Avengers Assemble review

Written and directed by Buffy creator Joss Whedon, Avengers Assemble is the latest blockbuster from Marvel Studios featuring the iconic superheroes.

The six gifted protagonists – Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Dr. Bruce Banner a.k.a. The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) – form Nick Fury’s (Samuel L. Jackson) dream S.H.I.E.L.D. team.

Teamed up to become Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, they must fight and defeat Norse God Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and his alien army from enslaving humanity.

Yes, the plot sounds clichéd on world domination, but it is the action sequences that make Avengers Assemble such a thrilling and fantastic film to experience.

The performances from the leading stars are superb, especially Ruffalo as Dr. Banner who looses his temper to become the terrifying Hulk. Bruce Banner’s intelligence is unparalleled and is much greater than Tony Stark, while his compassion for human life is what drives the good side to his character.

As for Hiddleston, he is a revelation as Loki. The actor brings intriguing layers to the evil overlord and makes Loki much more than the typical one-dimensional villain in common action films.

Whedon provides plenty of laugh out loud moments thank to a great script full of witty lines. There are also many references to the comics, a nod to the die-hard Marvel fans while entertaining the newcomers.

I would highly recommend Avengers Assemble. Joss Whedon has indeed delivered the perfect superhero film combining a great script, thrilling action scenes, impressive CGI and pitch-perfect performances from a terrific cast. The best 142 minutes you can enjoy in the company of Marvel’s finest heroes.

Vettel returns to winning ways in Bahrain

The familiar sight of Sebastian Vettel winning a race made a reappearance following a faultless drive from the reigning world champion in the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The German held off the challenge from Lotus to get his title defence back on track with his twenty-second career Grand Prix victory – his first this season – and he now leads the world championship for Red Bull Racing.

The pace of the Lotus was impressive, with both Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean able to match the leading Red Bull on lap times.

To finish in second and third is a great result for Lotus. For Raikkonen, this drive to the runner-up spot has silence his critics that he still has the desire to go racing in Formula One.

While Grosjean should be immensely proud by recording a podium result in only his fourth race since making his Formula One comeback.

Mark Webber took fourth for Red Bull Racing, while pit-stop problems consigned front row starter Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren to eighth. Nico Rosberg completed the top five after an eventual race for Mercedes.

It soon became clear that the Lotus duo had stunning race pace. Although Vettel stormed away from initial pursuers Hamilton and Webber, Grosjean and Raikkonen were making quick progress up the order.

Grosjean had moved into fourth at the start, and then picked off Webber and Hamilton on laps four and seven.

While Raikkonen vaulted from P11 to seventh off the line, had a quick wheel-banging battle with Felipe Massa’s Ferrari, then got up to third by the time the first pit-stops were done – by virtue of a string of passes and a long first stint.

The Iceman then closed on Grosjean, passing his Lotus team-mate on lap 24, just before their second pit-stops, and started hunting down race leader Vettel.

As they approached the final tyre changes, Raikkonen was on Vettel’s rear wing and was able to take several looks at passing the Red Bull.

The tension eased after the final pit-stops, with Vettel able to rebuild a slight gap over the Lotus and held it to the flag.

Mark Webber finished in an unchallenged fourth position, but there was plenty of action behind the Australian.

Rosberg slipped back to ninth on a scrappy opening lap, before recovering to fifth – although he attracted the stewards’ attention along the way after some aggressive defensive moves against Hamilton and Alonso.

The way Rosberg defended his race position by forcing Hamilton way off the track was over the top and against the sport’s governing body code of leaving a car’s width. As for the incident involving Alonso, yes, he made his one move but it was still quite marginal to edge the Ferrari off the track.

Both incidents were investigated after the race and after a few hours, the stewards decided no action was needed.

Paul di Resta did a great job on a unique two-stop strategy for Force India. At one point, he was leading the Grand Prix. To finish in sixth is a fantastic achievement for himself and the team.

