and was one of the front-runners at the last restart with 15 laps to go. On the fourth-last lap, he passed Ganassi's Scott Dixon for the second place into the turn 3 and half a lap later he passed his teammate Will Power for the lead he'd keep until the finish.

The defending series champion Will Power was aiming for his first Indy 500 win. This was the race he wanted to win and you could hear it in his post-race comments, saying he'd be happy with the second place everywhere else but at the Indy 500. But it was nice to hear how he enjoyed the racing, I'm sure the fans did as well. The outcome might have been different for him had he not lead so many laps in the end but instead learned how his car behaves when running second. That might have been the key to overtake Montoya on the final laps.

It was a Penske vs. Ganassi battle in the front of the field. Team Penske claimed the top 2 positions, Ganassi the 3rd and 4th. Ganassi's Charlie Kimball was the best American, finishing third. He passed teammate Dixon with three laps to go, soon after Montoya's pass on Dixon. The polesitter and 2008 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon was one of the front-runners for the whole race but in the end finished only fourth.

Penske's Simon Pagenaud and Ganassi's Tony Kanaan had good cars but they got out of the contention for the win before the end of the race. Kanaan was having a very good race before crashing soon after his pitstop on lap 152. And Pagenaud seemed like the strongest Penske driver before clipping his front wing on the lap 176, costing him the chance to race for the win.

Last year's runner-up, three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves was one of the favorites for the race. But in the end, he couldn't challenge for the win, finishing only seventh. And it was unfortunate Sage Karam, last year's ninth, had to retire after a first turn incident. Given how well Ganassi's cars were doing, he might have had a strong race.

The race was dominated by Chevrolet with the only Honda drivers in the top 10 being Graham Rahal on the fifth place and Marco Andretti on the sixth place. Besides the last eight finished drivers were all powered by Honda. Honda surely can't be happy with the result; especially given their main focus was in winning the Indy 500.

Safety was a concern before the race because of crashed cars flipping in the practice sessions and James Hinchcliffe's leg getting pierced by a front rocker. Thankfully there were no serious injuries in the race, Sebastian Saavedra suffered a foot contusion in a three-car incident and a Dale Coyne Racing pit crew member broke his ankle in a pit road incident. The practice crashes were worrying but only one serious injury from them shows in my opinion that IndyCar is as safe as open-wheel racing on ovals can be.

The 99th Indianapolis 500 was a great race. Hopefully there will be plenty of other great races during the rest of the Verizon IndyCar Series season. And hopefully the 100th Indy 500 next year will be just as great, preferably with also Honda as a serious contender for the win. And with James Hinchcliffe in the field of 33 drivers.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

2015 Indianapolis 500 preview

In my previous text, I was writing about the crashes that have taken place during the practice for this year's Indianapolis 500. But now it's time to look forward to the race on Sunday.

The front row was occupied by Scott Dixon, Will Power, and Simon Pagenaud. This trio was quite dominant, the only ones with a speed of over 226 mph with fourth-placed Tony Kanaan at 225.503. The top 5 was occupied by Chevrolet-powered cars with the fastest Honda driver being Justin Wilson on the sixth place.

The pole went to Scott Dixon. This was his second pole at the 500, the first being in 2008 when he went on to win the race. And this year seems like a good chance for him to repeat that feat. He's been solid in the previous races in the IndyCar Series and he's been constantly among the fastest in the Indy 500 practice days.

Last year's series champion Will Power was second in qualifying. He's also been solid in practice days, even though not as consistent as Dixon. Earlier this year, I wasn't so convinced of his performances, he had some stupid moments like the overly optimistic attempt to overtake Montoya at St. Petersburg or crashing with Sato when exiting the pits at Barber. But he took an impressive win at the GP of Indianapolis, and even though now we're on oval, I expect him to be battling for the win.

I was disappointed with Simon Pagenaud's performances in the early season. But before the technical retirement at the GP of Indy, he was having a solid race, performing like one could expect from him before the season. And he's been one of the best drivers in the practice days. While he's still to win an oval race, he's a strong contender on Sunday. Still, I rank Dixon as the favorite.

The second row has some serious challengers for the win. The 2013 winner Tony Kanaan was fourth in the qualifying and excels on ovals. So does also the fifth-fastest man of the qualifying, three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves. After his scary flip in the Wednesday practice, he set the fastest lap of the week in the Saturday practice.

The sixth-placed Justin Wilson was the fastest Honda driver. Honda, who have been underdogs on road courses, had obviously their priority in succeeding at the 500. Looking at the practice and qualifying results, a Honda win would be a surprise, though.

The last two years' polesitter, oval specialist Ed Carpenter had a big crash in the morning of the qualification day. Given the circumstances, 12th place with the backup car was a decent performance but he has lots of work in the race. And his practice results weren't so good, apart from that Sunday morning before his crash.

The 2000 winner and the series leader Juan Pablo Montoya was a disappointment in the qualifying, only 15th, especially given his teammates were second, third, and fifth. Actually, I find it a bit surprising Power and Pagenaud were the best Penske drivers in the qualifying. Given how well Montoya and Castroneves have started their seasons, I was expecting those former 500 winners to have an advantage at Indianapolis.

The weather forecast for Speedway doesn't look too good for Sunday with thunderstorms being forecasted for the afternoon. Hopefully they will stay away long enough to let the race finish first. After all the difficulties in this month, I'm hoping for a good and safe race that would help to forget those difficulties and would be great promotion for the series.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A week of crashes behind at Indianapolis

The Indianapolis 500 is approaching; the qualifications are behind as well as all practice sessions but one-hour Carb Day practice on Friday. Then on Sunday, it's time for the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500.
This year has seen the introduction of the new aerokits. An aim in opening the aerodynamics for competition was to get visible differences between different manufacturers. And it seems that aim was achieved; there are clear differences in the Chevrolet and Honda aerokits and the manufacturers had even designed different parts for the qualifications and the race.

In my previous text, I was carefully positive about the introduction of the aerokits. The aerodynamically more sensitive cars haven't hurt racing, at least too much. But we may have seen another harmful effect of aerodynamically sensitive cars. There have been five crashes on the oval at Indianapolis this year, in four of them the car turned upside down. At first it seemed like it might have been an issue of the Chevrolet aerokit as the first three flips happened with it. But yesterday also a car with the Honda aerokit turned upside down when James Hinchcliffe had a heavy crash and his car was sliding sideways.

Maybe the new aerokits are so sensitive that they have caused the tendency for the cars to flip this year. Or maybe the new aerokits being faster is a reason for crashes and subsequent flips. Or maybe a bit of both, or maybe that could've happened also with the old Dallara aerokit. A thing to be noted is that all flips with the Chevy aerokit happened with the qualifying parts which were abandoned later as it became required to run the qualifying with the race trim.

But what should have been done otherwise, if anything, and what should be done in the future? Well, clearly something should be done to avoid these flips in the future; we don't want that to happen in a race with a group of cars coming behind. And all these flips can't have been a coincidence; there is something wrong at least in the Chevy aerokit. Actually, I'm less worried about the suspension failure that caused the crash of Hinchcliffe, despite it being the only of the crashes where the driver got injured. That crash may just have been a one-off failure and very bad luck for Hinch. There will always be the risk of a mechanical failure, and on an oval it can have severe consequences. 

I think IndyCar should have tested the speedway aerokits already before May. To start testing them only in May meant they didn't have time to fix the arisen issues before the 500, they can only hope the race setup leads to less crashes and isn't so prone to flip. Had they tested the speedway aerokits in winter, they could've addressed and solved their issues before the Month of May.

As for what they should do now, I don't know as I'm not an aerodynamics engineer. But here's a bit radical idea. Make the car less aero-sensitive. Distinctive differences between manufacturers are the only good thing I can imagine of the aerokit competition. Otherwise advanced aerodynamics don't improve racing on track and as we've seen on the past week, they can make a spinning car behave unpredictably. I'd reduce downforce and compensate the loss in lap times with more mechanical grip and power. Of course, this is no short-term solution, rather an idea on what they should do when they set the regulations for the successor of DW12. A short-term solution is just to find what makes the cars flip so easily and how to avoid that from happening without a complete redesign of the car.

Crashes have taken the attention on the first week of this year's Indy 500. But hopefully on Sunday there will be a great race. Later this week I will write a preview of Sunday's race.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Some review of the early 2015 IndyCar season

It's time for some review of the first IndyCar races of the 2015 season. The big change for this season was opening the aerokits for competition. The start wasn't promising. In the first race of the season at St. Petersburg, broken winglets brought many debris cautions plus drivers were already saying it's harder to follow the car ahead. Those were my concerns about the aerokits. The more aerodynamically advanced the cars get, the more they suffer when following another car. And more fragile wings may discourage drivers from overtaking attempts or lead to debris cautions.

Barber was the race I was looking forward the most to see the effects of the aerokits on a road course with fast corners. And it left a good impression, it was a good race. Obviously it's harder to follow the car ahead but it wasn't hurting the racing at Barber too much. And maybe it's only the track characteristics or maybe the drivers have learnt to be more careful with the more fragile wings after St. Petersburg. So, I'm thinking the manufacturer aerokits are a good thing; the cars are a bit more different now. Different aerokits also caused fear of one manufacturer dominating the series. Honda were underdogs in the early season but pretty competitive at Barber, so maybe their car isn't as bad as it seemed earlier. It will be interesting to see how Honda will do at the Indianapolis 500 where they have won 10 of the last 11 races. I hope they could improve their performance on road courses a bit so that we'd have two manufacturers racing for wins all the time. Even better would be if a third manufacturer came to IndyCar soon.

Still, I think IndyCar must ensure the cars don't get aerodynamically too advanced. Aerodynamically advanced cars don't usually provide so great racing plus they put less emphasis on the drivers' skills. Also, while I'd like opening the rules more, it should be done carefully to avoid creating too big performance differences between the manufacturers as well as to avoid costs exploding.

Juan Pablo Montoya is leading the championship by three points to Helio Castroneves. Montoya took a brilliant win at the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. At the second-race of the season at NOLA, his pace wasn't so good but as the qualifying had to be abandoned, he started on pole as the championship leader and finished fifth. Great defensive driving at the end of the Grand Prix of Long Beach gave him the third place there and he retained his championship lead at Barber despite finishing only 14th.

Castroneves took the poles in the last two races at Long Beach and Barber. Having to wait for the traffic on the pit road probably cost him the win at Long Beach and at Barber he finished only 15th after running out of fuel. Still, his pace in the last two races shows he's a strong contender for his first IndyCar Series title and surely one of the favorites for the Indianapolis 500 where he could equal A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, Sr., and Rick Mears at four wins.

Scott Dixon is on the third place of the standings. After the difficult first two races, he took his first win at the Grand Prix of Long Beach and then was third at the Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber. Everything looks to be set for another great season for the three-time series champion.

Josef Newgarden has had a good start to the season, three times in top 10 and fourth in standings. The 2011 Indy Lights champion took his first career win the in the IndyCar Series in the last race at Barber. He seems to have potential to become the next American superstar in IndyCar, and an American superstar would be great for the series in its home market. I heard some speculation that he might be a candidate for the new Haas F1 Team in 2016, even though he may not fulfill the super licence requirements. While I'd love more crossover between IndyCar and F1, I must say I'd be slightly disappointed if IndyCar lost a potential future American star driver to F1.

The defending series champion Will Power is only fifth in the standings. A pole and a second-place finish at St. Petersburg as well as a fourth-place finish after a collision and drive-through penalty at Barber show he has the pace but he should have been smarter at times. At St. Petersburg, an overly-optimistic dive on Montoya for the lead caused a collision but thankfully didn't take the cars out. At Barber, colliding with Sato when exiting the pits was a stupid mistake. He hasn't lost the championship yet but he needs to drive smarter if he wants to win it.

Simon Pagenaud completed Team Penske's four-car dream team. One might have expected him to be a threat for the veterans Montoya and Castroneves for the 2016 seats unless Penske wants to continue with four cars. But Pagenaud has been a disappointment for me. He's been the weakest Penske driver so far and is only ninth in the standings. That's quite poor given he's been in the top 5 in the last three years and his teammates are first and second in the standings.

And few words about the calendar. As it seems that Formula One is going to start the 2016 season only in April, I think IndyCar should try to fill the void of open-wheel racing. Start the season in the Southern states, Latin America, or Australia right after the Super Bowl and have few races before the F1 season starts. The winter break of F1 might make some F1 fans to watch IndyCar.

Monday, April 6, 2015

How to stop the decline of F1's viewership?

Formula One is struggling with viewing figures. Recently I read the former Mercedes-Benz motorsports director Norbert Haug's comments about how to increase the popularity of the DTM which is also struggling with viewing figures (in German). I think some of his comments would also apply to F1. Especially I liked these:
"When you're once at the track, then you'll surely follow the series in media."
"If I had great TV ratings and the grandstands at the track are half empty, that is not good. Firstly the spectators at the track must be served."
These remind me of the suggestions in Racer's website's IndyCar 2018 article series, where many people emphasized the importance of race events for the series' popularity.

Almost everywhere in the World, the most popular sport is some team sport. You can see it live almost every week during the season, in some sports multiple times per week. A successful team increases the sport's popularity in their city or region. And while tickets are getting more expensive in every sport, the tickets are still affordable for casual fans, who might get hooked and become regular game-visitors.

For a series like F1, or whatever motorsport series, it's different. The series visits a track only once, or twice in some cases in the DTM or NASCAR. Visiting a Grand Prix isn't as casual as visiting a football or hockey game which can be more comparable to going to movies. That's why you don't get those casual fans there so easily. Of course, as a Grand Prix is such a rare event, you get spectators from a larger area. But, with tickets being so expensive, it's hard to fill the stands. If you aren't really into F1, you probably aren't going to spend hundreds of euros for tickets. And even if you're a big fan, you may not be able to afford those tickets. And here's a thing I think F1 has got wrong. As Norbert Haug said about the DTM, when you get people to the track, then you'll begin to follow the series in media. I think F1 needs less expensive tickets to get casual fans there; if they enjoyed the event, they'll come again the following year and follow the series in media. With less expensive tickets, there might be more fans visiting multiple races per year. And less expensive tickets require lower sanctioning fees for tracks, then they can lower the ticket prices.

And make the series seen where they are racing. The only time I have lived in a country where a GP is being held was last summer in Germany. I have to say I hear a lot more about the Rally Finland in the Finnish media than I heard about the German GP in the German media. Maybe I didn't follow the German media enough or maybe the event gets more publicity in regions closer to it, or maybe the FIFA World Cup title took media's attention. But surely a big sports event gets also more TV audience in the host country, offering a chance to get people into that sport. Having a good vibe around the event makes people more interested about it. Positive things like big audience are a way to create that good vibe. When you can say there are well over 100,000 spectators, it's easier to make other people check it on TV. To get a big audience, you need good marketing, affordable tickets, and an attractive event.

As I think experiencing F1 live is a way to market the series, then leaving classic venues where the audience is must have been a mistake. Surely, one can say F1 is trying to expand its fanbase by going to Asia. But I'm sceptical about that having been the main reason for it. F1 has been going to Asia to receive bigger sanctioning fees; expanding fanbase has been a desired side effect of that. And countries like Bahrain and Abu Dhabi don't really offer big opportunities to expand fanbase. I think F1 should put more emphasis on getting crowds than receiving big sanctioning fees. A badly attended Grand Prix doesn't increase viewership, no matter how big the sanctioning fee is. Of course, some attempts to expand into new markets are OK but they should result to getting a well-attended event or leaving the country.