Hamilton’s race went awry in the pits, as a wheel nut issue with his left-rear cost him a lot of time at both his first and second pit-stops. The McLaren driver had to settle for eighth chasing di Resta and Alonso to the flag.

In fact, it was a miserable race for McLaren. As Jenson Button spent much of the race on the fringes of the top six before a late pit-stop with a left-rear puncture, and then a mechanical problem that left his sick-sounding car heading for the garage on the penultimate lap.

Alonso had got up to fifth with an assertive start, but did not have the pace to stay there. Felipe Massa was respectably close to his team-mate’s pace on the way to ninth, while Michael Schumacher was able to come through from P22 on the grid to tenth in the Mercedes.

Two stars of qualifying saw their race hopes rapidly dashed. Daniel Ricciardo tumbled down the order on the opening lap with damage on the Toro Rosso’s nose. He was able to recover to finish in P15 though. While Caterham’s Heikki Kovalainen picked up a puncture on lap one but made it to the end in P17.

So despite the political drama off-track dominating the news leading up to the Grand Prix, the racing at the Bahrain International Circuit was trouble free.

Red Bull’s first success of the season, which made Vettel the fourth different winner in four races, puts the champion back on top of the points table too, with 53 to the unhappy Hamilton’s 49. Webber is third with 48, followed by Button and Alonso on 43 apiece, Rosberg on 35 and Raikkonen on 34.

Red Bull also jumped ahead in the constructors’ rankings, with 101 points to McLaren’s 92, while the other big mover was Lotus who jumped up to third with 57 ahead of Ferrari on 45, Mercedes on 37 and Sauber on 31.

Race result at Bahrain, 57 laps:

1.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault           1h35:10.990
2.  Raikkonen     Lotus-Renault              +3.333
3.  Grosjean      Lotus-Renault              +10.194
4.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +38.788
5.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +55.460
6.  Di Resta      Force India-Mercedes       +57.543
7.  Alonso        Ferrari                    +57.803
8.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           +58.984
9.  Massa         Ferrari                    +1:04.999
10.  Schumacher    Mercedes                   +1:11.490
11.  Perez         Sauber-Ferrari             +1:12.702
12.  Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes       +1:16.539
13.  Vergne        Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +1:30.334
14.  Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari             +1:33.723
15.  Ricciardo     Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +1 lap
16.  Petrov        Caterham-Renault           +1 lap
17.  Kovalainen    Caterham-Renault           +1 lap
18.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           +1 lap
19.  Glock         Marussia-Cosworth          +2 laps
20.  De la Rosa    HRT-Cosworth               +2 laps
21.  Karthikeyan   HRT-Cosworth               +2 laps
22.  Senna         Williams-Renault           +3 laps

Fastest lap: Vettel, 1:36.379

Not classified/retirements:

Maldonado     Williams-Renault             26 laps
Pic           Marussia-Cosworth            25 laps

World Championship standings, round 4:

1.  Vettel        53
2.  Hamilton      49
3.  Webber        48
4.  Button        43
5.  Alonso        43
6.  Rosberg       35
7.  Raikkonen     34
8.  Grosjean      23
9.  Perez         22
10.  Di Resta      15
11.  Senna         14
12.  Kobayashi      9
13.  Vergne         4
14.  Maldonado      4
15.  Hulkenberg     2
16.  Schumacher     2
17.  Massa          2
18.  Ricciardo      2

1.  Red Bull-Renault          101
2.  McLaren-Mercedes           92
3.  Lotus-Renault              57
4.  Ferrari                    45
5.  Mercedes                   37
6.  Sauber-Ferrari             31
7.  Williams-Renault           18
8.  Force India-Mercedes       17
9.  Toro Rosso-Ferrari          6

Next race: Spanish Grand Prix, Barcelona. May 11-13.

Vettel back in front with Bahrain pole

Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel returned to the front with his first pole position of the season at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Vettel’s lap of one minute, 32.422 seconds earned the Red Bull Racing driver his thirty-first pole in Formula One. The German edged out championship leader Lewis Hamilton by a margin of under a tenth of a second.