I think NASCAR has got it right; they race in front of big crowds. The races are where there are fans and the tickets are affordable. And I think they have it right with television, too. While I'd prefer all races free-to-air, pay-per-view channels just can pay more for the TV rights. But, the problem with PPV is that then it's mostly the hardcore fans who can watch the races, casual viewers less likely have the pay channels. Even some hardcore fans must stop watching the series as they can't afford the PPV channels. I like how it is with NASCAR in the USA. Certain attractive races like the Daytona 500 and the last races of the Chase are on FTA channels. That helps to keep masses interested in the series but isn't enough for the hardcore fans who will pay for the cable channels to see the other races.

I think F1's willingness to go for money at the expense of viewing figures may undermine its future. Even if F1 got more money from the new Asian host countries than declining viewership costs, the declining viewership is a problem. The huge global audience has justified manufacturers' and sponsors' spending. Is it justifiable anymore when viewership decreases? If F1 lost manufacturers, would it anymore be the top-tier class if the manufacturers joined another series and hired F1's top drivers? And, are those new host countries anymore willing to pay the high sanctioning fees when they get less exposure than before?

I think stopping the declining viewership is important for F1. Surely there are things in the sport that could to be improved to be more attractive to fans. But F1 also needs to be more affordable and accessible for fans. Still, I'd find a big drop in sanctioning fees and TV rights surprising, for sure the commercial-rights holder doesn't want a huge drop in their revenue. Maybe the declining viewership is OK for them as long as they make profit; after all, F1 is owned by an investment company.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Should IndyCar go to Europe?

I think IndyCar needs some overseas races to get more international recognition. While NASCAR is the biggest motorsport in the USA, international exposure would help IndyCar to attract sponsors. Besides North America, Europe is obviously the continent with the strongest motorsports culture. But for certain reasons, I have been thinking IndyCar shouldn't go to Europe. Firstly, could IndyCar succeed among established series in Europe? F1 is the big thing in Europe and there are strong regional and national series there. And if IndyCar couldn't succeed in Europe, would it make sense to go there with races being on TV at 8am ET like F1? That's why I think the overseas races should be in close time zones in South America or in the Asia-Pacific region like Australia or Japan, taking place in late Saturday night for the US audience. Especially South America might be a continent with potential. They have only one F1 race, the Brazilian GP. And I think IndyCar should really try to get a race in Colombia as there are four Colombian drivers in the series.

But F1 pricing itself out from Europe might give IndyCar a chance to make ground there. Governments aiming to promote their countries have set the bill of hosting a Grand Prix so high that European countries not needing to promote themselves can no longer afford it. Ticket prices must be increased to cover the high hosting fees, and less people can afford attending the race. Last year, more than half of the seats of the Hockenheimring were empty at the German GP. This year, the financially troubled Nürburgring withdrew from hosting the German GP and Hockenheim didn't want to host the race, despite Mercedes-Benz's offer to cover half of the potential losses of the event. So, for the first time after 1960, there will be no F1 race in Germany.

OK, there should be the German GP at Hockenheim next year. But how long can Hockenheim continue paying the hosting fees even every second year as the Nürburgring can't anymore? And what if Germany can't afford hosting a race anymore? Will F1 let Germany lose its Grand Prix just like it let France, the birthplace of Grand Prix racing, lose it? If F1 lets its traditional European hosts lose races and instead keeps on going to new government-subsidized non-European tracks, then I could see chances opening for IndyCar in Europe. Surely there would be some demand for high-level open-wheel racing in Europe.

I'm not saying IndyCar should go to Europe immediately. While Germany doesn't have a Grand Prix this year, Britain and Italy have and France has Le Mans. And those are the countries where I think IndyCar should go to if they come to Europe. But if the future of the German GP is a biennial race at Hockenheim, then I think IndyCar could be the future of open-wheel racing at the Nürburgring. Surely, lack of German involvement in IndyCar could be problematic, even though a rare European IndyCar race might bring fans from abroad. As is the case with American races, good promotion would be important also here. Try to get good support classes. DTM or WEC might want to be the headline series of the weekend but the World Series by Renault might be a good support series with local interest. And moreover, provide a great fan experience. Give access to pits, have some exhibitions relevant to the audience, provide some entertainment at the track area once racing has ended, etc. Make it an attractive event also for those who aren't yet into IndyCar, or aren't necessarily even racing fans. And give them a reason to attend the event the following year, too. But keep it affordable. Otherwise only hardcore fans will come, and there aren't many of them in Europe.

If IndyCar came to Europe, it should be two or three races. It wouldn't make sense to fly to Europe for one race, yet there probably wouldn't be demand for more than three races. I think Britain might be the best European country for IndyCar to have a race in. They have maybe the strongest motorsports culture in Europe and some drivers in the IndyCar Series. And Britain has a modern oval in Rockingham, just like Germany has the EuroSpeedway. I'm not sure IndyCar should go to ovals in Europe; road courses are what attracts Europeans. Still, I think an oval race could work in Britain. In Germany IndyCar would be a substitute for F1, in Britain an alternative. I think F1 would be too strong in Britain for IndyCar to compete against. Yet I think they have a strong enough motorsports culture for an IndyCar race, even on an oval. And Brands Hatch or Donington would be road course options in Britain, as well as the new MotoGP venue Circuit of Wales.

Italy might be another good candidate for an IndyCar race. There were talks about an IndyCar race in Mugello some years ago. If not Mugello, then also Imola might be a good host. As a former F1 track, there might be some desire to see again high-level open-wheel racing. And Bernie Ecclestone threatened least year to drop Monza from the F1 schedule. With Germany already gone, that doesn't sound quite so unlikely anymore. If Italy really lost its Grand Prix, IndyCar could go for the void left by F1. And with two drivers in the series, maybe France could also be a potential destination for IndyCar in Europe, especially as they lack an F1 race.

But are there really chances for IndyCar to go to Europe? And would it make sense? Even as a European fan, I would rather like to see IndyCar being big in the USA than being a global second-tier series. But I think some overseas races would be good for the series. If Europe could offer great events, then I think IndyCar should have some European races. If a country like Germany or Italy lost their Grand Prix, I think IndyCar should try to fill the void. With good promotion, I believe an IndyCar race could be a success, especially when it wouldn't compete against F1 in that country. Of course, the Labor Day finish would bring challenges for European races. If IndyCar wants to finish by Labor Day, then the summer dates are for American races and the overseas races have to be in the early season when it's still winter in most of Europe. But if IndyCar has a good chance to go to Europe, then abandon the Labor Day finish. Dedicate August (when F1 is having the summer break) for the European races and finish the season only in October in the USA.

Monday, March 23, 2015

My review of the 2014-15 Alpine Skiing season

The 2014-15 Alpine Skiing World Cup season came to its end last weekend and now it's time to look back into the past season.


Marcel Hirscher won the fourth consecutive overall World Cup title and for the first time in his career achieved the double of slalom and giant slalom World Cup titles in the same season. He was dominant in giant slalom, winning five of the eight races and missing the podium only once. In slalom he was more vulnerable, yet in the end, his final race win was enough for the slalom title. In the final weeks of the season, he had some decent super-G results. He scored points with the 17th place in Saalbach and was fourth in the final super-G in Méribel. I wonder if he does super-G more frequently next season, especially if he faces stronger opposition for the overall title.

Kjetil Jansrud was Norway's No. 1 skier as Aksel Lund Svindal missed the World Cup season because of an Achilles tendon injury. And Jansrud's season was like a copy of Svindal's last two seasons; he won both downhill and super-G World Cup titles but that wasn't enough to beat Hirscher for the overall World Cup. After a great start to the season, mediocre results mid-season cost him the chance to win the overall title. To afford missing podiums in speed disciplines, he should have a strong giant slalom like the likes of Maier and Eberharter had when winning overall titles. Instead of finishing on the 19th place of giant slalom standings, he should've been in the top 8 to beat Hirscher for the overall title. Next season his task will be even harder as the draft schedule has only 19 speed races (11 DHs & 8 SGs) as opposed to 23 technical races (10 GSs, 11 SLs, & 2 CEs). It will also be interesting to see how he can defend the downhill and super-G titles when Svindal will be back on the tour.