Mark Webber lines up in third ahead of Jenson Button, while Chinese Grand Prix winner Nico Rosberg had to settle for fifth.

Despite setting the practice pace, Mercedes had a disappointing qualifying session. Rosberg elated to do a single Q3 run that was only good enough for fifth fastest. As for Michael Schumacher, the seven-time world champion was eliminated in Q1 with an issue with the DRS.

Daniel Ricciardo gave Toro Rosso huge encouragement with his career-best sixth on the grid, in front of Romain Grosjean’s Lotus and Sergio Perez’s Sauber.

As for Fernando Alonso, the Spaniard choosing not to do a Q3 flying lap in the Ferrari, saving a set of Pirellis for the race.

Paul di Resta was likewise and even though Force India missed out on Friday afternoon practice session, di Resta was able to deliver the result needed in qualifying.

The pair will share row five, with Alonso five positions ahead of his Scuderia team-mate Felipe Massa.

Schumacher’s exit in Q1 was the biggest shock in qualifying. It came down to an issue with the Mercedes adjustable rear wing and a supreme lap from Caterham’s Heikki Kovalainen.

With track conditions rapidly improving, early Q1 times did not prove sufficient. Both Red Bulls were on the edge of elimination, as did Sergio Perez, but in the end it was Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne – for a third straight race – and Schumacher who ended up on the wrong side of the cut-off.

Vergne may face further trouble after the qualifying as television replays suggested he missed a call to the weighbridge in Q1.

Schumacher was not the only world champion making an early departure from qualifying, as Grosjean’s progress into Q3 came at the expense of Lotus team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, who will start in P11.

Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi and Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India could not match their team-mates’ form and will line up in P12 and P13 respectively.

It was a tough session for Williams too, with Bruno Senna only P15 while a KERS issue preventing Pastor Maldonado – who was already facing a five-place gearbox change penalty – from running in Q2.

While at the back, Marussia was nearly three seconds off Kovalainen’s pace, as Charles Pic outqualified team-mate Timo Glock for the first time – the German ending up behind Pedro de la Rosa’s HRT as well in P23.

Qualifying times from Bahrain:

1.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault       1m32.422s
2.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes       1m32.520s
3.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault       1m32.637s
4.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes       1m32.711s
5.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes               1m32.821s
6.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1m32.912s
7.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault          1m33.008s
8.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari         1m33.394s
9.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari                No time
10.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes   No time
11.  Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault          1m33.789s
12.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari         1m33.806s
13.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes   1m33.807s
14.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari                1m33.912s
15.  Bruno Senna           Williams-Renault       1m34.017s
16.  Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault       1m36.132s
17.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes               1m34.865s
18.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1m35.014s
19.  Vitaly Petrov         Caterham-Renault       1m35.823s
20.  Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth      1m37.683s
21.  Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth           1m37.883s
22.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault       No time*
23.  Timo Glock            Marussia-Cosworth      1m37.905s
24.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth           1m38.314s

*Five-place grid penalty for gearbox change

107 per cent time: 1m40.380s

Rosberg claims maiden Formula One win

After competing in 111 races, Nico Rosberg has finally claimed his maiden Formula One race victory with a commanding drive in a thrilling Chinese Grand Prix.

This result means Rosberg becomes the first new winner in the sport since Heikki Kovalainen won the 2008 Hungarian Grand Prix, 64 races ago.

Rosberg also joins the elusive list of father and son succeeding in Formula One. Both Keke and Nico are the third combination of winners after Graham and Damon Hill, and Gilles and Jacques Villeneuve.

As for Mercedes, their last triumph was back in the 1955 Italian Grand Prix with Juan Manuel Fangio.

McLaren duo Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton completed the podium, ahead of Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel.

At a track where he had led only to fade in each of the last two years, Rosberg ensured he stayed at the head of an absorbing race in which variants of tyre strategies played out throughout the 56-lap race.