Alexis Pinturault finished the season on the third place of the overall World Cup, like last season. To me, it feels like he could make no progress from the last season. He has versatility needed to succeed in the overall World Cup; he can succeed in all disciplines but downhill. But to be a contender for the overall title, he needs to start winning and making podiums frequently. This season, he couldn't take a step into that direction, instead his two wins is one less than in last two seasons.

Felix Neureuther had a solid season, fourth in the overall World Cup and second in the slalom World Cup. Still, the last weeks of the season were a disappointment for him. He lost his 66-point slalom lead in slalom to Hirscher with the 9th and 12th places of the last two slaloms, being the runner-up for the third time in a row.

Hannes Reichelt was obviously the second-best skier in men's speed disciplines, World Championship gold medal in super-G, second place in the downhill World Cup, and fourth place in the super-G World Cup. He had a streak of strong downhill performances since January, including a win in Wengen to achieve the double of classic downhill wins after last year's Kitzbühel win. Before the final downhill of the season, he was only 20 points from Jansrud who dominated the early season. Still, in the final race he couldn't beat Jansrud for the downhill title.

Henrik Kristoffersen must be the biggest prospect on the tour. The junior World Champion won two slaloms this season and at the World Cup Finals he won his first giant slalom. I think he will be ready to race for the slalom World Cup title next season. In giant slalom he may need few more years for that, yet I can see him in the future as a Hirscher-style overall World Cup contender whose campaign is based on strong slalom and giant slalom.

In speed disciplines, it's harder to see potential future overall World Cup champions. Of younger speed skiers, Dominik Paris had the best season, second in the super-G and fourth in the downhill World Cup standings.  Matthias Mayer was almost as good, third in the super-G standings and tied the fourth place in downhill. I expect both of them to win discipline titles in the future but prefer Mayer's chances for the overall title as he is at least a point-scorer in giant slalom. Yet his only top 10 result is a sixth place from last year's Olympics, he would need to improve a lot to be in giant slalom top 10 all season long.

One of my fondest memories of the season is Carlo Janka having won the combined in Wengen. That was the first win for the 2009-10 overall World Cup champion in almost four years, after suffering health issues. Even nicer was it happening in his home country Switzerland. He finished the season on the 10th place of the overall World Cup, his best season after 2010-11. But he still has lots of work ahead to win crystal globes again, 11th place in super-G was his best ranking in discipline standings.

Another fond memory is Ted Ligety having won the World Championship giant slalom in Beaver Creek, the first gold medal for the host nation on the third-last day. I was really happy the greatest giant slalom skier of this decade was able to win the gold medal in home championships as he will have retired before the next Worlds or Olympics in the USA. Apart from that gold medal and the World bronze medal in combined, this was otherwise a poor season by his standards. His only win in the World Cup was also from Beaver Creek, a giant slalom in early December. For the first time after 2009, he missed the top 2 in the giant slalom standings. And after this season, his overall World Cup dream seems quite distant. He would need another strong discipline besides giant slalom, yet he made no progress in any discipline this season, rather declined.


Anna Fenninger defended successfully the overall World Cup title. After winning the opening race in Sölden, the early season wasn't otherwise particuarly good for her and in January she was already over 300 points behind Tina Maze. But in her last 13 races, she missed the podium only twice and eventually won the overall World Cup by 22 points to Tina Maze. Besides the overall World Cup, she also managed to defend the giant slalom World Cup title. Winning the last three giant slaloms were decisive for both titles. In the speed disciplines, she challenged Lindsey Vonn very well for both downhill and super-G titles but couldn't quite beat her.

Tina Maze dominated the overall World Cup for the first half of the season. Her campaign was based on consistent good results in all disciplines rather than dominating few of them. For a long time, it worked well. Fenninger was mediocre in the first half of the season, Vonn doing only speed disciplines, and Shiffrin doing only technical disciplines. Once Fenninger started getting top results in giant slalom, super-G, and downhill, she started catching Maze whose form had dropped in technical disciplines. Maze got her best results in technical disciplines in weeks at the World Cup Finals but it wasn't anymore enough for her after the previous weeks' poor results.

Lindsey Vonn finished the season on the third place of the overall World Cup. That was a great season after her injuries. World Cup titles in downhill and super-G were very much all she could achieve by doing mostly speed disciplines. Fifth place in the final giant slalom gives some hope of a strong overall campaign next season but she would need those good giant slalom results frequently to challenge Fenninger who has three strong disciplines.

Mikaela Shiffrin finished the season on the fourth place of the overall World Cup. She was once again the dominant slalom skier and she also got her first giant slalom win this season. Within the next few seasons, I can see her becoming a strong contender for the giant slalom World Cup title. But if dominating technical disciplines is how Hirscher wins men's overall titles, that wouldn't work on women's side as the best speed skiers also have a strong giant slalom. For the overall title, Shiffrin must do at least super-G besides the technical disciplines. Despite some plans, she didn't debut in super-G this season but I expect her to give it a try in the future. If she could get decent super-G results, then she would have a great chance to win the overall title in the future.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

2015 Alpine Skiing World Cup title battles: Finals in Méribel

The Alpine Skiing World Cup will finish with the Finals in Méribel. The final downhills will be on Wednesday and the super-Gs on Thursday. On Friday there will be a team event. The final technical races will be in the weekend; men will have the giant slalom on Saturday and the slalom on Sunday, women will have the races in those disciplines in the opposite order.


Men's overall

The men's overall title seems pretty secure for Marcel Hirscher as he has a 164-point lead over Kjetil Jansrud. Jansrud could take the World Cup lead after the speed races with a win and a second place but Hirscher should secure the title with routine performances in the technical disciplines, if Jansrud even overtook him in points in the speed races.

The battle for the third place seemed interesting two weeks ago with two races in each discipline remaining; five men were within 83 points. Now before the final races, those five men are within 207 points. Alexis Pinturault is on the third place, 82 points ahead of fourth-placed Felix Neureuther. Dominik Paris is on the fifth place 153 points behind Pinturault, which is probably too much even if he won both speed races and scored 200 points there. It already seemed before Kranjska Gora that Neureuther is on Pinturault's level in giant slalom and that he can score more points in slalom than Pinturault in slalom and super-G combined. That's why he was my pick for the third place. But Neureuther wasn't very good in Kranjska Gora whereas Pinturault had a very good weekend, his first giant slalom win of the season and his second-best slalom result of the season, a seventh place. He can also succeed in super-G so right now he seems to be on the way to the third place in the overall World Cup like last season.

Men's downhill

After Kjetil Jansrud's win in Kitzbühel, Hannes Reichelt has caught him by 194 points in the last three downhill races and is now only 20 points behind. Third consecutive downhill win would give him the title as he would finish with at least equal points with Jansrud and have one more win. In other scenarios ending with a tie, Jansrud would get the title as he has more second or fourth places.

Jansrud's best result from last three downhills is a seventh place (36 points) in the last downhill in Kvitfjell whereas Reichelt's worst result from last three downhills is a third place (60 points) in Saalbach. So, Reichelt can well deny Jansrud from finishing the season on the top of the downhill standings he's lead all season long.

But let's not write Jansrud off. A super-G win in Kvitfjell shows his form is still there. If he can bring his best to the final downhill, Reichelt will have trouble to beat him. And warm spring weather may make it hard to finish high in the results. Let's remember the 2011 final downhill where the title contenders Cuche and Walchhofer finished on 4th and 11th positions. The lower Reichelt finishes, the more skiers he needs ahead of Jansrud to gain 21 points on him.

Men's super-G

Jansrud secured this title already in Kvitfjell. And also other top 3 positions seem quite secure. Second-placed Dominik Paris is 79 points ahead of third-placed Matthias Mayer who is 67 points ahead of fourth-placed Hannes Reichelt.

Men's giant slalom

Marcel Hirscher secured the giant slalom World Cup title in Kranjska Gora but the second place is open. Alexis Pinturault is leading last year's champion Ted Ligety by 33 points. This can still go either way; while Ligety has been having a poor World Cup season by his standards, his World Championship gold was proof of his great skills. If Ligety had a good race or Pinturault a bad one, then 33 points can be caught. But in the last giant slalom in Kranjska Gora, Pinturault took an impressive win and Ligety has had only fourth places in the two races after the Worlds. So I expect Pinturault to keep the second place in the giant slalom standings.

Men's slalom

Felix Neureuther had a weak race in Kranjska Gora, a ninth place, and he couldn't secure the slalom title. His title rival Marcel Hirscher had a huge mistake in his first run but was still able to finish sixth, catching Neureuther by 11 points. Neureuther's lead is now 55 points and he'd need a top 4 finish if Hirscher won. He's missed the top 4 only twice this season but worryingly Kranjska Gora was the other of them. On the other hand, if he didn't score any points, Hirscher would still need to finish on podium, what he hasn't done after the Kitzbühel slalom almost two months ago. The good thing for Hirscher is that he'll probably have secured the overall title before the final slalom so he can take risks to win the race.


Women's overall

Anna Fenninger overtook Tina Maze in the overall standings in the weekend of Åre and she leads by 30 points. Maze's task to take the lead back in the Finals seems very hard. She is behind Fenninger in all disciplines but slalom and the 15th place of the last slalom would give no points at the Finals where only fifteen best get points.

Speed disciplines have recently been Maze's strongest disciplines and they may be a chance for her to catch and overtake Fenninger. But Fenninger is so strong in speed disciplines that it is equally possible Fenninger will further expand her lead. Giant slalom is the discipline where Fenninger has the biggest advantage over Maze and it will be hard for Maze to make up the deficit in slalom where she hasn't been on podium since mid-January. To win the title, Maze needs perfect races and probably also poor results from Fenninger. Given it's been Fenninger with great results and Maze with poor results, Fenninger seems to be on the way to the overall World Cup title.

Mikaela Shiffrin is on the third place, 58 points ahead of Lindsey Vonn. Vonn will probably overtake her after the speed races but looking at the previous races, Shiffrin will probably score well over 100 points in the technical disciplines, maybe over 150. So, to finish the overall standings on third place, Vonn may need to win both speed races, what she may also need for the titles in those disciplines.

Women's downhill

Anna Fenninger caught Lindsey Vonn by 44 points in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and is now 35 points behind. Including the World Championships, Fenninger has now three second places in a row in downhill whereas Vonn's best downhill result from that period is a fifth place at the Worlds. Now Vonn needs a strong performance to keep her points lead. Fifth place is enough if Fenninger is again second. If Fenninger wins, Vonn needs to be second. Tina Maze has a very slim chance for the title. She is 96 points behind Vonn and 61 behind Fenninger. To win the title, she would have to win and Vonn would have to miss the top 15 as well as Fenninger would have to miss the top 6. So that is a very unlikely scenario.

I still trust in Vonn here, she is the best downhill skier on women's side. In the second Garmisch race, the super-G, Vonn won and Fenninger was only third, even though super-G should be Vonn's weaker and Fenninger's better discipline. I expect yet another solid performance by Fenninger in the final downhill but Vonn has the capabilities to do what is needed for the title.

Women's super-G

Vonn regained the super-G points lead from Fenninger in Garmisch, one week after having lost it in Bansko. But with a minimal gap of eight points, this is getting to be a one-race shootout for the title. By beating Vonn, Fenninger would be close to taking the lead in the final race, a podium finish would surely be enough in that case.

While I rate Vonn above Fenninger as a super-G skier, Fenninger is closer to her in super-G than in downhill and she's been in a great form recently. But I really can't choose the title favorite here.

Women's slalom

Mikaela Shiffrin leads the slalom standings by 90 points to Frida Hansdotter. Hansdotter's only chance is to win the final race and Shiffrin would have to miss the top 15. That is quite unlikely a scenario; Shiffrin has won the last two World Cup slaloms plus the World Championship slalom and hasn't missed the top 15 all season long. Hansdotter has only one win and only one of her second places was a loss to Shiffrin; that was at the World Championships.

Women's giant slalom

Anna Fenninger leads the giant slalom standings to Eva-Maria Brem by 86 points. The situation is quite the same as in slalom. Brem's only chance is to win the final race and Fenninger would have to miss the top 15. Also, Fenninger's recent giant slalom record reminds of Shiffrin in slalom, she's won the last two World Cup giant slaloms plus the World Championship giant slalom and hasn't missed the top 15 all season long. And just like Hansdotter in slalom, Brem has only one win in giant slalom, so the scenario of her winning the giant slalom title is very unlikely.

Friday, March 13, 2015

2015 Ski Jumping World Cup title battle: four competitions remaining

The 2014-15 ski jumping season is coming to its end. There are four individual competitions left in the World Cup: two in large hill in Holmenkollen in Oslo this weekend and two in flying hill in Planica next weekend. Three men are well ahead of the rest of the field and will decide the World Cup title; Severin Freund leads Peter Prevc by 34 points and Stefan Kraft by 46 points.

Freund has been a very consistent top jumper after the Four Hills Tournament. Excluding the Sapporo competitions that he skipped, he's been on podium in all but two competitions, one of those podium misses having been a fourth place and the other being a disqualification. He was the best jumper of the World Championships, a dominant win in the large hill and a second place in the normal hill narrowly missing the win. After the Worlds, he was second in Lahti and won in Kuopio and Trondheim, even though in the latter he wouldn't probably have won without Kraft's binding problem.

Prevc's form in the recent weeks hasn't looked so good and he's been inconsistent. He had good results since the beginning of the season, was third at the Four Hills, had strong results after the Four Hills, and won in Sapporo and Vikersund, giving him the World Cup lead. But the World Championships after Vikersund were a disappointment. He was 13th in the normal hill and 4th in the large hill and failed to repeat his two-medal performances from the previous Worlds from two years ago and last year's Olympics. And while 4th, 17th, and 2nd places from the last three World Cup competitions aren't such a bad result, the worrying thing for him is that he just seems unable to match Freund and Kraft. I hope the pressure isn't too much for him but this is starting to seem like yet another title this season he can't eventually fight for. Prevc couldn't stay in the Four Hills title contention in the last two competitions and he couldn't win a medal at the Worlds despite having been one of the favorites to succeed. Now I hope he can bring his best to the remaining World Cup competitions to get a strong finish to his season, no matter if he wins the title or not.

Kraft made his big breakthrough this season when he won the Four Hills Tournament. Since then he's been consistently on top but he lost the World Cup lead when he skipped the ski flying weekend of Vikersund to prepare for the World Championships. Third in the normal hill and fifth in the large hill was a decent World Championships performance by him even though nowhere near to Freund's performance. But after the Worlds he's been great. A dominant win in Lahti, third place in Kuopio, and an unlucky 9th place in Trondheim. He had a great first jump in Trondheim but an unlucky binding problem on the second round may have cost him the win. The only fortunate thing is he could handle the dangerous situation and land safely; otherwise his World Cup campaign might have been over.

But who is the favorite? The gaps are small given there are four competitions left. Kraft can overtake Freund already after the Holmenkollen competitions if he jumps like in Lahti and Trondheim. And while Prevc has recently been the weakest of these three, he hasn't lost anything yet. But looking at the recent form, Freund and Kraft are the favorites. Kraft seems like the best jumper at the moment. Though, the last two competitions will be in a flying hill and Freund and Prevc are well-accomplished in ski flying. Freund is leading the Ski Flying World Cup by 85 points after three of five competitions. He has wins from Kulm and Vikersund and he won the Ski Flying World Championship gold medal last season. Prevc is second in ski flying standings, won in Vikersund, and won the Ski Flying World Cup crystal globe last year, even though it consisted of only two competitions. Kraft doesn't have such a record from ski flying but he was second in Kulm this season so ski flying shouldn't be a problem for him. But if he couldn't reduce the gap to Freund and Prevc in the large hill of Holmenkollen and even build some lead, then I'd prefer Freund's and Prevc's chances to win the title in Planica as a flying hill should benefit them. But I expect a tight battle of the title between two or even all three of the candidates until the last competition. Kraft should be strong, Freund should be strong, and Prevc can be just as good. Right now Kraft would be my pick for the title, he's the best jumper at the moment and 46 points isn't such a huge gap with four competitions remaining.