Not only did drivers vary between two and three pit-stops, but also there were huge differences in stint length.

Despite the Mercedes team’s tyre difficulties in the opening two races, this time the team handled the Pirelli issue perfectly – allowing Rosberg to deploy a textbook two-stop strategy and keep himself ahead of most of the action.

The German pulled away from his team-mate Michael Schumacher in the opening laps, soon establishing a four-second lead. Schumacher’s opportunity to feature in the lead battle then ended when he retired with an incorrectly fitted right-front wheel immediately after his first pit-stop.

Button was Rosberg’s main challenger thereafter. A great start immediately took Jenson to third, and he was catching Rosberg on a three-stop plan for a while, but victory was dashed following a slow final pit-stop with a left-rear wheel issue.

Kimi Raikkonen’s two-stopping Lotus held second position going into the closing stages, but trying to do half the Chinese Grand Prix on his third set of tyres proved too optimistic, and the Iceman tumbled from second to P14 in just a handful of laps.

Vettel, following a similar strategy, was first to pass Raikkonen, and looked like he might salvage second from his qualifying disaster.

The reigning world champion could not hold off the McLarens or team-mate Webber with their fresher tyres from a three-stop strategy, with Button getting through five laps from the end.

Hamilton and Webber doing likewise amid a thrilling tussle over the last two laps.

Webber took fourth despite his first pit-stop coming as early as lap six, and two trips off the track – one of which featured a wild flight over the Turn 13 kerbs.

While Raikkonen fell back, his Lotus team-mate Romain Grosjean did a two-stop plan with a very long middle stint and was able to battle to sixth, ahead of the Williams duo of Bruno Senna and Pastor Maldonado.

As for Fernando Alonso, the Sepang winner was only ninth for Ferrari having lost a little ground running off-track trying to pass Maldonado.

Sauber was a factor in this pack but could not repeat its Malaysian Grand Prix heroics. Kamui Kobayashi fell back with a poor start and finished in tenth, just ahead of team-mate Sergio Perez, who led for a while on a two-stop strategy.

Thus, after the race of the season, Hamilton leads the world championship with 45 points to Button’s 43, with Fernando Alonso third on 37. In the constructors’ stakes, McLaren still lead with 88 points to Red Bull’s 64, Ferrari’s 37, Sauber’s 31, Mercedes’ 26 and Lotus’s 24.

The next race is in Bahrain and despite the political unrest; the sport’s governing body has safely ensured the event will take place.

Chinese Grand Prix race results, after 56 laps:

1.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   1h36:26.929
2.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           +20.626
3.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           +26.012
4.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +27.924
5.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault           +30.483
6.  Grosjean      Lotus-Renault              +31.491
7.  Senna         Williams-Renault           +34.597
8.  Maldonado     Williams-Renault           +35.643
9.  Alonso        Ferrari                    +37.256
10.  Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari             +38.720
11.  Perez         Sauber-Ferrari             +41.066
12.  Di Resta      Force India-Mercedes       +42.273
13.  Massa         Ferrari                    +42.779
14.  Raikkonen     Lotus-Renault              +50.573
15.  Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes       +51.213
16.  Vergne        Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +51.756
17.  Ricciardo     Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +1:03.156
18.  Petrov        Caterham-Renault           +1 lap
19.  Glock         Marussia-Cosworth          +1 lap
20.  Pic           Marussia-Cosworth          +1 lap
21.  De la Rosa    HRT-Cosworth               +1 lap
22.  Karthikeyan   HRT-Cosworth               +2 laps
23.  Kovalainen    Caterham-Renault           +3 laps

Fastest lap: Kobayashi, 1:39.960

Not classified/retirement:

Schumacher    Mercedes                     16 laps

World Championship standings, round 3:

1.  Hamilton      45
2.  Button        43
3.  Alonso        37
4.  Webber        36
5.  Vettel        28
6.  Rosberg       25
7.  Perez         22
8.  Raikkonen     16
9.  Senna         14
10.  Kobayashi      9
11.  Grosjean       8
12.  Di Resta       7
13.  Vergne         4
14.  Maldonado      4
15.  Ricciardo      2
16.  Hulkenberg     2
17.  Schumacher     1

1.  McLaren-Mercedes           88
2.  Red Bull-Renault           64
3.  Ferrari                    37
4.  Sauber-Ferrari             31
5.  Mercedes                   26
6.  Lotus-Renault              24
7.  Williams-Renault           18
8.  Force India-Mercedes        9
9.  Toro Rosso-Ferrari          6

Next race: Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir. April 20-22.