To not miss the remaining competitions, add the World Cup calendar with start times to Google Calendar.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

2015 Alpine Skiing World Cup title battles: overall, giant slalom, and slalom

Next weekend there will be the second-last World Cup races of the season in technical disciplines. Women will race on Friday and Saturday in Åre and men will race on Saturday and Sunday in Kranjska Gora. In my previous post, I wrote about the speed disciplines' World Cup title battles, now I write about the technical disciplines' title battles as well as about the overall World Cup.

Men's overall

Kjetil Jansrud reduced Marcel Hirscher's lead from 188 points to 52 points in the speed events of Kvitfjell but that is too little too late. Hirscher is the big favorite for Saturday's giant slalom and can also win Sunday's slalom. While Jansrud does giant slalom, he will probably score only small points, and the gap can be after Kranjska Gora even bigger than before Kvitfjell.

The battle for the third place is more interesting. Alexis Pinturault is 17 points ahead of Dominik Paris and 20 points ahead of Felix Neureuther. Paris is in the worst position of these as he doesn't race in Kranjska Gora. I fancy Neureuther's chances to finish the season on overall third place. He has recently been on Pinturault's level in giant slalom and his slalom is very strong. Pinturault does slalom and super-G besides giant slalom but he seems unable to score high enough points in those disciplines to match Neureuther's slalom points. Paris's chance for third place would be to have excellent final downhill and super-G races in Méribel and he would need mediocre races from Pinturault and Neureuther.

Men's slalom

I think men's slalom has the most interesting title battle of technical disciplines in either gender. The last two years' runner-up Neureuther leads the last two years' champion Hirscher by 66 points. Neureuther has been having a solid slalom season, only one retirement and otherwise always on podium, winning two races. Hirscher has been more inconsistent. Two wins but also a retirement and two other missed podiums. And we saw that inconsistency also at the World Championships where he ran out in the second run after being fastest in the first run.

66 points is a good lead but this title battle may still be far from over. I think Hirscher is the fastest slalom skier. Despite the inconsistent results this season, I could see him even winning the remaining two slaloms. And in that case, two third places wouldn't be enough for Neureuther. On the other hand, Neureuther can secure the slalom title in Kranjska Gora by scoring 35 points more than Hirscher. I think this will come to whether Neureuther can perform up to his potential. If he can, then the title should be his. If he can't, then Hirscher will get a chance for the title. And the overall standings may play a role here. If Hirscher needs a safe result for the overall, he may not be able to threaten Neureuther then. A third place in Kranjska Gora wouldn't be enough for Hirscher to take the title decision to the final race if Neureuther wins.

Men's giant slalom

Men's giant slalom title is almost secure for Hirscher already. All he needs is 12 points if currently second-placed Ligety won the remaining two races. A top 19 result in Kranjska Gora secures the title for Hirscher.

Women's overall

The gap between Tina Maze and Anna Fenninger remained in 44 points as they both had a second and a third place in the speed events of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. So, it seems like speed events won't make a big difference between them but the technical events next weekend in Åre and in the Finals in Méribel may make. Maze's former parade discipline giant slalom has been her worst discipline this season. She won a giant slalom in next weekend's venue Åre in December but after that her best giant slalom result has been the fifth place at the World Championships. Meanwhile Fenninger has been in a great giant slalom form in the last races. She was second after Christmas in Kühtai, won the World Championship giant slalom, and after the Worlds, she won the latest World Cup giant slalom in Maribor. To offset the deficit to Fenninger in giant slalom, Maze may need podium finishes in slalom. She has three podium results from this season's seven World Cup slaloms. But she failed to finish in the latest slalom in Maribor and she was only eighth in the World Championship slalom.

Looking at the latest races, it seems like Fenninger will overtake Maze in the standings, Maze hasn't been in her best form. But if Maze can bring her best in the remaining races, then I think doing all four disciplines should win the title for her.

The third-place battle is between two Americans, Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin. In the speed races of Garmisch, Vonn turned a deficit of 44 points into a lead of 92 points. Now the technical events of Åre provide Shiffrin a chance to overtake Vonn. Even if Vonn did giant slalom, Shiffrin is still almost likely to overtake Vonn next weekend. Including the World Championships, Shiffrin has won four of her five last slalom races and finished one on third place. In her weaker discipline, she has won one race this season and her worst giant slalom result of the season was a tenth place in Åre in December.

Women's giant slalom

The defending champion Anna Fenninger leads Eva-Maria Brem by 46 points. Brem started the season well with three podium finishes, including a win in Aspen. But her recent results don't seem like she could challenge Fenninger for the title. Fenninger has been in a great form, a win and a second pace from the last two World Cup giant slaloms and a win at the World Championships. Mikaela Shiffrin scored her first giant slalom win this season but she is 71 points behind Fenninger, which is probably too much for her to catch.

Fenninger can secure the giant slalom title already in Åre by scoring 55 points more than Brem and 30 points more than Shiffrin. If Fenninger won, Brem would need a top 4 result and Shiffrin a second place to stay in contention for the title.

Women's slalom

In women's slalom, the two-time defending champion Shiffrin is leading the standings. Her closest rival is last year's runner-up Frida Hansdotter 30 points behind. I trust in Shiffrin here. Hansdotter is a great slalom skier but Shiffrin is just better. But Shiffrin still needs strong performances to win the title. If she had to retire and Hansdotter won, Hansdotter would suddenly have a 70-point lead and need only a top 8 result in the final race. And this hasn't been a flawless season for Shiffrin, she needed four races to win or even make the podium in slalom. Since then she's been great, though. Always on podium, winning all but one race.

To secure the slalom title in Åre, Shiffrin would need 71 points more than Hansdotter. If Shiffrin won, then Hansdotter would need a top 8 result to stay in contention for the title.

Speed disciplines

In speed disciplines, the first crystal globe is already decided as Jansrud won the Kvitfjell super-G and extended his points lead over second-placed Paris to over hundred points. In downhill he wasn't able to secure the title in Kvitfjell though. The winner of the Kvitfjell downhill, Hannes Reichelt, reduced the gap to 20 points before the final downhill.

In women's speed disciplines, Vonn leads both downhill and super-G standings. Fenninger reduced her downhill points lead to 35 points whereas in the super-G standings Vonn overtook Fenninger to lead by eight points.

I will write more about the speed disciplines standings before the World Cup Finals in Méribel.

Friday, March 6, 2015

2015 Alpine Skiing World Cup title battles: overall, downhill, and super-G

The last three weeks of the Alpine Skiing World Cup are here. Both men and women have eight races remaining, two in each discipline. This is a week of speed events; men race in Kvitfjell and women in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Women's overall

Women's overall title battle seems like the more interesting overall battle. Tina Maze's huge lead in the overall standings has decreased to 44 points over Anna Fenninger. Maze didn't really dominate any discipline at any time this season. But her consistency in all four disciplines build her points lead. She seemed to run away from defending champion Fenninger who doesn't do slalom. But the downhill of St. Moritz feels like where Fenninger's World Cup campaign really started; second place after mediocre downhill performances until then. And after that she has been in top 2 in all her starts but the World Championship combined where she was fourth.

Actually, also Maze seems to be in a great form right now. Like Fenninger, she won two gold and one silver medal at the World Championships, and last weekend she was second in both races. But, it was Fenninger who finished ahead of her in those races. And in giant slalom she looks unable to match Fenninger. Of course, Maze is a capable slalom skier but even good slalom results may not be enough when Fenninger is beating her in other disciplines. Given their respective form, Fenninger may overtake Maze in points already in the speed events in Garmisch this weekend and keep the lead in the technical events in Åre before the Finals week.

Women's super-G

Fenninger didn't only take a huge leap towards the overall leader Maze in Bansko but she also took over the super-G World Cup lead from Lindsey Vonn and leads now with 32 points. Fenninger has been very consistent this season; she's finished every super-G and after the eighth place of the first race, she had three second places in a row. After winning the super-G at the World Championships, she won her first super-G on the World Cup Tour last weekend.

Vonn's season in super-G has been great too. She has two wins in the World Cup, one second, and one third place but also one retirement. Her recent form leaves some questions. Her only medal at the Worlds was bronze in the super-G won by Fenninger and last weekend in Bansko she was third in the super-G also won by Fenninger. But I feel this title can go either way. Fenninger has some lead and if she beats Vonn in Garmisch this weekend, I believe she will go to win the super-G title. But if Vonn beats Fenninger in Garmisch, then I think it will be a fifty-fifty situation before the final race. And of course, Fenninger can secure the title already in Garmisch, even though it is unlikely. Even if she won, Vonn should be out of the top 8. And if Vonn retired or were 20th at best, Fenninger should be second.

Women's downhill

Vonn has a 79-point lead over Fenninger in the downhill standings. She has a realistic chance of securing the title this weekend. If she wins, Fenninger must be second to keep the title battle open until the final race. If she is second, Fenninger must be third. If she is third, Fenninger must be fourth, etc. But even third places in the remaining two races wouldn't be enough if Fenninger won both races.

Vonn has three wins from this season whereas Fenninger has none. But just like in super-G, the recent races have gone better for Fenninger. Fenninger was second in the latest World Cup downhill in St. Moritz and in the World Championship downhill. Vonn was 23rd and 5th in those races. Vonn probably needs to do better than that to win the downhill title. If Fenninger is second in the remaining two races, Vonn needs at least a fifth and a sixth place or something like that. But Vonn is surely the favorite here; she is the best downhill skier on women's side.

Men's overall

Men's overall World Cup has been a battle between Marcel Hirscher and Kjetil Jansrud. Jansrud started his season well and was in top 2 in all speed races before Christmas, winning four of six. Since then, he has made the podium only twice, win in the Kitzbühel downhill and third place in the Saalbach super-G. That drop in form has very much dropped him out of contention for the overall World Cup title.

Hirscher is having a great giant slalom season. The only World Cup giant slalom he didn't won was in Beaver Creek where he was third, on the same slope where he suffered another defeat in giant slalom this season at the World Championships. In slalom he hasn't been quite as good. At times he has been great in slalom but he hasn't really stood out in that discipline. Some poor slalom races by his standards gave Jansrud some chances in the overall title battle but Jansrud couldn't have the results to stay in the battle.

Hirscher's lead is 188 points which is quite impossible for Jansrud to catch. If Jansrud won both races in Kvitfjell this weekend, he would overtake Hirscher in the overall points. But then Hirscher would have two technical races in the following weekend to take the lead again and build some gap. The battle for the 3rd place is almost more interesting with Alexis Pinturault, Felix Neureuther, Matthias Mayer, Dominik Paris, and Fritz Dopfer being within only 83 points. I will write more about that 3rd-place battle in next weeks.

Men's downhill

Men's downhill title seemed to be going to Jansrud after his great start to the season, wins in the first two races and second place in the third downhill. Dominik Paris seemed like his main rival but unable to match Jansrud. But Jansrud has struggled after the Christmas break; only one downhill podium, a win in Kitzbühel. In Garmisch last weekend, Jansrud even missed the top 15; a result which would award no points at the Word Cup Finals. But Paris has also been struggling lately and hasn't been able to benefit from Jansrud's mediocre results.

Austrians Hannes Reichelt and Matthias Mayer seem like the main rivals for Jansrud now. Reichelt is 84 points behind Jansrud and Mayer is 113 points behind. They both have a win and a third place from the last two downhill races, i.e. 160 points. Jansrud got only 40 points in those races. So, Jansrud needs to perform better to not lose the downhill World Cup he's lead all season long. And I believe he has the potential for that. So many times he's been good in training but mediocre in races. He needs to bring his best to races now. Also, Paris is actually one point ahead of Mayer in the standings but his recent results don't imply he might have what it takes to win the downhill title this season; he rather struggles to even make it into the top 3 of the final points.

While Jansrud's lead has decreased, he has a decent chance to secure the downhill title in his home race in Kvitfjell this weekend. He needs 17 points more than Reichelt and can lose 12 points to Paris and Mayer. A win would secure the title, no matter how others perform.

Men's super-G

Just like downhill, super-G has seemed since December like Jansrud's title to lose. And just like in downhill, Paris seemed to be his main rival. But like in downhill, both Jansrud and Paris seem to have a dip in their super-G form. And with a win two weeks ago in Saalbach, Mayer joined the battle for the super-G title.

Luckily for Jansrud, super-G seems like his best discipline right now. But third place two weeks ago in Saalbach is his only podium in super-G after the New Year. Paris has three super-G podiums from this season, including a win in Kitzbühel. But given his poor form recently, I doubt he can catch Jansrud's 73-point lead. Mayer is 102 points behind Jansrud but given his recent great form in speed disciplines, I think he has better chances than Paris. But I think Jansrud's lead should be too much for Mayer; Jansrud seems still too good to lose over 100 points in two races, unless Mayer won them both.

And like in downhill, Jansrud has a chance to secure also the super-G title in Kvitfjell this weekend. He needs 28 points more than Paris and can lose by one point to Mayer. If Jansrud won the Kvitfjell super-G, Paris would need a second place to retain a small chance for the super-G title.

Technical disciplines

I will write about the technical disciplines before next week's technical events in Kranjska Gora (men) and Åre (women). And to not miss the remaining races, add the World Cup calendar with start times to Google Calendar.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Should IndyCar and Super Formula unify technical regulations?

I have seen some interesting tweets by @4TheLoveOfIndy suggesting IndyCar having common technical regulations with Japanese Super Formula, following the success of global GT3 rules. I agree with him and have also been thinking about that. Another example from sports cars is LMP2 and LMGTE regulations being used besides the WEC also in regonal series and there are entrants from those regional series at Le Mans. Another example is German DTM and Japanese Super GT unifying their regulations.

But why not doing the same in open-wheel racing? Of course, a major difference is that IndyCar has ovals besides road and street courses, Super Formula has only road courses, so there are different requirements for these cars. But still, the Indy car must be suitable also for road courses.

I think this would have benefits for both series. With more potential customers for the IndyCar/Super Formula engines, we might see more engine manufacturers. Maybe this could bring Toyota back to IndyCar as they are already in Super Formula. And maybe that could enable the series open the chassis regulations, as both currently have a spec chassis. With over 40 cars, they could afford multiple chassis manufacturers.

One of his tweets was about how those Super Formula teams could do the Indy 500 and there would be bumping. I really like that idea. I feel that would help promoting both series. The Indy 500 and the IndyCar Series would get exposure in Japan, even with no own race there. And Super Formula might get some American audience when the drivers become more familiar. Think about a race in Japan on Sunday at 2pm. It's Saturday evening 9pm PST/10pm PDT or 12am EST/1am EDT. A bit late on East Coast but not quite so bad on Saturday evening.  That's why I think it is the Asia-Pacific region where IndyCar should go if they want to have races outside the Americas and promote the Series there; in some parts of the home market USA, the races would even be at prime time on Saturday. But if Super Formula adopted common technical regulations and race at the Indy 500, they would market the 500 in Japan on behalf of the IndyCar. And it is not like they would be a rival for IndyCar, rather a partner series who come to race at the 500. And if this helped IndyCar to gain popularity in Japan, there would be a logical overseas race in Japan. If not a combined race, then imagine a Super Formula-IndyCar doubleheader at Motegi: IndyCar on the oval and Super Formula on the road course or maybe even on the oval.

All in all, I'd like the idea of another series adopting the IndyCar rules and then participating the Indy 500. With an existing strong series like Super Formula that would be easier. Using the same cars in multiple series would also make those series more attractive to manufacturers.