Maiden pole for Rosberg and Mercedes

Nico Rosberg achieved his maiden Formula One pole position in an exciting and dramatic qualifying session in Shanghai.

The German put Mercedes at the front of the grid for the first time since Juan Manuel Fangio led the field at Monza in 1955.

Rosberg was a full half a second quicker over second-fastest Lewis Hamilton. But due to the gearbox penalty applied to the McLaren driver, Michael Schumacher is promoted to P2 forming an all-Mercedes front row.

While Rosberg celebrated his first ever pole, it was a disastrous day for reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel. Not only beaten by his Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber in qualifying for the third time this season, Vettel will start the Chinese Grand Prix down in eleventh.

Rosberg had led a Mercedes one-two in Q2, and then blitzed his rivals early in Q3 with an unbeatable time of one minute, 35.121 seconds.

So confident was Rosberg that the time would hold for pole, he got out of his car and walked off to the weighing area while the rest of the top ten tried in vain to improve their times.

Hamilton managed to get between the Silver Arrows on lap times, although on the starting grid he will line up in seventh.

His penalty means Kamui Kobayashi is promoted to an amazing third, as the Japanese driver emphasised Sauber’s progress by setting the fourth quickest time.

Thanks to the high level of competition this season, Vettel faced a difficult task for a fourth consecutive Shanghai pole and with the failure to make the top ten shootout for the first time since Brazil 2009 was a major shock.

The double world champion, running a different exhaust specification on the RB8 to Mark Webber, was only three tenths of a second slower than his pacesetting team-mate in Q2.

But that was the difference between first and eleventh in the extraordinarily close session. Vettel had been gradually edged down the top ten and ultimately pushed out by Romain Grosjean’s Lotus.

His Lotus team-mate Kimi Raikkonen will start fourth, ahead of McLaren’s Jenson Button and Mark Webber in the Red Bull.

Malaysia combatants Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso were together again as they led the way in Q1 after going for softs tyres, and qualified in close company once more in eighth and ninth.

Ferrari’s Felipe Massa was closer to his team-mate pace, but will start in P12.

The second half of the grid will line up in neat team formation. With the two Williams sharing row seven ahead of the Force Indias, and while Jean-Eric Vergne did not get beyond Q1, he will still start alongside Toro Rosso team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

Meanwhile at the back, Caterham led Marussia and HRT, with all drivers comfortably within the 107 per cent qualifying margin.

Qualifying times from Shanghai:

1.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes             1m35.121s
2.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes             1m35.691s
3.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari       1m35.784s
4.  Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault        1m35.898s
5.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes     1m36.191s
6.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault     1m36.290s
7.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes     1m35.626s*
8.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari       1m36.524s
9.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari              1m36.622s
10.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault        No time
11.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault     1m36.031s
12.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari              1m36.255s
13.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault     1m36.283s
14.  Bruno Senna           Williams-Renault     1m36.289s
15.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes 1m36.317s
16.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes 1m36.745s
17.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m36.956s
18.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m37.714s
19.  Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault     1m38.463s
20.  Vitaly Petrov         Caterham-Renault     1m38.677s
21.  Timo Glock            Marussia-Cosworth    1m39.282s
22.  Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth    1m39.717s
23.  Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth         1m40.411s
24.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth         1m41.000s

*Five-place grid penalty for gearbox change

107 per cent time: 1m42.931s