Friday, January 16, 2015

My tennis blog on Tennis Frontier

From now on, my tennis blog will be on Tennis Frontier. Tennis Frontier is a tennis site with news, blogs, and a discussion forum. My latest tennis blog post is about the expectations for Stan Wawrinka's 2015 season.

I will continue writing about other sports here in this blog.

Friday, January 9, 2015

2014-15 Alpine Skiing World Cup approaching the halfway

The 2014-15 Alpine Skiing season is approaching its halfway, which also means classic races: men in Adelboden, Wengen, and Kitzbühel and women in Cortina d'Ampezzo and St. Moritz. Here I review some skiers' performances this season.


The men's overall World Cup is becoming a two-man race between three-time defending champion Marcel Hirscher and Kjetil Jansrud. That is like the title fights between Hirscher and Svindal in previous years, Hirscher collecting big points from the technical events and the Norwegian collecting big points from the speed events. Hirscher took the overall lead with his Zagreb slalom win and also the projected final points show he is on the way to the overall title. Of disciplines, giant slalom has been better than slalom for him this winter. The tougher competition in slalom and last years' best giant slalom skier Ted Ligety's weaker performances may have accounted for that. In giant slalom, Hirscher leads the World Cup by 74 points ahead of Ligety whereas in the slalom World Cup, he is on the second place but only four points behind the leader Felix Neureuther.

Kjetil Jansrud has been the best speed skier since last February's Olympics where he won gold in super-G and bronze in downhill. This winter he has dominated speed disciplines, four wins and only one missed podium in seven speed races. While his leads in downhill and super-G standings aren't impossible to catch, I can't see anybody with the consistency needed to beat Jansrud for those titles.

As for the overall title fight, it will be tight as long as those two equally dominate their parade disciplines. Combined races can play a big role here. Hirscher will probably do only the Kitzbühel combined as instead of downhill it has super-G. But he has a great record from SG+SL combined, always in top 5. Jansrud will probably do both Wengen and Kitzbühel but he doesn't have as good a record from combined as Hirscher has. Still, his best combined result is from last winter when he was fourth in the Olympic combined, so he has potential. Another chance for Jansrud to gain points on Hirscher is in giant slalom. Unlike Hirscher, Jansrud has a decent third discipline. He has been three times in top 15 this winter but if he could improve to top 10, it would help him. He is a skier with potential in giant slalom as seen in around 2010 when giant slalom was his best discipline and he won Olympic silver in it. Of course, also Hirscher can try to get some points from super-G but he races in super-G very seldom.

Felix Neureuther leads the slalom World Cup, despite the back problems he has had. I don't think he is as good a slalom skier as second-placed Hirscher but Neureuther has been more consistent and finished all slaloms on podium. I think this title will depend on Hirscher's form. If Hirscher can bring his best, he will inevitably win it but if he has bad races and Neureuther remains consistent, then Felix has a huge chance for the title. Giant slalom has been more difficult for him this season than last winter when he even won a giant slalom in Adelboden. But even with his current results, he is well in contention to make the podium in the overall World Cup.

One of his main contenders for the third place in the overall is his countryman Fritz Dopfer who is consistently having good results in slalom and giant slalom. But Dopfer still needs a bit something to win races. Another contender for those Germans is the speed specialist Dominik Paris. While he is yet to win a race this winter, he has four podium finishes in seven speed races. Moreover, he is still young and I expect him to win discipline titles in downhill and super-G in the future. But I can't see him ever as a contender for the overall title; he would need a third discipline in his repertoire.

Another still young skier whose results I have been pleased with is Matthias Mayer. His downhill Olympic gold seemed like a one-race wonder but the results after it are making it justified. While he is "only" sixth and fourth in downhill and super-G standings and yet to win a race this winter, his two second places show he is a real deal. He is already ready to win races as the Olympic downhill and the final downhill in Lenzerheide last year showed but he isn't yet ready to fight for the discipline World Cup titles. But in the future I can see him as a strong contender for the World Cup titles in speed disciplines. He also has some giant slalom skills as shown by the sixth place at the Olympics, so I think he could be a Jansrud-like overall title contender in the future; strong in speed disciplines, decent in giant slalom.

Ted Ligety and Alexis Pinturault are skiers often mentioned in the overall title speculations. I am losing my faith in Ligety ever winning it. This is yet another winter when he can't do much outside giant slalom. He can have some good slalom runs but finishing two slalom runs has been difficult for him this winter. He won the World Championship super-G two years ago but he doesn't seem able to be a consistent top skier in super-G. And this winter he has been having a mediocre giant slalom season by his own standards. A win and two second places isn't bad but he is already 74 points behind the leader Hirscher. He must start beating Hirscher to successfully defend his giant slalom World Cup title.

Pinturault is a skier who I think has the skills needed to win the overall World Cup. He can be a top skier in slalom, giant slalom, super-G, and combined. Who knows if he even becomes a real all-round skier doing also downhill? But he needs consistency. Giant slalom has been his best discipline this winter and he also has a podium from super-G. But he has finished only one of the four slaloms, wasting lots of points. Aside from a slim chance for the giant slalom title, his aim for the rest of the season must be just to win races and secure top 3 in the giant slalom World Cup. He is still a young skier so he has years left to battle for the overall title.

And few words about my favourite Carlo Janka. After some worse seasons, at the end of the last season, it looked like he is breaking back into the top 10. But his performances haven't really improved from last winter. Actually, his downhill results have been worse than last winter but his giant slalom has improved from the last winter; in the 7th-place finish in Beaver Creek, he had the fastest second run. The promising thing in that is that the World Championships are held on the same slope. Maybe his best chance for glory this winter will be there. Also, I am eagerly looking forward to the Wengen weekend where he has an impressive record of one win in both downhill and combined as well as a total of six podiums in 11 starts.


On women's side, Tina Maze seems to be on the way to the overall title. She is consistently getting good results in all disciplines. Still, it may be hard for her to win any discipline titles as she doesn't dominate any discipline, almost all disciplines have some better skiers than her.

Last year's overall champion Anna Fenninger seems to be in trouble in her attempt to defend the title. She doesn't do slalom like Maze does plus she is ahead of Maze only in giant slalom points. Giant slalom looks like her best chance to win a World Cup title this winter. In the overall World Cup she seems to be on the way to the second place. She is currently third, behind Mikaela Shiffrin but there are lots of speed races remaining which should get her past Shiffrin, as seen in the projected standings.

Lindsey Vonn has made a great comeback. She is back dominating downhill and also doing well in super-G. The super-G points don't tell a lot yet because there has been only two races. Because of the retirement in Val-d'Isere, Vonn is only on sixth place. But her second place in Lake Louise impressed me so much that I expect her to be a contender for the title, like I expect the current points leader and last year's champion Lara Gut to be. As Vonn hasn't done technical events, she has no chance for the overall title though. Currently she is seventh but like in Fenninger's case, the speed races will bring her close to a top 3 finish.

Giant slalom looks like the most interesting title fight. The top 6 are within 100 points from the leader Eva-Maria Brem. One of those is Mikaela Shiffrin who won her first giant slalom in the first race of the season in Sölden. After that she didn't get good results in either giant slalom or even in his parade discipline slalom. But now that she has found her form, she is again a strong contender in giant slalom and the big favorite in slalom. Frida Hansdotter is still leading the slalom World Cup but I see her chances to win the slalom title very slim. I think she would need Shiffrin having bad races, Shiffrin is so clearly the best slalom skier on women's side.


I am not going much against the projected standings. For men I say 1) Hirscher, 2) Jansrud, 3) Paris. For women I say 1) Maze, 2) Fenninger, 3) Vonn. I put Vonn ahead of Shiffrin because I believe she can get more than 40 points per race in super-G which is her current average.

Then to disciplines. On men's side, I say Jansrud will win both downhill and super-G and Hirscher will win both slalom and giant slalom. On women's side, I say Vonn will win the downhill and super-G titles and Shiffrin will win the slalom title. Giant slalom feels hardest to predict. I pick Fenninger, she was back in form in Kühtai.